Promoting someone? Don’t make this common mistake

I want you to imagine taking on a new person.

They’ve never done the job before but they seem like they have the right attitude and you like them so you decide to invest.

On their first day on the job you get them a chair and a computer and tell them to get on with it.

“Isn’t there any training?” they ask.

“Nah, you were great at the last place you worked so you’ll be fine at this job” you say.

“But I explained I’ve never done this work before so it’s all new to me”

“You’ll be fine” You reply. “anyway I’ve got a meeting now so must dash”.

Of course you’d never do this would you?

That would be crazy.

Why would you go through all that effort of recruiting them and then not give them the skills to do the job?

But oddly, most companies seem to think that this approach is fine when the promote someone.

It happened to me…

My first ever management job came at the age of nineteen.

The regional manager had just fired my boss “because he was rubbish” and now I was next in line.

The training course involved two terrible pieces of advice and a book thrown across a desk at me.

It’s no surprise that I bombed but I probably received more training than most people.

Why management is different

Being a manager is totally different and we’re deluding ourselves if we think someone who is a great call centre operator will automatically be an amazing manager.

You have to get used to telling people what to do, you have to get used to understanding the mission for your team, you have to deal with difficult people and any number of other issues.

And worst of all you have to manage the people who were your friends.

As a front line worker you turn up for work, do a good job and then go home. Your performance is dependent upon yourself.

As a new manager, your performance is down to the people in your team, and that’s a lot of stress.

Don’t lose a great worker and a potentially brilliant manager

So what happened to me in my first line management job?

I’d like to say I turned it all around and things were amazing – but they weren’t.

I didn’t do very well, didn’t know how to change it, received no help then got discouraged and left.

So the business lost someone who was good at his job, and they were still looking for a new manager!

Often, businesses promote someone to a job they have never done, give them little back up and then don’t allow them to step back into the role they were great at.

So what should you do?

There are some simple things you can do to make sure that your potential star lives up to their billing.

First of all remove all the pressure by telling them that if things don’t go well or they don’t enjoy it then they can step back into their old job, no hard feelings.

Secondly explain exactly what the focus of the job is and set performance levels so that they know exactly what is expected of them.

Third, be prepared to give up some of your time. The more effort you put in at the front end then the better it will go for all concerned.

But what if I don’t have the time?

Not every manager has the time to sit down with their staff and give quality training so what can you do?

Well obviously I’m going to say management training right?

I’d like to think that our training is brilliant because it comes from the lived experience of over two decades of front line management.

We help companies train their management cohort so that they have the grounding in the techniques that allows them to begin adding real value right away.

Give me a call and we can talk over the different options for supercharging your managers.

Also if you like free stuff then scroll down and sign up for my free tip of the month.

3 great tips for a new manager

If you are about to be promoted or have taken up a new role as a manager then you may well be feeling a little daunted – after all managing people is a scary thing right?

Well it’s not that bad. It’s just different and as you’ll find out it requires a different set of skills.

So here’s three tips to set you on your way.

Management tip 1

Be clear what your success metrics are.

Have a serious chat with your boss around what they will be measuring your effectiveness on.

Expecting to be successful without understanding how that success will actually be measured is like setting out on a journey without knowing what your destination is.

You may get there but more likely you’ll just drive around using up fuel.

Make sure your boss spells out exactly how they are measuring you and then repeat it back to them to make sure you are both hearing the same thing.

And don’t put up with the old “we’ll discuss it later” routine because you never will.

Management tip 2

Take a second to think about what you want your team to look like.

By now you’ll have your measures of success from your manager so you need to translate that into what that actually looks like on the ground.

What resources do you need?

What behaviours do you need your team to be exhibiting?

What is the gap between where things are now and where you want them to be?

Make sure you’re realistic though.

you have to be brutally honest about the capabilities of your team and yourself.

If you are going to need help and support then ask for it in good time.

Management tip 3

Open your eyes and shut your mouth.

You probably don’t have the experience and skills to start gobbing off about how brilliant you are yet. You will one day but bide your time.

Instead watch your peers.

Who are the good managers and who are the awful ones?

What things do the really great managers do that you can emulate or adapt to your situation.

