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July 2014

Why do you do?

Shaking hands 878566_s 123RF“How do you do?” That statement was an integral part of my upbringing.  My parents taught us to say that whenever we met someone new.  And it is so ingrained that even today it is what I say when I meet someone for the first time.

I realise now that it is possibly peculiar to my British upbringing. Certainly it does not appear to be universal. I remember being rather taken aback by the response when living in Canada. There people took it much more literally and almost invariably responded, “ I am good, thank you.”  Yet despite this the habit remains!  

Now, you are no doubt wondering what brought this up, and why I am writing about this here and what relevance it could possibly have, so let me explain.

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Unlocking Leadership

“Management 2020: Leadership to unlock long-term growth.” That’s the title of a report issued earlier this month by The Commission on the Future of Management and Leadership, a commission formed by the All-party Parliamentary Group with the CMI to investigate how management and leadership in the UK will need to change by 2020 to deliver sustainable economic growth. It seems that productivity is a concern at higher level than we realise.

Maybe this shouldn’t be so surprising.  The report identifies a number of challenges but the standout one for me was that, “Time wasted by poor management could be costing the economy as much as £19bn a year.” Rectifying that would certainly do wonders for the national economy and help bring down the national debt! No wonder parliament is looking at this.

Now I don’t know whether it’s serendipity or something more significant but this coincided with my reading Kieran Hearty’s “How to Eat THE ELEPHANT in the Room: Digesting the Unspoken Truth.”  In any event, it seems to me that the answer to poor management is beautifully illuminated in a chart that Hearty presents, which I reproduce below with both admiration and gratitude.

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The Secret of Personal and Organisational Alignment

It goes without saying that nobody wishes to do a bad job. Yet employee engagement surveys continue to show low levels of employee engagement with little or no sign of improvement despite all the efforts to remedy the problem.

And it is a problem because it is equally self-evident that disengaged people are very unlikely to be performing at or near their full potential. In more business-like terms this means that they are not as productive as they could/should be. Yet the fact nobody wants to do a bad job would suggest that there are other things that are preventing them from doing a better job. Is it possible that this due more to the way you manage your people than anything else?

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The Essence of Employee Engagement: What it takes – and delivers

Employee engagement is a topical issue beyond just the HR community. Like many such issues, however, employee engagement means something different to different people.  This makes it fundamentally an umbrella term.  Even in the report on the subject, commissioned originally by Prime Minister Tony Blair, authors David MacLeod and Nita Clarke gave up trying to find a common definition after identifying more than fifty viable definitions. So instead they distilled it down to 4 fundamentals, which can be even more briefly summed up as:-

  • Strong strategic narrative
  • Engaging managers
  • Employee voice
  • Organisational integrity

Fundamental though these may be, you could argue that they are still fuzzy.  Certainly to get a clearer understanding of them you need to dive deeper.

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Redundancy: When will they ever learn?

It was Bob Dylan who asked the question “When will they ever learn?” Unfortunately, when it comes to redundancy, it seems to still apply: certainly when it comes to large organisations and what you can only call their “readiness for redundancy” – the speed with which they resort to redundancy as a solution to problems.  

This cartoon that I commissioned for “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” remains relevant.


As long as you continue to manage people as costs, rather than as assets, redundancy will always remain an attractive option. Even if redundancy is not a “knee-jerk” reaction to bad performance it certainly can seem like it. At best it reflects badly on management and calls into question their ability – and therefore their right – to oversee a large organisation. Why?

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