Archive for March, 2011

Change Lessons from Psychopathic Toddlers?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Proto-psychopath or normally developing brain?Two leading criminologists (see below) at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington have presented studies that they suggest show that violent tendencies may have a biological basis. They believe brain scans on children as young as 3 could identify the future violent and criminal.

What a marvellous idea – that through the marvels of science (rather than messy interaction and assessment), we may identify those who do not conform to our community norms and that we may do so when they are still small enough not to be really dangerous. Even better and very comfortingly, if behaviour is an inevitable result of biology (rather than nurture or environment), then surely nothing may be done to change it. The attraction of the thesis is obvious.

Of course, there is one glaringly obvious flaw. Ask any parent; small kids daily demonstrate psychopathic and anti social tendencies in their almost complete disregard for the wishes and concerns of others. Then they grow up.

Caution is always needed with these discourses – remember phrenology, eugenics and genetic predetermination? They pander to our understandable reluctance to manage difference. Perhaps relevant for a governmental department which is able to make people do things, and a prison service that acts as a final destination storage facility for those who will not or cannot conform. They are particularly damaging when it comes to creating and changing high performing organisations. Building an organisation of ‘People Like Us’ (homogeneity), is not great for success in the fast moving complex markets of the global economy.

The comfort in sameness is understandable. Managing people from very different backgrounds is difficult as it requires the manager to stay adult. It usually challenges the manager’s assumptions about behaviour which will have been built up since childhood – be it how stress (emotion) should be expressed, how women should behave, or the place of people of different sexuality. For high IQ managers, who have often had the personal advantage of a relatively stable upbringing and education, it may be particularly onerous.

With change destroying networks, fracturing teams and making new demands upon existing staff, (never mind the incomers), even once apparently staid ‘people like us’ can suddenly become fractious and difficult. With the pressures of revenue and profit delivery, it is easier to not even try – just buy the myth, the software that promises automated work processes and oust those who complain. Yet the rewards for just a little effort are immense; re-invigorated individuals, engaged and high performing teams, continuity of knowledge and external relationships.

The challenge for senior teams and CEOs is to find of way of helping their managers improve their skills without it feeling too personally risky and distracting from business.

Talk to us, in confidence and without obligation about helping your managers develop the competence and confidence to manage effectively. Solutions that engage, motivate and fit around the business

Supernova – when your Star explodes

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Managing Performance Key Success Factor

The Pain of Performance

After much professional struggle and personal pain, you are a Star in your industry. But life is not going so well, using alcohol and maybe some other substances to dull the pain, you lose control in public and are arrested for racist and anti-Semitic defamation. The instantly recognisable face of a global retail brand, the outburst filmed by a bystander goes viral on Then you are fired as your employer attempts to avoid brand contamination. Sober, and publicly shamed, you apologise profusely. But the damage is done.

John Galliano’s very public meltdown caught our attention as managing staff performance – however senior or much of a Star they are – is a key indicator of organisational success. UK organisations have a duty of care towards employees that includes the stress from their employment. Failure will, as Dior are finding out, damage your market and employer reputation, may further damage (and thus increase the risk of your being sued) your failing employee and will certainly waste the monies that you have spent developing and hiring him or her. For Dior to un-mesh their corporate identity with that of the Galliano ‘brand’ is a further cost.

High value services and products require teams to deliver into globalised market places. Leading teams of different generational, functional and cultural backgrounds is a daily reality for most managers. You are part of the team you lead and work alongside them every day, and you may even like them. With current market turmoil, the possibility of reducing stress by average scoring and giving the standard pay rise has gone. No wonder it is difficult to persuade managers to engage with this personal and interpersonal challenge.

No surprise then that the banks and IT developers are talking about developing software that will de-risk the 1:1 of leadership – Cyber or Android Manager to take the pain away?

We beg to differ. The solution starts with the senior team acknowledging the significant risks and costs involved with poor execution of these skills. Performance management belongs to line management rather than HR, as it is in those thousands of ‘moments of truth’ as teams interact that performance is managed. Giving managers the competence that leads to expert and confident delivery requires an accessible, engaging, individually low risk programme that fits around demands of running a business.

Talk to us today, in confidence and without obligation, to ensure your managers produce stellar performance from the whole team

NB: Dig a little deeper into the Galliano story and it transpires that the individual who managed the interface between Galliano and his employer, (Steven Robinson), died four years ago. Perhaps this exposed the designer to the stresses of managing his own relations with a corporate culture, and removed an important reality check. Whilst Galliano will no doubt recover from the shock, it is a shame for both the organisation and the individual concerned that the realisation that there was a problem came only after such public and shaming exposure.

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