Friday, October 15, 2010

Engaging people in recruitment (2)

This is the second installment in a journey being undertaken by an aged care client. In this organisation the Nurse Care Manager has tendered a resignation and a recruitment process is underway. In keeping with the organisations current practice of engaging staff in the recruitment process, a team of staff including the Executive Officer, a Div 2 Nurse, an environmental manager and two personal carers have gathered for this purpose. They are assisted by an experienced consultant/facilitator, who has the role of providing advice and structure but not directing how the process should unfold.

Yesterday the group met to look at the wording they wanted for the situations vacant advertisement, to discuss where the role would be advertised and to set out a time frame for the recruitment process. The facilitator also introduced capability frameworks as a tool to assist with identifying what is expected of applicants. The group also engaged in a conversation as to the costs of recruitment and advertising.

Together the group created a draft of the situations vacant advt. There was spirited discussion on many aspects of wording and the sequence of information. Remember non of these people are skilled HR consultants; they simply work at the coal face and they know what they see every day, they know what works and what doesn't work in their environment. Everyone contributed to the conversation, even those that may have felt out of their depth asked questions and put forward suggestions. At the same time everyone there broadened their knowledge and their understanding.

Next week we meet to discuss the group's ideas on capabilities. What they expect from the incoming Nurse Manager and what they will be looking for from applicants. Their ideas will then feed into a position description to be included in an information kit sent out to applicants. Later their ideas will feed into the interview process as they will go into the interview with a clear perspective on what they are seeking and what it is they want to discuss with applicants.

I hope you will keep an eye on this blog and as always we would welcome questions or your thoughts. This is a live, evolving case study of empowerment in a healthcare environment.

I will keep you posted as this process unfolds.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO
Skype: john_coxon
Twitter: john_coxon
Facebook: johncoxon1
Telephone: +61 247 390376

Friday, October 1, 2010

Engaging people in recruitment

Over the past six months I have been guiding an aged care client through a process of engaging staff in the recruitment process. Early steps towards a more empowered model of operation. This aged care provider of 40 beds has operated in the traditional mode for many years.

Yesterday I sat in and observed a group of people, including a Division 2 Nurse and personal carers conduct an interview with a Division 1 Nurse. The applicant had already been assessed by a senior executive as having appropriate qualifications and experience but had been informed that a job offer was dependent upon a tick of approval by staff, while also providing the applicant with an opportunity to engage with the staff she would be working with, and supervising.

The staff involved in the interview process are all volunteers. They have not been provided with training in formal interview techniques as we want them to have a conversation. They have been provided with guidance on the types of questions they cannot ask for legal or privacy reasons and they have been provided with an assurance by the CEO that their recommendation will not be overruled.

Following the interview conversation I discussed with those staff involved how they felt about being engaged in this manner. Their enthusiasm was overwhelming. They loved it. Their grins stretched from one side of their face to the other. As we discussed the applicant one of the staff members raised a question that they didn't know the answer to. When they turned to me I suggested they ask the CEO to join them. The senior nurse present immediately jumped up and went to ask the CEO if he would do that. Without warning, without preparation, the CEO joined the discussion and as a result those present were able to ask a number of questions in an environment free of fear and where titles meant nothing. This was an act of bravery and trust amongst all those present. It was grass roots democracy taking place. It was common sense management.

Now I know there will be sphincter-inhibited senior executives, self indulging HR people, self righteous Registered Nurses and indignant union officials spewing into their coffee cups as they read this. How dare we presume a personal carer or assistant in nurse or a EN have the intelligence, the skills and the ability to make such a decision? Well they do and to those that don't applaud this concept, I hope you are nearing retirement because you are looking at the future.

There will be critics who point out that senior management had a hand in the process prior to staff engagement. This is true. On this occasion. Now here is the clincher. In this same organisation the Nurse Manager has just tendered her resignation and guess what - a group of staff members will be involved in the entire process, from reviewing the advt in the paper, assessing capabilities, reviewing position and job descriptions, short listing and interviewing and making a recommendation to the CEO. And I am prepared to bet my fee that the relationship between the incoming Nurse Manager and the entire staff group will be spot on from day one and will build into a sustainable long term relationship.

