Monday, 10 June 2013

Manage your staff so they aim for excellence

I believe that Successful Management, which is the key to success in business, can be achieved by the following:

  1. Have clear aims.
  2. Ensure the aims are communicated openly to your staff – and make sure you listen to their responses.
  3. Monitor their progress.
  4. Give and receive feedback.
  5. Be honest in your dealings with all around you.
Step 1, Have Clear Aims, may not be easy at first.  Often I have found that the best approach is to involve all the staff in a group discussion where each person speaks about what they believe the aims should be (guided by the manager), with the agreed aims being defined at the end of the meeting. 

Using the business strategy as a guide helps here.

This leads to Step 2, Communicate the Aims Openly, which means making sure the staff know what you expect them to achieve.  But please ensure you listen to and address their responses.  I have worked with too many managers who think it is their role to speak to their staff without listening.  (If a member of staff says a target date is not going to be made, listen to their explanation why and then go home and think about it before responding.  Often they will know better than you what is really going on.)

Don’t be afraid of setting a challenge, but the key here is Step 3, Monitor Progress.  Depending on what it is you actually do, targets may need to be monitored daily, weekly or monthly.  Share the good and bad news – it is wonderful to discover the commitment staff have to achieving the impossible.

However Step 4 Give and Receive Feedback should be applied much more often.  Make sure you meet at least some of your staff every day.  Exchange a casual word with them.  (Don’t spend ten minutes discussing the cricket score).  Say “Everything ok?” or “How are things going?”.  At this point you don’t need to do other than listen.

Throughout all this apply Step 5.  Be honest.  Why be honest?  Well, the simplest reason is that if you are not honest you can guarantee that you will eventually be found out by your staff.  I've worked with managers who made a habit of telling different stories to different members of staff.  This simply created an atmosphere of mistrust.  If they believe you can be trusted then they themselves will act in a trustworthy manner.

For example, before claiming unjustified expenses or taking long lunches, ask yourself what would be reasonable for your staff.  How would you react if you found they were doing this?

If you pay one staff member more than another, you can guarantee that they will find out.  How will they react?  Are you being fair?

I have found that by following the above short set of steps, by engaging with your staff as adults, they begin to act differently.

They relish a challenge when they understand why it has been set, or have been involved in creating the aim.

If they can talk to you about how they are feeling then they don’t waste time complaining to other members of staff.  If you give them appropriate, honest, feedback then they will perform well in carrying out their job.

If you talk about Excellence, they will understand what you mean, and Excellent Performance will result.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Good IT Systems Make a Difference!

Good IT systems can make a remarkable difference both to company performance, and also to the way staff feel about their work.  Unfortunately, a recent survey by KPMG showed only 37% of users rated their systems as “good”.  What about you?  

And what do your staff think?

I have met many people who are unhappy with their systems.  Often they are also unhappy with their work.  This is not a coincidence! I have regularly seen staff – who felt that their system did not meet their needs – spending time talking about their problems, and as a result spending less time working. 

But there are people who are keen on their systems.  They are proud of what they can achieve, and they understand they are using their software in the best way possible.

Typically, a good IT system will allow users to input crucial data easily, without duplication or having to move between a vast number of screens.  Also, reports will be readily available in the required format.

As far too many of us know, a lot of systems do not produce good management information.  It can take forever to get the right information out.  In some cases, 2 or 3 separate reports may need to be run off and data extracted into spreadsheets in order to achieve the required format.  

One company described this as their “automated approach to reporting”. (Another survey showed 58% of companies were not receiving adequate information from their finance system.)

One of my clients explained why she was so keen on her software.  She has a well-known software package which can sometimes be challenging.

But she has taken the time to learn what is possible with the system. 

She looked at her job, and then looked at the software to see the best way to carry out each task, given the software's limitations and features.  Where necessary she called the helpline to ascertain exactly what needed to be done. 

The result is an enthusiastic user.  She understands that the software has flaws, but feels she can work her way round most of these, and as a result her daily job is much easier.

Another excellent result has been achieved at one of the UK’s leading tourist attractions.  The management proudly demonstrated their new management information system to me.  This presented each manager with the key information they needed each day to do their job: indicators such as number of visitors the previous day, average spend per visitor, restaurant and shop turnover etc. 

From my point of view it was a delight to see people using IT in such a way, and to perceive that they were clear why they were collecting all this information.  Knowledge is power, and with this information – literally at their fingertips – they could quickly decide whether, for example, to make special offers, to advertise locally or nationally, or to change the prices in their shops.

So good IT systems are obviously well worthwhile.  The difference in productivity and staff satisfaction is worth addressing. 

Let me help improve your systems.  Click on Contact above and get in touch.

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