Archive for July, 2011

Manage Your Talent Like A Restaurant

Yesterday I found myself talking about and writing on how a company should view talent management.
When speaking to Directors and managers I will often make the analogy to a
successful restaurant.

Any restaurant that fills all of its tables every
night and has a diary full of forward bookings will have a capable,
stable and motivated team of chefs in the kitchen. However having a team
of top talent creating the product, in this case food, is not enough.
To provide a great customer eating experience there must be a team
professional front of house and waiting staff to meet, greet and serve
the customers. Other aspects such as décor, entertainment value and ease
of access may play a part but the main success criteria are the people
and the product.

However if that top talent leaves the restaurant this is often
immediately noticeable by regular customers. Either the food or the
service will suffer and customers IMMEDIATELY stay away in droves.

Top Talent from top to bottom

Despite the analogy above too many companies try to attract top talent
to their most senior or important posts whilst “getting someone to fill
the post” for more junior staff.

This positions all the top talent in specific areas of the business
whilst creating a number of inbuilt and preventable weaknesses.
Weaknesses that reduce the potential for profits and future growth.
These weaknesses are most evident when the business wishes to introduce
changes to processes and systems.

With a weak talent pool any change programme tends to be slower to
implement, with the top talent urging the change whilst other groups are
unsure or opposed to the change.

In my experience the problems that poor talent management create are:
Increased costs,

Poor flexibility,

Poor management capability,

Inability to develop robust succession planning,

Difficulty in developing strategic capability

No comments

Intelligently Pruning Staff Costs

Reducing costs is a main focus for all business owners and Director these days. The most obvious cost to tackle are the “people costs” but these also happens to be the most problematical.

The problems
The first problem is that, even in difficult economic times, there’s an inbuilt process in most firms that increases people costs. Once a person is hired increases in pay to keep up with inflation, promotions, increases in employment taxes and so on all add to increased costs. If salaries are frozen or small then there will be increased pressure from staff who claim that they are “Unvalued” and continually justify increased bonuses and promotions. Then there is the hidden future pension costs, often not included in company accounts, but which increase staff cost significantly.

Reducing people costs is an issue that Directors talk to me about almost daily. The problem is that getting rid of staff is often a problem. In some countries it’s almost impossible and even in the UK and the USA the process takes time and substantial management time, which is all cost!

Reducing costs by shedding under-performers
Many Directors and firms find it difficult to reduce staffing levels until forced to do so. Concerns over company morale, culture and team spirit all cause delays in shedding staff. However, the fact is, that often reducing dead wood actually improves the morale of those that remain.

A main flaw
One of the most effective ways to manage staff costs is through a robust performance appraisal system. Yet I’m still surprised at the number of companies that have a poor system of staff appraisal. This is so costly, makes change and restructure difficult. Ideally a good performance review is held every six months, is focussed on targeted results and linked to time-framed development and which actually identifies the best talent as well as the costly talent.

The final stage is to ensure that action is taken to manage the bottom end of the talent pool effectively so that it is continuously pruned.

No comments

“Oh No… It’s Performance Review Time!”

I’ve been reminded by a sales team that I work with that their annual performance review time is fast approaching. I’ve been asked to give my top three tips for conducting a good Performance review for their management briefing.

The emphasis in appraisal is Praise
There was a time when the team hated the event. The emphasis always seemed to be focussed on the negative aspects of performance. Negative statements have far greater impact on an individual than a hundred good things that may be said.

I know that it’s important that a correct picture of performance is recorded. But the emphasis, as Dawn French mentioned in the video Arts film on the performance Review, should be on PRAISE

The first tip I’ve often given to those conducting the PR is to ask the team member to “Self-appraise”. Asking “How would you assess your performance?” often allows the resulting self criticism to be toned down and saves negative comments being made that cause offence and upset.

Tip two
Prepare. This is the most important meeting of the year with the team member (for the person being appraised). It’s their chance to talk about their career, aspirations and development. As such it’s polite, efficient and good management to prepare and treat the meeting seriously.

Top three
Listen…And listen to what’s not said and allow time for explanation. Some people are shy and need coaxing to speak. Don’t hurry a PR it’s a chance to learn how the employee feels

Finally, what happens after the meeting…”The notes get filed”.
But isn’t there follow-up?
Remember, more CVs (Resumes) get updated after a poor PR than at any other time!

No comments

Success energises, failure is tiring

There’s nothing more energising than success and nothing more tiring when things aren’t going well.

Last week I was speaking to one of my favourite friends… John Donnelly.
Now for those that don’t know John he’s one of the sharpest tools in any business toolbox. He lives in Spain where high level business people fly in to ask his advice and fly out again after a few glasses of sangria. We speak on SKYPE, as do many of his clients, and his wicked sense of humour has me regularly injuring myself when falling helplessly off my office chair.

John was reviewing one of my latest video-blog films and made some great suggestions on improving the final result. Everything he said was correct but it meant doing the film again! No problem, the result will be better and I’m energised to re-film it and send him the final (Director’s) cut.

