Friday, July 31, 2009

Conflict Management

It is easy to become bogged down in the non-essentials of life and business. Mission statements are designed to keep us on track and focused on what we are trying to achieve.

It is easy to become distracted from what we are meant to be doing. My point in case is the feud occurring between two of today's best musical people around (depending on taste) - in this case it is Eminem and Mariah Carey.

There are a couple of ways to look at this situation.

  1. Who cares? Not I.
  2. What can we learn from this? Quite a bit.

Don't sweat the small stuff. Do any of their arguments matter or make any difference?

Got a gripe? Sort out your issues in private before they become public. Keep it between you and the other party involved. Discuss the issue in a closed forum before leaking your laundry to your friends, your workmates and ultimately to the world.

Focus on what you are good at. Anytime spent worrying about what another thinks of you or what they are up to is time you are not spending constructively.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Governance Restructures - NZ ITP's

                    The Minister of Education, Hon Anne Tolley, wants to reduce the number of members of Councils for Polytechnics and Universitys in New Zealand.

                    See -

                    What are the possible effects of such action? It depends upon which side the arguement you wish to take. Under the previous government Councils were allowed to grow to numbers up to a maximum of 20. This includes all sorts of representatives from different stakeholder divisions.

                    In order to work out how these changes may affect the ITP sector, one must first have a clear understanding of what Governance's role is. By determining the role then we can decide what the best way of achieving those desired outcomes are.

                    A very simplistic way of defining governance's role is - Steer, Strategy, Stability. Management also provide these factors but at an operations level c.f. the strategy and governence level.

                    Governance can be effective with a few or many members. Likewise governance body's can be ineffective with a few or many members.

                    It is the quality of the members not the number of the members that counts.


                    It pays to have a mentor. Mentoring is defined as - "a developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person " (see Wikipedia)

                    Here are some tips about mentors -

                    • They find you. Someone will will see your performance and will offer to help you.

                    • Stay in touch. You may only speak 3 or 4 times a year - but that is enough. Sometimes you may meet more often, it depends on the needs of the relationship.

                    • Plan - what you want to talk about. You don't have long sop make sure you know what you want to talk about before you get there. There aren't many seers in the business world with the time to sit and talk.

                    • Ideas - take your ideas and allow your mentor to re-direct or reshape what you already have. Never go in cold - unless they ask to see you (even then ask what they want to discuss)

                    • Keep an open mind. Always be open to possibilities and a different point of view.

                    I have a couple of mentors whom I meet with irregularly, and it's great!

                    Wednesday, July 29, 2009

                    Social Media for Customer Engagement

                    Shut up and listen.

                    Customers ultimately determine the success or failure of your business.

                    If the customers aren't buying - maybe you're wrong.

                    The link posted below goes to a study done on companies engaging with their customers through the social media medium. What it attempts to do is find a link between revenues and customer involvement.

                    Are the two linked? Yes. Strongly? Not so much.


                    One social media forum I have been musing on is the success of the website - This is a social community/tribe (see Seth Godin) based on something that most people do - watch TV.

           fills a gap in the market - people want to discuss, learn about and give feedback to the TV channels in a forum that is not commercially linked (?) to the TV stations.

                    Does it work? Yes.
                    Why? People can engage and speak their minds.
                    Do the TV people listen? I sincerely hope so.

                    The company or organisation that listens will ultimately succeed!

                    Monday, July 27, 2009

                    Presentations that Work

                    The ability to present ideas is a skill that can be learnt. There isn't a lot of difference between a good presentation and a killer presentation.

                    Just observe a few simple rules and you too can improve -

                    1. Know your content!
                    2. Get early wins with your audience.
                    3. Have a laugh! Don't be so serious or nervous
                    4. Stay on track.
                    5. Practice.

                    Powerpoint is an excellent tool for producing eye catching graphics and creating slides that people enjoy. This website is a library of excellent powerpoint slide shows -

                    Some can be downloaded, but the main point is to draw inspiration from other people's work to enable you to be creative also.

                    Sunday, July 26, 2009


                    Governance = to steer; Governance is the process of deciding what an organisation shall do, and ensuring that it happens. Governance is separate from the management of staff and programmes, even where they are carried out by much the same group of people (NZICA, 2009).

