Posts Tagged ‘competitive advantage’

‘And then she burst into tears!’

Monday, February 4th, 2013

The Director was describing his recent experience of being an In House coach at his high tech, world competitive company.   An intelligent and empathic man, he had been unable to manage the encounter according to the training materials and course, and his own expectations.  The experience had been really difficult. He was embarrassed for himself and his trainee.

 What about the trainee?  How did this emotional experience affect  her sense of professional competence, in this knowledge based, rather logical organisation?  Was it associated with feelings of shame? Had it made Learning and Development more obviously a risky activity? What had been touched that this coping strategy from her personal life had asserted itself in the coaching session?

 The attraction of an ‘In House’ coaching programme is evident.  Surely it should help spread that sector specific knowledge that makes the difference in today’s competitive markets?  It should be more productive than hiring external coaches, who will not understand the business as well as your own managers?  However, this case shows some of the unanticipated difficulties and it seems unlikely that the pilot will be extended.  Coaching is not training.  It is a powerful learning tool which engages a trainees experience and emotions. This, and its one to one nature which necessarily also involves the emotional responses of the coach, make it complex. With jobs and promotions on the line, feelings and expectations which are often not overtly expressed or even acknowledged will be in play.  However bright and concerned the individuals chosen to deliver In House coaching, they need more than a short course and a reference manual to be able to do so.  Without appropriate development and continuing support it is highly likely to go wrong. 

Sometimes it is better to hire the expert.  Talk to us today!  

 

Managing Turbulence

Monday, October 1st, 2012

 

 

 

 

The event feedback alerted me to the issue, particularly the comment that the participant would have liked more discussion about the emotions of the management dilemma being discussed.  However, the individual had enjoyed the discussion as it had been ‘an ideas session’ which ‘had played to my strengths’.  S/he also commented that there had only been 3 contributors to the discussion. 

 This report did not tally with my recollection of the event.  The video tape, (oh, the joys of psychological practices!), showed that much of the discussion had been about staff emotions and that all 5 people in the room had participated.

 What was going on?  What we see and understand is filtered by our life experience and knowledge.  We would, for example, anticipate that an expert would see more in a particular conversation than a novice.  But this was an intelligent senior manager with years of experience.  Could this filter have been a blind spot?  Blind spots serve a protective purpose in maintaining the status quo – particularly an individual’s world view and sense of self.  In change and turbulence a blind spot is more likely to come into play when the individual’s working world has changed and with it the ‘rules’ of winning.  This impacts both personal identity and professional life – the more senior the individual, the greater the risks associated with the change.    

 For the individual in this situation confusion, anxiety and frustration are the order of the day, which may just encourage a more determined repetition of the inappropriate behaviour.  Added management pressure to deliver the numbers merely ramps up the pressure and anxiety.  In this very common situation, when dealing with an otherwise high functioning and valued employee, the management  challenge is to help the individual recognise and stop this reactive and destructive cycle, and then to address those blind spots effectively (and acceptably).  All this must be done whilst keeping the manager functioning. What will your organisation achieve when managers perform without being fettered?

Talk to us today to ensure your senior staff are able to deliver even in turbulence.  

Emperor Rupert and Prince James – A master class in Competitive Advantage?

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Illustration: Truth and LieThe trouble with Faustian Pacts is that sooner or later you pay for the privileges provided.  Was it naivety or a deliberate decision on the part of our politicians to do a deal?  Levinson makes fascinating watching as the extent of News Corps’ influence is revealed.  That interest is beyond merely media and government sectors. 

In our increasingly international markets the ethics and values of competitors differ, adding significantly to the complexity of managers’ task.  Some practices are culturally based such as the dormitories of the Apple subcontractor which allow hours to be adjusted according to product launch requirements.  We might also include the use of forced or indentured labour and the lack of a safe working environment.  The legal frameworks of national markets also differ, some having a much clearer and equitable application of the rule of law.  Whatever the basis, lower costs of production give competitive advantage.  

How do organisations compete when competitors gain super profits from illegal or culturally unethical practices?  The good news is that it is possible to fight back; it takes intellect, courage and a holistic plan.  It takes above all the ability to think through the likely consequences of actions – including the consequences of accepting too quickly siren invitations from very persuasive and apparently charming individuals and corporations.  This requires reflection – which requires time and practice – as well as a guiding management culture that is clear about values and the reason the organisation holds them.   

