Doing it right

I am reading a fantastic business book at the moment, which I heartily recommend: Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business. He says a lot of brilliant things about business and no doubt I will keep coming back to this book in future posts.

One thing stands out in a chapter on management. Meyer talks about putting ‘a premium on outward and unequivocal messages of approval’, and cites Kenneth Blanchard’s The One Minute Manager, saying that it’s the manager’s job to

catch people in the act of doing things right

A less enlightened approach to people management would have it that the manager is there to make sure staff don’t mess things up, or don’t get away with a sub-standard performance. As if, when the boss is away, the mice will just slack off and do a rubbish job and then head to the pub for drinks and a moan about work.

I subscribe to the more ‘Theory Y’ idea of management, that people are inherently motivated to do a good job. We all have bad days, but no-one really gets up in the morning and thinks, “I’m going to do a terrible job today.” That is, unless something has gone really wrong in their relationship with their workplace or all motivation has died a horrible death.

Deep-down, people want to do good work but above all they want to be recognised for it. The best feedback I ever received was from a senior manager at a Japanese firm who, on his way to a meeting, came up to my desk clutching a printed copy of an email I’d just sent him advising on a tricky employment issue, and, brandishing it in my face said: “This – is good.” In his rudimentary English, he had made my day. With only a few words, he had valued and recognised my work more than any at-length appraisal meeting could have done.

Danny Meyer’s take on this idea is to extend it by requiring his managers to not only catch somebody on their team doing something right, but to tell him about it so as the CEO of the company he can personally let that person know the work was noticed and provide encouragement himself. To be recognised for good work is great, but to be singled out by the boss’s boss as doing a great job, is a genuinely powerful motivator.

Quite often managers can stop at trying to ensure their own success, and will take praise for themselves when things go right. To truly enhance your staff motivation and secure genuine commitment, you need to outwardly demonstrate positive reinforcement. Don’t just expect your staff to do things right, make it your mission to catch them at it and let them know!


The nap desk – no reason to go home any more

For most of us, having a short snooze at work would be frowned upon. But we’ve all had times when a bit of shut-eye would have been nice – the post-lunch slump, the conference call that you didn’t need to be included in, for one of my colleagues missing the last train home after too many post-work drinks left him sleeping under his desk…

I used to work for a Japanese company where one manager would regularly shuffle around the office in slippers (not that unusual in Japan) and put an eye mask on to take naps at his desk after lunch (again, not so unusual to see sleeping salarymen in Japan, but not great management behaviour).

But now Greek design company NL Studio say it’s ok to take a nap in the office with their wonderfully innovative nap desks! Now can we just get the rest of the open-plan office to be quiet for half an hour?



With today’s publication of the UK Equality & Human Rights Commission’s report on pregnancy and maternity in the world of work, comes a new online resource from the EHRC on managing pregnancy and maternity in the workplace, as part of their #worksforme campaign.

Along with any news story that talks about discrimination and employment rights of pregnant women and new mothers come the usual below-the-line comments on how tough it is for small businesses to manage. I wouldn’t argue that it isn’t tough for small businesses for a lot of reasons, but when it comes to pregnancy and maternity (and, increasingly, paternity) in the workplace, this resource would be a good place to get up to speed with managing it all better. And it’s a fantastic resource for employees too.

EHRC infographic - are you a 21st C employer

EHRC infographic – are you a 21st C employer?


Great Creative Directors – a model for great managers everywhere

We’ve probably all heard the saying that employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. And we all know full well the impact a bad manager can have on their staff, not just in being the reason for staff updating their CV and looking for the exit. But what impact can a great manager have?

There are so many theories on the subject, but a recent AdWeek article ’18 Things Great Creative Directors Do Everyday’ provides a pretty good summary of things that a great manager will incorporate into their approach to management on a daily basis. Take out the details about what is particularly needed to manage creative people, and you have a pretty good model of great management for many industries. As with most things to do with managing people, it’s all a matter of balance…

I was particularly interested in this part:

7. Give people a fair chance, but get rid of the duds

A creative department isn’t as good as its best talent. It’s only as good as its worst. If you’ve done all of the above but still have people who aren’t delivering the work that makes your organization or agency famous, they need to move on.

Of course, poor performance doesn’t always have to mean people being shown the door, but arguably it’s better for managers to tackle poor performance or poor productivity early on rather than waiting for it to get worse and drag good performers down.

Getting the best out of people – thoughts from Riverford founder, Guy Watson

The best thing about getting a weekly vegetable box delivery from Riverford – aside from the yummy fresh organic veggies of course – is the short letter included in the box from founder Guy Watson. This week, writing in response to the General Election result in the UK, he shares some thoughts on motivation and management and hits the nail on the head in his usual eloquent style:

What I find so depressing about modern post-Thatcherite Conservatism (and only marginally less so about post-Blairite Labour) is the apparent ubiquitous cynical belief that appealing to personal greed is the only way to get anything done… In the real world, where businesses have to compete by getting the best out of people, it has largely been abandoned as a piece of failed, ideologically driven dogma.

… Ultimately we all want to feel good about ourselves and at work this falls broadly into three areas: feeling we are learning and getting better at stuff, feeling some control over our lives and feeling a sense of purpose. To believe that ‘carrot and stick’ management is why a nurse will care for a patient, a parole officer will struggle to support a young offender or why a programmer would write exceptional code is crass to the point of incredulity.

I couldn’t agree more. My only hope is that more and more businesses, and leaders and workers within them, wake up to this realisation and we can build a better society that way, nevermind who is in government.