                    It is not the role of a governance body to manage the everyday affairs of the entity but rather to steer the future objectives and strategies of the organisation as a whole.

                    Boards need to ensure that they are relevant to the businesses and organisations that they oversee.

                    A lack of good governance leads to such problems as the Global Credit Crunch.

                    Good governance can lead to progressive, quick reacting, strategic thinking companies and organisations that are well able to navigate the way ahead for them.

                    Really good governance thoughts and resources can be found -


                    Saturday, July 25, 2009

                    Issues I'm Dealing With

                    I have two distinct issues when it comes to the line management of my team -

                    1. A high performing team - when to step in/step up?

                    2. Staff working at a remote site.

                    The second issue of having to deal with the remote office has been easier than the high performance team. The high performing people need far less help and looking after but this creates a tension for me not knowing if I am fulfilling my role as line manager or not.

                    The remote office has tensions around task delegation and completion. There are other persons whom my staff members are there to support who provide tasks and work loads for my staff.

                    How do I deal with these situations?

                    1. The team - I leave the team to do it's work effectively. I don't need to know all the in's and out's of the actual tasks being completed (the how), as long I keep tabs on which staff member is doing the work (the who) and the completion times (the when). I don't need to be 'Big Brother' watching their every move. I trust them and they me. Also they have a far deeper technical knowledge than I do. But when issues arise around timing and external issues - then I come alongside to develop strategies on what the best course of action will be.
                    2. The remote office - I also take a similar approach. I don't need to know every task that is being done. The staff members are able to decide for themselves what tasks are important and which tasks aren't.

                    Fortunately for me so far the big issue of - non-performance hasn't arisen. Sure people have down times and flat periods but as a team we get on with the tasks required and achieve effective results.

                    I give all my staff higher levels of autonomy and the ability to make their own decisions.

                    Friday, July 24, 2009


                    Often times there is a lack of certainty around decision making and the direction of an organisation.

                    For the middle manager there is no real method of being able to accept change upwards.

                    So what do you do? Change yourself.

                    • Attitude - your attitude determines your altitude.
                    • Goals - define who you want to be, and where you want to go.
                    • Direction - think for yourself, understand the bigger organisation and consider where you fit in and if you can make incremental changes at your level.
                    • Communication - be honest and open. Let those above you know that you would like more openness and a knowledge of where things are going.
                    • Patience - don't be in a rush. Good things take time.

                    There are no silver bullet remedies for work situations that you have no control over. But you can control your attitude and your responses!

                    Wednesday, July 22, 2009

                    Performance Measurement

                    What do you measure and how?

                    The acid test for an individuals individual performance is whether or not their work is contributing to the goals and values of the organisation.

                    There are a range of key areas that can be assessed and reviewed over time -

                    • Expectations for the agreed time periods. Quarterly/ Half yearly/ Annual.
                    • Achievement of job description goals.
                    • How the person is carrying out their role.
                    • What behaviors and values does the person demonstrate (both verbal and non-verbal).
                    • What professional development goals has the person attained.

                    Some areas are easier to measure than others. There are differences between the 'soft' targets and the 'hard' targets.

                    One of the key measures I like to use is 360 degree feedback. That is what do others apart from the manager think of the individuals performance/teams performance.

                    Often times personal judgements can be slanted and not entirely accurate. However where a number of people agree on the big areas you can feel more confident about the feedback you will give.

                    Tuesday, July 21, 2009

                    Performance Appraisals

                    It is important that employees get feedback on how they are doing. Performance appraisals are an effective way for people to understand where they are at in terms of reaching, completing and executing -
                    • Organisational goals
                    • Business unit goals, and also
                    • Their own personal goals.
                    Here are a few pointers for managers to think about when carrying out an appraisal -
                    1. Prepare.
                    2. Make time.
                    3. Shut out distractions and interruptions.
                    4. Listen, listen, listen.
                    5. Have some open questions ready preapared.
                    6. Make the time constructive.
                    7. Criticism can be hard to swallow - so be careful how you present it.