I will keep you posted as this process unfolds.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO
Skype: john_coxon
Twitter: john_coxon
Facebook: johncoxon1
Telephone: +61 247 390376

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Boss Leads The Way

Linda Hudson, CEO of BAE Systems, got this message after becoming the first female president of General Dynamics. After her first day on the job, a dozen women in her office imitated how she tied her scarf. Hudson realized, “It really was now about me and the context of setting the tone for the organization. That was a lesson I have never forgotten—that as a leader, people are looking at you in a way that you could not have imagined in other roles.” Hudson added that such scrutiny and the consequent responsibility is “something that I think about virtually every day.”

This snippet above illustrates the importance of the CEO in setting cultural overtones for a hospital. In short, if you are looking out the window of your executive office and wondering why it is that people dont do things they way you would expect them to do them - then it is because they are following your lead.

Now let's be realistic. We're not talking about how people go about giving an injection, applying a bandage, cooking a meal or preparing a set of financial accounts. These are technical skills, these are taught skills. We're talking about the behaviours that make an organisation an enjoyable place to work, or otherwise.

What are your surveys telling you? Do you even take any notice off the picture they paint? Maybe you do and maybe that is why you are feeling a bit disappointed. I hope so. Now turn around, find a mirror and look into it. What do you see? Do you see a CEO who smiles, has a open, inviting posture, looks interested in other people, has a enquiring mind? Do you see someone who wants to help, wants to engage everyone in the organisation? If you were new to your organisation and you were looking at you on your first day, would you want to follow yourself?

Now the challenge is that what we see in ourselves and what others see will often be different. It is a rare individual that is able to undertake an accurate self assessment, and more importantly, make the changes without being pushed into doing so by someone else or some form of crisis. By that stage it is often to late and we are left wondering what it is we did wrong.

When you arrive in the CEO's office, newly minted, or any senior executive office for that matter, life does change. For a start you have immense influence over the careers of other people. In turn they have less influence over yours. This is an outcome of our hierarchial system of management. It can be different but not likely to be in the current climate. Those that you have influence over begin to observe you from day one. They note constantly every aspect of your behaviour, and they copy whatever they believe will help them to advance or remain in their role. This is natural behaviour. We prefer the status quo to something different and we do everything in our power to retain the status quo - to the point of going down with a sinking ship because our perception is that this is the least risky option.

If you decide that decision making will be a solitary exercise, take a heroic CEO stance, where you appear to know it all - then that is exactly the stance your senior executives will take. Those that are uncomfortable with that style will eventually leave and you will likely replace them with people similar to yourself. In turn, every manager throughout your organisation will adapt that style of decision making. In this instance the outcomes could be catastropic. This eventually leads to a culture of blame and backside protecting. Who would you blame? Yourself or your management team? I would suggest you start by looking at yourself.

How do you stop this from occuring? Firstly ask yourself, are you open to change, are adaptable, are you willing to listen to feedback from others, and if so are you prepared to act upon that feedback? If not, its time to go home. It's time to find another role. Let the Board appoint someone that is adaptable and able to work with people, able to engage with people and able to listen to what other people say.

Should you decide you have all the good qualities! Then it is time to seek some feedback, formally or informally it doesn't matter. What is more important is what you do with the feedback you receieve. Try this, speak to those that gave the feedback. Thank them, do not criticise their feedback. Have a conversation, seek more information and make a commitment to ongoing change. Ask for their support and feedback. Seek some executive coaching or mentoring. An external coach, with no political affiliation, no axe to grind, whose only desire is to see you be the best you can be, can also help you to challenge your assumptions, interpret your observations and develop new management behaviours.

When you seek feedback, go deep into your organisation. Many CEO's limit feedback to immediate direct reports in the executive team. Remember what was stated earlier about focusing on those with the greatest impact upon your career. Maybe the people with the most to lose are not the most reliable when it comes to getting feedback on your behaviour as a CEO. Afterall they are simply copying you. What would they see wrong in your behaviour?

Other people will see a different CEO. They will focus on the impact you have upon them. They will look at how you communicate with people, how you share information, how you engage them and seek input from them. They will judge you upon the quality of people you promote into management roles. Yes they will gripe about how little they are paid and how difficult their work is. You need to hear these things also. You need the reality check. Some things you can do something about, others you can do nothing more than listen. You will be judged upon how often and how well you listen. You will be judged upon how often rank and file staff see you in their territory, and when you are there, they will judge you on how you behaved towards them and their colleagues.