And don’t be shy about asking their advice or why they do certain things.

If you start off by saying “I’ve noticed you’re an outstanding manager and I’d like to learn more about…” then who is going to complain?

And the best tip

A great line from one of my favourite books


You’ll be fine.

Just keep learning, accept that there will be some false starts along the way and you’ll end up being an awesome manager.

If you like this then you’ll love my Tip of the Month! It’s free and might just be amazing but you’ll never know unless you sign up.

OOH and why not check out my ‘The New Manager’ course. It gives you everything you need to be awesome. Show it to your boss because I bet there’s a load of people in your organisation that could benefit.

Recruit right

Often it seems to me that recruiting staff tends to be a bit hit and miss.

So often we tend to fall back on tired old ways because ‘we’ve always done it like that’ but it doesn’t have to be so.

If you’ve read my blog on starting before you start then you’ll already have an idea of who you want, so now you need to think about how to go about recruiting the right person.

As I write this we are at a rare time in the UK economy where there is pretty much full employment and so it’s what recruiters call a ‘candidates market’.

This means that companies have to work a bit harder to get people through the door but it’s my view that they should be working hard all the time to make sure they get the right people.

Attracting the right people

Take a look at the job ads on your favourite board.

Have you noticed that they are all the same?

I call it the old white male politician effect.

You see to get the most votes politicians have to appeal to the widest possible cross-section they can, so they dress, act and talk in as bland a way as possible.

But you don’t want that, because if you behave in this way you will get the same people applying as anyone else and you will get bland grey people sending their CVs.

Think about your job description

Think about your job ad

Does it enthuse the right people?

Does it put off people who wouldn’t thrive in your business?

Concentrate on attitude and behaviours rather than skills, explain how exciting the job is, why it’s a great company to work for and more importantly why you need people.

Because your really great candidates want to know how they will fit in and what contribution they can make.

A job ad full of character is also really efficient because if you are a whacky startup then it will put people off who really don’t want to work in a whacky startup.

Your great job description works as a filter to make sure that the people who apply are your kind of people.

BTW don’t let your recruiter write it. One of the measures of success for many recruiters is how many CVs they get in for a job, not how great a fit they are.

You want someone who has a great personality, not someone that can stuff a CV full of keywords.

Think about sources too.

A job board is an obvious place but you may well find you get a better quality of person by leveraging your staff network and getting them to recommend people.

And if you are in your local coffee shop one day and the barista shows stunning customer service, enthusiasm and talent then why wouldn’t you headhunt them and train them for the job?


Remember that the interview process is actually a sales opportunity. You have to sell you, your business and the role to the person.

The worst thing in the world is if you have a recruiting manager who says ‘I’m not sure that they are going to take the job’.

By the time the candidate leaves the office, they need to be in the state of wanting to bite your hand off for the opportunity.

I’m not saying that you don’t want to understand their capabilities, but you need to know about their personality and attitude much more than their skills.

And if you use psychometric tests then you need your legs slapping.

Have the courage of your convictions, act like the professional manager you are and hire the person you want, not the one a paper test tells you to hire.

Oh and you need to be physically punished if you use one of those interview question generator apps.


An interview is for you to find out if you get on with the person applying, not to see how well they regurgitate pre practised answers to pre practised questions (unless of course they are applying for a job as a politician).

And always, always take the opportunity to go off at a tangent and talk about random stuff. You’ll find this puts you both at your ease and will give you a far better insight than asking them where they see themselves in five years time!

See this as fun

I’m always amazed that most managers seem to see recruitment as a chore.

I love recruiting people.

I love finding out about new people, enthusing them about my company and getting an insight into their lives and talents.

For me, that new person is like a rough diamond that I and my fellow team members are going to polish up until they are epic.

Some people see it as spending hours and hours in interviews but what could be more important than making sure you have awesome people desperate to join your awesome team?

As someone smarter than me once said – recruit attitude and not skills.

How to handle conflict

If you’re like me then you probably hate conflict.

It’s nasty, messy and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

From a management point of view if there’s conflict in the workplace then I feel I have failed (because I probably have)

But it happens, and sometimes, despite your best intentions it can’t be avoided.