                    Monday, July 20, 2009

                    Professional Development

                    One of the interesting points that came out of one of the talks at the ATEM conference was around professional development (PD).

                    Should PD always be linked directly to achieving the workplaces business goals? That is where does training end and development begin?

                    A number of organisations blur the lines between the two. One great story was about a manager who encouraged their person to engage in raranga (weaving). Through this practise the person became more relaxed in the workplace and then their work rate and quality improved.

                    This semester I have decided to do a course in creative writing, particularly poetry in the second half. Will this directly change or improve my performance towards the business goals? Maybe - but indirectly.

                    As managers we need to be aware of people's needs at the time, and maybe not doing formal study, such as a diploma, is as valuable to a person. However through them doing study that engages them on different levels - that may be of more value and worth, primarily to them, and then on to us as an organisation.

                    Here is a poem I coined to begin the course with -

                    The Urge.

                    And so it begins, the urge to write,
                    But do we begin, no that can't be right,
                    And so the tutor says - don't start just wait,
                    And I sit here musing, restless, going stagnate

                    Bring on week two, with pencil and pen,
                    Maybe I'll start, maybe begin,
                    In the meantime, I'll muse and I'll dream
                    Of stories well written, and eclairs filled with cream.

                    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

                    He Tangata, He Tangata, He Tangata

                    What are the key factors that motivate and inspire people to do their best?

                    People. Other people. Sometimes selfish ambition and greed, but usually for others.

                    Others better define us than how we define ourselves.

                    Saturday, July 11, 2009

                    MBA or NBA?

                    What to do in 2010?

                    • Complete my studies with Waikato Uni and complete the MBA program
                    • Or - knuckle down and get into the NBA instead?

                    It is important for us that Vanessa finishes her degree to allow her career promotions and a university qualification. I'm fine with that. However, it will may mean that I have to go into limbo for a year.

                    The other part of my conundrum is - will doing an MBA get me anywhere in my current organisation? I wonder about the value of an MBA if there is going to be no value at the end of it.

                    So even if I get an MBA will that mean I have a clearer line through to second tier management? I highly doubt it. Am I capable of operating at that level? Absolutely.

                    One of the dangers of staying within an organisation is being labelled and boxed in by other peoples perceptions.

                    When I was doing my chef training I distinctly remember Chef saying - "Trainee chefs should only stay in 1 job (kitchen) for 6 months, and older chefs no more than 2 years".

                    There is some value in that statement. The great chef Mossimo also said

                    "Once you know everything about your job, quit and get a new one".

                    Here are a few points on what I believe are the "Crucial elements of employee engagement" -

                    • Employees must be dependable and appear to be stable in a role is an important element of career advancement;
                    • Also important is the employees ability to grow,
                    • Their ability to know there is a purpose is what they do,
                    • They must be being adequately challenged,
                    • And they must be rewarded for their efforts at work - both internal job performance and external personal development.

                    Sure - I'll have a go

                    A couple of roles have appeared in the classifieds section of the newspaper today. They are at a multi-national in a far bigger role than I am in now.

                    Will I apply? Yes.
                    Am I ready for it? Maybe
                    Am I confident of having a go? Hell yeah.

                    After spending time on the MBA program I can confidently say I am ready for more. Yes I do need more management training. Yes - I do need mentoring. Yes - I am nervous as hell.

                    But whats the worst they could say? No? Come on - nothing ventured, nothing gained.

                    I also have a couple of meetings with other Directors at my current place of work, and I want to see what their thoughts are about career development and opportunities at my current place as well.

                    As I always say - watch this space.

                    Thursday, July 9, 2009

                    ATEM Conference Review

                    This post isn't about the conference as much as it is what I got out of it.
                    1. Careers are the result of our ability to change and what we can endure.

                    2. Change is constant but not always conducive to progress.

                    3. Learning from the best can make even the mediocre truly great.

                    4. Novices can top the field.

                    5. It's not the answers we look for, but the questions we ask along the way that define us.

                    6. There's nothing wrong with having heroes.

                    7. Leaders and influence rs aren't always visible.

                    8. Starting small change in big organizations doesn't always have to take a whole lot of effort.

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