This will not be easy feedback to seek, to listen to, to absorb or to act upon. CEO's and senior executives assume a persona when you reach higher office. Its a coping strategy for all the issues they are faced with on a daily basis. It helps to protect them from the constant demands upon their time. It can also prevent them from being perceived as a real person, someone with heart and soul. Noone will doubt you have a brain; yet often they will doubt you know how to use it.

Becoming a CEO does not mean you know it all. It does not mean you have reached the pinnacle of management behaviour. It does mean you are at the beginning of the next stage of your journey, rather than the end of the journey.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO

Telephone: +61 247 390 376
Twitter: john_coxon
Facebook: johncoxon1

Friday, September 10, 2010

Indian Healthcare Leads Employment Growth

In 2009 there were approximately 8400 Indian nationals working in Australia on temporary visas, with a significant number, if not the majority involved in the healthcare sector. An increasing number of Indian nationals work as nurses in Australian hospitals. Why is this? Because Australia is facing a severe shortage of labour in all sectors, including healthcare. This is not going to change in the next two decades, which means that if the Australian health sector is to continue to meet its performance targets then it will need to (a) attract more Australian qualified medical practitioners back into the sector, particularly registered nurses or (b) allow a greater number of immigrants to work in the sector.

Now here's the rub. India is an emerging nation. Its health sector has recorded annual growth of around 8-9% per annum in recent years, in line with sector growth of other emerging nations. A report into the Indian healthcare sector by India Brand Equity Foundation predicted the Indian health care sector will grow to US$280B by 2020. Biz India on their facebook page recently reported that India will generate almost 300,000 new jobs in healthcare in the next twelve months and increasing over the next few years. This is a nation that will need every healthcare worker it can get and increasingly it will become easier for Indian nationals to remain in India or return there to work in the Indian health sector.

The impact on Australia, and other Western nations that currently 'import' Indian nationals to work in their hospitals and general practices will be significant. They simply will not have sufficient numbers of people working in healthcare or prepared to enter the sector. The impact will be felt in many areas. Service delivery can only be fully delivered when there are sufficient people to do so. Where there are insufficient people in the sector, service delivery will be rationalised. This will impact mostly in rural and remote areas. Competition for health care workers will increase and this will force an increase in salaries and other benefits. This will be good for those involved in personal carer roles which are often at the bottom of the food chain. The problem is that within the public sector the money for paying labour is provided by Government from general taxation. As the population ages, the tax base reduces and thus there is less money available for funding healthcare at a time when the demand for service is greatest.

As the cost of labour increases so does the cost of service delivery. This creates greater rationing of services in the public sector as hospital managers strive to maintain service delivery costs within budgets. In the private sector it contributes to increase in the gap between health cost and health insurance cover. In both instances the cost is incurred by the taxpayer through increased costs and longer waiting lists. A headache for policy makers seeking to appease voters.

Which brings us to medical tourism. India is an English speaking nation, based upon democratic principals, leaving aside sectarial differences, much of its key health care facilities are high quality and many medical professionals are trained to Western nation standards - and they operate from a lower cost base.

Already thirteen Indian hospitals are accredited with Joint Commission International (JCI), the largest healthcare accrediation agency in the USA. In 2009 almost 500,000 visitors travelled to India for medical treatment, only 50% less than the number travelling to Thailand for the same reason and slightly more than travelled to Singapore. More than 50 Indian hospitals are currently undergoing accreditation with India's National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare.

Those that are most likely to travel overseas for treatment are those with high incomes and without private health cover or those with health cover and a high gap

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Evolving Management Game

Let's face it, management hasn't changed a lot in modern time. How we managed has evolved as we have become better educated and more wealthy. I use the term wealthy in its broadest sense. People with means to lift themselves above poverty have time and energy to invest in making life even more comfortable - so we have an evolution, not a revolution - whereby management has evolved in line with changes in social expectations and behaviours.

The actions of managers have remained the same though. Managers continue to be responsible for financial management, organising work, providing feedback, making decisions and preparing reports. It's not what they do that has changed; it's how they go about doing these things that has evolved.

Take for example; the evolution from telling to asking. In a previous generation managers issued instructions and waited with full expectation that those instructions would be followed to the letter. Those that didn't appreciate taking instructions were encouraged to find employment elsewhere. Today that same manager, were they still employed, would be more likely to ask questions, to engage people and to seek input into the decision making process. The manager may even coach an employee through the process of determining what action to take next. Yet at the end of the day one thing has not changed. The manager remains responsible for ensuing the outcome is achieved.

