Letter from Paul
Breakthrough to Mastery for Your Managers is Now Realistic
From the desk of Paul Matthews, Founder – People Alchemy Ltd
Dear HR Manager, L&D Manager or Senior Operations Manager,
One of the most common observations I hear today from senior managers – when we really get to speak privately and candidly – is that they are being pushed from pillar to post, are at the mercy of the storm going on around them, and because of that storm their to-do list is ‘throbbing’ under an extreme amount of pressure.
If this is – by any measure – your experience, this report will be of interest to you.
This storm, more often than not, is the result of managers elsewhere in the organisation underperforming. The resultant problems bubble up from below or percolate sideways and put you under pressure to recover the situation.
But now there is a realistic solution that managers throughout the world are taking up. An interesting breakthrough in enhancing management performance – called Alchemy for Managers – now enables managers to competently step up to the mark, deal with, and realistically solve problems as they arise, rather than allowing them to become the storm that hits your in-tray.
What nearly all senior managers like yourself I speak with want, is for the storm to go away so that things are stable long enough for you to get on top of what you are doing. In a nutshell, you want things around you to run smoothly. Then – and only then – can your organisation, and you, become truly successful.
As you are fully aware, the key to this is managers throughout the hierarchy in your organisation who are effective at...
- Leading and motivating themselves and their teams to create an environment of engagement.
- Dealing with the complexity and pace of change.
- Developing relationships with colleagues, customers and other stakeholders that are based on collaboration and trust.
- Developing their skills and using best practise.
- Being innovative and creative where something new needs to be done.
A quick note at this point: I am assuming in reading this letter you have responsibility for management development and providing support to the managers within your organisation – or you rely on the success of the managers within your department to meet your own targets.
Let’s look at how – realistically – these improvements
and higher performance are now made possible
It has been said that “All problems are management problems!”
Think about it. If you track back to the underlying cause of any problem at work, you will find a management decision or indecision, or action or inaction that is the cause.
Virtually every problem you witness could have been avoided or resolved early and easily with some well-informed management input and action. In hindsight, it is usually easy to see the wasted time, money and unnecessary aggravation caused to customers and staff, all for the sake of a timely and skilled management intervention.
The key is getting your managers to step up to their roles and manage effectively – but I am talking about hard, tangible effectiveness, not woolly theoretical effectiveness.
There are, of course, other things needed as well, but without effective management there is no ‘glue’ to hold operations together, and that means that the customers and other stakeholders do not get served well.
And I include staff here as a stakeholder. A survey conducted for Investors in People by YouGov in August 2006 shows that almost one in three people (31%) would swap their manager if they could – with nearly one in four (22%) claiming they could do a better job themselves, given the chance. I am sure you have heard the old truism... “People join great companies but leave bad managers.”
So whether you or I are in HR, L&D, or operations, our one primary need is to engineer tangibly higher management effectiveness throughout the organisation.
This is, of course, a common underlying need for any organisation whether it is public or private sector, whether it is large or small, whether it is local or national, or even international.
You know this well.
And you also know how…
Vitally important the first line of management is.
There’s no arguing about it, that first line of management is one of the most important roles in any organisation or business.
The bottom line is this: if those supervisors and team leaders are not working well with their teams to keep the office running, keep the factory running, to serve the customers, to do all the admin and support needed for any organisation, then there is a real problem.
And if you are in a larger organisation you know well how this applies equally to the line managers in the middle of the hierarchy as well as those in the front line.
If those managers are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and therefore unable to keep up with their jobs, there really is a major problem brewing. This clearly needs immediate attention.
So the question becomes very simple: how do I know exactly what is needed, and how do I put it in place to achieve more effective management?
A common mistake
A common immediate reaction is that to make managers more effective, we need to train them – ‘fill them full of new knowledge’. However we all know there are issues around face-to-face training courtesy of our friend Ebbinghaus.
It was Hermann Ebbinghaus who published in 1885 the first paper on the exponential degradation of memory. This is referred to as the Ebbinghaus Effect or sometimes the “forgetting curve”.
You can counter this to some extent with well designed training courses, but you know as well as I do how quickly the information slips away without continual reinforcement.
In addition to the knowledge and skill retention issues, there is the problem of taking people away from their desks for extended periods.
Managers everywhere are usually coping with large workloads thanks to many years of organisational re-engineering and ‘right-sizing’. Taking them away from their desks for extended management training is becoming less of an option.
