Remember Hale and Pace when they were funny? This isn’t about them – but it is about Management, Organisation and Decision Making – with maybe a quick nod to Leadership.
The context? The ramshackle mélange of lawyers, doctors, local government employees, lecturers, teachers, journalists, farmers, political organisers and city types which makes up the UK Parliament.
Some of them even end up running Departments of State with massive resources and budgets which are measured in tens or even hundreds of millions. Many are unsuitable for management and even less suitable for leadership but………. with a system which promotes from within a very limited talent pool, the strangest of people rise to the sort of power which those of us who grew up in a mostly meritocratic and competitive corporate environment can only marvel at.
Four out of our five most recent Chancellors were either Lawyers or History graduates! Our present Prime Minister studied Geography. Our Foreign Secretary is an Oxford Classics graduate (that’s Latin and Greek to you and me) and our Defence Secretary has a degree in Social Sciences!
There are English graduates and Philosophy degrees. There’s a medical doctor and even a media person. There’s a statistical sprinkling of those ubiquitous Politics, Philosophy and Economics graduates but some say that PPE graduates never quite learn enough about any one subject…….ideal MP fodder!!
But you may ask ‘What has a degree got to do with anything?’
On the face of it – nothing at all….but it is Organisation and Management which run departments with Leadership showing the way…..and if there is no leadership and an inability or unwillingness to take decisions, there is a lack of progress with decisions being consigned to investigations, reviews, inquiries and commissions – which in reality are no more than misused government devices which cleverly disguise intransigence and moribund passivity into action.
The only other place I have seen such a disparate band of individuals attempting to act as a team was a motley crew of so-called ‘middle management’ in a very well-known company’s marketing department. There were graduates of every flavour imaginable – but they neither had to lead, manage nor take decisions. The corporate damage that they could inflict was negligible.
The clue as to the unsuitability of many (most) MPs to administer billions of pounds on our behalf is to be found in the type of individual who chose to study a particular subject…..but there’s more…..
So-called ‘Communication Skills’, exemplified by an ability to talk whilst being insulted is certainly not related to any ability to lead or manage and yet, it is the skill which is prized above all others.
Currently, (as always) there is talk of future reform of the House of Lords reform and hopefully that is where any reform will remain….in the future.
Before training its beady eye on the Other Place, the House of Commons would do well to pause and think about its own fitness for purpose.
Q: How many MPs work at the House of Commons?
A: About 10% of them.
The FLOODS: An inept response?
As a manager and director I have always attempted to create a “No Surprises” regime. In the last few years, I have been showing businesses how to achieve that for themselves through a combination of Business Control and honest Management Audit.
“No Surprises Management” is not a magic formula for corporate bliss but it does demonstrate how many of the factors which CAN affect an organisation can be controlled or mitigated.
Most of us have heard of Crisis Management, which, to put it simply, is responding to a crisis after it has occurred. For many years, the skill or otherwise of Management has been measured on its ability to deal with a crisis.
Our Coalition government is currently coming under a lot of criticism because it is not able to demonstrate that it has any idea of how to deal with the current flooding crisis. That is because it appears to be formulating policy on the hoof. The sheer volume of meetings (COBRA #23) also points to a lack of policy and organisation.
However, we have to understand that a collection of political academics, ex-local councillors, union men, administrators and sons of self-made parents have never been told how to deal with a crisis – so we should not really expect too much. It is becoming increasingly apparent that their response is that of a bunch of amateurs.
Modern Management thinking is NOT just about managing a crisis but about Crisis Leadership – which is VERY different. Crisis Management is reactive, whereas Crisis Leadership is proactive, in the sense that plans are in place BEFORE the crisis occurs.
Our government should know and have identified the (only) SEVEN types of crisis which will affect it and it should have procedures in place which are ready to deal with each. In fact, ideally, it should have an “umbrella” plan which can deal with ALL of the following:
1. An Economic Crisis. The 2008 banking crisis has been the best example so far, but one should include issues such as Labour unrest, unemployment, a sudden decrease in the “tax-take” or even a Stockmarket crash. If you cast your mind back to 2008, you may realise that there was no clear Crisis Leadership, merely a panicky stab at Crisis Management (by the banks as well as by the government) and because there was no contingency planning, it cost BILLIONS more than it need have – and I bet that there STILL isn’t a plan in place.
2. An Informational Crisis. A loss of confidential information is a good example. Remember the panic over the Telegraph’s disclosure of MP expenses claims? The NHS has wasted MILLIONS on an abortive migration to a new computer system. Ministry of Defence details have been leaked to the media. ALL of these issues have been dealt with as a Crisis rather than by Crisis Leadership.
3. A Physical Loss. Loss of key equipment. Government and MI5 laptops getting into the wrong hands. Selling an aircraft carrier to Turkey and then having to go cap in hand in order to buy-back components for spares. It was clear in each of those cases that there is no Risk Assessment with procedures in place to deal with loss.
4. Human Resources. The loss of a Minister because of expenses fiddling or Police lies. Those are always a real risk which once again were dealt with as a crisis. Simple Crisis Leadership in the shape of some very simple succession planning would have made it look as if someone WAS in charge!
5. Reputational. Rumours, Politicians being caught with their pants around their ankles, damage to a government’s reputation or even slander are all very real risks. They are inevitably dealt with as a crisis and on an individual basis.
6. Psychopathic acts. Assange is one case which springs to mind. Kidnapping and terrorism or even one MP smacking another one in the House of Commons Bar. All require a procedure! However, I bet that the ONLY psychopathic act which the government and its departments are half-ready for, is a terrorist attack!
7. Natural Disasters. In the UK, we are limited to flooding, the odd explosion or fire. Of these, flooding is the topical one and because of a lack of foresight and political will, a major crisis is unfolding.
Pre-planning for crisis (Crisis Leadership) starts with thinking about the unthinkable. It is also about acknowledging that every crisis can go on to create another apparently unrelated crisis. In addition, every crisis is capable of being the Cause and the Effect of any other crisis.
