Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tell your boss the truth!

Complaining about the boss is a favorite occupation of many workers, and complaints about their ability to manage usually far exceed complaints about technical or professional skills. So seriously, why not

Tell your boss the truth!

There are two kinds of manager: those who manage people, and those who manage tasks or projects.

What's the big complaint?

Here are some of the most popular complaints about bosses and what you might do about it:

He doesn't know what he wants

Tell him to go away and not come back until he can give you some SMART goals.

She's always changing her mind/ the goals/ the plans

Tell her to fix a timeline for a deliverable and not come back until the delivery date

He spends all the meetings shouting at us

Walk out of the next meeting when he starts shouting and say you will come back when he stops.

She doesn't listen to a word we say

Ask her to stay at home and send her thoughts by email. Say that you won't respond because she won't listen anyway.

He always favours one person

Tell him that you will pass all your work on to this favoured person because clearly he would rather this other person did it

She takes the credit for your work

Tell her you will pass your work direct to her bosses as it shortens the timescale for delivery

He ignores us and spends his time flattering his own boss

Perhaps you should be grateful, but tell him he's a complete creep anyway.

She dumps everything on me

Tell her she's a lazy layabout.

* you may need to be a little more diplomatic than this with your boss!!

As it happens, most readers are themselves managers of people. It's just possible some of your team might feel the need to voice these complaints about you!

If you are really brave, you might ask for anonymous responses based on the above – but you probably know what they will say, so plan to do one thing differently from now on.

As for how much truth you tell your own boss – that's up to you and secure you feel in your role.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Be a feisty L&D Manager - even if it's not your job!

Whether you are responsible for company-wide L&D or just your own team, make sure that you can get the resources that you need and don't just accept that training gets cut. L&D and HR people worry that because they cannot show direct causal links between programmes and business results, they have no hard evidence of impact or value. In fact, no one in business ever has perfect 100% links between cause and effect, they just have reasonable estimates.

So when you are asked to justify your training budget, here are 6 points to keep in mind:

1. Give the big picture not the detail

The Board wants to hear how the organisation is delivering its goals and building future capacity. A marketing director will get up and talk about how marketing programmes have impacted market share, not about how many press releases were issued.

Make sure you focus on how your training impacts the bigger picture, not how many training days were delivered at what cost.

2. People make the difference

The value of most organisations is in their people, not the plant and equipment – and there is a lot of data available to support this.

Substantially improving people's performance through your training programmes is usually the single best way to raise the value of an organisation.

3. No-one is ever 100% accurate

No manager, not even a sales person, can ever say that one action or programme was 100% responsible for a particular outcome. For example, very few sales people realize the contribution that branding, product quality, distribution strategy etc make to a sales outcome.

You don't need to prove your training programme is 100% responsible for a change in performance. Focus on the key areas of impact and use the visible improvements in these areas to show the value of your training.

4. Productivity is a good measure

In general, the better people perform, the more revenue there is per employee. Profits per employee are one of the key factors in determining share price.

By training your people to be better and more productive workers, you can make a significant difference to this number.

5. Stand up for yourself (and for investing in people)

The training budget is usually the first to be cut, because senior managers think it won't make any difference to business performance. You KNOW this is wrong! But, you may not be able to show a causal link between a specific programme and a specific cost saving or revenue (although often you can in practice).

By linking your training programme outcomes to your organizational goals, you can indicate what the organisation RISKS by not training.

6. Challenge the sceptics

Often sceptics are basing their assumptions on opinion and prejudice, rather than fact.

When someone asks you to prove that a training programme made a difference, a good estimate with supporting hard data is all you need. If you are challenged, ask the sceptics to produce data supporting their theory that training makes no difference.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Managing High Risk Moments of Truth

Regular opportunities

Make sure your teams know what emotional moments are most likely to occur with your products or services

Eg: if you sell travel, which travel events are most likely to be special.

If you sell finance, what are the main reasons people are buying your products.

Develop questions that will highlight the positive ‘moments of truth' and how should your people respond. Create some scenarios that your teams can role play

The difficult moments

Research indicates that being supportive of customers at very difficult moments makes a substantial difference to their overall perception of you. Whether your customer teams handles crises on a daily or an occasional basis, it can be a stressful situation

• Role-play key scenarios in the environment that staff will actually handle the customer e.g. behind a desk, on the phone, privately or in an open reception area

When you have to give bad news

Customer service teams hate giving bad news. Whether it's that the engineer is going to be late or we can't lend you the money, many will avoid it. Giving bad news is often likely to cause an emotional moment of truth and anyone who deals with customers will face this sooner or later.

