Category: management


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.

Dear Dave,

I know, ‘Every Little Helps’, but that doesn’t include employees pension contribution and pay!

You have too rich a compensation package for the results you’ve achieved so far Dave. Nobody is worth £4m for six months work – especially the six months you’ve had.

Your employees will only thrive under quality management that is fair and respectful. If, as the papers speculate, you’re after their cash, while you and your board squabble over million-pound claw backs and lucrative pay packages the optics will look awful. Not to mention the impact on your employees’ morale.

DON’T DO IT, DAVE! Please.

Nick Forrest

CEO, Dare To Manage

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.