I love Vera. I love her complex character played by the great Brenda Blethyn, the people in her CID team and of course gorgeous Durham and Northumberland. And the storylines are just perfect Sunday night viewing, for me anyway.
Whereas she has got some great qualities as a leader (more of that later), when it comes to her management style, I have to take issue with a few things.
First of all I frequently find myself saying ‘please’ out loud as she gives another directive to the team. Now I don’t know if this is how the police operate since it is a command and control structure. I have no experience of working in an environment where people have to call me ‘ma’am’ but even if you do give out orders, I still think you could add a ‘please’.
I know in the police, the armed forces and the operating theatre there will be times that you need to snap an order in the quickest possible time because of the urgency of the situation. By the time a surgeon has asked, "Would you mind awfully passing me a scalpel please", the patient might have died. So ‘scalpel’ has to be barked out, and that seems reasonable.
The thoughts of the army shouting, "Fire! please," wouldn't be quite right either. But I just wonder then, if someone is used to operating like this, say in the NHS (no pun intended!), how easy it is to revert to a more collaborative or even merely polite style in everyday situations. If anyone has worked in this type of environment I’d love to know what your experience is.
When my dad ran his coal business I don’t think he would ever have got his lads together to ask how they should do something. His was very much ‘do this or that’ and that style was very much of it’s time. But my experience at McDonald’s and with clients since, has shown me how much more people buy in and take ownership when they’re treated like adults and are involved in establishing and developing the ‘one right way’ for an exceptional customer journey.
The other thing I wonder about with Vera is how she treats her team individually. The long-suffering Kenny receives a fair bit of rib-pulling and mockery which a less robust individual could wilt under. And then I’m never sure about how fairly she treats them. Which would I rather do, get driven round the countryside in a gorgeous old Defender, meeting potential suspects or look through six hours worth of CCTV footage? Mmm tough one that. So maybe Aiden her sidekick is a higher rank than the others but if not, the others could feel hard done by.
And there’s the dilemma for business owners or managers. How to keep people sweet when you probably do prefer some of your team members to others or when someone is great at a role but which they find maybe boring or unsatisfying. Do you change roles round to keep people happy and potentially lose effectiveness or productivity? How do you ensure you’re not playing favourites even subconsciously?
If you have a ‘one right way’ of doing tasks in your business, it is much easier to train people up, to multi-skill. That is one of the ways where people can develop and have variety in their work. You may also uncover a diamond, and people over time have a chance to develop niche roles if that’s what you’re looking for. As for playing favourites, I think you just have to ‘police’ yourself :)
So that’s two things I don’t like, but there are a couple of things about Vera as a manager that I absolutely love. Firstly she really really cares about the victim whoever they are and secondly she perseveres until she succeeds.
So despite some of her management short-comings, I will continue to be a huge fan of Vera and tune in every Sunday night.
Do one thing: watch Vera and see what you think about how she manages her team and then think about your own style. Are there any similarities or things you’d like to improve?
Thanks for reading.
Image property of the Radio Times
Much as I love the words ‘please', ‘thankyou’ and ‘sorry’, there’s another word out there that can make a big difference.
It’s a principle of human behaviour that if you’re asking for a favour, you’ll be more successful if you give the reason why. If you’re asking people to do something they like to know why they should.
A psychologist Ellen Langer carried out a simple experiment on the power of ‘because’, back in the day. She asked if she could go ahead of a large queue of students waiting to use the xerox machine (before the digital age) to make 5 copies. When she offered no reason, 60% let her cut in. When she explained, “because I’m in a rush” people letting her cut in significantly increased to 94%
Now you could think that people had done her the favour since “being in a rush” was a valid reason but she tried a third time using ‘because’ but with a feeble reason: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?” Once again 93% complied.
The researchers surmised it was not the reason as a whole, but the word ‘because’ that made the difference. This was true even when the reason was not very compelling. They theorised that people go on automatic behaviour as a form of short-cut, and that hearing the word “because” followed by a reason, no matter how feeble, increased the likelihood of compliance.
They repeated the experiment for a request to copy 20 pages rather than 5. In that case, only the “because I’m in a rush” reason resulted in a heightened figure.
