Diet Fads Are Bad For Management

I was talking to a group of managers earlier this week about increasing team productivity when one asked “What’s the latest thinking on this?” It didn’t surprise me as I’ve become used to team leaders and even CEO’s wanting to have the “Latest fix or fad” believing that it’s bound to be better than the previous ones.

Management can’t be like a diet fad
It’s like watching compulsive dieters trying the latest diet craze for a while before moving onto the next. Examples would be Total Quality Management in the 1980’s, more info

followed by process reenigineering and culture change. The difficulty for managers is implementing change so that it’s always beneficial to the organisation.

The expectation that the latest fad will increase profitability through competitive advantage can’t be true when every other company is adopting the same fad. I recently was interviewed by William Buist on this exact topic and a short clip from the YouTube video can be seen here

Resisting fads until they are proven to be useful might be a good strategy…but needs nerves of steel


Stephen Harvard Davis

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The Power of Collective Action

You would have thought that over 120,000 people couldn’t keep a secret, wouldn’t you.

“Keep the secret”
Well almost every one of those attending a reherasal of the Opening Ceremony of London’s Olympic Games have done just that. A fact that seems to have blown the minds of the organisers, media and everyone else. The “Keep the secret” message has been observed and what’s more I’m enjoying being able to do so. (I saw it on Monday evening).

For years mentors and business advisors like myself have been saying that no matter how big the audience, if you can enthuse your team, excite them and provide an understandable message then people will follow. Now we HAVE THE PROOF even when it involves 120,000 complete strangers!

Enjoy tomorrow when the “secret” will be revealed and enjoy. It’s a fantastic spectacle with thousands in the cast.

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The Disaster of Team Decisions

Last week I was talking to a team manager who described to me a team descision and them ended up by saying:
“Everyone seemed to agree with the decision but when people came to act on it each person had a different idea on the action we agreed upon or reserved the right not to implement it”

False Consensus
Implementing team decisions can be difficult. Particularly when the members of the team are senior in status or are members on the basis of voluntary membership (they can leave and take their ball with them without any reprimand). I know this as “False consensus”. The problem for the team manager is that to try to play amateur Psychologist to solve the situation is likely to make the situation worse NOT better.

Shared Values
Consensus in team decisions is a powerful goal in decision making and often the reason for team meetings in the first place. Where the team members know each other well, share the same values and spend considerable time discussing issues with each other then it’s often easy and preferable. But where these factors are absent the team leader often has to develop them.

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“That’s ruined MY day”

Most of my time is spent working with team managers to make their teams more efficient and productive. It’s work that gives me huge satisfaction and enjoyment. The process generally starts with a meeting where the team leader explains the problem/s. Then I’m asked what training, changes and so on I can deliver to “change the team around”.

Someone else’s fault
I comes as a huge surprise that often I’ll say “I’m not sure I can do anything to help them but I can do something to help you”. My reasoning is that it’s not unusual for team leaders to take poor team performance and people problems as someone else’s fault but with the results affecting them personally.

For example:Take the team leader who heard last week that a key member of staff was leaving, “That’s ruined my day, I’m getting a headache and going to take the rest of the day off!”
the team leader who’s heard that the team failed to meet target. “All the training and time I’ve given them and they do this to me!”

A lesson to be learned
One of the first lessons that team leaders need to understand is that the team hasn’t underperformed nor decided to leave to intentionally upset the leader. However, having said that the phrase “people don’t leave the company, they leave the boss” is true and underperformed teams is often due to poor resource being available.

That’s why I enjoy mentoring team leaders. 

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Over extended limbs means conflict

Yesterday I had a meeting with a friend who was concerned that his sales department was in conflict with other departments in the business. Marketing, accounts and It were all finding the attitude of the sales team problematical and verging on the bullying.
“The sales team has had so much money and resource pumped into them” complained my friend who was at a loss to understand or accept that they needed more or how this had resulted in conflict between the sales team, accounts, marketing and IT!

Over extended limb
This situation is not unusual where a specific part of a business becomes an “over extended limb” and eats up more money, resource and focus than the rest of the company. Exactly the same thing happens in counties that allow one industry or faction to become dominant. (Think of banking in the UK which has become such a dominant part the country’s GDP that it’s seen as too powerful, too demanding and increasingly unpopular).

Essential to the well being of the business
Having an over extended limb in an organisation will inevitably result in conflict. This is because as one part of the business is starved of funds it will blame the other for squandering resources. The over extended limb will justify it’s existence as being “essential to the well being of the business” and will blame other parts of the business for “lack of support”, “failing to understand the realities of the situation” and changes to the status-quo  will “harm the business”.

Results in casualties
The results of such infighting is that it distracts attention onto the mission critical results the business needs. Turning around this conflict takes time and in my experience always results in casualties where good talent leaves the business.

The way to avoid conflict is to avoid over-extended limbs

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How To Succeed… Start A Small War!

I was having a Skype video call to a good friend of mine today about the best way to unite a team. “Start a small war” I suggested.

