Professional Development is Key to Retaining Key Employees

professional development

Now that the economy has started to take a turn in the right direction, the skills that employees currently have may not be the skills that will allow them to help an organisation grow and maximize opportunities that may lie ahead. For many organisations the focus over the last number of years has been doing what’s needed to get ahead, one step at a time.

But now that things are improving and opportunities are opening up, organisations will need to start thinking differently and will need to support employees as they develop new and necessary skills.

Professional development – does your team have the right skills?

Organisations need to start thinking about the goals they wish to achieve over the next eighteen months and map out the skills that will be required to deliver on those goals. Then they must assess their employees at every level against those requirements and goals.

This will help the organisation to determine the best way to develop the new set of required skills. The approaches identified may include formal training, or may involve partnering employees together to teach each other various skills. It could involve giving employees the opportunity to work on new projects. There are multiple approaches that can be taken to develop skills.

How you manage is critical to long-term success

Over the last number of years managers have had to focus strongly on working in a cost-cutting environment, with few resources available to them. This has meant that the focus has been on technical deliverables. In other words, delivering the specific product or service to the customer and ‘just getting it done.’

But as well as keeping the customer happy, managers also need to understand that how they interact and manage a team is vitally important and people skills are critical to that. It’s no longer good enough just to focus on the technical aspects of the job.

Managers need to be supported by the organisation in developing the key skills to manage people effectively. Learning from their experience isn’t sufficient; they need to understand best practices and determine how they can be applied in the organisation so that you are developing a strong, competent team who can work effectively together; a team who respect the manager, who can learn from the manager and can work with the manager.

How to retain your key employees

If the economy continues to grow, with the unemployment rate dropping from 14{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} in 2012 to a current level of 7.0{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} (September 2016), we can see that it is once again turning into an employee market. This means that organisations who fail to invest in employees run the risk of losing key employees.

Employees working in an organisation, generally speaking, value opportunities to develop and enhance their skills. Investing in them can have considerable payback in terms of commitment, loyalty and a desire to do more, deliver more and to help the organisation to grow.

So owners and team leaders need to consider employee development as an investment. They need to agree with participants about the skills that will be developed and how the organisation expects the individual to demonstrate those skills at work. This way organisations are in a position to grow and to retain key individuals that assisted that growth.

Setting expectations of employees

Development does not always mean an automatic expectation of promotion. It can also mean simply enhancing the basic skills employees already have, allowing them to get better at their current jobs. It’s about broadening their knowledge and skills, and being in a position to embrace opportunities should they arise in the future. That is development and that can often be very satisfying for an employee, even if there is no immediate offer of promotion.

When you work in the SME sector you know there are fewer opportunities to climb up the ladder compared to the larger corporate sector. By the same token, large corporations also need to be careful and make it clear that professional development is not always about promotion. Six people may put themselves forward for promotion but only one will get the job. What happens to the other five candidates? How do you manage them to ensure they don’t become disheartened? You need to make it clear to them that they are highly valuable to the organisation and the investment in their development is a reflection of that.

LEAP professional development programmes

LEAP recognises the need for strong leadership, management and employees in organisations. From our experience working with companies, we have put together professional development programmes that focus on developing the core skills of these three groups. Additionally, we look at operational effectiveness to ensure that not only are people working effectively but they are focusing on the right things and doing them right.

Tricia Cunningham, senior partner at LEAP.

Tricia Cunningham

 

 

 

 

Interview by Des Kirby
Check out our professional development programmes.


 
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Leadership Programmes

 

What Leaders Really Want From Managers

what leaders really want from managers_

What do business leaders really want from their managers? Is it their experience, knowledge and technical expertise?

These things are important to business leaders when they recruit people into management positions. However, as LEAP MD Mike Gaffney explains, what leaders really want from managers more than anything else is for them to take ownership of the role of manager. That means making decisions, fully committing to them and taking responsibility for outcomes.

Take Ownership
The number one requirement that leaders want from managers is for managers to take ownership for their area of responsibility. That means making decisions, dealing with the problems in their area and generally getting on with the job and delivering on their department’s objectives.

They want managers to stop looking over their shoulder waiting for approval or permission to make decisions.

Be Decisive
There is an old saying that many leaders and managers are familiar with that goes ‘seek forgiveness rather than ask for permission.’ It’s vital to be decisive in your role as manager. Make a decision, look for the best outcome and if it works out great. Make sure you are able to explain why it worked out so it can be replicated.

If it doesn’t work out, dust yourself down and get on with the job because that’s your responsibility.

Commit to your decisions
So ownership is by far the biggest requirement leaders are looking for from their managers, but decisiveness is also a crucial factor. Another key element leaders look for is commitment. This simply means following through on decisions and ensuring that others in the team do the same until company objectives are met.