The simple truth is that you can’t train managers for every eventuality. There is too much that a manager needs to know, and too much change going on for them ever to learn everything they need to learn, let alone apply it effectively.
So training has many downsides, quite apart from the high costs involved.
Instead, let’s consider the primary intended outcome of most training: learning. It is actually the learning which is important.
But not just any learning.
It is learning that is directly related to the needs of the job and enables a tangible improvement in management performance and results.
Luckily, there is something we all know intuitively that we can use to our advantage.
The Only Real Learning...
Learning how it ACTUALLY happens in the workplace
We learn when we put new information into practice. We learn from feedback. We learn from trial and error. We learn best on the job. This is often called informal learning. It is learning that seeps in without us being aware it is happening. It is subliminal, and accounts for as much as between 70% and 85% of what we learn at work according to researchers.
And the great thing about this kind of learning is that it is specifically focused on what is needed to do the job. It is about learning what is required to produce the desired effect, no more – and no less.
To borrow a phrase from manufacturing – it is ‘just-in-time learning’. (Training could be considered ‘just-in-case learning’).
The question becomes...
How do you reach out to those managers on the job in their working day to enable informal learning and thereby enable them to be realistically more effective?
In order to reach people, it is imperative that you consider their motivation. What do they need, and how do you connect that with what they want?
Interestingly, you, and your line managers have a common outcome: You want them to be more effective, and I’ll bet if you ask them, they also want to be more effective, but they won’t say it in those words.
Managers typically say they want a range of things, but when you examine these, you will find that their desires would nearly all be fulfilled by them becoming ‘better managers’.
In my experience, line managers want some, or even all of the following from their jobs...
- A sense of fulfilment from their job.
- Recognition as a reliable and effective manager.
- A sense of control rather than overwhelm.
- Good relationships with colleagues.
- Balance that includes time for children and family.
- An easy life without undue stress.
All of these automatically flow from gaining mastery over the essential management skills.
So when people tell me, and they have, that their managers have no desire or motivation to improve...
I frankly don’t believe them!
I believe that every manager inherently does want to improve and perform to their full potential. They don’t go to work seeking to be less than they can be.
When you seek to enable your managers to improve and gain mastery over the critical areas of management activity, you are pushing on an open door – provided you connect to their existing motivation described in their terms. If you don’t do this, participation in any management development programme is based more on compliance than engagement.
Other than connecting to managers’ motivation to enable and promote effective managerial performance, you also need to remove blocks or restrictions that are limiting progress. I have noticed that often little is done to remove these blocks.
Indeed, people responsible for management development often don’t realise that these blocks even exist, or what to do about them.
One of the biggest, surprisingly, in this information rich world, is lack of efficient access to the right information for managers to do their jobs.
To see where this originates we need to consider the changes that have been taking place in management, and the impact these changes have on individual managers and their workload.
Within this context the significant changes are things like:
- Removing layers of the management hierarchy, and of course the tasks flow downhill to more junior managers.
- Jobs are combined which gives managers responsibility over areas within which they have little or no prior experience.
- The introduction of matrix management and cross functional teams which leads to managers operating outside their normal area of expertise.
- More frequent reorganisation.
- Technical experts are asked to step into management roles with little preparation or management training.
- The very fast rate of change of technology and business culture makes it difficult to keep up with the latest information and methods.
You have probably witnessed, first hand, the inevitable result of many managers doing jobs for which they are not well equipped. By this I mean they don’t have the background experience or knowledge to do the job efficiently and effectively.
Consider a thought experiment. Imagine a line manager who is struggling to keep up with his or her workload. Now imagine replacing that line manager with someone who has more knowledge and experience. Of course, you would find that the replacement manager would get the job done and would quickly get on top of the to-do list.
The overload experienced by many managers is not necessarily due to them being delegated too much to do. It is far more likely to be due to a lack of knowledge and experience.
What is the solution?
How can you package up the knowledge and experience they require and give it to them so they can access it and use it easily right in the moment when they need it?
Yes, it can be done.
...Plus, there is another substantial side benefit in doing so.
When managers use the right information in the moment to achieve success in a task, that information is thoroughly embedded and learnt.
This is informal learning at its best. The manager’s outcome was to solve the problem and complete the task, not learning. The inevitable increase in overall knowledge or insight comes as a separate, and even unasked for, secondary benefit without any effort at all.
It just happens.
Instead of expecting your managers to absorb a ‘download’ of information out of context, any true learning solution must provide a way for them to achieve their outcomes and tackle their problems within the context of real work, and learn as an integral part of the process.
