The Blog


A few days ago, I was walking through a busy mall in the downtown business section and overheard two women talking as they passed me. “I like working for her as she gives me space. Not like John who ……….”  I didn’t hear the rest as they had moved out of earshot. But the comment got me thinking of the classic CEO dilemma:  “If I have 400 (or 1,400, 2,400, 5,000, or 50,000) employees, how do I ensure they have enough space to get their work done?”

A micro-managed employee is generally not an effective employee – they are someone who does not/is not able to deliver value for the salary paid them. Multiply this condition across hundreds of employees and lack of space can suffocate company performance. All managers need to develop a sense of and the use of discretion to give employees the required freedom to use all their capability to complete work delegated to them by their manager to the best of their ability.

The seven principles highlighted in my book How Dare You Manage? are designed to address the issue of space for your employees or how to optimize the “Collective Space”™ of all your employees in your company. If you start looking at your company through this lens, you will see opportunities for productivity you had not considered before.

Nick Forrest

Managers must be clear on the management practices they use to manage. Sounds simple, but all too often when I ask managers what practices they use to manage I get answers seated in uncertainty. This, to me, demonstrates an inconsistency in how they choose to behave. Instead, I get, “I do a bit of this and a bit of that”. What I don’t get is an answer that describes a set of consistent practical steps.

Choosing a set of foundational steps and sticking to them is critical for management success. Genius is developed through doing something hundreds, if not thousands, of times. Remember how clumsy you felt when you first started to drive and now it is second nature to you? You achieved this through practice, practice, practice. Great managers do the same to develop their skills. They choose a set of management practices and stick with them for their entire career, each day deepening their expertise and effectiveness. This enables them through time to build a level of wisdom in and mastery of their chosen profession.

An immediate result is predictability, consistency and increased clarity for their direct reports, something most employees crave.

Here are the 11 Practices we have found serve managers well when they choose to adopt them and practice them religiously:

  1. Context Setting
    2.     Team Planning
    3.     Team Building
    4.     Task Assignment
    5.     Task Adjustment
    6.     Monitoring
    7.     Coaching
    8.     Effective Assessment
    9.     Selection and Integration
    10.  Deselection and Dismissal
    11.  Continuous Improvement

So… if you are a manager, ask yourself: how do you manage?

Nick Forrest

What is Rob Ford’s magic? As the senior executive manager of the City of Toronto, he has lurched from one credibility crisis to another. He was almost ejected from his role for conflict of interest in 2010, then embarked on a slippery descent into ridicule, and finally was caught outright lying after his admission that he smoked crack while in a “drunken stupor”. If that wasn’t enough, a video recently surfaced showing him ranting, out of control, shouting that he wanted to kill someone. It looks as if he is on an expressway to political self-immolation.

But this descent to obscurity may not be what it seems. For throughout this apparent debacle, his approval ratings have remained stable. What is Mayor Ford’s leadership magic that enables him to hold onto, and even increase, his support despite the litany of follies?

He appears gifted in representing himself as a leader of his supporters’ values. Rob Ford clearly has the ability to elicit understanding and empathy from a considerable swathe of voters, allowing them to look beyond his obvious missteps. His followers have even coined the description “Ford Nation” to describe themselves. This “nation” is his backbone of support and Mr. Ford has shown brilliant leadership in keeping it solidly behind him. I personally don’t understand what his royal jelly is, but leaders connect with their followers, gain their support, and point the way forward; Ford Nation has firmly connected with its leader and follows him faithfully.

One last thought: we can draw parallels between Ford Nation and London during the Blitz in WW2. Any nation under sustained bombardment tends to pull together and harden its heart against the attacker – in Mayor Ford’s case, a very persistent, unforgiving media. Until the bombing stops, Ford Nation will hold fast in supporting their man. Is Rob Ford the Churchill of Ford Nation?

Nick Forrest

In my book, “How Dare You Manage?”, I look at the sacred relationship in any organization. This is the relationship between a manager and his or her direct reports. Studies show that a poor relationship with an immediate boss is a key reason employees leave a company. Managers need to stand in support of their employees, especially when those employees get themselves into trouble.

To help ensure good management, I believe there is a key management principle that needs to be in place which underpins all successful management. It is that managers are accountable for the outputs of their direct reports.

What are the implications of this statement?  It means that managers are held accountable by their immediate manager for their employees’ behavior, effectiveness at delivering results and for them getting work done on time. This makes the workplace a fairer place. There is no room left for the “teflon manager” who tries to defer blame on to their employee when things go wrong. The manager’s manager will respond to such a blaming and scapegoating statement with: You are accountable for the results of your employees – what management actions did you take to ensure success?  Did you set adequate context for the work? Did you monitor the work frequently enough? Were you clear about the values and behavior you expect when doing the work?

The manager should always know what is going on and be able to redirect accordingly to get the results they have asked for from this employee. It is their accountability to be aware what employees are working on and how effectively they are working on it. If the manager is not aware, how can they legitimately be the boss?

So, keeping this fundamental accountability in mind, we then look at Mr. Harper’s management of Mr. Wright. Mr. Harper is, supposedly, the most senior manager in the country. And how does he behave?  He accepts Mr. Wright’s resignation, distancing himself from anything Mr. Wright has done. He figuratively drops him down the well!  If that is not enough, he then further absolves himself, saying Mr. Wright was fired and did not resign. It is like returning to the well and dropping a grenade down it to ensure the employee is dead!  By removing himself from the equation, Mr. Harper breaks the sacred link between the manager and direct report and fails a basic tenet of being a manager. Mr. Wright’s failure and ineffectiveness is Mr. Harper’s failure and ineffectiveness in management.

The glory of management is to accept the accolades when your employees do well and stand with them and accept the blame when they do poorly. After doing this you may choose to fire them. Not before. If the manager has not taken accountability for their direct reports’ outputs and failings, they themselves have failed in the fundamental role of managing.

Nick Forrest

Next week, Tuesday November 5, is the formal book launch date for How Dare You Manage? Seven Principles to Close the CEO Skill Gap. And while I’ve been working on my presentation for the launch event, I have been reflecting on the concept of “anticipation”.We look forward to so many things: the birth of a child, a wedding, a birthday, a special anniversary, the completion of a long-term project. My book falls into the latter as I can scarcely believe, as I stroll by the boxes of HDYM copies in the Forrest office, that the day has finally arrived.

The word “anticipation” comes from the Latin anticipare: to take care of ahead of time. Management is all about anticipation. It’s about not leaving things to chance, about planning ahead and taking into consideration all eventualities. With good management in place, companies reap the rewards of projects delivered on time and within budget. When managerial principles are applied consistently, from the top down, and are espoused with vigor and passion by all managers, organizations thrive. Employees look forward to coming to work because they are confident in the abilities of their manager and know what is expected of them.

Ask yourself: do you work under a manager who does take care of things ahead of time? And if you are a CEO, what’s your level of anticipation?

Nick Forrest