So what should you do?

It’s not conflict – it’s communication

Number one has to be to talk with the other person

So often conflict is just a matter of miscommunication.

A misunderstood email

A misunderstood intention

Speak with the person and I’d say 70% of the time it can be cleared up really quickly.

Understand the other persons’ POV

Sometimes conflict arises simply because two people have a different point of view on a particular event.

I remember a row that started because a fellow manager had moved someone’s desk.

The person involved thought they were being pushed further away from the manager because they were being ‘eased out’

The manager thought they’d like a desk closer to the window!

In this case it was important to understand why the person involved thought the company would possibly want to get rid of them.

(this is genuinely a management failure)

Find common ground

It’s important to build bridges, so discuss areas where your thoughts overlap.

You’ll probably find that actually you agree about most things but it is just a couple of points that might cause issues.

Agree on a priority list

Look at the areas of disagreement and decide which things are the most important to solve.

Agree between you what things are actually important to deal with and what things don’t matter in the cold light of day.

Apply the 12 month test – ask yourself “Will this matter in a year’s time?”

(note this isn’t the same as ignoring it, see below)

Then prioritise which things you absolutely need to get done and…

Work on a joint action plan

Agree ways in which you will make things better.

This is the tricky bit mind you.

It will involve compromise and swallowing your pride.

But you can do it, and your life will be better as a result

Remember – keep your eyes on the prize

Things not to do

Don’t interrupt

Don’t belittle their opinion or feelings

Don’t generalise (“you always do this”)

If you’ve setup a meeting to discuss the issue the DON’T cancel or rearrange

And most importantly


Things to do

Maintain a collaborative approach

Focus on the future

Listen carefully to what the other person is saying then

repeat back what you think you have heard and check that your understanding is true

Make sure you jointly celebrate successes along the way

Why bother?

Isn’t life too short to spend time arguing?

Wouldn’t things be much better if you could just get on with it?

If you are a manager then sorting this out will be to your credit

If you are managed then I can promise you’ll be more respected for the mature way you handled the situation

And one final thought.

There have been people who I have worked with that I have loathed initially but actually, after working with them in this way we have become firm friends.

Everyone can use more friends.

10 tips for great employee engagement

Would you like your business to have that all elusive competitive advantage?

Want to steal a march on your rivals?

The biggest weapon in the armoury of the best businesses are the talents of their employees. Having workers who are totally engaged in the ethos and aims of the organisation is imperative.

Of course, the theory is all well and good but how do you actually foster this elusive engagement?

Here’s my top ten tips for how you can increase your own businesses employee engagement.

Tip1 – Communicate the vision.

History has shown that people will rally around a cause and if you are in an organisation that has a clear purpose then you should work out a way of encapsulating this and communicate it at each and every opportunity.

Tip 2 – listen to what people are saying.

There is nothing that increases buy-in more than actually giving people a voice…

…and nothing destroys it quicker than just paying lip-service to what they have actually told you.

Work out a process of getting good quality feedback, make sure you’ve understood what you’ve been told and report back what action you’ve taken as a result.

Tip 3 – Give people constructive feedback.

One of the worst mistakes companies make is to have a kind of ‘letterbox’ culture where someone does work and sends it off and then never hears any feedback, be it good or bad.

Take time to let people know how the piece of work they stayed late to finish has made a valuable difference to the company.

Tip 4 – Walk the walk

Employees don’t suddenly become engaged because people tell them to be.

They have to see the directors and senior management team buying into the ethos of the company and exhibiting the behaviours that they themselves are expected to show.  

Almost ‘management by osmosis’, it’s both the easiest to do and the hardest to fake.

Tip 5 – Hire attitudes and behaviours

…and not qualifications or background.

There’s an old saying that a woman marries a man thinking that she’ll be able to change him and a man marries a woman hoping that she won’t change at all!

Don’t expect that you’re going to take on someone who is dull and negative and then they will magically become dynamic and positive just because they are exposed to your culture.

Instead take on people with a compatible attitude then train them to do the job.

Do what football teams do and hire people who are already better than you and then look to improve them further.

