Olive Strachan North West Export Champion 2016
phone +44 (0) 161 209 3950

Make 2017 the Best Year of Your Life

At the end of November 2016, I decided after a challenging year that it was time to invest in my own development. I managed to tick off an item on my 'bucket list' at the same time, as the event I was attending was GoPRO 2016 at the Las Vegas Convention Centre in Nevada. I have always wanted to visit Las Vegas and was able to board a small plane that had been specially cusotmised for sightseeing - we flew over the Mojave desert, the Hoover dam, and the Grand Canyon, where we stopped for a picnic lunch. It was an experience that I will never forget.

Most memorable of all was the experience of walking across the Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped cantilever bridge with a glass walkway over the Grand Canyon. When you're out on the Skywalk, the rim of the Grand Canyon is 70 feet behind you and the opposite side is 3 miles in front of you. The bottom of the Canyon is 2 thousand feet beneath you - the moment I looked down is one I'll never forget!

After that amazing experience, I felt ready to tackle anything, and I arrived at the GoPRO event ready to absorb, learn and participate.

Olive Strachan at GoPRO 2016

The event featured an interesting array of speakers, including Eric Worre, John Addison, Mel Robbins, Sir Richard Branson, and Tony Robbins. I firmly believe that, in order to achieve success, you need to "model yourself on someone who is already doing what you want to achieve", so to be in the presence of these great speakers and successful entrepreneurs with 20,000 other people was extremely motivational. When I left the event after 3 days, I felt energised, positive, and focused, with a written plan for 2017.

So what did I learn at GoPRO 2016, and why have I already booked for next year's event? Let me share with you the 3 steps that form part of my strategy for success in 2017. The key themes running through the event's 3 days were developing mental toughness, managing your emotions, and having a strategy. Additionally, quite a few of the speakers focused on the question of whether you have an internal or external locus of control; this refers to the extent to which you believe that you have control over the events that influence your life. When you are dealing with a challenge in your life, do you feel that you have control over the outcome? Or do you believe that you are simply at the hands of outside forces?

If you believe that you have no control over what happens and that external variables are to blame, then you have what is known as an external locus of control.

River

 

Developing mental toughness

Mel Robbins, whose popular TED Talk named 'How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over' became world famous, advocates the '54321 - Go!' method. This is based around the power of 5-second decisions. Mel shared with us that she had experienced many years of depression, which impacted on her ability to function well. One day, she forced herself to act by using metacognition, in effect tricking her brain. Whenever she felt challenged or unable to do something, she used her 5 second rule, simply saying to herself, "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go, action!" This method has helped her to overcome her fears and just keep going.

Richard Branson discussed the importance of taking risks. In his case, he has risked his life for the Virgin brand; his mental courage is underpinned by a strong belief in his company, a love of people, thriving on challenge, and seeing life as one big learning opportunity. A few other sayings that resonated with me were: "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down" (that is, life will serve us a few curve balls, but we can overcome these challenges); "Don't confuse disappointment with disaster" (we often overreact when things go wrong, but reflection and a calm appraisal of the situation can give some clarity); and Tony Robbins's observation that "Success leaves clues - unless you can handle failure, you can never have success".

 

Managing your emotions

John Addison discussed how important it is to manage our emotional response to crises. "What is up to us", he said, is the following:

  • Our emotions
  • Our judgement
  • Our creativity
  • Our attitudes
  • Our perspectives
  • Our desires
  • Our decisions
  • Our determination

"What is not up to us", he continued, is everything else! Successful entrepreneurs learn to manage the things listed above. Part of emotional management is being able to motivate yourself and having a powerful vision - one of the mantras of the GoPRO event was 'focus on the vision; wherever focus goes, energy flows!' People who are unable to motivate themselves must be happy with mediocrity.

Donna Johnson, a successul entrepreneur of 27 years, stressed how important it is to "Learn from the accelerated wisdom of people around you". You need to develop the strength to ignore the doubters, distractions and dream stealers.

 

Having a strategy

Whether you are using social media or other methods of marketing your business, it is important to:

  • Define your marketing strategy
  • Create your identity - describe who you are and craft your story
  • Write a page on why people should buy from you rather than from anyone else
  • Communicate your vision - walk the walk as well as talking the talk!
  • Invest in personal development (e.g. keep reading to increase your knowledge, attend networking events to make new contacts)
  • Create a plan of action and stick to it - be disciplined!