Will that evolution continue or have we reached the pinnacle of management competence? I believe the trend will continue. I believe up and coming generations of people entering our hospitals and aged care facilities will demand to be consulted with and engaged in the process. I believe a new generation of emerging leaders will be even more inclined to manage by inclusion than their predecessors. Such a process is not a panacea for success; it is a process fraught with risk. It is a process that demands people in management have well developed leadership skills, often at a very young age, that they have developed continuously throughout the early stages of their life.

At the same time I believe those in the workplace will demand more of our future leaders. Leaders will be held more accountable by both peers and direct reports. Leadership in our organisations will require considerable patience and tolerance of well balanced people who have their feet firmly planted on the ground. For these people management will not be a theory; it will be grounded in action research, their own experiences combined with the experiences of mentors and those in their work groups. The relationships they form will determine their success or otherwise.

That much hasn't changed. Relationship building has been a part of management for ever; what will change I believe is that in the past many relationships were viewed for the power they delivered to someone. Future relationships will be viewed for the strength they provide to a team or a work group.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon
Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Where Have All The People Gone?

There are around 1300 hospitals, public and private throughout Australia. Collectively these organisations employ around 50,000 people in management roles. (On average, 1 CEO + 3 Directors + 15 middle managers + 20 frontline managers/supervisors). I appreciate this scenario may not accurately reflect your particular hospital. The concept I want to discuss is more important than the actual numbers involved. It is also possible I have underestimated the numbers.

Let's assume 50% of these managers will retire over the next decade. This means at least 5000 senior management roles will need to be replaced and around 15000 middle management roles. The majority of replacements will come from the ranks of 25-35 year olds currently in frontline manager or supervisor roles. Which means hospital will need to develop a further 25,000+ supervisors over the next decade. Were we to add the aged care sector to this then the number swells to around 30,000. Where will those people come from?

This upward movement of people into senior management roles will take place at a time of unprecendented low unemployment and labour shortages throughout Australia. The situation will be compounded by an increasing number of people leaving the sector, the low number of people entering the sector, an upward movement in remuneration, the fact that healthcare is process driven and more flexible working conditions in other sectors. What do health providers need to be doing?

It is likely the sector will have to look at how it goes about its service delivery. A smaller number of people will need to achieve more with less. A significant investment in non-traditional development will be needed - development that develops the ability of people to think, to take personal responsibility, to focus on quality service delivery from a customer perspective. Perhaps more importantly, the sector needs to develop flexible development pathways; that enable people to move in and out of the sector, and develop skills along the way. This will require more flexible learning and education processes, geared to the needs of the health provider rather than the needs of the education provider.

There is no doubt health delivery is process driven, especially inside a hospital or aged care facility. Yet this reliance on the procedures and policy manual creates inflexibilities that do not always benefit the customer and serve to frustrate employees. The end result will likely drive people out of the sector. Hospital management teams will need to develop the ability to drive non-wage related costs ever downwards through more efficient workplace practices. Governments cannot continue to fund a sector where expenses are outstripping the cost of living. It is likely Governments will face reductions in taxation monies as the ageing population goes into retirement. This will be reflected in Government spending on social services.

Technology will continue to make in-roads in every area. While healthcare has always required considerable investment in medical technology; the future may see a greater reliance on combinations of the internet and mobile telephony to reduce wastage, improve communications, speed up analysis, provide information, reduce the amount of face-to-face contact and minimise travel time. This will be made easier as Baby Boomers, reluctant to embrace the possibilities and potential of this technology leave the industry and move into retirement.

Restrictive employment practices may need to become more flexible. For the past three decades the focus of health sector unions has been to preserve jobs and increase benefits. It is likely for the next twenty years or more there will be little need to worry about preserving jobs, they will be abundant and remuneration will be driven upwards by market demand. Restrictive employment practices will serve to drive people out of the sector and into other areas of work.

The perception of working in healthcare will need to change. Younger generations have so many more enjoyable and lucrative options. Nursing in particular continues to revolve around shift work, body fluids, tired, uncooperative patients and medical specialists with poorly developed social skills. Compassion alone will only act as a motivator for so long in the face of other options. Public education programs promoting the sector will continue to be important. More important, health providers will need to develop ways of being seen as employers of choice.