I explained the objective was to focus the team on on threats, dangers, enemies and rivals that exist outside the team. In this instance suggesting that survival of the team might be at stake from an external threat meant that internal disputes would seem less significant as the team focussed on defeating the external enemy. (Think how united countries become when invaded, even when they don’t like the leader)

Sales team rivalry
It’s similar to increasing sales within a team: Split the salespeople into rival teams and have them compete against each other.

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Business leaders should learn kitchen skills

After answering a question on leadership on LinkedIn I was advised that it would make a great blog entry. So here goes!

Building a great team is similar to opening a restaurant
I’ve spent thirteen years working with team leaders to make them effective and I often make the analogy that building a successful business team is similar to opening a restaurant to serve great food. It needs a capable, stable and motivated brigade in the kitchen as well as a team of people to serve the food and make the eating experience memorable.

The ingredients good or bad are often immediately noticeable by customers. If the team, in both the kitchen and front-of-house areas can’t work together then either the food or service will suffer and customers will IMMEDIATELY stay away in droves. 

Staff turnover a universal problem
The first task is to have a stable team. Staff turnover is a universal problem, and not just in the catering sector. Each new appointment seems to carry with it a high risk of failure.  Let’s explore why this is …

There seems to be three common mistakes that team leaders can make. The first is failing to communicate the results that are required from the team. Job descriptions provide an indication of the required results but success in a job depends upon the boss’s assessment. The team, therefore, needs to understand what constitutes a success in the boss’ eyes and how such success will be measured.

Gaining a clear understanding of what success looks like can be achieved by holding a series of meetings with the the team. As such they are best undertaken as formal 1:1 discussions, as opposed to short conversations over the coffee machine or at a team meeting.

The types of questions that need to be asked include:

·    How has the current situation reached this point?
·    What problems have been identified if the situation is not improved?
·    What actions the leader expects in the short and medium term?
·    What would constitute success in the leaders’ eyes?
·    How and when will performance be measured?

Understanding the leader
The second mistake is failing to communicate the boss’s management style. This means understanding how the leader likes to be communicated with and how often? What decisions the leader likes to make personally and what decisions are clearly delegated to individuals in the team?

Culture a major ingredient
A big mistake a leader can make is to ignore the culture of the business or not to consciously develop a culture for a new team. To ignore culture makes introducing change more difficult. In addition the leader needs to consider that all change will have an affect on other people, particularly in other areas in the organisation, so prior to making changes it’s important to consider the consequences both upstream and downstream.

Then there’s the aspect of training. A leader wanting to build a strong team needs to ensure that the team can deliver what’s expected. One of the lessons from Restaurants is that there’s little point in placing Duck a la Normande on the menu if the kitchen brigade haven’t the ability to cook it properly and restaurant team don’t know how to serve it.  (Or what it is).

Now, isn’t that a recipe for business success?

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Coping with BIG egos

I was thinking today of some of the egos I worked in past jobs. Like Sales Director that at their first team meeting announced, “I’ve come to save the company”, which came as a surprise to all who didn’t think that the business needed saving.

And the HR Manager who, on being appointed, introduced herself to her well qualified team by saying “I’m a fellow of the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development) and I’m a professional!”

Tricky things to handle
Huge egos are tricky things to handle and handle them we all have to do. Teams that are expanding want
strong characters, who are self-motivated and who have a 
desire to win! But too often the appointment of a new leader can go to their already big
heads and makes them tough to deal with? So I was fascinated to come across this article in Management Today that addresses the topic. Not in much the detail and doesn’t provide too much that’s of help but the article makes you think.

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100 questions to ask at a team meeting

“What are the top ten questions that a team leader could ask at a team
meeting to generate discussion that will lead to team improvement”
a good
friend asked me a few days ago.

I found providing an answer very difficult
because the questions a team needs to consider will depend upon the business
issues at the time, the maturity of the team and other factors. After thinking about it I told him that I
probably had a hundred questions I could ask and he challenged me to email
him one each day for the next one hundred days!

The first two questions have already been sent to him and then I got thinking that I could include the questions as a Tweet to all my followers.

So each day I will Tweet a question that could be asked and discussed at a team meeting. If you don’t want to miss these Tweets then “LIST” me on twitter so that you can have them sent directly into your list

Questions to ask at a team meeting that have been sent so far are:

“How does the team generate and progress new ideas?”


“What level of clarity has the team of the expectations of it?”

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Lack of talent is biggest obstacle to growth

Quite a stir was caused this morning on Twitter when I suggested that Lack of talent is the biggest obstacle to growth but many businesses don’t have tools to find and keep talent in place.

A couple of people suggested that this Tweet was bull**t and that “Tools don’t find and keep talent; you need good managers for that”. A sentiment, by the way, that I wholly agree with! However, good management rarely operates on its own and often needs to use techniques, models, processes and past experience to guide actions and decisions and these I call “Tools”. In fact I would add that utilising tools in this way is a sign of “Good management”. Trying to manage without tools is often identified as “poor management”.

Now I enjoy having my thoughts and articles challenged and contradicted, it’s what makes for good debate and learning and I’ve got used to my “pearls of wisdom” being dismissed by those unable to understand the subtleties of what I’m saying, but I do wish that they would do so using logic and experience. “Bull**t” is so difficult to reply to! 

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