John Addison, who wrote the book Real Leadership, shared some of his hints and tips during the GoPRO event. He talked about 'attacking the day' - not meandering through, but having a purpose! Another pertinent saying of his was "I will do today what others don't, so I will have tomorrow what others won't". Some sacrifice is necessary to achieve our goals.

Olive Strachan

I came away from this event with my action plan for a successful 2017. I hope you find the information I have shared useful; if you have tried any of the above and found it useful, please feel free to contact me and share your success!

Follow Olive Strachan (@OliveStrachan) on Twitter for more insight and inspiration.

Has 2016 served you well from a business point of view? What would you like to happen in 2017?

New Year 2017

Over the forthcoming Christmas period, give yourself the gift of reflection and consider the possibility of a new challenge for the New Year!

Because I run my own business, I tend to use December as a month for reflecting and setting myself fresh goals going forward. When it comes to reflection, here are a few key things to think about:

1. Review your client relationships. I examine my list of clients and the work we have completed together, and review the feedback I have received. I ask myself the following questions:

  • Have I implemented any recommended changes?
  • Is this relationship a good one?
  • Do I need to move things forward in any way?
  • Should I book review meeting over coffee or lunch?

2. Review your product / service. We design and deliver training courses and provide consultancy and coaching. Each December, I ask myself: do we need to...

  • ...update?
  • ...change?
  • ...refine?
  • ...add new programmes?

3. Are your tools fit for purpose? Take a look at your resources (including equipment). Are contracts due for renewal? Do you need to update anything? This year, I am updating my latpop and software ready for next year; all transfers will take place over the holiday period, causing me minimum disruption in the process.

4. Tame the paperwork tiger! Have a mega 'filing and chucking' session - go through those magazines you were going to read and the files you were keeping 'just in case', and decide whether or not you need each item. Of course, the information you have to keep for legal reasons will have to be stored; I myself have 7 years' worth of accounts in my attic. But all the 'stuff' you are holding onto just causes clutter and can block creativity - so get rid of it!

5. What is your ROI (Return On Investment)? Examine your suppliers and other business relationships. I can get lazy sometimes and stick with the same supplier for years purely because I am comfortable - they know me well and understand my requirements, so why should I go to the trouble of starting again with somebody new? But step away from that mindset for a moment and ask yourself: are your suppliers delivering what you want and what your business needs? If not, it could be time to say goodbye. This can be hard, especially if you and the supplier have a long-standing business relationship that has moved into the realm of friendship. However, in these challenging times - we have been warned that there could be a rocky road ahead as we transition through the Brexit process - it's important to take ROI (Return On Investment) seriously. Ask yourself whether the relationship is beneftting you or your business; often, a fresh perspective can give your organisation that extra push it needs to move to the next level.

6. Are you a product of the product? I was always told that you need to dress like the person you want to be, so ask yourself: does your look reflect you and your business? Or is it time to invest in a completely new look? There is nothing like well-cut clothing that flatters you, whatever your shape.

7. Do you have the stamina to run a business? If you are not mentally and physically fit, you may be unable to put the necessary energy into your business. Take stock of your health this December - after trying every diet under the sun and various forms of exercise (including the gym and latterly a yoga class, where I fell asleep!), I have finally discovered the joy of walking. I love it! Fresh air the beauty of nature...you can go at your own pace, and there are many health benefits. To help me achieve my goal of 10,000 steps per day, I have asked my hubby to buy me a Fitbit for Christmas. As someone who is very goal-driven, I know that this will incentivise me to reach my target.

8. Have you lost your mojo? Feeling a little stale? Do something new! Set yourself a fresh challenge! After 18 years of running my own consultancy (Olive Strachan Resources), I have now opened a second business through which I represent a successful global health and wellness company. It is completely different, but uses some of the same skill sets; it is fun, a lot of it involves having parties and socialising with people, and it has given me a lot of joy and a brand new impetus. So look at adding something new to your list of accomplishments in 2017.

9. Spend some time with the people you love. For me, time spent with people - friends or family members - who genuinely want to be with me is a soothing balm to all the stresses that come with running a business. Laughing over a glass of Prosecco and a lovely meal always leaves me on a high. So get on the phone and arrange that meeting, go to that part, and generally kick back and enjoy yourself!

10. Take a break! Over the years, we have spent Christmas and New Year in the UK, the Caribbean, and Europe. Wherever you spend it, turn your phone off, stop emailing people, and allow yourself to recharge those batteries. For me, the ideal break is somewhere warm where I can push my toes into the sand, feel the heat of the sun, and run into the warm sea - utter bliss! When you return to work in the New Year, you will be ready to face anything. So give yourself the gift of time - time for yourself - because you deserve it!