Current Government practice is to throw money at hospital management teams to try and reduce waiting list times. This may have a short term benefit, yet if these other issues are not addressed it is possible there will insufficient people to enable sufficient beds to be available; which may result in even longer waiting times and greater patient inconvenience, regardless of how much money is thrown at the problem!

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO

Innovation in a controlled environment

Healthcare in Australia and New Zealand is a political process, even private, for-profit healthcare, is dominated by public policy, centralised industrial relations and Government regulation. It is a process that discourages innovation and free-thinking; it is a process driven by the procedures and processes manual. Does it need to be this way?

In these circumstances, the focus becomes more one of maintaining employment than looking after patients - not that you would ever hear anyone in the health sector actually state this; instead the language, if not the actions, always reflects a concern for the patient.

My concern here is that the patient becomes the reason for doing nothing new or different. When people do not want to think or they want to succumb to their 'lizard brain, to quote Seth Godin, they respond by saying, let's do what is in the best interest of the patient. Of course they are often saying let's do nothing; because if you look around you can see that we have many satisfied patients.

Yet innovation is not an outcome, it is a process of thinking, of reflection, of questioning assumptions, of experimentation and of bringing together like minded people to examine the alternatives. When we point to the patient we are often pointing to an outcome while avoiding the process of innovation. We are also excusing ourselves from the need to think. When we point to the P&P manual we excuse ourselves from taking any sort of risk.

Being innovative in a political environment requires bravery; the sort of bravery that is demanded on the sports field, where someone is prepared to put their head over the ball for the better good of the team. When our salaries are at threat, or our friendships or our social standing; many will talk about bravery but few will be brave. Yet many who cannot be brave continue to be dishonest and talk up their innovation credentials. Innovation in a political environment requires someone to come up with new ideas, to take the hits and to understand that the system will repel them at every turn, until you can prove it is safe for the majority to do something different. Maybe that is the challenge for innovators; to focus on creating safety and reassurance for the masses more than excitement for the innovation.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Personal Responsibility

Recently I was involved in a conversation with a group of healthcare managers, specifically with a CEO and one of their frontline managers. Our conversation was impromptu; the three of us happened to be in the same place at the same time, have similar interests and the time to talk. Our conversation commenced with three three of us standing around, chatting; and after a while we had gravitated to a nearby whiteboard and started mapping out our conversation.

We were talking about communication processes and relationships between managers and staff. There was no agenda, it was simply a wide ranging discussion about communication pathways and relationships. In time one aspect of our discussion stood out. As we mapped out our conversation on the whiteboard everything we talked about came back to individual responsibility. In short, whenever we identified a breakdown in the communication process we also identified that someone had failed to take personal responsibility for their actions or outcomes.

It also became clear that people were not aligning their personal behaviour with the mission and executive charter of the organisation. This organisation's mission statement specifically includes words and phrases that indicated the outcomes of the organisation; yet when we compared individual outcomes with the mission statment, it became clear there was a disconnect.

The CEO posed a question. He asked, if it is the role of the executive team to formulate mission statements, strategic plans etc, how do they get others to align themselves with these plan? We agreed that the CEO and the executive team had no control over what others choose to do. We agreed the foremost role of the CEO and the senior executive team was for them to be seen to be living the outcomes contained in the mission. In other words, every action taken by those in senior management must reflect and role model the behavior they expected of others. It was also the role of the executive team, particularly the CEO to educate and raise awareness at all level off the organisation, as to the existence and intent of the mission, strategy and outcomes. After that it comes down to each individual taking personal responsibility for ensuring that every action they take should be aligned with; consistent with the organisations goals and outcomes.

How often do you review your workplace behaviour, activities and outcomes and ask yourself; are the things I do aligned with the organisation's mission, strategic direction? Are the things I do a direct contribution to this organisation's outcomes?

From our impromptu conversation we came to the conclusion that this lack of personal responsibility at every level of management is directly responsible for many organisations having poor communication and commitment.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Do Managers Matter?

A recent article at Workforce asked the question, Do Managers Matter?

I'm not sure this is the best question to ask. I would be more inclined to asked are managers needed? Personally I believe managers can matter. I believe they can make a significant difference. I continue to believe that many people leave organisations due to the impact of poor managers however I agree with the article in that I don't believe that is the sole reason people leave. For example, recent research at Harvard Business School showed a key role workplace motivator as being people's sense of achievement and making progress; therefore many people could leave due to feeling frustrated. At the same time their manager may have played a significant role in not removing or minimising the barriers that impact upon progress. Professor Henry Mintzberg suggests this also in the Workplace article where he suggests organisations should focus on changing organisational structures that impede management.

