Tuesday, 24 February 2009

"A Touch of Class"

I don't know if you've ever played that game at home or on training courses where you have to come up with the 3 or 4 people that you'd choose to have a dinner party with.

Well, I have and I always seem to put on the list a guy who returned to our TV screens here in the UK this week in a series called "Nature's Greatest Events", Sir David Attenborough.

Listening to his measured, erudite, and gentle tones as he showed us yet again the beauty, grace and amazing diversity of the natural world, I couldn't help wonder what quality it was that I admired so much in him.

And then it struck me: unlike so many of our TV celebrities, the guy's got class.

Now, I don't really know how to define class and I certainly don't know if I've got it myself. But I do know that it's a pretty rare commodity. But you do know it when you see it.

I have probably only worked with a handful of people in my time who I would describe as having class.

One was a colleague who always seemed wiser, calmer, and more attuned than the rest of us. Whenever a crisis broke out, or a difficult decision had to be made, or the evidence of our senses suggested disaster all round, this particular chap could always put things into perspective, make sense of it, and do it with spadefuls of kindness and gentleness.

I always thought he was the most charismatic leader I'd ever met. Up there with the David Attenboroughs, who, despite my dinner plans, I have never met.

In these times of crisis, panic, and seeming disaster all round, wouldn't we be better served by leaders like them who lead with a kindly smile than those who come on too strong?

And that's why, even at the risk of trying too hard and coming on too strong, I've always tried to follow this advice from Louis Tice:

"One thing that all of us must understand, whether it is in selling, business or in our relationships with others, is not to come on too strong. Many of us tend to do this. We get so excited that our enthusiasm outruns the content of our message. That is, the harder you try, the more doubt you imply to the listener.

"There is a phrase that covers this. The object is to be so strong, so powerful, that you can afford to be gentle. As change occurs, as your growth happens from inside, you will become more powerful, more confident. So you can become gentle, at ease and real.

"Which is another way of saying, you will have class."

PS One of the things that will help you develop your own touch of class is to become a skilled manager of others. That means learning the skills that we love to bring you on this site. Why not start by getting to know the skills, then reading up on them, then by trying out some of the free stuff, and finally downloading your own personal favourites? Sheer class!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Small Things With Great Love

As luck would have it, this week's newsletter falls on St Valentine's Day, February 14th. So naturally, this week, our thoughts are turning to thoughts of love.

Love doesn't figure too obviously in management training but, in reality, it is there just beneath the surface. On our Maximising Your Potential courses, for example, we suggest that, without love for your work, you cannot possibly reach your full potential or do it with joy.

The Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran, even suggested that work was love made visible, adding that if you cannot do your work with love then you shouldn't do it all.

Which is another way of saying: do the work you love and love the work you do.

When you work with love, your whole world changes. You are different and others are different. You become more accepting and understanding. You take off the limitations. And your Emotional Quotient level goes sky-high.

What's more, love is the quality that everyone can bring to their jobs. You don't need qualifications or an entry exam or references. It's there inside everyone of us just waiting for expression.

Nor do you need to be doing work in a loving or caring sector. Or work of great importance. As Mother Teresa said, "We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love."

For Valentine's Day, and the coming year, I'll let you mull over the words of Andre Soltner who runs a New York restaurant called Lutece. His description of his love for his work is a reminder that true love is also uncomplicated and childishly simple.

"I am more than thirty years a chef. I know what I am doing and each day I do my absolute best. I cook from my heart with love. It must be the same with service. The waiter must serve with love. Otherwise, the food is nothing. Many times I will go to the tables to take the orders myself. It starts right then and there. That feeling the customer must have is relaxation. If not, then his evening is ruined. Mine too by the way. How can he love if he's not relaxed? People ask me all the time what secrets I have. I tell them there is nothing mysterious about Lutece. I put love in my cooking and love in the serving. That's all."

Happy Valentine's Day... and year!