• Think about how you give bad news to customers and practice a few techniques (maximum of three) to help you handle the emotional moment of truth in a professional manner.

Investing in moments of truth can be immensely valuable

Ensuring your staff handle it professionally could be one of the best investments you make. It can determine the nature of your long term relationship with the customer, and most of us are in businesses where we know our clients could go elsewhere. We know that most people choose a supplier for emotional reasons, e.g. they like you, and then use logic to justify their choices.

It is rare for any business to win every buying decision based on logic – few of us have such perfect propositions. Build emotional capital with your clients, and more business will surely follow.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Essential Goals for Aligning Training

Aligning Training and HR activity to an organisation's strategic goals is much harder in practice than in theory! Cascading goals down through an organisation can sometimes end up like Chinese Whispers. However, aligning goals is a key aspect of both measuring and delivering a good ROI in training.

Steps for Aligning Training:

1. Start at the top: What are the financial goals of the organisation and how are they translated into strategic goals?This is a job for the Board, often aided by a good facilitator.

2. Value the goals: This can be a challenge: If the goal is to be Number One for Customer Service – what is that worth to the business? If the public sector organisation has a major delivery target, what proportions of reward/resources are at stake?

By valuing the goals, even if only roughly, it will become clear where the business needs to invest resources.

3. Ask each person to align their goals with their managers:

This is the acid test – each person needs to understand how their work enables their manager to deliver the results that are needed. Note that this is the exact opposite of daily management practice, where each manager ensures that they are supporting the team below them to deliver their individual goals.

However, for the business to really be aligned, each person should understand how what they do contributes to the whole.

In many organisations, the impact of this step – asking people to align themselves upwards – is that a gap appears between what the organisation strategically has committed itself to deliver and what each person is focused on doing. Sometimes major organizational goals are missed because the organizational goals are not fully converted to personal goals through the team.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Simple steps to training evaluation

Training is often part of a bigger picture, and is rarely a solution on its own. Training evaluation at its most simple is assessing the CONTRIBUTION that training makes to your organisation, rather than assuming a casual link between a piece of learning and a business impact.

Here are some tips for finding out the contribution your training has made:


Prime the trainer beforehand to listen out for people saying ‘this will be really helpful with…' If you can follow up even a couple of these comments with phone calls, you will get additional evidence to show your training is having an impact.


If your training has an online element, make the last section a quick ‘how will this help' question, preferably with a drop down list of options so that delegates can respond easily.


Anecdotes are powerful evidence of training impact. Ring a couple of delegates a week or so after the programme and ask them how the programme is helping. Ask them to give you a specific example of what they found useful, or what they have done differently as a result.


Contact a line manager and ask straightforward questions about the impact of the training.


A lot of impact may be visible in the workplace. For example, go and sit on the floor of the contact center, ask if you can attend a management meeting, look to see if a person is better organized etc. You'll be surprised what you learn, and the delegates will be impressed that you are taking that much interest.


If a training programme is poor, you will find out pretty quickly (probably while it's still running). If it's all good news – be pleased!

If the news is mixed, make a decision about the amount of time you want to spend on how the programme can be changed or improved to get the most out of your training.


If there appears to be no impact from a training programme, treat it as a learning opportunity for yourself and the organisation.

Most poor results from training fall into one of the following categories:

• Poor match between programme and delegate/s

• Poor delivery and/or poor material

• Poor engagement/ follow up with the line manager

Identify the main source of the problem and review your processes accordingly.

By using these simple steps to assess the impact of your training, you can begin to justify your training budget spend and prove the benefits of the training to your organisation.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Evaluation can be inspiration

It still shocks me that organisations can spend millions of pounds on training programmes with only the vaguest anecdotal ideas of their impact. This doesn't just apply to training. Training is an example that we know well, but you could substitute any performance improvement programme in your function and much the same process would apply.

Evaluation of training programmes is not a back-covering exercise for those who have nothing better to do. At its best, it is a pro-active operation that starts BEFORE any training has happened and ends with well thought out reports that guide future training investments and decisions.