Tip 6 – Invest, invest, invest

If you’ve ever been in the position where someone has gone out of their way to help with your career then you’ll know just how much loyalty that can engender.

Employees that see their managers going out of their way to invest in training and development opportunities for them are always going to be much more engaged than those that are left to stagnate.

Tip 7 – Be transparent and honest

Telling people what they want to hear works for a very short time and then quickly destroys credibility.

Most people behave like adults and if you have bad news but can give them good reasons why they can’t have what they want and you’re totally transparent about the decision process then people will really appreciate your honesty.

Tip 8 – Take time to do something good as a team

a sponsored walk, volunteering at a local food kitchen, raising money for your local hospital, whatever it is then spending a little bit of time to help a good cause can really help with team bonding.

Tip 9 – Take time to have a little fun

Some companies have ‘beer Friday’ as a social calm down after the working week, some play games in the office but all good companies know that having fun together increases engagement from their colleagues and builds a much better supportive environment.

Tip 10 – and my best tip? Say ‘Thank you’

Nothing makes people feel valued and that their contribution is worthwhile more than their boss saying a heartfelt thank you. Make it a habit and make sure you mean it.

And one final word…

Notice that none of my tips really involve paying people more money.

In fact, they are pretty much all about attitude and what’s come to be called ‘emotional intelligence’.

Just simply thinking about your colleagues and being considerate goes such a long way in terms of employee engagement and doesn’t cost the earth.

Is your Business Partnering not delivering? How to give it a boost

Well if you are in this situation then you are not alone.

For a number of years Business Partnering was the phrase on management’s lips.

People spent time and money assembling a team of business partners and giving them the tools to do their job, but often the results fell flat.

From the various business partnering set-ups I’ve seen over the years they tend to have the same basic issues.

Paying lip – service

If the CFO isn’t fully invested in business partnering, and if the board don’t support them then frankly you may as well go and do something else more productive.

Sure there will be one or two forward thinking managers who will love to get their numbers and have a direct line into finance but most will take their lead from the top.

If you are a CFO who hasn’t put their weight behind the initiative then you need to make a decision, and soon.

Action – get fully behind the function, get fellow board members and senior managers on side, relaunch the function.

A business partner isn’t just for Christmas (or month end)

Often the only contact the BP will have with the department they look after will be once a month (or even a quarter) when they present a bunch of numbers.

Business partnering is all about relationships.

If you have a big organisation then sitting the BP with their department is ideal, but if not then making sure there is regular contact and inclusion is vital.

The managers (and staff) need to feel comfortable asking their BP questions and feel like they have someone who actually understands the real issues they are facing.

Action – make sure that your BPs either sit with the department or are regularly meeting with them. Try and get them involved in more operational meetings rather than a regular finance update.


Garbage in – Garbage out.

A famous phrase from the early days of computing but in terms of business partnering it relates to information provision.

If your business partners can’t get quick and easy access to accurate information then they are going to quickly lose credibility with their department.

Action – BPs need the tools to do the job, so ask them what they need and sort it out.

Square pegs

Business partners have to have a combination of technical knowledge, ability to present information in a digestible way and a bit of a personality.

I once saw someone operating as a BP who was the stereotypical accountant but more so.

He was an amazing technical accountant who could quote GAAP for any given situation and was totally across the numbers.

The only problem was he really didn’t like talking to people – at all.

He was miserable as a BP and frankly ineffectual. Luckily we were working with a very big company at the time and he got moved to a place where he was much more at home and effective.

So make sure your BPs are the sort of people that thrive in this environment.

Action – assess your team and make sure that they are the right people for the job.

Give them a chance

An effective business partnering relationship won’t just spring up overnight so you need to give the situation time and space to develop.

Check back from time to time, find out if they need anything but give it time to grow and you’ll be rewarded.

Actions – monitor and assess but apart from giving encouragement just let them get on with it.

Give them a chance 2

I’ve seen many companies set up a business partnering function thinking that all they need to do is to say the words and it will magically be so.

When people get moved or promoted they need to be given training and support in their new roles otherwise it’s likely to fail.

Just because someone is good at one job doesn’t mean that they will be amazing at another without any training whatsoever.

