Archive for June, 2011

Can Lloyds TSB navigate the storm?

In announcing that Lloyds TSB are to shed 15,000 jobs over the next three years probably contained little surprise to most people. Indeed there will be many that will be quite pleased that some bankers are reaping what they sowed without realising that the middle management and back-room boys losing their jobs are not those who will be receiving big bonuses over the next three years.

Restructured teams have an increased chance of failure

My real concern is that five thousand job losses each year, for three years, will mean a vast number of teams being restructured. The problem with team restructure is that only 60% tend to deliver targets. That means that 40% of teams fail to deliver on expectations. That’s one big storm of disruption for Lloyds TSB to navigate.

Costs can be huge
The cost of such failure in lost opportunity terms can often amount to ten times the salary of the team and in banking circles that can be  huge! ( a team salary of £1million could produce a potential lost opportunity cost of £10m) However, when one’s focus on savings will be judged on salaries saved the actual costs of the restructure often get ignored.

That is until financial statistics reveal that further jobs have to be cut because the anticipated results haven’t been met!

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Do we expect too much?

The Office for National Statistics as reported on the BBC have reported today that the UK saw its service sector sales have the biggest fall in fifteen months April. Blame was allocated to the Royal Wedding, an extra bank holiday and the hot weather which seems to me to be a similar excuses as trains running late due to leaves on the line.

Is it sensible to expect that every month and every year things will always improve?
A few years ago a friend of mine went to his doctor and said that he felt depressed. He described how some days he felt great whilst on others he felt “tired and down”. His Doctor explained that this was normal and indeed it actually has a medical name.

Isn’t business the same? One month will be great and often another poor and it’s actually destructive to expect that growth must always be the norm. Reviewing things as they become quiet and business situations change is healthy. The best time for such reviews is when things are quiet.

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How can we maintain sales?

This past week I’ve spent with friends and our after dinner discussion was the state of the economies of Europe and the affects of the high street. Economic problems and affecting sales at HMV, Waterstones, Thornton’s chocolates, Comet and so on and the impact is felt further down the supply chain.

Strikes by National Union of Teachers and Public Services Unions as well as others create further downturn in sales as confidence in the future falls. My friends are mostly owners of small businesses and discussions focussed on how to reduce the effects of strikes and falling confidence on sales.

Restructuring sales teams
When sales fall most businesses cut out unnecessary expenditure and restructure the sales and marketing team. Often this means reducing the size of the team but one friend of mine has actually increased the size of his team and has increased sales. We had worked on the plan together and so I’m delighted by his success and he expressed enthusiasm for thee video below that helped him consider the salesperson he was looking for.

Sales and Marketing interview questions

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Is identifying weaknesses productive?

I’ve spent some time with Ryan Taylor, my personal fitness trainer at my gym, who is probably the most natural coach and mentor that I’ve ever come across. Why is he different? Well firstly he listens to what I want to achieve, is flexible when I want to add more goals and encourages my strengths and accepts my weaknesses whilst improving technique to overcomes them. Most importantly, he makes the whole process fun, varied and interesting.

He’s not soft
The workouts are always hard, he’s not soft on me, far from it! He encourages and compliments me when I do well and isn’t critical when I’ve tried my best but not succeeded. I’m just asked and motivated to have another go to get it right. I can’t remember not wanting to!
What is most surprising is that he’s only in his early twenties and I don’t think he realises how good a coach and mentor he is!

What could business learn?

Over the past few months I’ve began to think that business managers could learn a great deal from Ryan’s technique. Creating systems to catch people out, identifying weaknesses and spending time training poor performers and achievers may not be the most productive use of management time. Instead it would be more productive to develop people’s strengths.

SWOT analysis
We’ve all looked at a SWOT analysis at work. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are identified and discussed but too often the emphasis focusses on the weaknesses rather than developing the strengths. That can and I’ve often been asked to sort out the resulting paralysis.

In going to the gym I want to enjoy it. Doing the exercises and playing the ball games I enjoy improves my fitness. People working in business are not very different. If Ryan can ensure that as well as enabling me to feel good about my fitness regime but that I don’t neglect the areas I’m also weak at. Then business managers should be able to do the same.

There is a lesson here!