Evaluation is a PROCESS not a NUMBER
Many people ask: "What is the ROI on my training programme?" Our response is usually:

"whatever the number is, you get far more useful information from the PROCESS of finding the answer, than from the answer itself."

As with many things in life, the journey is as important as the destination. So what does a good journey look like?

A great training evaluation process

This is closely linked to the initial business case for a training programme. It:

* Estimates the impact of the programme BEFORE it occurs
* Identifies the metrics of measuring impact BEFORE the programme is designed, ensuring the design is closely aligned to outcomes rather than content
* Takes sample base line measures BEFORE a programme starts
* Takes sample measures DURING a programme where appropriate
* Takes sample impact measures at appropriate time intervals AFTER a programme is complete
* Enables senior management reporting on current and projected impact and value
* Enables training professionals to continuously improve the decision-making in their function, informing programme choice, design and delivery.

Use simple tools

Training evaluation can quickly be made very complicated – the main advice we offer to clients is to keep it straightforward and focus on the aspects of training evaluation that will add value to them. Use simple tools and concepts, and gradually build up a picture of the impact of your programme. If you try to do everything at once, you run a high risk of getting lost in all the data and systems you create.

What happens if the training evaluation is worrying?

If your training evaluation suggests that your programme is not delivering the results you want, try to treat this as good news. At least you know, and can do something about it. Of course, you may wish to be careful who you share this with.

Make sure YOU own your training evaluation system, not the finance function.
Training evaluation is about helping you improve, not finding excuses to cut budgets. Even when news is not so good, if it is presented well and with strong support, we can be inspired to go out and achieve more.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Effective E-mail Management

Every company needs a practical e-mail policy, and each individual needs a practical method to deal with incoming e-mails. If you cannot influence company policy, you can start with your team. Here are the basics:

* Use e-mail for sharing facts and information
* Use e-mail for setting meetings and sending agendas
* Use e-mail for minutes

If you are working on a shared document, aim to set up a central point to keep each copy of the document, rather than mailing it between you. This approach:
a) minimizes the risk of several people making different amendments on different versions of the document
b) reduces the number of versions available
c) reduces the number of e-mails
d) enables you to delete e-mails that simply request you check the shared document

Do not use e-mail to:
* Communicate bad news – do this in person if at all possible
* Give personal feedback - do this face to face
* Give advice – the person receiving the advice may not receive it in the way in which you intended

Use one e-mail for each subject and clearly label the subject line.

If you cannot keep the text to a single screen, use an attached document for the content. You can format the document so that it is relatively easy to read – long e-mails are often misread

Deleting e-mails

- The general rule is ‘be ruthless' . Unless there is real content, or a specific message (an approval of a project for example), bin it.

- Some companies have a policy of no deletions – but requests to join the team for a drink can usually be safely deleted the next day.

Filing e-mails

- Set up a system that works for you. Use the flagging tools if you need to find one e-mail in several contexts.

- File e-mails every day, or at least once a week.

- Aim never to have more than one screen worth of e-mail in your inbox.

- You can use flags to capture the ‘must do something about that' e-mails.

Reduce the incoming flow!

- Remove yourself from as many cc lists as possible

- Ask yourself how much of the incoming mail is useful to you, and ask others to stop sending you material that doesn't add value

- Ask your team to send you a one screen ‘highlights' e-mail rather than attach a detailed document that you don't really need to read

Categorise all e-mail

Ask your team to categorise e-mails along the following lines:

A: an ACTION for the receiver

B: feedback required for sender

C: Important Information


E: Personal

Put the letter at the start of the subject line – it helps everyone decide how/when to deal with your e-mail.

E-mail Management is Part of Time Management

Managing e-mail is about managing time! It's a question of making priorities and using a system to minimize time wasting. If you are struggling with time management, why not look at the special PHONE based TimePower Programme available exclusively from 3C.

Instead of spending a whole day on a course, you and your colleagues join a conference call. It lasts a couple of hours, and you get a fun and efficient run down of the best time management techniques, from managing the phone, email and interruptions to setting goals and balancing priorities. As one of our clients said – ‘ it has to be one of the best uses of time available' !

You also get the full colour workbook, usually reserved for delegates on the 1 day TimePower programme – it's packed with time management hints, prioritising tools and ideas to help you maintain a work-life balance that suits you.

So, take control of your inbox. Agree and share a system that works for you and your team.