If managers take ownership of their area, and are prepared to make clear decisions and fully commit to them, then leaders can focus more of their time on doing what they do best – leading the business.

So the message for managers is clear: take ownership, make decisions and fully commit to them.

Leadership Programmes

What if I as a manager make a decision and it turns out to be the wrong one?
If the decision goes wrong for the manager, it might cause problems and tempers may get frayed because of it. However, you are actually delivering on what you were hired to do. You were hired to take responsibility for a particular area of the business, to make it work as best you could.

If you don’t take ownership or you can’t make decisions then you are not managing.

You might get into hot water from time to time but when things cool down, the smart business owner will realise that you took ownership and you were decisive and you fully committed to your decision. They can see you are doing your best as a manager. That shows you take responsibility for your actions and that is something they can respect.

What they cannot respect is a lack of responsibility or ownership of decisions and outcomes.

So managers should be prepared to make decisions rather than asking the business owner for permission all the time. The outcomes may reveal that the role was beyond you and your capabilities but it won’t be because of a lack of commitment or indecision on your part.

 

Interview by Des Kirby

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An Evening With John Raftery

Event: An Evening with John Raftery, Senior Partner with LEAP
Speaker:
John Raftery Executive Coach
Location:
Sligo

Venue: Glass House Hotel
Date: Tuesday March 22
Time: 5.30pm
Cost: Free

 

“Would your business be better off if some of your employees didn’t show up for work?”

According to recent surveys there is a large proportion of employees disengaged from their work. I have heard it said so many times that things run better when he or she is absent or when someone leaves there was no need to replace them. What about your critical employees? If they won the lotto and called you on Monday morning saying that they quit, how would you cope?

In the normal distribution of employees performance you will invariably find about 20{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} are top performers and unfortunately about 20{aa1e4c34c9c0f46e0a1f04e30c2eb1b9efaea7a47ed6ca6f324476e114da37f4} are at the bottom. Everyone else is in the middle. How do you get more from your team when this is the reality for most managers?

Your team is your most valuable resource but it is also your biggest cost. Are you getting value for money?

The answer to these questions may lie in engaging with the Management Team Programme. This programme has been successfully delivered to several businesses over the last number of years. The programme has been very well received and in many instances has had a high impact on the performance of the business. The programme uses the futureSME methodology which focuses on developing a visual strategy for your business and implementing practical visual management tools while also developing the leadership and management capabilities within your business.

The “futureSME” business model was developed as part of a major cross-European project funded by the EU Framework 7 project and is accredited by the University of Strathclyde. The business model provides a strategic and operational framework, specifically developed for SMEs, to optimise organisational competitiveness and establish sustainable growth. LEAP is the licensed provider of “futureSME” in Ireland.

It has the power to transform your business.

The Speaker: John Raftery

leadership, leadership ireland, executive coachJohn Raftery will give an overview of the programme and draw on his experience of working with SME’s over the last ten years. John will give practical examples and discuss issues faced by senior managers and owners in a no-nonsense style. You will find his presentation thought provoking and challenging.

 

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Successful Teams Use Visual Management

What is Visual Management?

Successful teams use visual management_John RafteryHow do you go about developing a visual management system within your business? In our continuing series of visual management training articles, John Raftery delves deeper into the process of visual mapping. Here he discusses how management teams can use visual tools to help them display company goals and the actions that underpin them. Visual aids such as Gantt charts and bar graphs keep management teams focused on strategy and accountable for results.

Visual Strategy

‘I work with management teams and generally what we start with is getting the top 3 – 5 goals of the company articulated. Then under each of those goals we would discuss the strategies needed in order to achieve those goals. The strategies then have to be turned into clear lines of action. If you can imagine a large whiteboard or notice board that has lines of action, as in the form of a Gantt Chart. On the left hand side you have the lines of action, in other words the actions that need to be taken in order to achieve the top level goals. The next column will list the owners of those actions, in other words the people responsible for implementing the agreed actions.

Tracking Activities

There may also be a timeline that could be divided up into 52 weeks or 12 months or whatever is appropriate for that particular team. The chart will show when the various actions are going to occur, and you can flag the actions with a colour coded ‘traffic light’ system. Green means that the action is on target, orange indicates that the action is in difficulty or has been delayed or is still in progress, and red flags indicate the action has not been completed within the time frame agreed.

Gantt Chart_successful teams use visual management

Creating Accountability

This is a very simple but clear mechanism that allows the team to see clearly what activities are taking place within the company, who’s doing what and what progress is being made. The information is displayed on one large whiteboard, and alongside this you can display key performance indicators (KPI) in the form of bar graphs which will indicate how well your lines of action are affecting the performance of the business. Tracking these KPIs is crucial for identifying which lines of action are working and which ones need adjusting.’