On the other hand I do not believe managers are needed? Given a change in corporate culture and structure a good many organisations could operate just as effectively or even more so with few if any formal management roles. The problem with creating a manager class is that the group of people then engage in behaviour designed to make them appear indispensible. A part of that behaviour is to generate a perception that without them the place would fall apart.

The reality is that the combined wisdom and knowledge of those in the workplace is greater than any single manager or in many instances the combined knowledge of a group of managers. In other words the people at the coalface have the best understanding of how to meet the needs of stakeholders in the most effective manner. The problem is that managers do not seek the perspective of those at the coalface. The entire hierarcial process relies upon each layer forming a misperception that they have a better understanding than the layer beneath them.

What about the managers big picture perspective I hear you ask? What about it? My experience is that outside of the executive group, very few frontline or middle managers have any understanding of anything outside their own somewhat narrow area of activity - and many a senior executive has demonstrated a complete lack of big picture awareness. How can a senior executive claim to understand the big picture when they focus entirely on the emerging external environment yet fail to understand the emerging internal environment or even understand the impact of those two environments upon each other? A much bigger picture would be obtained through accessing the collective wisdom of a broad workgroup or diverse stakeholders.

People in non management roles dont have the information to make effective decisions. I hear this all the time. Well give them access to the information and provide training in how to use that information to aid decision making. Having the ability to analyse information and apply it to an issue is not solely the domain of managers, it is something they had to learn to do, it is something non managers can learn to do. Essentially it is about power. The more someone is reliant upon someone else the more likely they are to be compliant. Compliance is always much easier to achieve than collaboration.

How do you go about accessing collective wisdom? For a start you need to create an environment where people have permission, not only verbal but also demonstrated by your own behaviour, to offer ideas, you need to remove the fear of being wrong or of being criticised, replace negative thinking with positive, creative thinking. You need to create an environment of discussion and exploration. You need to develop people's ability to assess situations, analyse information and apply sound judgment Sounds easy doesn't it? Well it's not, which is why the majority of managers don't go there. The reality is that many managers have in their workgroup people that operate home businesses, have experience of opearating businesses with their partners and manage their home affairs very competently; yet we persist in believing that as they don't have the title 'manager' they must be incompetent.

Another reason most managers cannot take such a step is because they see it as giving up some of their power. These managers are focusing on the wrong thing. They are focusing on their own ego at the expense of the greater good, at the expense of acheiving outcomes. Tapping in collective wisdom is not about giving up power; it is about showing you understand your power is in the group, collectively, rather than in yourself. The term 'manager' is only a title. It is what you do in your role that defines you, rather than the title you are given.

One of the first things you can do as a manager to foster collaborative and collective decision making is learn how not to say NO. Strange as it might be there is no need for any manager to ever say no. Instead try this, 'its an interesting idea, let me mull over it and we can get together in a couple of days for coffee to explore in more depth'. You haven't said either no or yes. You are fostering the thinking and discussion process, you are encouraging exploration, you are helping people to learn to think. Eventually through this process the appropriate and correct course of action will take place - without you needing to impose your management ego.

Many managers dismiss such processes out of hand as they feel they are time consuming. They are right, collaborative action is time consuming, its always much quicker to simply issue a directive. In the beginning, when you first commence accessing collective wisdom you will become frustrated by the process; in the long term as you develop amongst your people an ability to think things through, to discuss ideas openly, to share information and to tap into each others knowledge you will find they come to less often with problems to be solved, they will have solved the problem and moved on. You will find you time is taken up with acheiving the future rather than trying to change or remedy the past. You will find your role as a manager is less stressful and more enjoyable.

In such circumstances you will be needed as a leader and you will matter as you add value to the work group. Right now, the way the majority of people manage, they are not needed and they don't matter - were they to take a year off work without replacement, the place would operate just as well, and I would predict even better without them.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Managing Your Boss

As a management coach I am asked this very question on a daily basis. It is my experience you cannot 'manage' your boss. You can manage how you do your work and how you interact with people. Those are the only things you have control over. You do not have control over how another person behaves.