For instance, the floods could be either the cause or the effect of an economic crisis.
Imagine that in the first instance, there is a flooding crisis. Someone can then cause an Informational crisis by leaking minutes of a meeting during which it was decided to severely limit the expenditure on flood defences. There may have been a Physical loss of dredging equipment as a result of bad policies with another physical loss being an unusable railway line such as the one in Dawlish. A Human Resources crisis has been demonstrated by Ministerial bickering, the loss or Owen Patterson and the installation of a totally unprepared Eric Pickles as the government spokesman who is now flip-flopping from studio to studio, defending the undefensible.
A Reputational crisis has clobbered not only the Environment Agency and Lord Smith but is likely to engulf the entire Coalition Government because the perception is that they are ALL incompetent.
The above are only a sketch which demonstrates how a single crisis , if not managed properly, creates several others in its wake.
So what should happen in the future?
A cross-functional crisis team should be assembled, with an expert from each of the seven types of crisis. Each member of that team should be polled, in order to give the other members of the team a detailed understanding of all the crises which they believe could occur on their ‘patch’…………..A COBRA meeting, consisting of the usual suspects listening to a DC soliloquy plus a couple of soldiers in Camo gear (for the cameras) is NOT the way forward!
The next step is to produce a high-level ‘map’ of ALL crises and how they may interact and produce hitherto unexpected effects or as we are currently seeing…a chain reaction.
Until a non-political team such as this is put together, the United Kingdom is doomed to experience crisis after crisis with politicians who create the crisis charging themselves with making the effort to deal with the crisis and unwittingly delivering further crises ……………ad infinitum.
This is a simple analogy, specifically designed for those new to management. The message is simple:
When top level people look down, they see shit. When bottom-level people look up, all they see are assholes.
This applies to every activity which has the benefit of a hierarchical structure – from politics and the army to manufacturing and the service industries.
(Our sister site, www.retraining.info is undergoing a name-change and a revamp.)
Praise is the Motivation.
I published the story below about a year ago but make no apologies for repeating it:
Three eminent gentlemen were on the 18th green -just about to complete an afternoon of golf. There was an eminent architect, an eminent surgeon and their Member of Parliament. The men were accompanied by their dogs.
The architect said to the other two, ” Watch this!” as he called his dog. ” Sliderule! Here boy! Sliderule! Go boy!”
Sliderule was a solid Black Labrador and he spent a few minutes rummaging in the undergrowth picking up sticks and within five minutes he had built a perfectly-stressed cantilevered bridge across the stream adjacent to the green. The surgeon and the MP were impressed.
Then the surgeon called his dog – an elegant Saluki. He commanded his own dog ” Scalpel! Here boy! Scalpel! Go boy!”
Scalpel also ran around and foraged in the undergrowth – occasionally he did a bit of digging and within four minutes, he’d laid out a perfect facsimile of a human skeleton on the 18th green.
The others were even more impressed.
The politician then said “That’s nothing – watch this.” He summoned his dog. ” Bullshit! Here boy! Bullshit! Go boy!”
Bullshit was a clapped out old Bulldog but he still had a few moves left. On his master’s command, Bullshit ran around aimlessly for a bit. Then he knocked down the bridge, ate all the bones, fucked the other two dogs, pissed up the surgeon’s leg, had a half-hearted attempt at humping the architect’s leg, claimed some expenses and took the rest of the day off.
There is a serious point to the story:
We tend to think that the tools of the trade for a politician are just words and an ability to communicate. However, recent events have clearly shown that nowadays, management ability and leadership skills are as important – especially motivational skills.
Our former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown developed a reputation as a shockingly bad leader – so bad that his underlings were motivated by nothing more than fear. It seems that Brown did not possess any motivational skills The usual motivators such as wanting to do a good job in order to be given the occasional crumb of praise or pat on the back were totally absent.
Management by Praise is a simple technique which is not in any textbook because it has never had any formal acknowledgement yet it is THE SINGLE MOST POWERFUL management tool available to any leader, manager or anyone in a relationship.
The simple fact is that we do not praise one another enough. Most of you reading this have had so few compliments during your life that you probably remember something complimentary that someone said to you 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Why? Because it was a monumentally exceptional event in you life.
Children should be constantly praised – even when they are screwing up.
A few years ago, I was telling a friend of mine how my young son was making absolutely no effort with his schoolwork and that after the last set of grades, I had grounded him and told him that he had to study at least an hour per day – even during his holidays. However, in spite of the draconian regime, his academic performance continued to slide.
My friend said, “Richard, you fly all over the place, training executives, motivating salespeople, yet you cannot motivate your own son. Think about it. Why do you think that he isn’t performing.”
I have to admit that I was not sure but I decided to try an approach which at the time seemed totally counter-intuitive.
The next time my son came home with an end of term report, the grades and teacher’s comments were still appallingly bad. I read through the school report and as he was watching me reading, I could sense his tension. He was preparing himself for another onslaught and was probably wondering how else I was going to damage his already broken social life.
I closed his report , looked at him and said: “Well done son. You’ve obviously worked hard to improve. Let’s forget the teachers’ remarks. Carry on the good work.”
What was interesting was my son’s reaction. He said, “Thanks dad, but I think that I can do better.”
He’s just finishing his first year at University.
So if you’re a manager, husband, wife, parent or Prime Minister, compliment, praise and appreciate. That is how to motivate those around you to perform to their full potential.
A five year-old child will show you a painting which looks like an explosion in a paint factory. Nevertheless, you say “That’s fantastic! Well done!” What happens, next? Ten minutes later, you are presented with another painting, probably even more horrific than the first one. Why? The child wants and needs another “Well done”.
A wife spends two hours getting ready to go out. She comes down the stairs and presents herself to her husband. She shouldn’t even have to say, “How do I look? Do you think these shoes go with this skirt.”
By the same token, if you’re a wife or girlfriend, when was the last time you told your partner that they looked really good.