Have a fabulous break, and I hope to catch up with you all in 2017!

As a training consultancy, one of the most important things we help our clients with is employee engagement.

Ryan Cheyne @ Rentalcars.com

What is employee engagement?

There are a number of different definitions available, but according to the CIPD, employee engagement is:

"Being focused in what you do (thinking), feeling good about yourself in your role and organisation (feeling), and acting in a way that demonstrates commitment to the organisational values and objectives (acting)."

I've been fortunate enough to meet Ryan Cheyne, Director of Rentalcars.com, on a few occasions, and he recently shared with me the employee engagement strategy that's in use at his present organisation. It immediately piqued my interest as it sounded creative, innovative, and fun! As leader of the HR Leaders/Fellows group of the CIPD's Manchester branch, I asked Ryan (pictured above) if he would host an event for us at his offices and demonstrate how his employee engagement strategy works.

On the 6th of October, a group of HR professionals and business leaders attended the event at Rentalcars.com's offices on Fountain Street in Manchester. It was a very interesting event indeed, and each person took away some key hints and tips on how to improve employee engagement within their organisation.

The CIPD Factsheet on Employee Engagement quotes the MacLeod Review of 2009, summarising four 'enablers' that should be fundamentals of any employee engagement strategy:

  • Leadership that gives a 'strong strategic narrative about the organisation, where it's come from and where it is going'

  • Line managers who motivate, empower and support employees

  • Employee voice throughout the organisation, to challenge or reinforce the status quo and involve employees in decision-making

  • Organisational integrity: stated values, embedded into the organisation's culture ('What we say is what we do!')

I feel that Rentalcars.com have drawn together all of the above strands and more in their employee engagement strategy.

Rentalcars.com were excellent hosts, with Ryan Cheyne and Damiana Casile welcoming us to their offices with some lovely refreshments and giving everyone the opportunity to network.

Ryan then opened the event by taking us through his background in employee engagement. Prior to joining Rentalcars.com, Ryan was People Director of Pets at Home, the UK's leading pet specialist retailer. During the 9 years he spent with Pets at Home, the company was repeatedly recognised as a retail employer of choice, notably being named as the #1 Big Company to Work For in 2013 by The Sunday Times. In his role as People Director, Ryan found innovative ways to being the company's core values to life, and as a result, Ryan's expertise in the area of employee engagement is well known in the business community.

Here are some of the thoughts that Ryan shared with us:

It doesn't matter what your company does - people generally want the same things from work.

Here are some of the benefits that Rentalcars.com employees receive:

  • Free tea, coffee and fruit
  • A cool working environment
  • A subsidised canteen
  • Meeting rooms
  • A space that is fun and fit for purpose
  • A workplace to be PROUD of!

Having received a full tour of the Rentalcars.com office, I must say that it's somewhere I would be proud to work as well.

Ryan also shared his belief that:

The road to engagement starts with listening - the journey to engagement starts with doing.

We then discussed the purpose of Rentalcars.com, linking back to the Macleod review, which states that 'there should be a strong narrative about where the organisation is going'. I believe that the purpose of Rentalcars clearly states where the company would like to go and the contribution required from their employees.

Empowering People

Ryan then demonstrated how the organisation listens and involves its employees in the decision-making process. In order for employees to feel that they have a voice and that their contributions are of value, Rentalcars.com held an event around shaping their values, giving each employee the opportunity to have some input.

Rentalcars.com 'V' Festival

Ryan also told us about the Rentalcars.com 'V' Festival. The aim was to create:

  • A values-driven event
  • An event where people come together with a common purpose
  • Something that was fun, vibrant, trendy and cool
  • A buzz and a discussion
  • A memorable point in time where colleagues felt involved
  • A mass of data and feedback to uncover the company's values
  • Something that would 'launch' the values event before it took place

Ryan shared with us details of the 'V' festival, which included colourful bunting, live music, a photo booth, and interactive sessions intended to gather employee feedback. As someone who enjoys involvement and participation, I could visualise the event and very much wished I had been able to take part! Following on from the event, all the data was analysed and the stated values were then agreed upon and shared throughout the business. As each staff member was involved in shaping these values, the work required to embed them into the organisation's culture was partly achieved. The next step for Rentalcars.com is to live those values and make sure that 'what we say is what we do'!

