People & Change

The Silverleigh Consulting blog

Engaged February 26, 2009

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Recently I was fortunate to attend an excellent breakfast meeting at the home of media luvvies (the Groucho Club) focused on increasing employee engagement.

A really engaging debate highlighted the ever increasing importance of engaging with people in your business during the recession. Key messages that came out of the discussion were as follows:

* focus on both emotional and rational engagement – taking people with you requires an appeal to both the heart and the head
* know your audience – ensure that the message, tone and method of communication are appropriate. No point writing a Daily Telegraph style message for a Sun reading population (or vice-versa)
* balance top-down with bottom-up communication – making sure that you know what people are thinking and feeling, and use this to inform decision-making
* develop your line managers – engagement is not all about senior management. Day-to-day interaction with line managers can be key to helping people feel connected to their team and the business. Why not use your better managers to help develop others and spread best practice
* engaging through change – when reorganising it can often help managers to connect with their people by understanding the ’employee journey’ that each person may be going through. A brief scenario can help managers understand the questions that each group are likely to have (whether they are transferring to another organisation, leaving the business voluntarily / against their will, staying while others are made redundant etc.) and prepare managers to help answer these questions
* align your communication and engagement style to your company culture and ensure that it is grounded in reality
* use social networking – this can be a double-edged sword, so it is worth being convinced that it will increase engagement, retention and attraction of good quality candidates to such an extent that the occasional loss of a good performer is more than offset by the gains

Really engaging discussion – the bullet points above can’t hope to do it justice! Being right in the middle of supporting yet another redundancy programme I can appreciate the need to engage ‘the survivors’ in ensuring that there is a future and that they can contribute to it.


Where does the time go? January 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — silverleigh @ 12:19 am
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Oh, the joy of the iPhone!!!

This is not, however, yet another article extolling the genius of this wonderfully integrated device, but rather singing the praises of the applications store, and one app in particular… Whereisthetime!

If you (like many of us!) are constantly rushing from pillar to post trying to cram in as much as possible, balancing work and home life, this little app helps you work out if you’ve got the balance right! Easy!

You get a neat little pie chart showing how much time you spent in meetings, dealing with email, writing reports, playing with your kids or even meeting friends down the pub 🙂 All depends how you want to set up the tags and how frequently you are prepared to change ‘tasks’

So for those that are interested during my first week with the app my time was roughly split into thirds for work, sleep and other categories – I’m pretty happy with that balance. The other categories include very boring practical household tasks (my wife can’t believe that one!) as well as more fun activities, such as playing with our kids… and getting resoundingly thrashed on the Wii 😦

It helps if you’re a bit of a stats geek, but the one thing I’ve noticed is that simply by measuring this I’ve cut down on time wasted on time browsing music sites or blogs and tried to spend time doing more useful stuff instead!

Probably easy to become a bit obsessive with this app if constantly updating tasks, but useful as a periodic check to see if you’ve got the balance right for you.


Yes, we can! January 20, 2009

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Impressed with Barack Obama’s inauguration speech. Excellent balance of ‘realistic optimism’ which recognises the significant challenges that the US currently faces, but also focuses people on a constructive focus to address these challenges and see them through to positive conclusion. Great example for business leaders in helping to align people to ensure the survival of their businesses through the really hard times.

On a different note, for me the biggest difference between Bush and Obama is not colour of their skin, but the intelligence Obama brings to the role. That said, some really scary expectations that people are looking for from him… those interviewed on BBC’s Newsnight included people who expected him to sort out their sub-prime mortgages, a guy from Nigeria who expected that he’d resolve African poverty, a couple from Spain who think he’ll stop wars across the world etc. Let’s hope he succeeds but there are some pretty high expectations being set.

P.S. Another first witnessed today – never thought I’d see Chuck D (rapper from Public Enemy) on Newsnight! He’s just appeared as part of discussion with Jeremy Paxman, and as eloquent as ever


Lifting the doom and gloom January 16, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — silverleigh @ 10:07 pm

Faced with all the doom and gloom about the decline of capitalism… including my last post 😦 I thought it useful to redress the balance so here’s the most uplifting and fun advert that I’ve seen for years! Inspired by the silent rave movement, the ‘poor’ old investment bankers at Liverpool Street station probably needed a laugh. Enjoy…


Happy new year?! January 10, 2009

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Happy New Year to you… or is it!

Unfortunately it looks like the doom and gloom that we all experienced towards the back end of 2008 will be with us for most, or all of 2009 (if you believe what the press and ‘experts’ have to say)

Further evidence (if needed) was being recently being invited to speak at an industry event tackling responses to the recession. Key messages and lessons learned from the various businesses represented included the importance of:

* visible leadership – now more than ever is the time for leaders to engage with their people, listen to their ideas and concerns, as well as reinforcing what’s important
* manage performance effectively – in a recession you can’t afford passengers, so now’s the time to focus on giving good performers positive feedback, and to address performance issues head on
* rigorously prioritise – focus on the areas that will make the biggest impact on the performance if the business, and avoid the ‘nice to haves’
* balance long term and short term requirements – in protecting the short term viability of the business seek to protect the areas that will help you succeed in the future. Slashing training budgets and avoiding taking on any graduates can have a lasting negative effect (just ask anyone who lived through the last recession)
* manage redundancies compassionately – the way you manage redundancies can impact the motivation and commitment of the survivors, who you will be relying on to see you through the tough times
* communicate, communicate, communicate ( even if you have nothing to say!) – if you don’t let your team know what is happening (or not, as the case may be) the chances are they will fear the worst or fill in the gaps

Good luck with 2009!! Looks like it will be an exercise in survival of the fittest.



Catbert the ‘virtual’ evil HR Director November 23, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — silverleigh @ 7:57 pm
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Welcome to the People & Change blog. 

Fascinating news reported on the BBC website about a significant development in the field of ‘cognitive computing’, which is seeking to create a virtual brain with the processing power of a cat… so how long before a virtual Catbert?

This also raises some interesting questions for the future of management and leadership:

* How long before it is possible to model the virtual manager?
* Would people be able to tell the difference if they were managed remotely by machine?
* What would be the impact on the capitalist model if production, services and management were all automated?

With a touch of Dilbert-ian cynicism I suspect that, particularly given the increasing reliance on email communication and management across national boundaries, that the answer to the second question could well be ‘no’.

It may also not be as difficult as you’d first expect to model the virtual manager. Increasingly I have come to the conclusion that people management is a relatively straightforward task that is often overcomplicated to help sell management guru’s books. The difficult part is putting it into practice, which is often about doing the basics really well.

As a result of working with a client recently I have sought to articulate what these people management basics are:

* Communicate and engage with teams and colleagues
* Play to people’s strengths
* Ensure that people understand what is expected of them
* Give regular feedback regarding performance
* Focus on growth, development and progression

While there are inevitably other more sophisticated approaches out there, if you have talented people doing the basics well that’s usually an excellent starting point.

So, that’s not exactly brain surgery but putting it into practice really well is the real challenge!