Someone you know writes a book, builds a wall or cooks something that they’re proud of and says to you, ” Have a look at this. I’d really appreciate your opinion.” What does that tell you? Maybe it tells you several things. Firstly, they may be lacking attention , they are lonely, they feel unfulfilled or they need some sort of affirmation. Whatever it is, they have a need. They need some sort of esteem – probably because their own self-esteem is down.
“Esteem in the eyes of others” is what drives the majority of us. Your bank account is below zero, you know that your wife or husband is cheating and you think that you may be alcoholic and you are desperately unhappy. Yet when someone asks you “How are things?” without hesitation, you reply ” Great, fantastic. Never better.”
Why do we exaggerate our level of responsibility at work? Why do our houses need “kerb appeal”, Why do we want to change our car every year? Why do we lie about how successful we are? Why do we lie about the level of our academic achievement?
It is our need and craving to be admired so that we can feed our egos. But we tend to forget that we are not the only ones who possess those motivators.
Take an interest and be positive about those around you.
When an office junior presents you with those presentation handouts, appreciate that fact that they completed the task so quickly and say, ” Thanks. My word that was quick! Well done.” The next time, you’ll receive the handouts even faster!
It’s not the money that people earn which is their primary motivator – it is acknowledgement and voiced appreciation that is their “turn-on”. Women leave their husbands because someone else shows interest and voices appreciation. Career people move on because their boss is an inwardly-focused moron.
Ronald Reagan is widely regarded as one of the best-ever Presidents. Why? because he delegated but also appreciated what his staff did – but more importantly, he told them so. Gordon Brown is widely regarded as a leadership failure. Why? Because he berated, insulted and did not have the strength of character to voice his appreciation – even if he felt it. That is why he is yesterday’s man.
The new British Government feels and sounds positive and therefore appears competent because it is making positive noises and appears inclusive. The old Churchillian trick “We are in this together” still works. A government can compliment a nation and the nation will believe .
THAT is why the British people stand shoulder-to-shoulder in adversity. The Dunkirk Spirit will bring us through this crisis. The Brits are at their best when their backs are to the wall. Together we will show the world.
Are any of the sentences in the previous paragraph true? We don’t really know – but by God, we want to believe them. Each one is a compliment!
The Conservative-Liberal coalition will be applying this simple principle to us by the bucket-load in the months and years ahead. Today , the new Chancellor is asking us for our help. Now THAT’S a compliment.
The Management by Praise principle is simple: “Tell anyone that they are good and they WILL become good. Tell someone something positive and they will BE positive. Ask someone for their opinion and you have a friend for life.”
“Can I please have that pay rise?”
Last week The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said the cost of work-related mental illness was £28bn – a quarter of the UK’s total sick bill. Today, the Chartered Institute of Management says that it is launching a campaign to improve standards among bosses because 49% of UK workers say they have left a job because of bad management. The Institute of Management also says that bad managers were the single biggest cause of problems. In addition, the survey found that 68% of managers said they had fallen into the job by chance and 40% said they did not want the responsibility of managing people. A very small percentage of managers have a formal management qualification. (More about qualifications later).
The above statistics are of no surprise and it is generally accepted that the standard of management in the United Kingdom is lamentably low.
In the many years that I have spent as an executive trainer and coach, I have seen first-hand the abysmal level of management skill in British commerce and industry. Within many companies and organisations, management training – especially externally-sourced training has become an “entertainment” which is dispensed without any professional appraisal or Training Needs Analysis. Many senior management training events are orgies of alcohol and food excess and add no value whatsoever to the business.
There is another specific type of training which is popular among managers. The cult of the Motivational Speaker is another entertainment – this time imported from America. This is showbiz which has turned managers heads since the 1950s, and although it provides only a short-term “feelgood factor” fix, it is widely held in very high regard as “training”. An hour listening to BIlly Connolly would be more efficacious than listening to the vanities and very often regurgitated ideas and aphorisms of a motivational “management” evangelist.
There are some very good Management training establishments but they busy themselves with management models, management theory and although they do produce some very knowledgeable managers, the figures show that they may not be producing executives who are “fit for purpose”.
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) has become very popular in the last twenty years. MBAs used to be very exclusive and intense but nowadays, you can complete an MBA part-time and even ex-polytechnics churn-out MBAs. As in many walks of life, the worse the college, the dimmer the students, the lower the teaching standards. Twenty years ago, when you saw someone with an MBA, you knew that they had an excellent first degree and had then spent two years sudying for their MBA. Unfortunately, the MBA tends to focus on organisational theory and I have met very few MBAs who went on to become exceptional managers. There are thousands of MBAs in banking. Need one say more?
Training is not the whole answer. Much of the problem is historic and cultural. Many executives have the impression that in being promoted to “management”, they have somehow become canonised. Many not-only feel the hand of some obscure Management God on their shoulder but they progress from having subordinates, to demanding disciples with the ultimate vanity of expecting worshippers. The trouble is that we do worship them – not as leaders or managers but as gurus or gods. Think of any retired politician or captain of industry. Companies pay good money to send their executives to listen to their words. More showbusiness.
They all forget ONE vital thing – the manager, director or chairman is never a god and should work for his people. It is his job to shepherd them into doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. It is his job to develop them, coach them, train them and to love them. Too many times, managers behave like desk-jockey tyrant-dictators with very little respect for their troops.
The other factor specific to the United Kingdom is the confusion between qualifications and skills. This applies not-only to management but to all walks of British academic and commercial life. “I’ve got a certificate to prove it.”
If I am ever running a series of modules, the most certain way of ensuring good attendance is to dish-out a certificate after each completed module. We are certificate-obsessed.
Certificates are not the answer because many of them are useless and mostly express “attendance” and not acquired skills. The management training industry is over-populated by former executives who appear to think that if you can put together a Powerpoint presentation or can talk in front of a small audience – you are a trainer. Management training has become like sex and driving – everyone thinks that they’re good at it.