The values of Rentalcars.com really resonate with me. Love plays a big part, together with creativity, togetherness, fun and honesty.

Rentalcars.com Company Values

The final part of our visit was a tour of the company's famous offices, hailed in the Manchester Evening News on the 27th of May 2015 as potentially 'Manchester's coolest office'!

Rentalcars.com Offices in Manchester

Ryan and his team gave us a guided tour of their offices, and I must say that I feel they are truly fabulous - we didn't want to leave!

Olive Strachan and friends

“Effective people management and development is essential in supporting productivity, effective skills utilisation, innovation and growth.” Peter Cheese, Chief Executive, CIPD

3 Top Tips for Driving Performance

In order to be productive it is important that managers drive performance within their team. Often a team’s performance is hampered by lack of clarity and direction. Here are my top 3 tips for driving performance and ultimately increasing productivity!

  1. Personalisation

    Create an internal ‘brand’ which draws a line in the sand regarding the past and agree the working methodology for the future! Branding can create leverage and team spirit. The brand should demonstrate the behaviours that the organisation expects from its staff and should have an internal focus as opposed to an external one encouraging employees to get involved and be part of it. An exercise that would get all staff involved would be to create a list of the emotions and adjectives surrounding your brand, then allow your staff to assist in refining the list. Your brand personality will inform all the decisions and form your visual identity for the future.
  2. Strengthen Leadership

    “Leadership is an activity, not a personality or a position”. This is taken from Fifteen Lessons on Leadership from the Video Arts film about Jamie Oliver taking 15 young people and training them to become chefs. The five key lessons which he shares are:
    • Lead the way
    • Show them how
    • Believe in them
    • Deal with it
    • Learn and adapt
    Managers and leaders should be role models to staff by embodying the values and beliefs of the organisation. They need to set the standards they expect and live and breathe the values. Problems that arise should be dealt with promptly and managers need to be consistent and, of course, they need to learn and adapt.
  3. Provide a support framework

    Where people are falling short of expectations for whatever reason there needs to be a series of support mechanisms. They may include coaching; mentoring; learning and development programmes or stress and emotional support.

    Mentoring is a fantastic tool that can boost performance. Mentoring in the workplace can describe the relationship in which a more experienced colleague uses his or her greater knowledge and understanding of the work or workplace to support the development of a more junior or inexperienced member of staff. But there is also reverse mentoring where the junior member of staff may have a skill e.g. the use of technology, where they mentor the more mature member of staff to increase their knowledge of social media.

    Pulling these together, creating an internal brand, having strong leadership and providing development opportunities will boost staff performance and productivity!

By Olive Strachan Executive Coach, Staff Development Specialist

“The way you think about yourself determines your reality. You are not being hurt by the way people think about you. Many of those people are a reflection of how you think about yourself. 

“Shannon L. Alder”

Having confidence and self-belief in your abilities is part of the key to achieving your goals. With the present environment of uncertainty we need to refocus our efforts and keep our eye on the prize! By constantly reaffirming what we want and if necessary making adjustments there is no reason why success should not follow. 

Here are my 7 key tips to achieve your goals! 

1. Clarify what your goal is, often when working with managers or staff members there is concern and a sense of failure and lack of self-esteem due to non-achievement of goals. Most of the time it is not due to lack of ability or effort but because of ambiguity. With 1:1 Coaching part of the coaching conversation begins with establishing what the goal is and how realistic it is.

2. The next step is having a plan, having a plan is like putting co-ordinates into Google maps, you may hit the odd diversion but you know exactly where you want to go. Over the years I have coached many people who believe that planning everything stifles creativity and makes them boring. But there is something satisfying about committing something to paper and then seeing it come to fruition.

3. Confidence and self-belief – we all have that certain ‘Je ne sais quoi’ skill, something we are good at that we need to explore. Sit down and complete your own personal SWOT analysis. Or create your own trusted network of contacts who will give you constructive feedback. You need to create your own brand that reflects who you are which ultimately will give you confidence to be you!

4. Purpose - we all need a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I recently read an article about James Patterson the author in the Sunday Telegraph; he admitted that he had been rejected by 31 publishers before being published. He had a purpose and kept going until he achieved his goal. Tenacity and persistence win the day!

