Category: Leadership


One of the highlights of Management Today’s coverage of its #MTLive event recently was hearing from Andy Street, CEO of UK retailer John Lewis Partnership.  Street is, by the publication’s measure, Britain’s most admired business leader.

Reading his comments and, subsequently, a series of articles written about him it’s not hard to understand why he is most admired. But he is, first and foremost, a Manager not a Leader.

In one Management Today piece Street attributes his success to strength of the business model he inherited; a business model created by the founders son in 1929 and adhered to ever since. Street is the steward of this model.  He is accountable for creating and executing a plan that allows the company to prosper.  And, prosper it has.  While many UK retailers have struggled in difficult trading conditions and increased competition from low-price retailers John Lewis’ premium business has weathered the storm better than any other.

How has it done this? Andy Street says he thinks it is in large part down to the culture of the organization. “People trust organizations because of a sort of total peace around the organization. So we want to be perceived as an organization that’s a good employer and has a fair approach to pay, for example”, he told the publication.

John Lewis are renowned for their staff’s morale and engagement. This requires clarity – everybody must know what they are accountable for. This requires direct, truthful, conversations; sometimes difficult ones. This also requires transparency. But, most importantly, it requires management.  Most companies struggle to create a culture where employees are engaged and inspired.  The most common cause is not a lack of a leader – somebody pointing the way – but the lack of a Manager.

The Partnership in the John Lewis name means that all employees share in the profits. You might think that having partners might make direct truthful conversations about corporate and individual performance – and applying consequences – in a transparent way difficult. But, says Street in his #MTlive interview, it makes them easier.  Management and employees at John Lewis are able to have direct truthful conversation that are accepted and understood by all – and this produces significant competitive advantage in innovation, customer engagement and strategy execution.

Creating and maintaining this culture doesn’t happen by accident: it starts at the top – with the CEO and senior management team. Creating it is easy; maintaining it is incredibly difficult. It requires continual management.

I believe Andy Street should be recognized as Britain’s Best Manager – a far greater accolade in my book than the one already bestowed on him. He doesn’t just point the direction, he manages the organization to ensure it achieves its goals for the benefit of every single employee.  I call it CEO management.

 

A key first step to managing large groups is to be clear on your strategy and be able to quote your Vision and Mission statement from memory. When talking with a group of 25 CEOs last week about how to manage large groups of employees a considerable number of these CEO’s,  to my surprise, could not do this.
I did not expect managers at this level to fail in this exercise.  But am I being naive? How many senior executives have their Vision and Mission statements memorized cold? How many are able to refer to it mentally as a guiding reference for all they do on a day-to-day basis?

The problem is many senior leaders regard their Vision and Mission as window dressing – something they need to have but do not really value.  Take some time to read a few: many are excruciatingly obtuse.  Yet these are the two statements
that are supposed to give context and direction (what businesses we can and cannot be in) for everything done in a company to achieve the strategy.  The apparent failure of CEOs and senior managers to know their Vision and Mission off pat could explain the poor performance of many household brand companies.

I think I stumbled on a real opportunity to improve alignment and corporate performance.  Knowing and understanding the Vision and Mission is the accountability of every manager in the organization.

Have you committed your Vision and Mission to memory?  What about your senior executive team? What role does it play in helping you manage large groups of employees?

Share your Vision and Mission below and I’ll send you a condensed version of How Dare You Manage? 7 Principles Every CEO Needs for Managing Large Groups of Employees.

Last week I read about the sad findings in Gallop’s most recent “State of the
American Manager” Report.  It’s an interesting – if depressing – read.  It got me thinking about the core skills of
management talent.   These are:

* Motivator
* Assertiveness
* Accountability
* Relationships
* Decision Making

According to the report, the majority of managers fail every one.  On the face
of it they do not look that complicated, so let’s examine them and try and see
where most managers are going wrong.

1. Motivator:  They challenge themselves and their teams to continually improve
and deliver distinguished performance.

You’d think that this capability should be found in most management candidates.
It is not hard to see if someone is interested in accomplishment and
improvement.  Just look at their past history and how they have improved
themselves.

2. Assertiveness: They overcome challenges, adversities and resistance.

Have you put someone in a role where they will be overwhelmed?  How big are they
for the role?  You need someone who can get the arms around their management
role.  If they feel overwhelmed they will find it hard to be assertive.

The choice to put them in a role is the sum of their manager’s discretion.
Often this discretion gets undermined by weak objective measurements that
enable shoddy thinking and poor choices.

3. Accountability:  They ultimately assume responsibility for their teams ‘
success and create the structure and processes to help their teams deliver on
expectations.

If you hold a manager accountable for the outputs of their employees you will
get the above.  There can be no “Teflon Management” if a manager is held
accountable for their team’s output.  “There is nobody else to blame for poor
performance so I had better get on with building the best team I can and support
them with the required structure and processes”

4. Relationships:  They build a positive, engaging work environment where their
teams create strong relationships with one another and clients.