Interestingly enough, there are no degrees in Management – it is not considered to be a pure subject. So what is the answer? The answer is not in the tens of thousands management books and “management models” which are rarely read but which adorn executive bookshelves. The answer is certainly not in more certificates, although the “soft-skills” of management could be better taught.
The skills of man-management belong to the same family as parenting skills. Currently we have organisations which are strong on hierarchy, structure and organisation but the human skills are missing. The good companies (and there are many) have an informal outlook with less structural rigidity and a culture which allows every individual to express him or herself. In an ideal company, a good manager is a cheerleader, mentor and coach and not a “boss”.
In the same way that we confuse qualification with skill, we confuse management with “bosship”. The answer is not academic or organisational – it is personal and it may take some time.
A grapple for the teacher
The Internet compensation society is in danger of destroying the education system. Too-aware pupils know that they have the upper hand over their very vulnerable teachers.
More than a quarter of school staff (28%) have had a false allegation made against them by a pupil, according to a survey. Read More
A Wamk in the Park.
This is from our occasional series on Magagement Bullshit.
There are occasions when the message that you have received is obviously wrong but you are not sure quite what the sender meant.
For instance, the five-word title to this article is a texting-error about a walk in the park.
The full message was: “Thought a lot about you last night and then had a long wamk in the park.”
Below is a list of the 20 most common corporate lies but as the message is not always clear, translations are provided.
1. We have an entrepreneurial spirit.
“We don’t know what the f*** we’re doing.”
2. I like a man who speaks his mind.
“No-one likes a man who speaks his mind. You are an opiniated big-mouth.”
3. People are our greatest resource.
“We treat people like shit.”
4. The Boss is one of us.
“No he is not. If he was, he would be working for you.”
5. Staying small was a conscious decision.
“Our Standard and Poors and Equifax ratings went down the toilet.”
6. Let’s keep this “off the record”.
There is no such thing as “off the record”.
7. Immediate delivery? No problem.
“Once we’ve got your money, you can whistle.”
8. W’ere going to lunch to talk business.
“Let’s get really pissed.”
9. Money? It’s just a score card.
“I earn more than you, you prat.”
10.You have to twist my arm to go on a business trip.
“It’s so nice to get away from the wife and screaming kid(s).”
11. We don’t tolerate failure.
12. In my day, we made six sales a day.
“I screwed up as a salesman and went into management. Now I’m screwing up management.”
13. I drive a BMW but I’d be just as happy with a Fiat 500.
14. I’m not doing this because you’e my boss.
“I’m a slapper.”
15. We treat every customer as if they were our only customer.
“We treat all of our customers like jerks.”
16. I’ll tell you when I’m coming.
“Hee hee! Oops…. too late! Sorry!”
17. I’m doing this for the company.
” I’m doing this only for myself.” “Moi.”
18. I’ve heard good things about you.
” Who are you?”
19. I’ve recommended you for a pay-rise.
” I have not recommended you for anything – except an exit interview”
20. I’ve never felt like this about anyone.
( Since last week).
There is much talk about Gordon Brown’s failure as a leader – or more accurately, his widely perceived failure.
Let’s look at other leader-failures and see what they had in common.
Napoleon in Russia, Haig and the British General Staff in WW1, Hitler in Stalingrad in WW2, Margaret Thatcher in early 90s. There are many more but this is what they all shared:
- They were unable or unwilling to adapt to new circumstances.
- They stubbornly and inflexibly ignored evidence and advice.
- They confused their own opinion with fact.
That attitude always impairs problem-solving abilities and constrains leaders from seeing and evaluating alternative courses of action. The stress of conflict amplifies the problem.
What they all suffered from is persistence of habit, fixed belief systems , “set-in-concrete” attitudes plus negatively arrogant mental predispositions. All of these affect and hinder effective judgement.
Those traits are a function of character, therefore the character and personality of a leader DO matter. That is further compounded by the fact that personal characteristics change when one is under stress.
Eventually we can all become frozen by the paralysing grip of fear of failure. It is at that point that rational decision-making abilities disappear.
Unfortunately, in spite of all the right noises, Gordon Brown has probably arrived at the final stage – just before the lever is pulled. It seems that Gordon Brown now believes that he is going to fail.
Fear of failure is fuelled by the fear of rejection – in Brown’s case it is rejection by the electorate and by his peers.
Spygun is not a supporter of Brown but cannot help but feel for him as those expense-account** monkeys that call themselves Labour politicians begin to reject him.
Brown has not yet failed and as long as he does not allow himself to be consumed or paralysed by the fear of failure, the storm will pass and he will see the New Labour rainbow again. It used to be so bright.
If he has a dream, it is still within his reach. If he has a REAL desire to succeed, he should not let the fear of failure prevent it. However, if his dream was only the self-serving two dimensional ambition of a cool job title – he should leave now.
Whenever there is uncertainty or change, there is an explosion of political activity and paranoia – that is quite normal. Recently, there has been an extraordinarily swift emergence of politicians jostling for position. They are not worried about “The Party” – their very real fears are for their own futures.
In addition, there have been numerous manifestations of dissent both in the media and on the streets.
Gordon Brown, as Vince Cable observed so eloquently, has been transformed from loooking like a strong leader to being perceived as a dithering figure of fun.
John Major suffered similar problems until he took action and called an election. Our perception of him changed in one day!
Brown has to play the same hand as Major did. The other underlying problem is that under UK rules, we allow for an unelected succession. That has to be stopped.
Blair’s mischievous timing of the handover compounded Brown’s problems. Blair was fully aware of what was heading for the fan when he handed Brown the keys to Number 10. The electorate used to trust Blair but by the time he left office, he knew that his love affair with the electorate was coming to an end because much of the trust had been dissipated.
In a democracy, trust is central to leadership because (unlike in an authoritarian regime), followers are people who choose to follow a leader. They are not forced.
Brown is learning that followers cannot and will not transfer their trust from one leader to another simply because the former leader used to live at the same address.
