Making space for public praise

May 7, 2015

This morning I was with a company in the Midlands for the course end presentations / graduation of a group of managers and team leaders who were completing the LMI Effective Leadership Development programme.

For the last 18 weeks we have been meeting fortnightly for two hours, reviewing each set of lesson material, sharing goals, tracking progress, dealing with challenges and generally facilitating the process of attitude and behaviour change that leads to performance improvement. Some of the results shared by the participants were incredible – reports delegated that frees the manager up two hours of valuable time each week, 50% reduction in error on the production line, improved atmosphere in the warehouse that is noticeable to every visitor…I could go on but that’s not the main point of this blog.

After each participant shared their own development through the programme and gave examples of how they have applied new ideas, their line manager made some comments. It would be easy to think ‘old school’ and be worried about what your manager might say if you were in this situation. As it happens, each of the line managers present has also been through this same LMI programme and understood the power of public praise!

Their comments were incredibly affirming as each one shared how their direct report had, through the duration of the programme, made huge progress and achieved tangible, significant victories that have resulted in better performance of their teams.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen every day, but it’s incredibly powerful when it does. Each graduate walked out feeling a hundred feet tall – it feels good to receive honest praise and affirmation – but there’s something else I’ve seen happen when this takes place….the relationship between manager and their team member is deepened, trust built and hence their ability to work together effectively and harmoniously in the future is strengthened.

I’m not saying public praise should be an everyday occurrence – but it should be regular. How can you make space for this in a meaningful way? If you do, watch the impact it will have on your team!


I knew the rules but not how to win!

February 18, 2015

In our house board games are big! We love them!

The old classics – Monopoly, Cluedo, Scrabble. There are some fantastic new kids on the block, our current favourite being Sequence.

One of the kids’ birthdays recently yielded a new delight – a game called Scotland Yard. There is great excitement in the house when a new game is being unveiled and the learning of the rules followed by those first few run-throughs is an almost-sacred ritual!

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On this occasion I was not around when the cellophane was pierced and the game learnt. Neither was I present for the second and third outings. The rest of Team Howes had become fairly well versed in this new entertainment and I was at a significant disadvantage.

Finally I get to play and the kids explain the rules to me. This piece moves here. This card does that. You can’t lay this card when that happens. You must collect six of these before you can do this.

Ok, I think I understand the rules. But what’s the aim of the game? How do I win?

This was the bit that was not so well explained by the kids in their eagerness to get started…and beat me!

I find myself in the middle of the game, asking questions as we go and squinting at the tiny instructions without my glasses to try and make sense as we went along as to how the game eventually gets won.

Work can feel like that. Sometimes for the owners / leaders…often for staff. I know what I’m supposed to be getting on with, but how do we win? What does success look like? How does today, or this week really count?

We want (and for our own well-being, need) to succeed. Victories keep us fresh, energised and creative. Knowing the rules without having a clear and imminent sense of a goal to reach, a finish line to cross, it’s drudgery and no-wonder the productivity levels aren’t what they could be.

Whether it’s for yourself, or for those you lead, make it clear where the next finish lines to cross are, and make a deal of it when the tape is broken. Mine today was a short list of ‘Must do today’ tasks, the last of which was writing this blog. My prize – I’m off to make a fresh pot of very nice coffee!


10,000 Facts About Keys!

February 10, 2015

I popped in yesterday to a well-known high street store to get my watch strap repaired. The place also cuts keys. Loud and proud on the wall is a big sign:

We know 10,000 facts about keys.

Wow! That’s a claim. I commented to the only guy staffing the shop that I had no idea there was so much to know about keys. His reply was telling:

“There isn’t. I’ve no idea how they came up with that.”

He was clearly fed up with having to explain this to another customer. ‘They’ had done it again. The very use of the word ‘they’ gives so much away. He – the guy on the front line dealing with customers – had no involvement, connection or ownership of what ‘they’ had done.

People don’t so much like having things done to them, or thrown at them. People generally like to be involved, to feel valued and to be treated with a bit of general kindness – especially if they are the ones who have to live with the consequences of what is decided day-in and day-out…which ‘they’ never do.

I’ve seen this kind of thing happen so many times. To manage and lead well takes more time and requires extra effort but the benefits to be gained and the losses to be avoided by doing so are enormous, both on the happiness of staff and the profitability of the business.

It’s a good reminder to us all – Think very carefully before directing a sign to go up in someone else’s workplace that they have had, and want (as they will gladly tell the customers) nothing to do with.