All of us know and can judge if someone can build relationships.  How dare you
put managers in charge of people when they don’t like people!!!!   It just a
fundamentally flawed decision that builds dark satanic mills – awful places to
work.  It is unconscionable act of lousy management

5.Decision-Making:  They solve the many complex issues and problems inherent to
the role of thinking ahead, planning contingencies, balancing competing interest
and taking an analytical approach.

They need a brain to do this!  Do not put a manager in a role who is not capable
of handling the complexity the work.  They will be overwhelmed, unable to sort
things out and delegate effectively to their employees.  These employees will
also work out quickly that their manager is “too stupid” for the role and cannot
help or team them much if anything.  It raises the odds of them disengaging from
their work pretty fast.

The truth is that none of this matters much unless the CEO and their Executive
really engage and care about structuring work of their company and staffing it
with right management capability and holding them accountable for effective
performance.  And, while the five dimensions of effective management might
appear common sense, Gallup says that in a whopping 82 percent of cases
organizations choose fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the
manager job.

This is an abdication of CEO Management.  It is a shame and creates a wasteland
of human talent as described by Gallop in their 2015 report. The sad fact is
that as ill equipped most managers in large organizations are, it starts with a
basic CEO skills gap.

Closing that gap MUST be the priority for the majority of large organizations.

This is a question I have asked hundreds of Chief Executives over the years. I’m always fascinated to hear how they describe CEO work.  Most can’t answer this question succinctly or clearly.  Many have “bits” of an answer. Few could describe a comprehensive integrated management process that can be communicated in a comprehensive manner to their senior executive team.

Another question I’ve asked repeatedly over the years is, “what is the difference between leadership and management?”.  It leaves most floundering. Many have been chief executive officers of large organizations for many years, managing thousands of employees, but the majority have clearly not taken much time to consider the difference.  These CEOs end up being neither a manager or a leader, to the detriment of their own personal performance and that of the organizations they spearhead.

Their failure to differentiate between leadership and management also means they cannot define clear expectations for either.  Predictably, without clear definitions, their senior executives manage inconsistently.  This, in turn, leads to a lack of clarity for front-line managers and employees.  It ends up becoming a vicious circle.

The problem is that when you take on the management mantle of CEO of a company, the assumption is that you have all of the skills necessary to do the job.  As the chief executive of an organization it is assumed that you have the training and experience to help your organization fly with the same level of confidence and expertise a 747 pilot sitting on the runway with a fully loaded plane of passengers preparing to take off. The reality is often very different!

A 747 pilot is prepared for the job.  They’ve gone through a process that, to reference Malcolm Gladwell, has involved thousands of hours of practical experience. They will also have piloted the plane as First Officer under the tutelage of the Captain on many occasions.  A new CEO, on the other hand, often has not had the hours of job-specific training, nor the extensive study of the theory, principles and processes they need to effectively manage a large group of employees.

Many CEOs also take over accountability for their ‘aircraft’ in mid-flight! They often take over when something has gone wrong, usually something serious.  Yet, they are then expected to diagnose the problem, fix it, file a new flight plan, change heading and land safely – often at a destination that was different from the intended one. They are expected to do all this while learning how to fly a plane they’ve never flown before.

Thank heavens a company never leaves the ground!

From my experience, part of the success of a new CEO is the ability to provide their managers with a philosophy, a set of principles, processes and disciplines, and demand they practice them to an exemplary standard with clear accountability. It is the only way to attain a level of performance within their organization that enables everybody to perform to their best work.

I define this process as the Craft of CEO Management.  A Craft, since the Middle Ages, has been the lifelong pursuit of mastery in a chosen profession. For chief executive officers the profession is CEO management. It presents an opportunity to choose a management philosophy, structure, set of principles, processes and disciplines and then practice using them for the rest of their career.

A Chief Executive must strive to be a master the Craft of CEO Management.  Mastery of the Craft represents the single greatest great opportunity for performance improvement for senior executives.  Those who take on the challenge; reflect on it; learn from it; and integrate all the management work of their company achieve higher levels of engagement and better results.

Those CEOs who avoid this essential management work are unable to execute their duties to the best of their capability.  The performance of their organizations suffers because they are unable to get the best out of the hundreds of employees they manage.

So, do you dare to master the Craft of CEO Management? Which philosophy will you choose?

Nick Forrest

Most companies suffer from a surfeit of leadership. What they need is management to ensure things get done. I mentioned this when talking to a group of senior managers recently who are accountable for the work of 2500 employees and received quite an energetic reaction.

I explained that this is because most managers have been told to lead their division or team. But to start with, most managers cannot define the difference between leadership and management. Leadership work is creating the company’s/department’s vision for the way ahead and engaging and enlisting their employees to help build this future. Management is the design and management of their employees’ environment to maximize their capability  to do their best work. Managers need to do both.

Leaders often don’t roll up their sleeves to do the slogging work of management.  They make a lot of noise but nothing comes down the stairs!  Nothing significant really changes to their employees immediate environment to enable employees to work more effectively and efficiently within the system they find themselves.

I believe that leaders who only focus on inspiring great work are not as successful as those managers who focus their efforts on helping their employees achieve the great work that they want to accomplish. Senior executives need to sharpen their senses to identify what prevents employees doing their best work. They need to be experts as removing these barriers.