Leaders build trust by their words and actions. Wrong words and wrong actions will tear trust down. Fast.
The electorate gives its trust to a politician and in doing so, it accepts some risk of loss of control. When trust begins to wane, the electorate begins to take some of the control back – as exemplified by the latest by-election results.
The growth of an electorate’s trust in a leader is achieved by an incremental process – it is not an instant or even fast process. It grows. Successive positive experiences accumulate until the roots of full trust are achieved. Occasionally , those roots are so deep as to be immovable.
For instance, we trust the Royal Family because over the years they have given us so many positive experiences – to such an extent that even the occasional scandal or negative experience has no effect on the overall depth of our trust. We allow them to practice their own special brand of flaccid leadership because we trust them.
Nelson Mandela has given us nothing but positive experiences. We trust and believe him.
Gordon Brown is being advised by media consultants, presentation gurus, young speechwriters etc. Their focus in on him and the way he behaves. “Smile more , Gordon.” ” Look more casual, Gordon.”
Hence the crimped-gob grin and crap linen Man-at-Millets holiday jacket.
What he (and they) should be concentrating on is teaching and coaching Brown to give the electorate some positive experiences and they should be teaching him how to deliver positive words that are believable.
The other skill that a good leader has is the ability to conduct a good, ruthless exit interview. Only Milliband is 100% safe. Why?
As President Johnson once said: “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in”.
In a few weeks time Brown will have the opportunity to show us what he’s made of.
(See the post of 12th May)
** I use the phrase “expense account monkeys” advisedly. A few years ago I was told by the head barman at the Grand Hotel in Brighton that more bottles of Champagne are drunk at Labour Party conferences than at all the other conferences put together.
Office Politics 8 – The Boss Part 2
A junior from the accounts department sends your Expense Claim form back to you with a note indicating the discrepancy of 1p between the Happy Eater invoice that you submitted and your claim . His rather supercilious memo indicates that the appropriate adjustment should be made and the form resubmitted. You change the entry on the Claim form and then resubmit it. It comes back another week later accompanied by a memo from the same accounts junior saying that you omitted to enclose the 50p “Pay and Display” parking ticket which you claimed for.
At this point, you are having an informal chat with your Boss and he asks you about the self-same junior Accounts clerk. “ What do you think of young Smith in Accounts?” Admit it – you are tempted to say “ He is a tosser and if he sends my Expenses back just one more time, I shall rip his head off !” Wrong!
Why did your Boss ask about Smith in Accounts? There could be several reasons – Smith may have mentioned your sloppiness to his Boss who may have mentioned it to yours. You may have phoned Smith and conveyed that you have an attitude to junior Accountants and Smith may have complained. Your Boss may have identified Smith as a likely transfer into your Department. Young Smith may be known personally to your Boss.
Remember, engage your brain before opening your mouth.What you should say to your Boss is “ Smith? Oh! Well, in my dealings with him, I have always found that he likes things to be right. A real details man!” Your Boss asks you about the airhead bimbo in Marketing – the one in the miniskirt, 39DD chest and brain between her legs. “ What do you think of little Debbie in Marketing?” Phrases containing words such as “Rat,drainpipe and up”, “ Give her one”, “Outhouse door in the wind” and “ shag” immediately spring to mind and should be immediately discarded. Again, your response should be non-committal or, better still pre-empt whatever you feel tempted to say with the phrase “ Why do you ask?” Your Boss may have screwed the unfortunate Debbie and is fishing to find out what the office grapevine is saying. He may feel that Debbie with her Marketing Degree from Keele University might have a place in your Department. He may have found out that you have screwed Debbie. Debbie may have asked for a transfer. She may even be your Boss’s daughter. Beware! If you are Debbie and you are reading this, the advice is that it is OK to flirt with your Boss and maybe to have a drink with him. However , if you wish to maintain career momentum within the current organisation, keep your knickers on. Do not be misled into believing that screwing your Boss can have a positive effect on your career – very much the opposite. They rarely leave their wives and you will become an embarrassment! “ I feel that I can really talk to you!” “ I’ve never felt like this about anyone”, “ Of course I’ll still respect you” “ My wife and I are only together for the sake of the children” , “ I don’t believe in one-night stands either” “ I feel different when I’m with you” “ I love you” “ I wish that we’d met years ago” and similar inventions work surprisingly often. They are all lies.Never ever put yourself in a position whereby anyone senior to you shares his fears or problems with you – especially your Boss. If your Boss is having problems with his wife, girlfriend , boyfriend or all three, it is none of your business and you will be a marked employee. As the journalist said “ I made my excuses and left”
Office Politics 7 – The Boss
Your progress as an office politician is dependant on how you get on with the people around you. Unfortunately, no matter how popular you are with them, their contribution to your blitz through the organisation is small compared to the leg-up that you can be given by your Boss.
“ God created man in his own image” has been true for several thousand years now and it certainly applies to how individuals are chosen by managers. Therefore, if your Boss is a tosser and it was he who hired you, the odds are that you are also a tosser. The converse is also true.
It is a peculiar psychology, but there are few individuals who will select someone who can be a potential danger to them in the medium to short term. It is therefore extremely important that you do not ever allow your Boss to have the impression that you are a threat to him. Your Boss will have surrounded himself with substantial comfort zones and it is up to you to respect those.
For example, your Boss says “Computers. Pah! They are just tools . Don’t believe in them! Garbage in -garbage out. I’m not keen on them myself! People become slaves to them!”
What a wonderful opportunity! It is immediately apparent to you that your Boss is a technophobe – the sort of Boss who is frightened to even touch the keyboard. If you are a total prat and believe that your Boss has just handed you a wonderful opportunity to belittle him, think again! There are many Bosses who are dinosaurs and the last thing that you should attempt is to make your Boss feel inadequate.