You also need to set it up as a proper function with all of the communication and backup that this requires (see point 1).

Actions – sort out training for your new BPs, make sure they have the information and the facilities they need.


So in short, get the right people in place, give them the training and kit they need, place them in the right areas, throw your weight behind the project and then give them the time to develop and grow.

A business partnering ability within your finance team will give you much better visibility, coordination and will improve the depth of your reporting massively and make your life much easier!

What’s not to like?

Made a bad decision – give yourself a break

We’ve all asked the question “now why did I do that”?

The fact of the matter is that if you make decisions then you are going to get some of them wrong

There is however a pretty big problem with this. It’s what I call the Facebook effect.

The Facebook effect

Have you ever noticed how when you go on Facebook everyone is having a much better time than you?

Everyone is better looking, doing great in their job, partying hard and have a fantastic family.

They are always out mountain biking with their friends or having a wonderful meal on the banks of the Seine.

Except they are not. In fact most people are just busy doing stuff and all you are seeing is the edited highlights.

The problem with decision making is that you are seeing the edited lowlights.

Yup that’s right. We all focus on the decision we get wrong and not on the ones we get right.

I bet if you think about the decisions you’ve made you can recall loads where you had a poor outcome.

But you can’t remember the time you made a great investment choice, or went the right way round a traffic jam or chose exactly the right clothes for that occasion.

So what are bad decisions?

People don’t generally make ‘bad’ decisions. In general we don’t choose to do a thing that will have a negative effect on us, so the first tip is to stop categorising your decisions as ‘bad’ or ‘good’.

And stop beating yourself up. Remember the Facebook effect. We ALL make choices that turn out to be negative but we do it for the right reasons.

A BAD decision as far as I am concerned is one where you make the choice based on information you know to be faulty, or make it purely on gut instinct (although sometimes you have to do this), or where you make it based on your prejudices and preconceived ideas.

Instead of feeling bad about your decisions, why not change your point of view?

View the ‘bad’ decision as a learning opportunity.

Take a look at your decision making process

Could you have got more information?

Did you give more weight to someone else’s opinion than you should?

Did you base your choice on anecdotal evidence?

Did circumstances change after you made your decision?

And the golden egg here is – Could you do it differently next time?

Here’s the key takeaway – if you make a ‘bad’ decision but it leads to you making better decisions in the future then actually it was a good decision after all!

Dealing with the finger of blame

Many years ago I was sent to a management training meeting with the top guy in our company and he told me about the ‘finger of blame’.

At the time I thought he’d invented it but as I’ve seen it all over the place since I suspect that was merely naivety on the part of a very young manager!

Put simply the theory is that when the finger of blame points outwards, three fingers point back.

This is very useful because it shows the ratio that you should use when not only apportioning blame but thinking about remedies.

So look, as far as I am concerned blaming someone else for something that has gone wrong is largely counterproductive*. In fact there’s very little (if anything) positive that can come of it.

Blaming someone else for a problem just means that you can absolve yourself of all responsibility for making sure it doesn’t happen again in the future.

Blaming someone else for a problem just means that you can absolve yourself of all responsibility for making sure it doesn’t happen again

A little story

This is a true story although I’ve changed the name to protect the not so innocent.

I saw Dave in town and asked him how it was going.

“Terrible” he said, “I’ve just been flooded out at the factory and the water has destroyed loads of stock.”

“It’s all the council’s fault” he continued “they should have made the banks higher round the river”

“Oh” I said

“and British Waterways, they should have dredged the river so that it flowed faster and didn’t break its banks”

“Oh” I said

“And as for that manager of mine, Steve, he didn’t even bother to lift all the stuff off the floor. And don’t get me started on the weather forecasters, they said there wouldn’t be any more rain!”

So by the time he’d took a breath he’d blamed Steve, BBC Weather, British Waterways and his local council. It certainly did sound like everyone was against him.

I tried to find a positive “At least you’ll have the insurance money to fall back on” I said.

“Oh I don’t believe in insurance” said Dave.

Taking something positive

So Dave was in a really bad position.

Now he COULD have made alterations to the building he was in to avoid being flooded.

or he could have asked Steve to raise the stock off the floor or he could even have insured his business but none of that would help now.