So they summarised: “When the stakes are low people will engage in automatic behaviour. If your request is small, follow your request with the word "because" and give a reason - any reason. If the stakes are high, then there could be more resistance, but still not too much.”
This has got application for management, sales, trying to get your kids off their phones or trying to queue jump when you’re in a rush. (I wonder if “Now wash your hands” followed with “because x y z..” would work!)
This is the reason why we advocate developing ‘how to’s’ which not only explain or demonstrate the ‘one right way’ to do the task but also explain the reasons behind that process. So useful too when you're training new people in that task that they understand the 'because'. People respond much better knowing the reasons and benefits rather than just being told what to do. (And of course being involved in establishing the ‘one right way’ increases buy in even more.)
Now the question is, "Is ‘because’ still as powerful today; after all, the research was from 1978?"
Do one thing: Try the power of ‘because’ and see if it works either in a ‘safe’ environment or, if you’re feeling brave, try it next time you’re in the queue at a coffee shop….
I would love to hear how you get on. I’m going to experiment too just not sure how brave I’ll be!
Thanks for reading.
As featured here in HRD Connect
2020 will be a big year for new beginnings. How can leaders ensure their best people stay put?
A new decade can be a catalyst to kick-start your own journey to accomplish your life goals.
Members of your team who dream to be somewhere else and start their own business, move to the seaside or whatever they aspire to may well be more likely to up sticks this year, however those that do were never fully invested in your business anyway.
So, my question to you is, is the culture of your business a nurturing and positive culture, or is it stagnant and negative?
Do your team have a clear career progression plan, or do they drift along in the day-to-day seemingly ‘stuck’ in their job for life or until they leave? If it’s the later then worrying about the high turnover of your workforce increasing dramatically this year may be valid. If you have a low staff turnover and a happy team, you’re probably on the right track in terms of your business culture.
The real question here is: How do you improve your business culture?
If you want a culture of ownership and accountability, a positive and engaged workforce and lower staff turnover, ask yourself:
Hiring the right people
The ‘right’ people are those who share your values; who get what you are trying to achieve with your business; who see your vision and are inspired by it.
It’s important to immerse every new team member in your culture from day one. Tell them stories that demonstrate how people take ownership in your business, and how you empower and encourage everyone to make decisions and be accountable.
Show what your culture is through your actions: arriving on time, everyone greeting the new starter warmly, explaining your ‘rules of the game’ to them, and demonstrating your personal values through everything you say and do.
Engaging your people
A strong business culture relies on the whole team buying into it. If you’ve taken your time in hiring the right people you will have no problem in engaging them in your vision and goals for the business, and in your culture.
You have the right people, so involve them in finding solutions to problems, planning for the future, setting their own targets. If your current team is far from engaged, call a meeting and share your vision, help them to understand what they’re a part of and why they’re each so important. This isn’t an overnight thing, so keep sharing wins and positivity. Say thank you.
Develop simple, logical and repeatable systems, and train your team to follow them.
Help them to understand why consistency is so important. Make sure that they understand not only what is expected of them, but the high standard you expect them to perform to. Give them all of the information they need to do the job on their own, and then get out of their way and let them get on with it!
Monitoring and measuring performance
Engaging with great people is easy. But on occasion, you will get your hiring all wrong, and you’ll take on someone who just doesn’t fit your culture, your values or the ethos of your business and they will have to go. It may be that 2020 will be the catalyst for this anyway.
It’s always good to give people a second chance, and I’m personally very big on forgiveness, but when a second chance has been wasted, make sure that you have the performance management system in place to manage them out of the business if needs be.
The negative impact of someone who doesn’t fit is simply too great and, in a growing business with a small team, you simply can’t afford the consequences for your customers, your team and ultimately lost revenue and profit.
Have quarterly performance reviews, but at your annual performance review, build the following questions in:
With the members of your team who are the right fit and who are invested in your business and who can see themselves progressing, their answers to these questions will be detailed and show a will to progress up the ladder. They will ask for things from you.
You will also have your loyal ‘steady stayers’ who love their role and don’t wish to progress. This is ok too of course, some people aren’t naturally ambitious. However, still try to work out some sort of target and reward system for these team members and make them feel part of the journey.