Words like INTERNET ,RAM, ROM, WYSIWYG, DOS,WINDOWS, VISTA IS CRAP etc. are a mystery to him.. Simple phrases such as “ I shall need another 5 gigs to run that application” or “ The low-power standby mode is invoked through the driver software.” are to be avoided.
There are a few words that your Boss knows and they tend to be the following: “ SOFTWARE – although he will not be sure what it is. DOWNLOADING – that’s an obvious one. FLOPPY DISC – although he is still wondering why it is called floppy because it used to feel hard and he does not know that we don’t use them anymore. “MAINFRAME” is a good one because it is a word he used to hear at meetings and it sounded so Macho. Stick to those words and if your Boss uses any of them incorrectly, ignore it.
Never ever attempt to display your vast knowledge of Computers to your Boss. It is the equivalent to a young baboon showing its very colourful hindquarters to the grey, toothless , old, debilitated and not-so-brightly endowed elder. The old baboon will regard you as a threat to his territory. Allow him to wallow in the misty (largely imaginary and second-hand) memories of “ I remember when a computer like the one on your desk was half the size of this room”. He probably was not even aware of computers when they were that size, but, what the hell……
Computers are important in the political hierarchy. I have seen Managing Directors order Personal Computers for themselves and their staff according to the Hard Disc and screen Sizes.
Do not criticise your Boss to your Colleagues. He will find out. Certainly do not criticise your Boss to his face. “ I like a man who speaks his mind” is a lie. It is the biggest management lie. It is up there with ” Of course I’ll let go of your ears” and ” I will still respect you in the morning” – (and the other one).No-one likes anyone who speaks his mind. There are lots of failed executives who spoke their mind and who keep on speaking their mind. They ALWAYS end up working for someone 20 years younger than themselves.
Even if your Boss asks you what you think of a colleague and your colleague is a complete waste of space and he puts a Spermatograph off-scale, look for positive things to say.
DO NOT SPEAK YOUR MIND. Plenty of time for that when you are running the place.
TO BE CONTINED…..
Office Politics 6 The first day
Congratulations, you got it. Legally people can get rid of you with in the first few months without even a verbal warning, so continue to behave yourself for at least that long . The first day is crucial. You are now creating a first impression. At this very first appearance no actual work is required but let that not make you too complacent.
You are still being observed and assessed but this time it is by your workmates. You want to appear modest, friendly and a team player. How do you do that ?
People will be curious about you. They have asked about you, talked about you and have already formed their own ideas about you. You want to set their minds at rest that you are no threat ( even if you are). Smile a lot, appear relaxed, crack the occasional clean joke.
Why? Because you have to work with these people. You are joining their team, you are the intruder, even if you are the Boss. Any change unsettles people. They will be asking: Why is he here? Why didn’t I get his job? How will my job change? Will we like him?
You must get rid of their doubts on that very first day. You have to remember that you are the new boy or girl, whatever your rank. Lets say you are a reasonably junior person and there are two of you in the department and a third is hired. On his first day the new boy lets slip that he has a first class Honours degree. You are not going to like him. Let people find out about you gradually. Ask them about themselves, be interested in them . They are certainly interested in you and will discover all of your past achievements without you saying a word.
Do not try to impress people. If you say : “Hi, I’m Fred,” they will like you. Suppose that you offer : “ Hello, I’m the Rt. Hon. Dr. Frederick Dickweed MP, PhD.” Although they should be impressed they will think you are a wanker, and no amount of subsequent bridge-building will ever change that opinion.
People couldn’t care less about what you have achieved in the past. You went to public school? So what? It’s what you do now that counts.
Don’t be hung up on the trappings of status. The size of your desk, the proximity of your parking slot to your desk, the number of filing cabinets, the big leather chair, they are not important. Too much emphasis on the size of things suggests a little willy complex.
Be a big boy, just get on with it. One of the first things that will happen to you after you are shown your desk is that you will be taken on a whistle-stop tour of the photo-copier, the coffee machine, the toilets, canteen and finally you will meet some staff. It gives everyone a chance to look at you and although you are not expected to remember everybody’s name . Try to (immediately) memorise the names of all those who will be working with you in your group or department.
Low key , modest and approachable are good. Full-on, oleaginous, creepy and immodest are bad.
Questions for Fatsos.
“Is it in yet?”
Not so long ago, I walked into our local school playground. The sight that battered my eyeballs made me think that I had blundered into an arse-growing competition where there were no losers. There also appeared to be a gut growing competition in the corner. Many easily qualified for both competitions. Sadly, these were adults in their 20s and 30s waiting to pick up their young children. If you are a fat bastard of either sex (or American), stop dieting, read the next few lines, wake up and smell the flatulence.
Let’s face it – you’re fat. Why are you fat? Because you eat and drink too much. Yes, yes – It’s to do with big bones or shall we use the water-retention excuse today. No – I’ll tell you what – it’s a medical condition! That one never fails to get sympathy. You’re ill, that’s what you are. Hormonal is good as well.
You’re not the sort of person who:
Drinks alcohol. Eats biscuits by the packet. Eats crisps. Cooks shit food. Eats the so-called orange food: Chips, nuggets, fish fingers, beans, chicken kiev, battered stuff , biscuits, tea, beer etc. Just loves fish and chips. Will get round to exercising next month and when you sign the membership form to the exercise class: “Let’s have a slap-up meal and a drink just to celebrate joining the gym. After all – it will probably be the last proper meal that I will ever have”. BOLLOCKS!
What about: Lousy in bed and consequently not getting any proper sex? Never had a orgasm? Husband left you for a younger (thinner) woman? Wife left you? Isn’t she looking glam these days? Not got your figure back since you had that child? Hardly eat a thing? Never ever ate the leftovers? Look for any excuse to “celebrate”? Drink a bottle of wine while cooking? Buy sweets?
“ Well dear – they are just for the kids” “I’ll stop when I’ve finished this tin of sweets.” “ I wish that people would stop giving us biscuits for Christmas.” “I used to think it clever to get out of PE and games at school. ” “I am a virgin.”
