How not to MAX out your team.

Several thousand years ago a tribal leader instructed his people not to gleen to the edges of their fields. The intention was for a small amount of food to be left for the poor.

Today such a rule would be met with protests from several sections of society. We are encouraged to max out in every area of our lives.

No wonder managers and leaders feel the need to push their staff progressively harder season after season.

This approach has never made a lot of sense to me but how should we lead and motivate our staff.

I think our ancient tribal leader can offer us a clue here.

If we take the view that each team member, like a field, has a limited amount of resource to offer each day we can make the decision not to gleen to the edges.

People cannot work at 100% all of the time, but they can give a great deal if they know that such effort is only needed for a defined period. If you consistently max them out there will be nothing left for them to give when the situation demands it.

People also need natural breathers in their working day in order set themselves for the next phase of work. Managers think that tea/coffee breaks and lunch times provide this but staff see these occasions as belonging to them.

Here are five tips on how NOT to gleen to the edges of your team's resources:

1. When calculating the length of a process ensure that you include some breathing time.

2. Take into consideration the time-scales involved in any project. Longer projects need moments that can be used as mini re-launches, giving staff the time to pause and take stock.

3. At the busiest times choose to outsource some of the work rather than maxing people out with excessive amounts of overtime.

4. Be considerate towards the personal needs of team members and make appropriate allowances. This will pay dividends in getting commitment to the cause. For example; offering understanding when someone has just returned from a time of bereavement or when their spouse is ill can help to build staff up towards full commitment.

5. Measure every process but be consistent ensuring that you include your team in the process. Measurement can help to show members how your philosophy works for them, thus gaining their respect and commitment.

These soft skills are not easy and they don’t produce immediate results. They do, however, help to create a culture of commitment.

Don’t use the Big Rule to manage your team

Some years ago I worked for a company that had a positive attitude towards it's staff. Providing free tea and coffee along with allowing occasional personal telephone calls helped to create a positive culture and plenty of good will from the staff.

A problem arose when it was discovered that a member of staff had been making long distance calls during work time; and plenty of them. The departmental manager had to decide how to deal with the situation and chose, in my opinion, the wrong response.

He made the decision to stop staff using the telephones for personal calls even though most people used them for minor things such as booking a dentist appointment, checking on their children, or similar.

He chose to make a BIG RULE and within minutes had lost the good will of his department. The rest of the management team were placed under pressure to adopt the same policy and one by one departments were told that this small privilege had gone.

It never ceases to amaze me that managers take this route; by doing so they are abdicating their leadership responsibility.

Phrases like ‘fair and consistent’ are trotted out in order to justify their decisions. All of this just to avoid doing would managers are paid to do; manage.

It would have been far more productive to deal directly with the person concerned. This would have kept the good will of the department and given a clear signal to the rest of the team what ‘occasional personal calls’ meant.

I held out against the pressure to conform and didn’t instigate the new rule in my department, knowing that within a few weeks things would return to normal.

They did as, one by one, the rest of the managers realised what they had lost in operating the BIG RULE instead of being leaders who manage people.

How you treat those who leave you has a direct effect upon those who stay

I don’t know what it is with leaders and managers but there seems to be a consistent inability to let people leave well. Understandably we have an emotional connection with choices made by others but it is important that we see a bigger picture.

Remaining team members will watch how we respond to those who leave and make their own conclusion. Even if they don’t comment the judgement they make will be store up and form the basis for their future trust in you as the leader.

Here are five ways to let people go well, each of which will have a positive effect upon the rest of your team or group.

1. Don’t cut them completely out of the picture. The temptation is to Tippex them out of your world as if their contribution wasn’t important. This will only serve to make you team feel like commodities; only valuable when they are of use to you.

2. Only communicate the leaver’s own reasons for their decision. Never add your own commentary to it. This will only serve to make you look bitter. If their reasons are of a difficult nature then take the time to agree together what you will tell people.

3. Celebrate with them about their future. This allows other team members to talk freely to you about what will happen next.

4. Try not to take things personally. Often people will take the opportunity to offload on you about their frustrations. Try not to over respond.

5. Take the opportunity to learn. There are many reasons why people move on and therefore many things we can learn from the process. Change will always happen; how we deal with it can strengthen what we do in the future.

How to hide your wealth behind false frugality!

As we head towards an election year here in the UK expect to see politicians doing incredible things to attract your votes. We will be treated to wealthy individuals living on benefit for a week in order to convince us that they know the pressures faced by the common man (or woman).

If that isn’t enough we will probably find a batch of them sleeping for the night on the streets so that they can show sympathy with the most disadvantaged in our society.

Either way the rest of us will know that one week on less than the minimum wage proves nothing when you have bags of cash stored up in all your nineteen bank accounts. And 12 hours under the railway arches is not exactly hardship when your champagne is on ice back in one of your four houses.

I wonder, if like me, you have met people who have a similar approach when trying to prove that they live a frugal life. They display all the signs of being understated in both dress and lifestyle yet every now and they you get glimpses of hidden reserves.

So if you want to look frugal when you are really quite well off here are my top tips:

1) Buy an old car and gradually replace all the parts. People will think that you are very frugal. You will be like the man who had the same brush for twenty-five years even though it had had ten new heads and twelve new handles.

2) Visit the local charity shops but only buy items that would have been expensive when originally sold. This means that you can brag about getting them on the cheap. You do have the luxury of buying anything you want so, unlike truly poor people, you can take the risk on second hand.

3) Buy all your Christmas presents in January. Again another opportunity to brag about all the bargains you have managed to find.

4) Buy all your summer holiday clothes at the end of summer ready for the following year. In addition to those much longed for bragging rights you can buy in a couple of sizes just in case you put on a pound or two over the Christmas period.

5) Visit all the supermarkets in your area in order to buy your weekly shopping. That way you can get all the bargains that are on offer. Don’t be concerned that you can only do this if you have a car enough petrol available. The poor don’t have this luxury because they don’t have the access and to do so on public transport would take three times as long.

How frugal are you?