There are two reasons for bad bosses, these are (1) inability to form working relationships with people and (2) inadequate professional development in management strategies and competencies. The only person with control over these is the boss. I recently coached a senior hospital executive who had been 'profiled' by his staff as a bad boss. He was open to change and subsequently resigned when he identified himself as being unwilling to make necessary changes to his behaviour. He is a good person, lacking skills who became a bad boss due to his inadequacies.

Advice to people to 'approach' their bad boss with detailed info on his/her behaviour are pointless. If the boss was open to that approach he or she would be naturally reflective and adaptive - and likely already be a good boss. In doing so one can also set themselves up for an unpleasant experience. Feedback is best left to formal processes.

Should you continue to work with a bad boss? In the long term no you should not. Why subject yourself to workplace bullying? On the other hand, I recently coached a lady to develop a range of coping strategies that enabled her to continue her work long enough to outlast her bad boss. For my client, this was her preferred option. She now has a new boss in a new department and is a happy person. In some situations it is just not practical to move to another role or organisation.

It is unusual for a boss to universally bad - that is disliked by everyone - in many instances 'bad boss' is really a personal relationship issue between a manager and an individual. Universally bad bosses become obvious to everyone, including their boss and their tenure is limited.

Confusing 'bad boss' with 'personal relationship' clouds the issue and prevents resolution. A personal relationship conflict requires either, two mature people to meet and discuss how to go forward or an external meditator to engage with both parties. Each of us needs to clarify our real situation.

If you are in that rare situation where you have a universally bad boss there are a number of things you and your colleagues can do, these include:

Developing individual coping strategies. (each person is different)
Reflecting on your own workplace practices
Being clear on what your boss expects from you
Meet those expectations
Rely more upon informal leadership/management structures
Commence preparing to work someplace else

These are positive strategies where the focus is on you as these are the only things you have control over.

Avoid negative strategies or reactions such as withholding information, withdrawing support, public derision, backstabbing etc as at the end of the day the only person that pays for that is you, with your self esteem and reputation.

If on the other hand you do not have a universally bad boss and the real issue is the relationship between you and your boss then you need to obtain external assistance - if you want to help yourself.

John Coxon
Taking You From Frontline Manager To CEO
john_coxon on Twitter
johncoxon1 on Facebook

Friday, February 19, 2010

Why be a manager?

Often as I observe managers in various coaching roles or in development workshops I ask myself why some people become involved in management? I read the research and I understand that money is way down the list of performance motivators yet there are times when I cannot help myself from forming a belief that many people become involved in management because (a) it pays more or (b) their ego doesn't allow them to turn down the offer.

How many really understand the role of a manager and what is expected of them? Back in the 1930's the granddaddy of modern management, Henri Fayol developed a set of management principles and activities which have guided managers for the past 80 years. At the same time I believe these same principles and actions, which truthful in what it is managers need to do along the way, have created a management 'thinking' that is flawed.

In 1982 Fernando Flores wrote in his Harvard thesis about conversations, commitments and trust. He was writing about the workplace of the future. The gap between how you think about Fayol and how you think about Flores is a chasm - one that many managers appear unable or unwilling to jump over!

In a recent workshop on decision making where we were exploring Roger Martins model of Integrative Thinking one participant observed, 'all this decision making seems very time consuming'. This person was being truthful, good decision making is time consuming. It involves two or more people in a conversation. To this persons credit she was also open to exploring the possible consequences of taking a short cut approach to decision making. The questions remained at the forefront of my mind. Why would someone who considers decision making conversations to be wasteful and time consuming want to be in a management role?

I believe the prime role of managers is to develop the potential of their team or workgroup and the individuals within that group. Nothing more, nothing less. What does this imply? Firstly the role of manager is to align workgroup activities and outcomes with organisational strategic outcomes. Secondly the role of the manager is to develop the capacity of the team to perform the tasks required to acheive the outcomes. Thirdly the role of the manager is to allocate or delegate tasks to ensure an equitable and effective distribution of work. Fourthly the role of the manager is to monitor implementation, coach people through being effective, review progress and provide feedback. Sure, inside these four groups of management tasks are preparing budgets, creating rosters and a heap of individual tasks.

Are you in a management role? How well can you assess yourself against the following:
1: How well is your workgroup aligned with organisation direction and outcomes?
2: How capable are your people in achieving those outcomes? Do they have the necessary experience, skills, resources and support?
3: How well is work delegated, by firstly yourself, then your supervisors?
4: How well do you monitor progress, follow up, offer support and resources, remove blockages, provide coaching and provide positive constructive feedback?