5. Resilience – The CIPD in their factsheet regarding ‘Developing resilience in Times of Change’ advise that to develop resilience we need to call upon and develop all our reserves of energy sources:

Soul

Body

Heart 

Mind 

Spirit

It recommends some deliberate activity daily in each of the 5 areas. Nourish each area by challenging yourself, e.g.  If you walk at lunch time (body) try walking faster or taking a different route.  Being able to bounce back in the face of adversity is essential when it comes to achieving our goals. There will be many obstacles along the way and that inner strength and ability to keep going is vital.

6. Tenacity - Make a commitment to yourself that you will not give up at the first hurdle or the second or third! Every challenge you face and overcome makes you a stronger, wiser more capable person.  After 18 years as a business owner there are not a lot of problems that I have not faced. After overcoming each one I felt added wisdom and a renewed sense of purpose. One thing that I have is an unshakeable belief in myself and what I want to achieve.  When I face adversity the song from Chumbawamba comes to mind ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never going keep me down!’

7. Learn and adapt – having worked with many organisations and individuals over the years often there is no evaluation completed after a project or a piece of work and so the same mistake is repeated. Evaluating, reviewing and making appropriate changes ensures that we achieve our goals and can then celebrate our success.

Goals must be challenging, allowing us stretch and grow, inspiring us to keep moving forward.  This is reflected by the vision of one of my clients Louvre Hotel Group:

DO, DARE, DREAM

To fashion today’s hotel industry, to imagine the concepts of tomorrow, and to turn our sights towards emerging countries. Such are the stated ambitions of Louvre Hotels Group, a major worldwide player, forever driven by its challenger’s spirit.

Brexit - just change management by another name?

As a UK based SME with some international clients, the vote to leave the EU came as a shock. I knew that the vote would be close, but I was confident that ultimately Remain would win. Post Brexit I feel it is pointless to rake over the coals, beat our breasts and keep complaining. It has happened and we must move forward. The biggest request we are receiving at the moment from our clients is how we can help managers and leaders to cope with Brexit.

Having experienced a few major recessions in my working life and survived, here are a few of my hints and tips on how to ensure we emerge relatively unscathed. My mantra post Brexit is 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger', a quote from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. 

Brexit in effect is a massive change process and the skills required by managers and leaders are the ability to deal with change and uncertainty. They must build better working relationships with team members, ensuring that they listen and communicate, provide reassurance and sometimes counselling for those who need it.

In the middle of this sea of uncertainty - because no one can predict the outcome as yet - we hear on the news about the political upheaval and the internal conflicts within various political parties.  Managers/Leaders must provide a beacon that shines amongst the chaos of all this turbulence.  

Something that staff can cling to has to be our company values.  We must keep reinforcing what we stand for as an organisation and what we believe in. Because the impact on the pound, financial markets, the housing market and uncertainty regarding the status of EU workers means that things will change.  

One thing that remains the same is the innate value and purpose of the company we work for. We need to take action that reflects company values and look for some positives. This could be an opportunity to hone your negotiation and influencing skills and ultimately become more resilient. I know definitely after the last recession where I had to seek new international markets for my consultancy services and grow my business by exporting; I emerged stronger with additional expertise and increased confidence in my abilities.

 

My 4 key tips for managing through Brexit are:

 

  1. Consider the potential changes and the impact on the role of employees and leaders.

  2. Identify the skills and attributes necessary for managing the change. E.g. one of the pre-requisites for our next prime minister is that they must have strong negotiation skills so that they can negotiate the deals we require with the rest of the EU. Similarly as an organisation what skills are required to ensure that you are able to navigate the challenging times ahead? Ideally do you possess the talent within the organisation? If not do you need to recruit the right people?

  3. Recognise the psychological impact that is associated with change, the personal responses that staff may manifest and how this will be dealt with. Coaching, counselling and providing support are critical success factors.

  4. Reflect on the impact of change on the organisation, the team and the individual and the challenges this presents. It is important to involve staff, set up some focus groups ask staff for their input and ideas making sure that staff are engaged and employees feel that they have a voice is crucial.

 

Peter Cheese the CEO of the CIPD says that Brexit is a time when we must demonstrate strong leadership and direction,  even if at the moment we are still experiencing VUCA (which is the acronym used to reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions).

The main thing to emphasis to our employees is that the 17 million people who voted for Brexit wanted to create something. Within an organisation this could also be an opportunity to create something new but it means that each person is responsible for the outcome, so we are all accountable.

6 tips for getting things done through people!