PS Here at ManageTrainLearn, we like to think we also put love into our work and love into our training. Why not share in it by taking a tour of the website and downloading some of the stuff we've produced?

Monday, 9 February 2009

Puppies in the Park

I'm always astonished when I train to discover how unaware people are of what they're naturally good at.

Often, I'll see someone who just sparkles with others, someone who has a gift for organising, or someone who has a natural ability to lead.

Invariably, when I gently point these attributes out, those on the receiving end look blank, dismiss it, or actually believe that everyone else has the same gifts as them.

On our Appraisal Skills training at ManageTrainLearn, we discuss Strengths Theory, which says that every person can do something better than 10,000 others.

I often speculate how many people are aware of it. Probably a fraction. And then I speculate how many of those who know their strengths are actually allowed to develop them at work. Hmmm.

In our Greek-inspired approach to education in the West, the aim has always been to create well-rounded individuals. In the zen-inspired approach to education in the East, the aim is to develop what people are already good at and allow them to blossom to their full potential.

Like many others who see a link between outstanding sports managers and outstanding business managers, I am a great admirer of Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United football team.

This last week, he has taken his team back to the top of the English Premier League. He is a great manager and a great manager of people.

Once, when he was looking out of his office window, Ferguson saw a young kid playing football in the park. Looking back, the manager recalled, "This kid looked as relaxed and natural playing football as a puppy chasing silver paper in the wind."

That kid was Ryan Giggs. On his 14th birthday, Ferguson went to his house and signed him to his team where he has stayed ever since. Giggs is now the most decorated player in English football.

As managers, there are 3 things we can do to bring out the best in others:

1. spot their natural talent
2. find a way to nurture it
3. let them loose like puppies in the park.

So what's stopping you?


PS One of the things that we are all capable of doing is to develop our unique gifts as far as we can - and then some more. If you're a manager, that means learning the skills that we love to bring you on this site. Why not develop your own learning plan by looking through our products and using them to get through these changing times?

Monday, 2 February 2009

Hang On In There

So here we are, slap bang in the middle of the worst recession for decades and everyone's asking, "How did we get into this mess?"

Here in the UK, even the Queen, not usually known for her business acumen, reportedly asked on a visit to the London School of Economics, "Did nobody see it coming?"

One renowned business guru did have the answer, or at least a clue to an answer, some time ago.

The late Sir John Harvey Jones, head of ICI, once said that the most difficult skill for a manager to learn was not how to finance a business, nor how to run it efficiently, not even how to manage people.

The most difficult skill was to foresee, prepare, and respond to change.

Why is that? Is it because, in the face of uncertainty, most managers retreat into what they know best, the certainties of the past?

The problem, of course, is that management is a rational discipline. In stable times, people want their businesses to be run by people who are steady, who are reasonable, and who can take calculated risks. Which is not much help when the roof's falling in.

But Sir John did have an answer to how rational managers can adjust to changing times. And that was that managers have to learn how to straddle the two horses of stability and change and try to steer them in the same direction at the same time.

Not an easy task. But it has to be done. And one of the key steps in doing it is for managers to re-assert the non-negotiable core values of their business while taking the best decisions to deal with change.

This week, we heard that Honda were stopping production at their car plants for a period of 4 months. It's their way of responding to unprecedented change while preserving who they are and what they stand for. As their American vice-president Richard Colliver said, "None of us can control the difficult business conditions we face. But we can control the actions we take. The most important tool in a time of change is a set of core values that don't change."

And isn't that what we all should be doing in these tumultuous times? Using our core values as a compass to get through change.

Stephen Covey put it in another way: "People can't live with change if there's not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value."

Take time to re-assert your changeless sense of who you are today and hang on in there.


PS One of the things that we are all capable of doing is to develop our unique gifts as far as we can - and then some more. If you're a manager, that means learning the skills that we love to bring you on this site. Why not develop your own learning plan by looking through our products and using them to get through these changing times?