Get Less Busy

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People in our workforces are under serious strain.  They are constantly being asked to do more with less. Our businesses and government departments are responding to the austerity drives by trimming more and more from their budgets, which inevitably means fewer people are left to do the work. Meanwhile the demands are increasing. With everyone in the economy tightening their belts, company profits are falling, which means that a smaller and smaller workforce is being challenged to work smarter, harder, more innovatively and to ‘keep their chins up and stay engaged’.

In the midst of this, what are our leaders getting up to?  Well, from what I can glean, I see leaders who feel a great deal of responsibility for this state of affairs, and who are responding by working themselves harder and more intensely than ever.

The irony is, that at this time, perhaps more than ever before, our leaders need to be making themselves much less ‘busy’, and focusing more than they ever have done on nurturing their workforce.So, what can we be asking our leaders to be thinking about right now that will help them to do just that? Continue reading


Are you in Control? Time to let go.

Imagine yourself riding a motorcycle in a high-speed race. You are at full throttle going round the final bend. Only a delicate balance between gravity and centrifugal forces are preventing you from flying off the track. At that moment, are you in control of your bike, or are you out of control? The answer is you are ‘right on the edge’. Too much ‘in control’ and you probably aren’t taking enough risk, and are unlikely to win the race. Too much ‘out of control’ and the likelihood is you are in for a very painful crash.

In your life, are you in control or out of control? Or, have you found the right balance – not just for you, but for your teams, your colleagues, and for your organisation? Are you pushing the limits constantly, in order to win the race, and, as a result, are you in danger of spinning out of control? Or, are you driving a safe race, within the pack, within your comfort zone, making sure you finish, but never in danger of winning? What about the people you see around you? Do you recognise the cruisers and the risk takers?

The reality of course is that Continue reading

Employee Engagement and the Half-Time Team Talk

Employee Engagement. Hackneyed phrase or holy grail? Having recently read the MacLeod/Clarke report to the British Government (Engaging for Success: enhancing performance through employee engagement) on the subject, I am convinced that a) there is currently no better way of describing it and b) it is fundamentally important. To quote from the opening section, “If it is how the workforce performs that determines to a large extent whether companies or organisations succeed, then whether or not the workforce is positively encouraged to perform at its best should be a prime consideration for every leader and manager, and be placed at the heart of business strategy.”

I will leave you to delve into the rich findings, recommendations and case studies in the report, and I do recommend it to anyone with a passing interest in the subject of employee engagement. Here, I will simply draw out some of the barriers organisations feel inhibit effective engagement, together with the key principles highlighted that are imperative for successful implementation.


  • Lack of Awareness.  Some leaders are not aware of employee engagement and what it can do for them. Others are reluctant to get involved, concerned that it may be seen as too ‘soft or fluffy’.
  • Uncertainty about Starting.  Some who are interested are unsure how to get involved and started, sometimes fearful that it has to involve ‘buying a product’ and therefore entail expense.
  • Culture.  The prevailing culture and working practices get in the way of delivering engagement, even when leaders place great emphasis on it. Managers may not share the belief, and attempts to implement can be resisted.
  • Underestimating engagement. Some see employee engagement as another job on a tick-list that is achieved when the annual staff survey is completed.


  • Leadership.  The importance of a Leadership vision (or ‘strategic narrative’ as it is described in the report) cannot be overstated. A widespread understanding of purpose, and each person having a clear view of how their role contributes to that purpose is paramount.
  • Engaging Managers.  While it is key that Leaders set the purpose, vision and direction, it is the engaged manager who is at the “heart of success” in any workforce.  As one contributor to the report said, “the line manager is the lens through which I see the company and the company sees me.”
  • Voice.  Providing employees with a voice – so that they are listened to, are not fearful of raising issues, know that their views will be heard and could be used to help define and change the direction of the organisation.  This is, of course, a cultural challenge for many organisations where ‘token gesture’ attempts to implement ‘speak up’ policies have failed to penetrate the DNA.
  • Integrity.   Consistency across the organisation between stated values and behaviours. “If an employee sees the stated values of an organisation being lived by the leadership and colleagues, a sense of trust in the organisation is more likely to be developed, and this constitutes a powerful enabler of engagement.”

Regular readers of my posts will know that I enjoy looking to sport for leadership lessons and parallels. So, this week, my attention turns to Continue reading