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The Evil Twin

I was at a meeting today at the IOD (Institute of Directors) and the discussion included a reference to the “Evil Twin Syndrome” which is the fact that one sees the best in a person at the interview. As my old boss used to say “They will always be at their smartest at the interview”

During the probationary period they will be perfect. Work hard and even do overtime. Then the day after a satisfactory probationary period there arrives “The Evil Twin”. The individual who is argumentative, difficult to manage and screams “unfair” at every opportunity.

However, having identified that most managers have suffered from the syndrome it’s also  true to say that at some time in one’s career one has probably also been “the evil twin” and caused some manager to go prematurely grey!

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Which is more important experience or qualification?

A number of friends are having a debate over the different emphasis that employers should place on qualifications and experience when looking for top talent employees.

Some place greater emphasis on a paper qualification such as an MBA and Degree and suggest that they prove capability and a level of knowledge to do a job. This group acknowledges the importance of experience but would automatically disqualify a job applicant without a qualification.

Those that support experience suggest that paper qualifications, whilst necessary, don’t demonstrate essential entrepreneurial skills such as imagination and drive. These can only be demonstrated by “past success in previous positions” and “related experience”. In addition, they point out, a twenty-year old degree is of little value in the current workplace!

The questions I have are these:

  • When would it be appropriate or sensible to hire a person without a qualification?
  • At what point do qualifications become less relevant than experience?
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Why is finding good salespeople so difficult?

A couple of days ago I was speaking with a Sales Director who asked “why is finding good salespeople is so difficult”. In the new economy creating and retaining a team of good salespeople is a major differentiator, yet too often a new hire fails to live up to expectation. The costs can be enormous and the Sales Director seemed at his wits end.

Road to Damascus
The new economy means that recruiting and integrating salespeople the way it’s always been done is no longer going to work. With constrained budgets salespeople have to have heightened awareness of different but related areas of their performance. 

To illustrate this I showed the Sales Director the Transition Maps that my colleagues and I have developed over the last few years. “Oh my goodness, now I see where we are going wrong!”

It’s always gratifying when Road to Damascus revelations happen and I had to restrain the Sales Director from taking part of the solution and applying it like a sticking plaster to all his sales hire problems.
Main problems
We were able to identify a number of the problems that are common to sales team recruitment and development. The first is accepting what a sales candidate says about their past achievements at the interview without probing their actual involvement. The second is trying to clone a “current success”.

Review of process
Finally we reviewed how the company integrated salespeople into his team. Dispensing with the “one week induction” and replacing it with a transition map dovetailing all the required competences identified for their success.

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Why do people find conflict difficult?

I’ve spent time working with a company where there is some conflict over strategy. Senior managers are arguing over strategy and each side writs off the others as being obnoxious and unreasonable. In reality the each side is making the other angry because people aren’t getting their way.

Right or wrong recipe
Over the past twelve years I’ve dealt with conflict within teams and between teams, conflict with subordinates and the boss so often that I know that the recipe is less a matter of right or wrong ingredients and much more likely to be a clash of styles seasoned with a pinch of insensitivity and a couple of drops of emotion.

The first thing I try to get people to understand is that conflict, in itself, is not always bad. A business where everyone agrees with the management and each other has a natural barrier created for its own potential and growth and possibly a poor culture if employees are afraid of reprisals when making challenges.

Ten keys to dealing with conflict
There are lots of systems to understanding and handling conflict such as the Drama Triangle developed by Dr Stephen Karpman in 1968 but my ten keys which I discussed with the combatants are these:

  1. Listen to what’s being said. Be logical and observe body language as well the words
  2. How important is this on a scale of 1-10. If it’s unimportant why argue?
  3. Make efforts to understand the other persons position
  4. Empathise with the other person’s argument and ask what the other person expects to happen and what the results will be for them
  5. Avoid emotion
  6. Clarify or set boundaries for behaviour and outcomes. This can be done by asking all parties to write down the boundaries and expectations, roles and outcomes.
  7. Ask the other party to explore issues and alternatives (Use facts) and use open ended questions, “How would that…” “what would be the effect if…”
  8. Don’t attack the person. Attack the issues
  9. Say something positive about the person. This has the effect of often defusing emotions and says that you aren’t attacking the other’s character and that you have respect for them
  10. Ask if my approach is appropriate and effective and be prepared to change tack if the conflict continues

How do you deal with conflict?

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