In six months time
On the other hand I feel sorry for another friend that’s going through a difficult time. Her new team is having great success and is delivering a first class product. As a result, however, is continually being pressured by others to produce more and more. They do this by focussing on the small areas that could be done better and just offer criticism whilst ignoring the excellent work of the project as a whole.

The result is that my friend has decided to leave and within six months will probably be giving in her notice. Having come to this decision she is finding that her tiredness has disappeared, she has a more relaxed attitude to problems at work and is becoming increasingly disengaged. In the meantime her boss keeps telling her “I don’t know what we’d do without you!”

He’s about to find out and at a most inconvenient time, I should guess. 

No comments

Don’t ask “Can I Help You?”

Over the past few weeks I’ve been talking to some managers responsible for teams of sales assistants in large retail shops. The task was to show them how they could restructure their team’s approach to customers that would generate an increase in sales.

In this videoclip I tackle two main problems.
The first is the problem with asking “Can I help you?” that too often destroys a sale.
Secondly, how to generate multiple sales

Contact Stephen by email:

No comments

The Paralysis of “You’re Brilliant”

Yesterday I had a great time with some business friends discussing the scandal of the NOTW and Rupert Murdock’s business empire. We all agreed that there have been lots of occasions when businesspeople believe their created image that they then become paralysed when things start to go pear shaped.

“You’re brilliant”
Director paralysis isn’t new. This often comes from having people around you that always tell you how brilliant you are. The more a business leader hears it the more they come to believe it. Murdock’s thousands telling him how brilliant he is seemed, at the start of the scandal, to create a paralysis of understanding of the seriousness of the situation. This, as is so often the case, was translated by the UK public as being arrogance.

Then again I’ve observed Directors of much smaller companies believe their own image and create similar problems for themselves. Like the Sales Director who joined an insurance company saying he had come to “save the company” when most people didn’t know, or believe, that it needed saving.

Or the Managing Director who told me that in twenty eight years at the head of his business he’d not made a “New hire mistake ever”. In fact he told me that he could identify a success when “they walked through the door“. His staff turnover was very high and continually created problems for his sales.

“Remember you are mortal”
As generals drove through the ancient Rome after winning a war a slave at the back of the chariot would whisper in their ear “Remember you are mortal” in case they believed the crowd’s adulation. I wonder how many CEO’s would consider hiring someone to continually question their thinking, just in case they thought themselves infallible?  

No comments

Who will go topless?

My original work with teams was with sales teams and how to make them more productive. It’s an area that I’ve always enjoyed so perhaps it’s not surprising that I’m being asked to advise on this area of business more and more.

The last few weeks I’ve been talking to a very enthusiastic team about to open a couple of retail stores. A brave thing in these times but their product and their enthusiasm is such that you can’t fail be be drawn into the excitement.

Who will go topless?
One of the things we did is to visit other stores and websites to experience the “Buzz”, customer experience and see what can be replicated and what should be avoided.

A favourite visit, as voted by the group, was to the Abercrombie and Fitch store in London where I suspect the main attraction was the very fit looking topless male that greeted the girls and guys at the door. As you can imagine there was a lot of discussion and even a vote on which male member of the team should walk around the new stores topless. (Before you ask…I wasn’t even included in the list of candidates!)

Whilst the group agreed that the A&F visit was a great customer experience most stores failed to live up to the same standard and some didn’t even come off the starting blocks. So I’m being encouraged and helped by the group to make a couple short film for this blog on the topic and this should be completed this week. So keep an eye out on this blog


No comments

Hiring salespeople, avoiding ordertakers

I’m often asked how to restructure a sales team to make them more profitable faster and how to identify and avoid recruiting order takers that eat up valuable management time.
So here’s a video I’ve uploaded on the topic and hope you find it useful

Hiring salespeople, avoiding ordertakers

No comments

Hiring Good Sales People and Avoiding Ordertakers

I’m continually asked by businesses how they can interview and recruit good sales people whilst avoiding the order-taker that eats up valuable management time and resource.
So here’s a video I’ve just uploaded and hope that you find it useful

Hiring salespeople, avoiding ordertakers

No comments

What To Do When It All Goes Pear Shaped!

News International closing down the News of The World after the various scandals that’s gripped it has probably left a majority of staff wondering what their future is. Even though the majority will be entirely innocent of any wrongdoing there will be the fear that future employers will view with scepticism those that have “The News of The World” on their CV.

There is a future
Assuming that one is innocent of any wrongdoing then there is a future. The thing to consider that in the past there have been many other people who have worked for discredited companies that have gone on to greater career success.

Think of the thousands of innocent staff who worked for BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce) who suffered the Banks closure and yet who moved on to find other jobs.

Confusion, anger and a sense of betrayal
Naturally, as with many redundancies, there will be confusion and anger and a sense of betrayal directed at the Directors and management. There is, however, little point in brooding on it. It’s happened. If you’re good at your job and can show a good track record then most future employers will make a judgement on the facts and the earlier one considers the areas of work that will “look good” and include them on the CV the better.

What’s next
Apart from thinking through how to construct the CV it’s worth ensuring that previous connections and maintained with other employees and anyone who can provide a reference. Keep copies of work that can be shown to future employers and make contact with new people as soon as possible and network hard. Most people leave this part far too late!

No comments

Next Page »