What would your organisation look like if you were able develop this skill in your managers?  What would stop them repeating what used to work and think about and implement new behaviours that work now?  

Don’t miss out, talk to us about how others have benefited from our expertise in developing thoughtful practice in managers that enable them to drive performance and leverage new opportunities – without the Faustian Pacts.

When do you have time to think? Agility vs Uncertainty

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Improve your thinking

 Reflective Space at the IQEQNetwork May 15th (8.30-10.30am, City of London).

Agility and Engagement vs. Uncertainty and Unknowing.  Turbulence creates uncertainty and unknowing: inspiring, engaging and supporting managers as they fight to keep the business on track.

IQEQNetwork inspires, engages and supports senior professionals responsible for staff and manager performance (COO, HRDs and others). We encourage a range of sector participation – from ‘extreme’ not for profits through ‘new’ technology sectors to more established organisations. The relaxed format, developed over the five years the network has been established, is valued by participants.  It allows the sharing of diverse opinions and experiences amongst senior peers, rather than the usual undifferentiated crowd. The output is published via various web platforms to ensure the learning from the meeting is not lost to the demands of work and life pressures.  The network will prove a valuable use of your time. A working group, there is no ‘talking at’ or ‘selling to’. The network operates under a set of house rules for confidentiality, and is facilitated to provide an enjoyable meeting with a productive outcome.  N.B: Whilst members sponsor us meetings are free – terms and conditions apply.  Numbers are limited.  Booking closes a week before each event. More information on event(at)iqeqnetwork.com

Enterprise Risk and Psychopathic Employees

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

 

Star employee or Psychopath?

Star employee or Psychopath?

 

 

 

A  German[1] study has highlighted similarities in brain function between convicted and certified psychopaths, and traders.   Interestingly the traders were more concerned with reward and, “spent a lot of energy trying to damage their opponents”, compared to the prisoners.  Whilst the study was relatively small (27 traders and 24 psychopaths),[2] it would seem to be backed up by anecdotal evidence from, and recent events in, the banking sector.[1] 
 

We understand the attraction of trading to those who may show psychopathic tendencies.  It is an impersonal activity – a matter of spread sheets and automatic execution into anonymous markets.  It offers all the excitement of gambling and computer gaming, with the real risks of the gamble being taken by the employer and apparently mediated by risk management software.   It doesn’t require EQ skills.

However, we don’t agree that every trader fits this profile[3].  People who are extremely numerate may not have good EQ.  Corporate cultures may reward and encourage what could be described as selfish behaviour[4].  Similarly the effort that went into destroying internal competitors may be the consequence of a failure of performance management.  The real risk management issue is not purely individuals (or trading teams).  It is both how the organisation assesses and manages performance, and the impact of the prevailing organisational culture on the development and display of these traits.   

Psychopathic behaviour damages organisations.   Sabotaging colleagues destroys team working, creating a hostile environment with an internal rather than market focus.  The consequences include increased churn, with the real talent leaving.  Once the realities of working in the organisation are known, attracting good candidates for employment becomes difficult.   Promoted into management the damage is worse.  Productivity of other teams will plummet as internal competition ‘hots up’, more talent will leave and actions for bullying and harassment will eventually surface.  The inevitable resulting internal focus compromises competitive advantage and the organisation’s future.   

Fortunately, the psychopath’s ability to blag and charm does not stand scrutiny from effective performance review.  A key part of this is the review and feedback process itself. Ironically those who are best qualified to deal with the technical competencies in this population are unlikely to have the interpersonal skill sets to do so, and will feel most challenged by it.  Given the risks, it is important that your managers are competent in their interpersonal performance management skills.  Talk to us now about how to ensure your managers have the essential interpersonal skill sets to thrive at this challenging task.

 

[1] University of St Gallen: authors Pascal Scherrer and Thomas Noll

[2]The brain chemistry/mechanism that could be at play has been evidenced by  research published by the University of Vanderbilt  http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2010/03/psychopaths-brains-wired-to-seek-rewards-no-matter-the-consequences-109865/

[3] Psychopathic tendencies do not automatically mean that an individual becomes a psychopath.  The difficulty is semantic, the association with criminality.  As we have noted elsewhere, psychology and neurobiology are useful sciences to inform our interaction in the real world which is where organisations operate. 

[4] See our ‘Hard Wired to Fail?’ www.theperformancepractice.co.uk/ideas-blog May 2011


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