The only positive thing that Dave could take from this situation is to learn something.

But whilst he was blaming everyone else he wasn’t thinking about how he could do things differently in the future. So he wasn’t learning.

And the whole situation was negative.

So what should you do?

Whenever something bad happens you should resist the temptation to blame anyone else.

I know it’s hard, we all struggle with this but you need to get something positive out of your very own flood.

The technique I use is to simply ask myself “What could I have done differently that would have affected the outcome”?

Caveat here: you can’t always predict or avoid bad things happening. Sometimes you have to give yourself a break.

Bad things happen to everyone and you’ll never be able to avoid them.

So next time something bad happens to you, resist temptation and just ask yourself what you could have done differently and get something positive out of a bad situation.

*So here’s some of the bad things that happen when you blame someone else; They get defensive, They bear a grudge against you, you look petty, it fills the air with negativity, your team think that’s the way to behave, you look like a really crappy manager and a really crappy person, nothing actually gets fixed.

Please comment below if you can think of any others.

Incidentally if you’d like tips like this straight to your inbox then why not sign up for our ‘Tip of The Month!’ It’s free!

8 tips to revive your HR department

When companies grow, and as people move on, the Human Resource department can often be left behind as the business concentrates on operational excellence.  Refreshing your HR department will not only make it more efficient it will also make sure that your people processes are adding value to the organisation as a whole.

As a way of helping you on this journey we’re presenting a few tips to assist you with revitalising your HR crew and getting them on the road to being world class.

Tip 1 – decide what you want great to look like.  It seems simple but it’s surprising how few people have really decided what a world class HR department looks like. You need to sit down and sketch out how things should operate in the new world. Make sure you take in the thoughts of your senior managers as the ‘customers’ of HR.

Tip 2 – communicate your vision. It’s no good having a vision of how you want your department to look without telling anyone about it.  Communicating your vision of how you want things to be will do two things. It will instil confidence in staff that they are not forgotten after all and when they understand the plan and their part in it you may be happy to find that they begin to take action themselves to make it happen.

Tip 3 – Put the right person in charge. HR is a difficult discipline to master and too often people in charge are simply the people who understand it best. It is a fact that a top class department needs a top class manager. Putting a livewire, motivated HR professional in charge who has experience in business partnering for example will encourage the staff to think a little wider and start to add value to the business.

Tip 4 – Make sure you have the right staff and the right skills in place. As businesses grow they find that they outstrip the skills that were once perfectly adequate. Take a look at what skills you need for the future and the skills that are currently in place. Then assess whether you can invest in training your staff to increase capability or whether you need to bring in specialists from outside. A small investment in some training for staff will also help motivation. You also need to be fairly realistic about the potential of the people in place; are they square pegs in round holes? Do they have the capability of rising to the challenge?

Tip 5 – Get the basics right. Make sure that you have a sound footing for your department by having a comprehensive and legal set of policies in place. If you have to then spend money on a top class consultant to get them in and sort out your policies and procedures as a great foundation for the future.

Tip 6 – Include your HR staff. When meetings are set that don’t necessarily involve personnel then it’s natural not to include them but inviting a member of the team, whilst it may not add anything directly to the meeting (although often it does) adds intelligence back into the department. HR staff not only feel included but also gain valuable background information for when they are recruiting and setting up training for instance.

Tip 7 –  Think about your systems. This is another area that tends to get forgotten when a company expands but that can often end up being more of a hindrance than a help. Get a specialist in to look at the systems you use and advise whether you need to change and what the benefits will be. The best HR departments run the simple functions of the role automatically, leaving staff to concentrate on the areas where they add the most value.

Tip 8 – Put HR at the centre of the business. People make businesses and relegating your HR department to being simply a functional area that processes staff is to miss the most valuable aspect of the profession. HR is the first part of the company that many staff see and having successful committed people in place simply sets your employees off on the right course for a great career with your business.

This is not an exhaustive list but it will give you a start on the road to having a great HR team which can add massively to the management of the business. A little time spent understanding and communicating how you would like things to be can pay terrific dividends to the firm.