One of the most challenging aspects of being a manager is getting things done through people. Often, the reason why someone is promoted into a management position is because they are good at their job. To achieve your own personal objectives takes a single-minded determination to succeed; this trait does not lend itself to managing other people. Another common factor (drawback!) of line management in many organisatons is that managers have a dual role of achieving the requirements of their own jobs as well as managing others, which can cause conflict.

Having managed staff for 30 years, here are my top 6 tips for delivering through people!

1. Know your team. Often when coaching managers who are struggling with getting their team motivated and on track, I ask "how well do you know your team?" Unsurprisingly, there are members of their team who they like and get on well with so they can easily describe in detail this person's needs. But other team members are not so well known, time spent with your team in one to ones or staff meetings gives you valuable insight into who they are and what they want and need from you. Models of leadership often stress that effective leadership lies in what the leaders does to meet the needs of each individual and the team itself.

2. Learn and adapt. In conversation with managers they may discuss a certain employee who they have struggled with for years, and with whom they are not making any progress. We then probe into what tools and management techniques they have used to resolve the issue. It often turns out that they have continued with the same method over and over again in the vain hope that it will work. When informed that Einstein's definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same results; the usual refrain is that “it works for me”. But the point is your staff member is not going to respond in the same way that you do. Adapting your style may mean a change in behaviour and sometimes that is not easy. However, a successful manager needs to demonstrate the appropriate leadership qualities and style at the appropriate time.

3. Coaching. One key role of any leader is to coach team members to achieve their best. As a coach you will typically help your team members to solve problems, make better decision, and learn new skills or otherwise progress their role or career.

4. Do not over-promise and under-deliver, particularly during performance appraisal meetings, when staff make requests that are not aligned to the organisation's goals or that are just not feasible. Rather than being honest some managers hint or give vague assurances. You then have an employee who believes what they have been told and is waiting for confirmation that, as agreed, their request is being considered. Many managers, particularly if they are managing a large amount of staff, hope that by just letting it drop it will soon be forgotten about. It may be by the manager but never by the staff member! Trust and credibility will have been lost - two things that are very hard to regain.

5. You can't be everyone's friend! Many problems managers face come from their quest to be their team’s best buddy, rather than their manager. When this happens, they become entangled in a web of their own making. Unfortunately, one day as the manager you are going to have to give feedback which may not be well received regarding quality of work, attendance, attitude or behaviour. Not everyone can separate 'my friend with whom I have a bond of mutual affection' with this person who is telling me what to do! It is a hard one, so I always look for mutual respect and try to be fair and supportive to all my staff.

6. Communication is key. Say what you mean and mean what you say! Ambiguity is the scourge of both staff and managers alike. One refrain that we often hear is "I keep telling them what to do, but they just don’t do it!" But ask yourself: how clear is your message?  Did you type out your request by email at 4.30 just before going home, so you could not be questioned?  Did you share enough information so that the member of staff had a clear vision of your exact requirements? It is vital in this modern age of managing remotely and managing virtual teams that we craft a skilful message, and that what you say is aligned to the company’s goals so that everyone has clarity. Also, give the other person the opportunity to respond and ask pertinent questions.

If you would like to know more about 'Delivery Through People', I will be delivering this programme on the 7th of July at our offices in Manchester:

Olive Strachan Resources
REGUS, Peter House
Oxford Street
Manchester
M1 5AN 

Click here to find out how to book your place.

"Catch a man a fish

Feed him for a day

Teach him how to fish

And feed him for life"

For me, the unknown author of the above quote perfectly captured what coaching is all about: releasing the potential in someone.

Do you use coaching as a resource to cultivate and develop the employees in your organisation? At Olive Strachan Resources, I have coached and mentored people for many years, and I am a great believer in personal development and training. As part of my quest for continuous personal development, I too have embarked on the ILM Level 7 Diploma in Executive Coaching and Mentoring, an intensive and experiential programme which requires extensive practice and reading outside the formal tutorial workshops.

Historically, most of my coaching has taken place inside offices, which can sometimes - if you are in a confined space, having a one-to-one with another individual - can be a very intense and concentrated experience. The ILM focused on a contemporary programme that specialised in coaching but also utilised the environment to further enhance the coaching experience. This involved working with a coachee whislt walking around Lake Buttermere in Keswick. It was truly an amazing experience; the beauty and stillness of the surrounding environment and the sense of being at one with the elements allowed each person to reflect deeply, making use of mind, body, and spirit.

