Why I left my job and what my manager could have done about it

Quite early on in my interim career I took a gig for three months as a management accountant.

It was a very big company, going through a lot of change and I thought I was doing a pretty good job- at first.

But there were some odd things.

Like my manager never said well done for any piece of work I submitted.

Now as an interim it doesn’t surprise me that I am not treated like a close family member but the odd ‘thank you wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Then there was the weekly report

Every week one of my jobs was to submit a weekly report to a fairly anonymous email address.

Nobody knew who it belonged to. I asked around but came up blank.

I asked my manager if it was important – after all if no-one was reading the report why were we doing it?

He said as long as we were being paid we shouldn’t complain.

So I put in a couple of tiny errors to see if someone noticed.


Then I put a great big error in to see what happened. (It was in bold and underlined too).


Finally I stopped sending the report and guess what happened?


I had no idea what my work meant

So it turned out that I was doing all this work and it wasn’t being read.

It seemed like my job was just make-work so that the department could keep its numbers up.

I asked my manager about this and he just shrugged his shoulders.

And then my contract came up for renewal

So here I was doing a job that wasn’t important and that nobody was bothered about.

I didn’t even know if I was doing it well

And nobody mentioned extending my contract so I assumed that they were just going to let it lapse ( I later learned that this is what normally happens)

To protect myself I put some calls in and found myself some work and gave my manager notice for my expected contract end date.

And then something odd happened

He called me into the office and told me what an amazing job I had been doing, how much he valued my work and how much my being with the company had helped.

But it was too late. Although having gushing praise is lovely, I’d already committed to my new workplace.

So what should he have done

This is the important lesson – you should always give people a sense of where they fit in

Let them know how much their work means

How much they are helping you

Give them a vision of where the company would be without them and you’ll see their engagement rocket.

And don’t wait until your staff are heading out of the exit door. Make sure you value them publicly, little and often.

Oh and of course you should use the cheapest and easiest form of morale boosting you can – saying thank you – regularly.

The First Time Manager – how to deal with the ‘friends’ thing

management-training-4-smes- First Time Manager training

Whenever I do First Time Manager Training one of the most common things that comes up is what I call the ‘Friends’ thing.

So what often happens is that you are really good at your job and you get made up to supervisor of your team.

The problem is that you are now in charge of people who were once your mates and now you have to boss them about.

Not had any management training?

Normally people get promoted to manager with no training, mentorship or coaching and then one of two things happen.

The first thing that could happen is that the new manager gets totally overwhelmed.

Often this takes the form of shrinking back into themselves and letting the team run riot because they don’t want to lose the friendships they have formed.

The second thing that may happen is that the new manager goes the other way (especially if they haven’t got a mentor) in that they go totally authoritarian and micromanage the team.

So what should you do?

How should the new manager approach the ‘friends’ thing?

The secret to managing your friends, and certainly my favourite approach is to deal with it head-on from the very first day.

You need to have a slightly awkward conversation but don’t worry you’re going to have much more awkward conversations than this one in your career!

Make time to speak with your friends individually and explain how you are feeling, that you don’t want to lose their friendship over a job.

Ask for help.

If they really are your friend then they will be only too happy to assist you with your transition into management.

Explain that you need them to help you to show the rest of the team that work is work and friendship is friendship.

Decide between you where the boundaries are.

Sometimes it’s worthwhile setting times, so, for instance, anything between 9-5 is work, anything outside this is personal.

Oh yes and ask your boss for management training. I know that I would say that being a management trainer so I’ll just say that there are some awesome training companies out there so get your boss to spring for a decent course.

What if they won’t help?

Well they’re not really your friend are they?

Sorry, but it’s a horrible lesson to learn that some people will just be jealous of your success and won’t want to contribute to your well being.

Frankly you’re well rid of them.

Hard but true.

You need to supervise people fairly and honestly but you also need to add this into your ‘life experience bank’.

My view is that you find out who your true friends are when you ask for help.

Want more management advice – why not check out how to run a 1-2-1

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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.