No jeans? Know the calorific value of everything? Love a glass of white wine? (non-fattening you know) Drink Vodka? ( least fattening of all the hard alcohols). Have never worn a bikini? Eat like a pig at Christmas? “ Well it is just once a year, isn’t it?” Do you eat very delicately when you are being watched. Do you make a big deal of not being hungry when someone else cooks for you? Is your life an unhappy sham? Do you hate your husband? Do you hate your wife/girlfriend? (or both?). Do you read trashy romantic novels? Are you lonely?
Is your waist the same size or bigger than your chest? Do you wear baggy jumpers? Do you say “ Well, just one then.” and then proceed to eat as many as you can? Is your mother fat? Have you ever said that ”It’s the person you are that really matters”? Do you ever wear tracksuit bottoms because it makes your gutbucket stomach happier? Is your husband an ugly bastard? Is your wife a woofer? Are your brothers and sisters fat ? Were you a bloater at school? Were you bullied at school because you were a bloater? Do you have a 99 in your ice-cream? – “Well it is the summer isn’t it?” Chinese takeaways? Indian Takeaways? Pizza? (all washed down with a bucket of diet(?) coke).
Have you ever had a walk in the countryside? Have you started to read the Lonely Hearts columns with a bit more intensity? Have you ever had a walk? ( N.B. There is no typographical error in the preceding sentence). On holiday, do you waddle to the beach and sit eating sweets and sandwiches and drinking pop and beer all day? “Well, it is just once a year”
Tried every diet? You are probably on a diet right now. Michael Winner and Anne Widdecombe (and spygun likes them both) have both said the most sensible thing ever as far as losing weight is concerned : EAT LESS YOU FAT BASTARD.
Moron than I can say.
The average footballer has the brain of an isopod, the social graces of an Albanian peasant, the communication skills of a special needs student and the vocabulary of a 13 year-old asbotic.
That could pose a problem for his manager. Luckily, most managers come from the same background so they can communicate with their man by drooling, shouting and grunting until there is a glimmer, followed (eventually) by a mutual understanding.
If you listen carefully to a radio or TV interview with a footballer you will hear little vocabulary and an over-reliance on clichés which are short, easy to remember and can be mixed, matched and adapted. We al know the old ones : Parrot , Moon and Backo the Net come to mind – they are the old ones. New ones are creeping in as well : ” I was on a steep learning curve” is quite popular nowadays. How many footballers have seen a learning curve?
So we can agree that communication is not their strong suit. Imagine then the difficulty that a foreigner would have in understanding and gauging the level of thickness and lack of expressive skill that a British footballer enjoys.
When you are listening to someone speaking, you can tell within a couple of sentences whether you are dealing with a scholar or moron. However, when you listen to a foreigner whose language you do not understand, you have no idea whether you are listening to poetry or garbage. Or as a footballer might say: “Nancy woofter-boy stuff or fucking shit.”
Imagine the difficulty that say, a foreign non English-speaking football manager would have in deciding whether a particular footballer would make a good leader or captain. To his unattuned ear, the footballer may sound positively Churchillian whereas to you and me, he may sound like a dim-witted, knuckle-dragging thicko ***.
But we must also remember that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
*** Sorry to bring the Tory front-bench into this.
Office Politics 3 – Your CV bits and pieces
A professional reading your CV knows that because you have produced a document which is supposed to market you, there will be exaggerations and perhaps some downright lies. There is little harm in amplifying say, the importance and responsibilities of your previous job(s) but if you are going to lie about your qualifications, be careful. A few GCSEs here or there makes little difference because no-one ever checks. Just be careful when claiming a PhD or Nobel Prize or something that definitely will be checked. Some companies are in the habit of carrying out personnel audits which means that from time to time, they will pull out a few staff files and go through them with a fine tooth comb. What could be more embarrassing than having to show that your degree was only a pass and not the 2-1 that you have on your CV or that three jobs ago you were not the Sales Director but just a bad self-employed salesman.
A word about gaps. The prospective boss is looking for holes in your past work history. If you have been unemployed or in prison, avoid old chestnuts such as “holiday in Australia” or “travelling round the world”. Top people have seen a few places and if you claim to be well-travelled be prepared for questions.
Make your CV seamless, join the edges up by omitting to mention the exact month that you left. You will be asked “Why did you leave?” NEVER ever claim a “clash of personalities” That means that you are an awkward pig who cannot get on with anybody. Instead, be positive and express regret at having had to leave. Say that you went for more responsibility, more salary. ” I was headhunted.” and ” I was asked to join” are both ace replies that you can get away with.
If you were fired and the company which fired you is on your CV, be careful. Employers are very careful not to put anything vaguely libelous on a reference but I can tell you that your new employer will pick up the phone and speak to your former boss or personnel department and have an “off the record” conversation. Be warned.
The Golden Rule is ALWAYS keep a copy of your CV – unless you have been totally truthful.
Office Politics 2 – Your CV hobbies
You can’t wait until middle management to learn about office politics because they start NOW – on day one. In fact, even before that. Your CV is the beginning, so let us start with that.
The CV is designed to show you in the best possible light. Your prospective employer sees it as a statement of fact but to you it is a marketing document – even a sales pitch.
Either get the CV done professionally but certainly use a PC and a decent printer. No battered old Remingtons. White paper is best – steer clear of pastel shades. Write it by hand and they will bin it. Keep it to a maximum of two pages.
Remember that everything that you put on your CV will travel with you for the rest of your career – so be careful. Here are a couple of examples. If, for instance, you list Venture Scout as one of your pastimes, it does not suggest ruggedness and leadership – it suggests PRAT. Other things that may place you in the “Prat” category: Trekkie (Star Trek fan), most “collecting”, e.g. stamps, matchboxes, bus tickets etc. They all suggest a likelihood of incorrect potty-training rather than diligence, neatness and attention to detail. So, unless you are applying for a job in Accounts, leave them out. However, collecting antiques or classic cars is fine.