Here is another famous quote that I feel captures the essence of coaching - this one is from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

As the summer months approach, I am looking forward to the balmy summer weather, which will offer my coachees at Olive Strachan Resources the opportunity to leave the constraints of the office to embrace and experience the beauty of nature whilst discovering their full potential and finding exactly 'what lies within us'.

An article by BBC business correspondent Jonty Bloom entitled 'Why the Productivity Gap?' states that "bad management alone accounts for a quarter of the difference between the productivity in the UK and that of our rivals"! One question we should ask ourselves is why are our managers falling behind, and have we invested in their development? Being a manager is an extremely challenging role, and without training, support and coaching, they can wreak havoc, resulting in high staff turnover, high sickness rates, conflict and stress.  Having worked as a manager for 30 years, here are my seven steps to being an effective people manager.

 

The definition of management is 'getting things done through people'. Our research shows that post-recession, due to the lack of investment in first line managers, the essential skills of building trust and developing a relationship with staff are the areas that managers find most challenging. As the old adage goes, people do not leave companies, they leave managers, so having managers who are competent when it comes to managing people is an essential tool for any organisation. So what are the essential steps?

 

1. Get the right mindset

 Run your department as a commercial business; understand your place in the organisation, where you fit in and your impact. Read the organisation's strategic plan, and establish how your department fits into this plan. Constantly review your job role and that of your team; often, after working at an organisation for a period of time, we can forget why we were employed in the first place. We tend to perform the parts of our job role we enjoy, not what we are being paid for.

 

2. Define and clarify a clear vision and values

 It is difficult to get employees to achieve goals and gain their commitment if they do not understand where the business is going and their place within it. Do you have a clear vision? What are the values that underpin this? Are you sharing it in a creative way? I recently met a HR Director at a networking event who shared with me his method of achieving this. He put together a festival involving the whole organisation; they had bunting everywhere around the office, for the auditory staff there was music (including karaoke) and for the kinaesthetic amongst them there were games and fun interactions. A key part of this event was getting all staff to take part in the festival, and each individual was given a list of values to choose from. The outcome was that they helped to shape company values. A clear winner was showing appreciation for each other and saying thank you!

 

3. Involve your team in the decision-making process

 We cannot always act on staff feedback, but we can listen and get their opinion. We have all experienced the situation where decisions are imposed on us without any rhyme or reason, leaving us feeling undervalued. The earlier example I gave about the staff involvement in setting the values means that they are more likely to get behind them and support them in the future e.g. for performance meetings et cetera. It also means that we all speak a common language: if I had a penny for each time I have delivered a training programme where the question 'what are your company values?' has been met with the reply 'to make money', I would be a very rich woman.

 

4. Understand what makes your staff tick!

 Whether you use Myers Briggs, the Thomas International DISC model or TetraMap, it is vital that you understand how your team work and how to get the best out of them. When I am coaching a manager who is having issues with getting the best from his/her team, I will often ask them to tell me about their team members: their good and bad points, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they motivate them. Often, they have a particular person they are close to but have not taken the time to have one to ones or delve a little deeper into their team's specific needs. A manager is like the conductor of an orchestra: how can you create harmony without knowledge? When this is brought up during training or coaching sessions, managers often say that they have no time to coach their staff or have one to one meetings. Ignore this at your peril; this lack of knowledge leads to underutilisation of staff, demotivation, and a lack of engagement.

 

5. Hold regular meetings

 Staff need an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas and receive honest feedback. A meeting should not be the manager just imparting their opinions; if possible, rotate who chairs the meeting, allowing staff to set the agenda. This will give the manager a great insight into the employees' needs. The meeting need not be a long, drawn-out process; three key items on the agenda could be:

  • What have we achieved that we are proud of?
  • What do we need to be concerned about?
  • What do we need to focus on next?

 

6. Communicate and share information

 I do not advocate 'mushroom management' - keeping people in the dark to enhance the power of the manager. Staff are knowledgeable about what to expect from their managers, and they expect to be consulted, listened to, developed, and to receive appropriate praise and rewards. Once, when I was delivering a Customer Services programme, staff on the course had no idea regarding how they were perceived by their customers as the management had not shared with them that there had been an increase in customer complaints. So my training course was the first time they had seen figures and condensed feedback. When they arrived, they did not know why they were attending the training programme; when they left, they were fired up, determined to turn things around with a selection of solutions. Often, the solutions to organisational problems can be found if you communicate and share.