 Are you using visual management methods in your business? How are they effecting your business operations? Leave a comment in the box below. Thanks.

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Leadership Development is About Developing The Right Habits

Leadership development is about developing the right habitsIn 2000 Mike Gaffney, along with co-founder Tricia Cunningham, established LEAP as a leadership development and management training consultancy. Armed with twelve years experience working at Nortel Networks he embarked on a new role as an executive coach. Over the past thirteen years he has developed substantial leadership programmes for owners of Irish and international companies.  Mike’s philosophy is that leadership skills can be learned like any other skill.  Here he discusses why leadership development is about developing the right habits, which ones have served him best as managing director, and the person who influenced him in his role as an executive coach.

You’re a business leader Mike. What leadership habits have helped you the most?
I think the most important thing I’ve learned in my journey is to be self-aware. It’s crucial to be aware of how you behave and keep that awareness to the forefront of your decision making, particularly in interactions with your team and with your customers.

Can you give an example of self-awareness as a business owner and leader?
I learned a valuable lesson one August a number of years ago when I came back into the office after getting some business from a new client. My team asked me ‘who is going to deliver the work?’  I said I talked to the client and I volunteered myself after having sat down with them for a couple of hours and gone through their challenges. One of the team then said to me:  ‘Mike , we have a problem. You don’t trust us.’ I got on my high horse, I was annoyed at the comment. Of course I trust you! But they were right. When push came to shove I didn’t trust anyone else in the business to do as good a job as I could do.  As I have since learnt: Ego is a poor Amigo. 

What was the leadership lesson learned there?
As a leader, I had to stop thinking that if I don’t do it, it won’t get done properly, because that’s not leading a team. I’m just playing the role of the hero with the hundred helpers, which is unfair on the helpers, and it hugely limits the capacity of the business to grow. So that myth I was telling myself, that if I don’t do it, then it doesn’t get done properly, had to stop. Unless I found a way to leave that out and move beyond it, I could not grow LEAP as an organisation. You have to be willing to trust your team, that’s the lesson.  As Harry Truman put it so eloquently: “If you don’t mind who gets the credit, you can achieve great things.”

So self-awareness plays a key role for leaders when growing a business?
It’s critical. Without it you keep making the same mistakes. Particularly if you are successful, the skillset that made you successful will need to be fine-tuned to get you to the next level. Take sport for example. What drives a team to win their first All-Ireland will not work second time around. They will need something more if they want to win back-to-back, because the same hunger won’t be there. They need to frame their challenge in a new way and they need to tap into new approaches in themselves to make that work.

The same thing applies to a business leader who wants to grow the organisation. The skills that get you to succeed initially in the start-up stage can be the same skills that hinder you as a leader. Your own drive to be successful – doing it your way -may work in the early stages, but that can hinder you in the later stage in the context of managing a team and growing the business. The challenge as a leader is to let your team be themselves identifying areas where th ey can apply their strengths, which is where their contribution can be maximised for the company. Then give them space and support.

What are the skills that you have developed that have served you best as a business leader?
For me it’s being creative. We are a consultancy service in leadership and management for businesses, so providing creative and practical solutions for our customers is a good selling point. That’s a natural flair I have that has served me well as a leader.

But I think behaviours are more important than skills and a key behaviour is persistence. In times of recession there are going to be challenges but the longer you stay in the ring the better chance you have of landing that knockout blow, and maybe more importantly you are still standing.

What trait as a business leader has served you well?
Persistence; to keep going when it looks easier to give up and it feels like you’re pushing a stone up a hill, to trust in yourself and your team and keep going and keep looking to improve.

What leaders have influenced you, who are the people you admire?
I had a very good friend who passed away last year: Tom Touhy. The two of us coached rowing in the NUI,Galway for 14 years. He was the recognised front man and rightly so. I learned from Tom how best to support the leader, and advise him and steer him (when needed) and that has stood me in good stead.  I was becoming an executive coach without realising it.

Being the leader is a lonely place, having someone who can eye-ball you and call a spade a spade, is a great help. My time as a rowing coach has helped equip me with a framework to work with business owners and leaders in an unobtrusive and supportive manner. This enables them to be themselves, while having someone to question them in a constructive way regarding they’re thinking and decision making.

In interview with Des Kirby
Are you a company owner or team manager? What are the leadership traits and skills that serve you best. Leave a comment in the box below.

LEAP’s Make Leadership Happen Programme was designed by Mike and his team specifically to support company owners in growing their business and helping them get the most out of their teams. Contact us to find out how we can help you take your company to the next level.

T: 091 755736
E: info@leapleadership.ie