If you are a man, hobbies on your CV such as cooking or darts will immediately tell the personnel manager that you are a drunk. Women must avoid cuddly toy collecting, knitting, line dancing or synchronised swimming – they all suggest boring, frustrated and Crimplene-wearing : usually all three. Ladies, do not describe yourselves as “bubbly”. That just means fat. Slim women are not bubbly. GSOH just means “gagging for it” and over-familiar.
“Reading” or “travel” implies no hobbies at all.
All of the above can mark you out as a pillock rather than a go-getting executive. Do not lie about your hobbies on your CV because Sod’s law says that you will come up against an interviewer who knows the subject intimately.
I remember one unhappy job-seeker claimed to be a Karate expert, not realising that the interviewer was a second Dan black belt. Close questioning revealed many shortcomings and the sweating individual departed a sadder and wiser man, never again to take liberties with the martial arts.
Never underestimate the importance of your hobbies. They have several simple functions. To make you look a reasonably interesting and rounded human being and to show the prospective interviewer that you are a team player as well as an individualist.
Good combinations are golf and cricket, choir singing and hang-gliding, drama and swimming.
Do avoid pistol-shooting, collecting knives, breeding Rottweilers, playing GTA, bungee-jumping and sky-diving. You may think that they sound make you sound adventurous or interesting. To the prospective employer, they spell “only child”, “nutter” and “bottle-fed”.
You may choose to discuss some of these activities at the interview but if you put them on your CV, you may be limiting your chances of obtaining that interview.
Office Politics 1
You may be asking yourself whether it is fair that in the corporate jungle, your considerable education, integrity, knowledge and skills can count for less than factors such as your appearance, the way you speak and your general political acumen. It is not fair. However, while you are up there in the sunshine, swinging through the green canopy of the corporate forest towards the big tree of superstardom, you are being overtaken by slimeballs in the undergrowth who are far less able that you – but who know all the shortcuts to the big tree. You want to get to the top? Big salary? Posh car? Personal assistant? HUGE office? Company charge card? All these things can be yours if you know what the rules are. It does not matter whether you have an Oxford double-first or whether you have a pass degree in Media Studies from the newly-created University of Craptown. You can be a winner. I am not telling you that you are playing on a level playing field (you’re NOT) – but I will show you where the shortcuts are. You were not born an office politician but you can learn. This is the part one of a series of posts which will show you how to shaft, slime, cheat, grovel and trick your way to the top. Never mind the high-fliers – you are taking the low road. Remember: Eagles may soar but weasels do not get sucked into jet engines.
Managent Training or Entertainment?
Training is like sex and driving. Everybody thinks that they can do it and most think that they are going to be good at it.
Managing Directors do it, Sales Directors do it, Personnel Managers do it and even Accountants (!) do it. But do they know what they are doing?
There seems to be a popular misconception that if you are “good on your feet” you are by definition going to be a good trainer. Not so. Training requires a whole raft of skills which is a great deal more that simply standing in front of a group of people, looking good and talking.
The word “training” means something very specific – you Train a horse, you Train a dog, you potty-Train a baby, you give your child a Trainer-cup, you Train your child to be good.
Training is all about “doing”. It is about changing behaviour – it is about helping an individual to DO things differently. Teaching is about giving knowledge but training is about the application of knowledge in order to do things differently. If training does not achieve that difference in behaviour then it is not real training.
So what is real training? I am going to compare it to two other activities in order to see the similarities and differences.
Firstly, let’s look at the stand-up comedian. He requires little or no physical audience participation. The audience participation in this type of presentation is purely psychological and can be extremely powerful – but only temporary.
The comedian is manipulating the audience’s feel-good factor. He is doing it in a very direct way. He takes them out of their world and brings them into his. He paints pictures in their minds, makes them feel warm, makes them laugh.
He instills a temporary sense of well-being in the audience.
That feeling of well-being begins to decay immediately after the end of the show – the rate of decay depends on the power of the performance, relative to the individual. Some may feel good for hours, some for days – but gradually the individual will return to his or her own psychological baseline. If they want to feel good again, they need to seek another “fix”.
Another example of psychological manipulation in order to produce that feel-good factor is that practiced by the priest, evangelist or even the American-style presenter who “trains” you into thinking that you too have the ability within you to be a success or a millionaire. You need to keep going back for a “fix” of Jesus (who loves you) or the promise of riches and success. Different daydreams but the same principle.
Why is it possible to go to a good comedy show, be entertained and recall all of the jokes? Simple – you were involved both intellectually and (more importantly), you were involved emotionally. Retention of information is a function of emotional involvement. It is the difference between reading a textbook and reading a novel. It is the difference between a fire-and-brimstone evangelist and an intellectual priest.
Let’s have a look at the other end of the scale.
The Lecturer or Technical “presenter” neither requires nor demands the individual’s emotional involvement. He deals in facts. His style is a demonstration of (his) knowledge and a regurgitation of facts. The last thing on his mind is the feel-good factor. He is an analytical who deals in facts and not emotions.
I have seen lecturers who have hardly looked up from their notes and there have been occasions when I haven’t been too sure whether the lecturer has been aware as to whether or not he has an audience. If you ever hear of a lecturer being “good” it is probably because he managed to engineer some participation or tapped into an audience’s or an individual’s emotions.
The percentage of information that is retained after this type of presentation is very low.
Training comes somewhere in the middle as far as the balance between factual and emotional input is concerned but is at the “top-of-the-graph” as far as audience participation is concerned.
Training requires the ability to “work” an audience – but in a very special way and the act of training also requires high energy levels. Not as high as the entertainer but nevertheless, much higher than the lecturer.
One of the great secrets of successful training is the ability to create a good atmosphere – a motivational atmosphere – an atmosphere where a thirst for learning and a desire for self-change takes place. However, all too often, that’s as far as the “trainer” takes his audience.
Interestingly, I regard most Management Training in the UK as no more than bad entertainment and largely, a waste of time and resources which entertains but certainly does not train.