 

7. Sell it to them

It never ceases to amaze me when managers say: 'We have this new initiative, but all my team are against it. They just can’t see the benefit of implementing it!' I always ask: 'How did you sell it to them?' The manager usually replies: 'I just told them that it was happening and we had no choice as higher management said we had to do it.' Well surprise, surprise - negative delivery of the message gets a negative response! Managers often make things difficult for themselves by not preparing how to deliver bad news or change processes to their staff. In order to get everyone on-side, there has to be some time spent preparing what you are going to say and how you are going to say it, making sure it is motivational, with prepared answers for challenging questions.

 

If you have enjoyed these 7 key points for being an effective people manager and want to hear more, our next Effective People Manager course will be held on the 26th of May, at Peters House in Manchester.

http://www.olivestrachan.com/courses/the-effective-people-manager/88

Olive Strachan MSc, HRM, Chartered FCIPD,

CIPD Council Representative and HR Leader 

Managing Consultant, Global Executive Coach and Motivational Speaker

2015-16 Woman of Influence in the North West

I recently attended the 2016 IoD Director of the Year Awards at the Gala dinner ceremony at the Hilton in Manchester.

The Institute of Directors exists to inspire leaders and support organisations. It is the UK's largest and longest-established membership organisation for directors and professional leaders.

The IoD Award ceremony recognises the achievements of business leaders across the region, from entrepreneurs driving innovative start-ups to global organisations with multi-million-pound turnovers.

It was an evening of laughter and joyfulness for the winners and their organisations, and those of us not nominated for an award were just really pleased to be there to support entrepreneurs and be part of a really positive and joyful occasion.

In a beautiful room at the Hilton, there were 350 of us dressed in our finery and doing something we all love doing: celebrating success.

I was invited by Clive Drinkwater from UKTI (encompassing my role as Export Champion), and we were seated at the front of the auditorium, near the stage - which was great because I like to be near the action!

One of the Directors commented on recognition and that resonated with me. He mentioned Maslow and how important it is to receive recognition for your efforts. Whether you use Maslow, Herzerg, or Neuroscience to understand what drives and motivates us, Directors - just like anyone - need someone to say 'well done!'

When I was working in recruitment back at the start of my career, we would view the 'Directors' of the organisation with envy as they walked through the office in their lovely suits. In preparation for their visit, we had to wear our uniforms, have the office cleaned from top to bottom, clear our desks of any paperwork, and sit in anticipation of possibly being the member of staff they spoke to during their visit. I would look at the Directors and think 'what do they do?' After they had gone, there would be lots of grumbling about how privileged they were because the visit would normally end with our manager taking the Director to the best restaurant for dinner before they departed. From my point of view at the time, Directors did not need any recognition as I felt that their salaries, cars, and all the other benefits they received were reward enough.

Fast forward 20 years and I am now the Director of my own business, with staff, offices, a bank loan, two children, and a mortgage. I now have to be the swan: serene above the surface whilst pedalling furiously below. The training market is a turbulent one; as the saying goes, when money is tight, the first thing to go is...training.

My company, Olive Strachan Resources, has weathered two recessions, and this involved sometimes having to make tough decisions (and, consequently, staff redundant) in order to survive. At the height of the recession, I used to go home every night unable to sleep; my hair started falling out, and I was constantly worried. During these difficult times, friends - no matter how loyal they are - eventually get  bored with listening to you sharing your distress, and so this is the time when you need a mentor or a coach to keep you keep on track. 

I would recommend that every director should avail themselves of a coach or mentor at some point in their career. As someone who has run a business for the past 18 years, I also coach and mentor others helping them to reach their full potential.

Fortunately, OSR have been able to withstand two recessions - I am extremely resilient and, with the help of UKTI, I was able find new markets abroad, win an international contract, and bounce back.

My point is that being a Director can be a lonely experience. You have to be a risk-taker and live with the consequences of those risks. When things look impossible, you have to somehow have a vision of how to make it better, think of a solution and mobilise your team to achieve your goal.

So any opportunity to champion business success, recognise and congratulate Directors for demonstrating strength in leadership to drive their organisations forward is extremely positive.

A great source of pride for me was the number of female Directors recognised on the night: Chartered Director of the Year Jo Rizema of WCF LTD, International Director of the Year Emma Sheldon of Vernacare Ltd, Public Sector/Third Sector Director of the Year Yvonne Harrison  of GreaterSport, and Diane Modahl who is CEO of the Diane Modahl sports Foundation she received her award for Director of the Year Leadership in Corporate Responsibility. It was an excellent event and I left feeling extremely positive! 

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