Most of us arrive at work eager to contribute, create and be part of something successful. If our senior managers are effective, we will be able to continue with that enthusiasm and get our work done. Yes, I hold the top of house accountable for everything an employee experiences. For example, it is senior managers’ accountability to ensure that every employee is managed by a manager who will treat them with respect and can teach them and enhance their skills and confidence. To do this is not an act of leadership – it is an act of management. To make this happen will require the installation of company-wide assessment systems, frequent and truthful review of managers’ performance. To ensure fairness, all employees require clear goals and measurements against which they can be assessed. Removal from role will happen quite frequently at the onset of this process. These are the nitty-gritty tough aspects of management to get things done right in the company!

Leadership is often not the answer to solving the pain in a company. It requires management.

 

In the past decade management gurus and the media have advocated that the “secret sauce” to success lies in becoming a leader not a manager.

Management has almost become a dirty word despite the fact that management is the essential component of delivering any leader’s vision. (See my blog defining leadership and management).  The net result of all this is leadership is now regarded as more sexy and seductive than management; more senior executives aspire to be leaders than managers.  This misconception comes at a significant loss in corporate performance.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jos Wintermans, the former CEO of Canadian Tire Acceptance Limited. Jos has successfully led more than a dozen companies during his career.  He likened leadership to a “Mars Bar” – providing a spike of energy or enthusiasm to embolden employees but it fails to sustain in longer term.  He explained that as the impact of leadership fades, so does the enthusiasm and energy within an organization. Management, he explained, is the discipline that sustains energy and enthusiasm within an organization.  It ensures that employees remain engaged, focused and energized and always able to do their best work.

I am not saying that leadership is unimportant.  Leaders point the way forward and describe the road ahead with energy that engages employees. But, after this rhetoric has faded the real hard work of implementation and execution of the plan starts.  It’s all about management.

I believe all CEOs have to face, and understand, that the higher you rise in an organization and the more employees you manage, the more management matters.  Management for chief executives – what I describe as CEO Management – enables you to best utilize every resource at your disposal in order for your organization to achieve its stated goals.  Let me go back to Jos’s comment about Mars Bars.  To effectively prevent the initial enthusiasm and energy from failing, CEOs need to identify the obstacles that hinder their employees’ effectiveness and then implement the required management systems to overcome them.

In the long term employees do not really care how charismatic you are as a leader.  They care about their immediate work environment and their ability to get their work done.  Fix their immediate challenges for them – the job of management – and you will have highly engaged employees.

There exist CEOs who strut up and down the auditorium stage telling their employees what a wonderful future they have and how new systems will enable them to do more with less… but then ignore the critical work of managing their business. Nothing will change in the immediate world of work for their employees.  The same challenges will remain that prevent them doing their best work, and employees will start to disconnect from the strategic plan, as management clearly do not intend on addressing the issues that compromise their ability to do good work and succeed.

Ignoring the management of your business is in effect implementing a long-term employee disengagement strategy!  What steps will you take today to improve your organization’s performance?

Nick Forrest

The two words leadership and management are probably the most ambiguous words in the lexicon of the business world. I believe defining these two words are at the heart of the meaning of the work, and success, of a chief executive officer.

As a CEO or senior executive you have to choose your words carefully. It is your job to effectively “launch a thousand ships” and, in doing so, know when to lead and when to manage. I often ask my clients to define the meaning of Leadership and Management.  The answers are hardly ever consistent. And my clients have strong differing views!  These need to be debated in order to establish a collective understanding and agreement of “how we will manage our company”.

My definition of leadership is about pointing the way; whereas management is how you get to your destination.  To use a football analogy, leadership is getting the team fired up before kick-off. Management is selecting the plays and getting the players to execute them in order to move the chains down the field 10 yards at a time. It requires everybody to understand what is being communicated.

The rules of language apply to all levels of management.  As a chief executive you need  choose a philosophy of management, a language, principles, processes, and structure.  You must then practice them for the rest of your professional career, developing an expertise and an ability to lead and manage in a deeply effective way.

I call this the Craft of CEO Management.

CEO Management is the lifelong pursuit of mastery in an executive’s chosen profession.  Part of achieving excellence in any profession is the requirement to be precise in the meaning of the language of the profession so that everybody understands what is being said.  The profession of management is profoundly poor at this.  It is beset with jargon, there is no universal agreement on the definition and collective meaning of words or language, and is laxly applied.  The existing vocabulary is continually being undermined by jargon.

We’ve all seen what happens when this happens on the football field – when team members misunderstand what the play call is or what route they are running!

CEO Management requires you to design and manage your company environment to maximize your employees’ understanding of their work,  their effectiveness and efficiency. This framework enables them to do their best work. The larger the group of employees, the greater the payback is for doing this. However, the larger the number of employees, the larger the risk of failure if there a clear framework does not exist.

Make the way you choose to manage uniform throughout your company. Give your both your managers and their staff the gift of consistency and clarity of language, principles and process.  They will respond with increased effectiveness and productivity.

To learn the language of effective CEOs, check out How Dare You Manage? Seven Principles For Closing The CEO Gap.

Nick Forrest