Communicate Communicate Communicate
While your business is still growing, you are your business, you are the leader, and people will want to contact you personally – both your customers and the individuals in your team.
How you handle this will say a great deal about you and your business culture.
Communication is vital in any relationship. Your business simply can’t do without open and honest communication through channels that are clear and easy to use. If you want to build a culture of ownership and accountability it’s absolutely essential.
A while ago, we mapped out a customer journey for one of our clients. (We map it out on a roll of brown paper, looking at all of the touch-points that the customer has with the team, and who is involved at each point.) Their journey was about twenty-five feet of brown paper long, and so confusing that my head hurt when we’d finished.
The sales team were involved from start to finish of this journey; I’m surprised they ever had time to sell! The customer had to speak to four different people in order to do business with the team. Supporting the journey there were four teams, all over-lapping in terms of the roles they were performing, and all doing things in a very different way.
What had happened was what happens a lot in successful small businesses. Maybe it’s happening to you. They had started small; the owner and three trusted team members all of whom were very clear about their role and very focused on it. Communication was tight, everyone knew what everyone else was doing and the larger business picture. They quickly became successful and with the success came a bigger team, and an even bigger team, until very soon they were a team of thirty.
With such rapid growth ‘the way we do things around here’ had become confused, as each of the four original team members gave new people their version of what the operating processes were. Then those people trained others their way and so on until chaos reigned. As a consequence, their service and delivery times were poor, they’d lost consistency and they were losing staff almost as quickly as they could hire them.
Our job was to work with the team to unravel the Customer Journey (always easier when you’re not in the thick of it), to look for the simplest route for the customer, and the most logical way to support their journey. And then with them, to develop the ‘one right way’ to do everything. To regain consistency from the chaos and to restore the company as ‘easy to do business with’ and a great place to work.
It’s easy over time particularly when you’re growing quickly to lose the one right way and that tight system of communication. Having those things in place at the beginning of your business, having the one right way, the ‘How To’ for each task and solid lines of communication embedded in your business gives you reliable foundations for growth. And the one right way isn’t stagnant. If someone comes up with a better way of doing things or technology allows an improvement then that becomes the new one right way and gets trained in using a new How To.
Regularly reviewing your Customer Journey will ensure you’ve not added hoops for your customer to jump through as your business has evolved.
Do two things:
1. Think about your Customer Journey; view it through your Customers’ eyes through each tiny step right from:
- How many feet of brown paper will you need?
2. Take your daily routines and start to develop ‘the one right way’ (your How Tos) with your team. Start laying those solid foundations for consistency and growth.
Thanks for reading :)
Many people I speak to can see the benefits of a systemised business. ‘Look at McDonald’s; look at Amazon,’ they say, ‘every really successful business is systemised, absolutely…there’s no getting away from it.’
But when it comes down to their own business you can see them coming out in a rash. The thought of systemising their business is just too overwhelming…
’I don’t have time’
‘I can’t afford it’
‘Systems are just a luxury’
I’ve heard them all.
The reality is that we all already have systems in our business; we all do things! But if the way we do things is not simple, logical and repeatable then we are wasting time and money and not achieving what every Customer (and every business owner) wants – consistency! We’re spending time checking, correcting, complaining, working in our business not on it.
What I’m saying is that we have a choice, either:
a. do things haphazardly, with each team member doing things their way, reinventing the wheel every time a task is done, little being done the way you want it to be or
b. do every task in your business, in a simple, logical, repeatable way.
For me it’s a no brainer.
The question is not, ‘Can I afford to systemise my business?’ but ‘Can I afford not to?’
And the reality is, it’s really not the huge, overwhelming, expensive task you think it is.
You decide you’re going to do it, you start small, with your most routine, every day tasks and you ask three key questions:
1. ‘Is this task simple?’
Could anyone walking in off the street, (if it’s a basic task), or with the necessary technical knowledge (if it’s a specialist task) follow the steps to complete it?
2. ‘Is this task logical?’
Does the way we do it make sense? Can I answer the question, ‘why do we do it this way?’
3. ‘Is this task repeatable?’
Can it be done in the same way every time? Can I train people to do it this way?
A good system is simply a uniform and consistent way of doing things that makes your life easier. If a system doesn’t make life easier – for you, your team, or your customer, then it’s the wrong system.
