Friday, 16 November 2012

The 10 Commandments

Can you talk the talk and walk the walk ?  The best advice I could ever give a new people manager.


The 10 Commandments 

(for managing people)

1. Recognize peoples' effort

2. Act on poor performance

3. Stop fire fighting - start planning

4. Delegate and stop meddling

5. Make informed decisions

6. Stop controlling - start influencing

7. Communicate more

8. Take more business risks

9. Ask for feedback

10. Be seen to be doing 1-9 above

I have a little card on my desk, it dates from before Y2K (the IT panic concept that saw us all run around undertaking risk assessments and major software/system updates just incase computers thought we had gone back to 1900 not 2000 due to the DD-MM-YY date convention used inside many computer chips.  This, much like my local firework display this year, was a bit of a damp squib).

A learning campus - safe space where MBAs experiment with new leadership styles
It was something my then boss Paul Giblin had us print up for every manager in the BA Germany organisation for our conference that year.  I think it was a pretty snappy management philosophy even back then when my hair was thick and curly.  I keep it on my desk now, even though formally I no longer have anyone reporting to me.  As I have matured and gained more experience I note that the wisdom contained within this ten short paragraphs is more appropriate now that ever before.

Feedback sandwich start & end with positives
'Act on poor performance' is something that I need to keep reminding myself.  (With exceptions) my impression of the civil service is one where many of the great (and some of the awful) commercial managerial practises have really yet to manifest themselves.  When coaching students in groups I often suggest that giving feedback (using the feedback sandwich approach - lots of positive bun with a meaty developmental centre, but start and end on positives) and explaining (using a factual approach) is very helpful.  Most people do not wish to annoy or disappoint others, its unintentional and perhaps because noone has ever told them before.  Take a big breath, find the right moment and give it your best shot (honest and true, but diplomatically, of course.)  Starting the process with "You know what your problem is..." and alike are NOT recommended. 

I need it to remind me that I have a nasty tendency to do everything over email (my wife jokingly suggests that I would even have proposed over email, given half a chance...) and No. 7 "Communicate more" is there to remind me that informal corridor chats are not work denying opportunities but the chance to deepenend and widen my networking, you just never know when someone will be able to thrust an idea or solution into your lap.  In my role supporting the Royal Holloway MBA this week I found myself regretting that I had not done something face-to-face, whilst painfully wordsmithing a series of email tennis communications.

In a blame culture where criticism is rarely in front of the at fault individual, it is often the case that the giving and receiving of honest and meaningful feedback is an approach that is lacking.  We all want to improve, building trust in your colleagues to be able to tell you where you are over stepping the line or have been a bit too much is important.   Looking out for what people are NOT saying is also key, perhaps they do not feel comfortable telling you how they feel. 

Number 10 always makes me smile.  When we came up with this list - the first five were easy, the next four came slowly.  The last one - the all important tenth - that made sense of the 10 commandments title we'd rather irreverently developed - always felt like a filler.  But actually, of course, demonstrating your managerial/leadership philosophy is crucial, perhaps most aptly demonstrated in the "walk-the-talk" expression.  I am proud to have played a small role in support Paul Giblin putting his pocket book management in ten simple bullet points. 

Can implement a few of these ten commandments ?

Justin O'Brien