Your managers need the right information to deal with the current, and often urgent, issue at hand, so they can move from problem, to solution, to action, quickly and effectively – and then move on to the next task.
This essential information needs to be available as part of the work flow so they can tackle that throbbing in-tray with confidence, and get it under control.
Introducing the breakthrough Alchemy for Managers...
Alchemy provides line managers and team leaders with instant access to the practical information, tools, tips, methods and techniques that enable them to ramp up their performance and create concrete bottom-line results. It is a comprehensive source of information and knowledge from over 100 of the most skilled and experienced management development consultants in the whole of the UK.
And probably the most important thing about Alchemy is that it is so immediately easy for managers to use and find the next practical step, whatever their situation. It is this focus on ease of use and practicality that makes the difference, and is the real breakthrough.
Theory on management abounds, in books and on the internet, but what is most needed by your line managers or team leaders when they face a difficult situation is help right now on what to do next. With Alchemy, your managers never get stuck. You literally watch them, as they make consistent use of Alchemy to deal with their day-to-day tasks, improve their skills and begin to develop tangible and true mastery.
Alchemy is a tremendous resource. There’s no arguing about that; but frankly a ‘tremendous resource’ on its own is not sufficient.
It has to be something which is natural and easy to use, so that it becomes an extension of the manager’s thinking.
It has to be something that is there as an ‘instant’, yet comprehensive solution that they learn from, without even realising they are learning.
So there are actually two primary benefits: one is the increased productivity you get, and the second is the automatic learning that happens leading to better performance in the future.
It’s like having Supermanager on call for each of
your line managers and team leaders
You’ll discover that Alchemy is like having Supermanager available and sitting next to your managers all day long, providing expert help right at the point of need with the experience and knowledge of those 100 highly experienced management experts.
With this kind of instant access, another great benefit is saving time. Some might say that most of what is in Alchemy is available on the internet somewhere. The fact is that these days it is possible to get virtually any information via the internet, but how much time and effort does it take?
Research published in 2007 by Accenture states that managers spend up to two hours a day searching for information, and more than 50% of the information they find has no value to them. 36% of the respondents said that there is so much information available that it takes a long time to actually find what they want.
You know as well as I do how often we have to hit the back button after following a search result, and how much time we waste before we find just what we want. Although undoubtedly the internet has revolutionised the availability of knowledge, it is also a distracting and “noisy” environment and is one of the most insidious time leeches out there.
On the other hand, using Alchemy is quick, direct and specific for managers, yours included I am certain. It enables them to virtually instantly find whatever management tips, tools and methods they need and in that way gain hours of management time for free.
They gain time because of the accessibility of Alchemy... they gain time because the information is easy to understand and use... and they gain time because they inevitably operate more efficiently and effectively.
Once managers start using Alchemy they quickly discover they never want to be without this Supermanager support, guidance and backup. I am betting you won’t want them to be without it either once you see the improvements that better equipped managers are bringing to your organisation.
The best way for you to see how effective Alchemy is, and to see whether it has the potential to enable that smooth and efficiently running organisation we, as senior managers all need, is to take the no obligation free trial.
14 day, 100% free trial
I have arranged this 14 day trial of the full Alchemy resource (no restrictions at all) so that you see and experience for yourself how Alchemy and ‘Supermanager’ can support all of your managers through virtually every tough situation or task they face on an almost daily basis.
Experiencing the trial yourself is important because only when you actually use Alchemy, and maybe even apply it to any problems you currently have in your own in-tray, will you quickly realise how effective it is.
Alchemy works not just for imagined and theoretical problems, but the very ones that are currently holding your managers back.
I think that within just 14 days, you will see for yourself why Alchemy is so valuable to line managers across any organisation, including yours.
On this basis, accept the 14 day free trial now without any obligation of any sort (enter first name and email, and the trial is yours).
I very much look forward to welcoming you to Alchemy.
My best wishes,
Paul Matthews, Founder – People Alchemy
P.S. During your trial I’ll also send you some practical and immediately applicable management tips. Given the really positive feedback we get about these tips, I know you’ll find them extremely useful and they will give you an idea of how quickly your managers could enhance their day by day performance.
P.P.S. If you are evaluating Alchemy on behalf of your organisation, I would be very happy to extend your complimentary trial beyond 14 days. The reason is that very often senior people like yourself have been too busy to open and experience Alchemy for Managers for sufficient time. Many senior people do request an extension for this reason. If this is the case for you, please call or email me and I will personally arrange an extension for you.