If you rate yourself as low on any of these four then I recommend you contact me and we can work together to help you develop those four areas of management. If you do not want to be proficient in any of those four areas of management then you need to review the reasons why you want to be a manager.

Are you in your role to develop people to achieve maximum performance and effectiveness or are you in there for the money and to satisfy your own ego? If you are there for the money or for ego then the only person you are serving is yourself. You are greedy and your greed will feed your incompetence. The best people will see through your greed and incompetence and will leave or refuse to work with you. This leaves you only those that don't care - and they will make you look worse still.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Workplace bullying and harrassment

Bullying in the workplace is endemic. A 2009 survey in the United States found that 37% of workers believed they had been bullied in some manner. Management expert and author, Professor Robert I Sutton believes that workplace bullying is bad for business as it leads to absenteeism, staff turnover and performance issues. That is not rocket science, as a management coach I have witnessed and coached those that have been the victims off, or impacted upon by workplace bullying.

Our schools have had anti-bullying policies and practices in place for years. Why is it when we become 'adults' we forsake such practices? Surely experience would show that even adults experience problems coping with the impact and consequences of workplace bullying. A story in The Age newspaper in Victoria highlighted the extreme consequences of workplace bullying when it reported on the recent death of 19-year old Brodie Panlock. As parents, none of us would want the grief experienced by Brodies family. Yet as adults and parents many of us have at some point engaged in some form of workplace harrassment. When 37% of the workforce believe they have been bullied it would be reasonable to suggest another 37% were involved as the bullies. For every victim there is a bully. That is 72% of the workforce wasting time engaged in an activity that robs people of their dignity and self respect.

It has been suggested by some that workplace bullying is more endemic and has an even greater overall impact than sexual harrassment yet in every workplace there is policies and practices designed to eliminate sexual harrassment. It is difficult to imagine 37% of the workforce having experienced sexual harrassment and this is not meant in any way to belittle those suffering the impact of sexual harrassment.

In 2006 a report by the British Medical Association found that 1 in 4 employees in the National Health Service had experienced some form of bullying while at work. Interestingly 16% of medical staff believed they had been bullied by nurses. Bullying included, belittling people, undermining work, withholding information and imposing impossible deadlines. These behaviours indicate that much workplace bullying results in mental distress rather than physical violence.

A 2009 report into bullying in the Australia health sector reported that as many as 50% of healthcare employees had experienced bullying. Similarly in New Zealand there have been reports of up to 50% of some sectors of healthcare having experienced workplace bullying. Other research has found that less than 37% of those impacted upon actually reported the bullying. This means a lot of people may be running around your organisation suffering the mental anguish from being bullied. Why have they not sought help? Is it because your organisation does not have a clear policy on workplace bullying? Is it because they don't believe they will be helped? Is it because they don't know where to get help?

Have you been a victim of bullying in the workplace? Speak up now. Name and shame the organisation. This is not something to remain silent about. Share your stories and also share with others what you did to seek help and to cope with the impact.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Turning Negative into a Positive

During a coaching session yesterday I discussed with a client how she planned to approach some negative behaviour between staff members.

We agreed there were a couple of options. One, she could provide a 'lecture' to the staff group, thus avoiding any public identification of the culprits. Two, she could turn a negative into a positive by converting the lecture into a professional development opportunity.

Essentially the issue as my client understood was one of individual values and behaviours. How we would like to be treated by others and how we would like to treat them.

Were my client to choose to provide a 'lecture' many of those there would have tuned out. It is possible the culprits would have rationalised their behaviour by believing the manager was referring to someone other than themselves. At worst the message would have been wasted.

Instead, should my client choose to convert this into professional development opportunity she can use handover time to engage the group in a discussion on values and behaviours, have them identify how they would like to behave and be treated. This then provides opportunties for follow up. The Unit Manager could then take copies of the the whiteboard and circulate everyone's input for further comment. She could then create a series of 'values' posters to be displayed throughout the workplace.

Some of you may consider this 'soft' approach ineffective. Remember this. The deed has been done, it cannot be undone. The culprits are not known and trying to shame them publically would likely backfire. Why not take a different approach, a long term approach, why not educate rather than lecture? Thats the difference between leadership and management.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO
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