There aren’t five different ways to cook fries at McDonald’s; there is one way. There aren’t seven different ways to open up the restaurant and get everything set up for the day, there is one way. Everybody at McDonald’s at every level, knows ‘the way we do things around here’ and everything that is done, is simple, logical and repeatable.
Contrary to what they might tell you, McDonald’s franchisees have a great life. They have freedom to choose when they’ll work and when they won’t; when they’ll go to the golf course, or on holiday, or simply stay in bed. They have that freedom because their business has systems, because everybody that works in their business knows exactly the way things work, so they can trust their team to perform consistently every single day.
Freedom, Trust and Consistency – business nirvana!
And the only difference between them and you, is that they have effective systems.
So what are you going to do about it?
Do one thing: Draw a line in the sand and take small simple steps towards a more consistent and profitable business:
Thanks for reading.
‘The one right way gives your customers the consistency they love and increases profit, which you’ll love.’
For years, I labelled myself as a ‘process’ person when really I’m a ‘making life easier’ person. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’d use the word ‘process’ at network meetings, and see the shutters go down. I’d try ‘systems’ and they’d think I was a techie, into software and IT. I’d used language that put me in a box that no-one wanted to open ‘except in emergency!’
You know what I mean. You’re a ‘get on and do it’ person, and the people who love process are the ‘Rule-Bound Reggies’ of this world, paralysed by the need to analyse, lacking creativity, shackled by the need to ‘follow the system’ – right? Well, sometimes! The truth is, we all need to get past the language.
The only reason a process or a system exists is to make life easier for you, your managers, your team, your customers. There is no other reason for them. But if like many people ‘a process’ brings you out in a rash then try replacing it with ‘a how to’.
At McDonald’s there is a system, a ‘one right way’ a ‘how to’ for everything, from toasting buns to taking on a new supplier; from mopping the floor to assessing franchisee performance. Yet I don’t remember ever really talking about having systems. They weren’t something we did in addition to the day job; we worked with them every single day, unconsciously. It was just the way things got done.
So I want you to stop thinking about process; I want you to stop fretting about developing systems; and I want you to focus on making ‘the way we do things round here’
SIMPLE LOGICAL REPEATABLE.
At Macs, these were three key ingredients of each and every system that are imprinted on my mind. Three words that encapsulate why McDonald’s systems work:
That’s what makes business systems effective.
The other block I find some people have is that somehow the ‘one right way’ is not for creatives. So I’d like you to think about Masterchef. You’ll recall the episodes when the creative contestants have to go into Michelin star restaurants and cook the chef’s dishes to exactly the same demanding standards of content, taste and presentation. I’ve never heard those chefs go, ‘Oh I’m gonna do it my way’ or ‘I feel hidebound by having to produce this in exactly the same way’. No, they use their skills to deliver the same excellent standards and consistency and take pride in achieving them.
If you don’t watch Masterchef what about Bakeoff. A baker will follow tried and tested methodology, the one right way, for baking the cake to free up their time to try new flavours or to focus on decorating their showstopper. It just makes sense.
Think about an author who has a system for plot outline and development, research, character development, and a schedule to work on certain aspects of the story. A disciplined approach to the basics creates time for the creative story-telling.
And so in business, systems keep the nuts and bolts of your business; your invoicing, purchasing, marketing, recruiting etc in motion, and form a platform for the creative people to ‘do their stuff’. The one right way gives your customers the consistency they love and increases profit, which you’ll love.
And the one right way is always evolving as part of your improvement cycle. So your team come up with a better way as circumstances change and that becomes your new ‘one right way’. So you establish the ‘one right way’, the ‘how to’ with the people doing the work then you regularly review it together, improve it, train it in and off you go again. Your team can then work independently, taking ownership of the task and pride in what they do. And you have the trust in them to get on with driving your business(es) forward or spending more time with your family.
‘Systems are not chains to tie you down, they are wings to help you fly’.
Do one thing: Our Business Efficiency Test will give you an insight into how each of the key systems in your business is operating, and will give you strategies for improving them in a .pdf report. Take the test now, to see how you measure up: https://scorecard.mariannepage.co.uk
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)