Tag: SME

How well do you know the individuals in your team?

A successful manager takes the time to identify the strengths, skills and interests of team members, and then align them with long-term business goals. Business advisor Tricia Cunningham explains why knowing the individual yields positive results for managers, team members and the company.

Tricia, what advice do you have for managers on how to motivate a team?
Teams are made up of individuals. Each person has different drivers, different motivators. A great manager recognises this and works at determining what motivates each person; is it the opportunity to acquire new skills? Is it having the scope to do the existing job their way without interference? Is it the prospect of advancing a career within the organisation? Is it being allowed to take on new projects that are exciting and different?

Many managers make the mistake of believing that what motivates an employee is out of their scope of influence as they believe that job security, increased wages or promotion are all that employees are really interested in. This misguided belief hampers a manager’s ability to motivate employees. It basically operates from the perspective “there is nothing I can really do to motivate my team members”.

So money is a poor motivator?
Money is a motivating factor only up to the point where an individual’s expectations are met. In other words, if I am hired for a role, we agree a salary. My expectations are set; I expect to receive that salary each month. You can’t turn around to an employee 6 months or a year later and say ‘come on, let’s have a really good day today because you are getting paid’ and expect the person to be highly motivated. If you believe that the only way to motivate your team members is to increase salaries you may not get a corresponding increase in productivity.

So what really motivates individuals?
Studies have shown that employees are motivated by factors that don’t cost an organisation financially but cost a manager in terms of time and attention. Employees value being appreciated, being considered and knowing they are working for someone who considers them and their needs. When that happens an employee feels a part of the organisation and is more likely to want to do their best. Their engagement with the organisation is high. When an employee feels that nobody really cares about them (although they put their best effort into work and spend more time at work than anywhere else) their motivation and productivity drops. They become disengaged and withdraw, psychologically, from the organisation.

What structure would you recommend for SMEs trying to motivate and manage teams?
It’s important that managers have the scope and opportunity to meet with employees one-to-one to understand their needs and what motivates them. It is unrealistic to expect that to happen if a manager has an excessive number of employees on their team. Smaller teams are often more effective than larger ones with fewer managers or supervisors. Smaller sized teams facilitate one-to-one meetings and opportunities for a manager to observe how an employee performs.

What can a great manager do when an employee lacks motivation?
The starting point is having a conversation with the employee. Ask the employee about their job: what do they like about their job? What are they finding challenging about it right now? What’s getting in the way of them being able to do their job brilliantly? This conversation may raise difficulties for the manager but it’s better to know what the issues are and try and address them than ignore them and pretend they don’t exist. Knowledge is power. Once the manager has this information they can determine, with the input from the employee, approaches to address the issues raised. This in turn should raise an employee’s motivation and productivity.

Tricia Cunningham is co-founder and senior partner at LEAP.

 

Success in business depends on so many factors – clarity of vision, product innovation, great customer service, leadership, management capabilities, employee retention, new customer acquisition. Many business owners and management teams are aware that these factors are critical to success, but fail to implement performance processes that hold individuals to account. Accountability for delivering on strategic goals and objectives remains a critical issue for many businesses, particularly in the SME sector. John Raftery, business advisor at LEAP, explains what successful companies do differently, and how less successful ones can learn from them.

John, what do successful companies do differently?

I’ve been working with the SME sector for many years now, and one of the most successful things I do with them, in terms of impact is to give them a tour of a multinational company, particularly an American multinational. What they see there is a huge emphasis on clarity of purpose, measuring performance and accountability.

Visual Management

Multinationals are very clear on what their vision is and what they want to achieve. They get huge engagement from their employees through a lot of visual management systems. Their walls are literally covered in charts, graphs, timelines, value stream mapping, process improvement projects and so on. It’s all visual and it’s all there on display. What I find then when I go to less successful companies is that all the information is kept in peoples’ heads, on their laptops or on spreadsheets; it’s not visible at all. As a result there is no clarity about what the company is trying to achieve, there is no clarity about what the performance levels are, there’s no clarity about who is doing what, or what effect they are having. If KPIs exist at all they will only be kept by a few senior managers and hidden away on laptops and spreadsheets. We need to get them out there, we need them displayed, we need to get people buying into them, we need to get people understanding them, we need people taking ownership of them and delivering on them themselves.

Can big business practices work in an SME environment?

There is always a question of ‘how do we do this? Can we take the best practices of the successful multinationals and adapt it to our own SME environment? The answer to that question is yes, we can do it. The first thing people say is that it’s not suited to the Irish culture, but that’s totally untrue. One of the most successful countries in the world in terms of adapting to the American multinational culture is Ireland. The Irish workforce lap this up because it’s about engagement and communication, it’s about ownership and empowerment and teamwork. These are all the things that turn on the lights of the Irish workforce. But how do we do it then for SMEs? Is there a process, a method that can be undertaken to take these good ideas and implement them into a small company? And again the answer to that is yes.

The futureSME process

We have a process called the futureSME which is a well-researched, well developed process and its sole aim is to take the best practices from the most successfullarge multinational companies, and adapt them for the SME environment. It is a well-structured, well organised, well developed programme that undertakes to do just that. It’s delivered through ManagementWorks in the Management Team Programme and creates the culture of accountability necessary for success.

futureSME

Visual mapping strategies are at the heart of the business model known as futureSME, a methodology that extracts the best practices and disciplines in strategic management used by successful companies, and applies them to small and medium enterprises. LEAP is the licenced provider of futureSME in Ireland. Here LEAP’s managing director Mike Gaffney reveals why this model is working for business owners.

What is the Management Team Programme?
The Management Team Programme is a government supported business development programme as part of the Action Plan for Jobs, funded through ManagementWorks, to allow companies to focus on both implementing their strategy and developing their management team simultaneously.

Who is the programme for?
It’s for management teams, including the managing director, and as many of the managers that are critical to the decision-making process in the organisation should participate in the programme.

What areas of training and development does the programme focus on?
It focuses on helping companies build the business through a clear strategy, and also to ensure that operationally, the company is being run as a tight ship.

What are the methods used on the programme?
LEAP has been on the go for 14 years and our biggest challenge is finding the methodologies and developing disciplines that companies can work with long after LEAP have moved on. We use visual strategies and visual management tools that are at the cutting edge of strategy development, not just in the multinational sector, but in any sized business that wants to be highly successful and effective.

It’s well documented that we remember 10 of what we write. We remember 50 of what we see. However, we remember 90 of what we interact with. So the use of a visual strategy by key team members who interact, develop and validate the content of that strategy, is 9 times more effective than the normal approach to developing business plans.

Also the extended team in the organisation can clearly see through visual representation, where the business is going and where each of them is having a direct impact in developing the business.

Why should a business consider doing the Management Team Programme?
The simple answer is: “because it works.” Irish businesses are poor at thinking and acting strategically. Whatever chance they have of creating a strategic plan, their execution of it is very poor. The Management Team Programme takes away any requirement to have the expertise in-house in strategic thinking and strategic execution. FutureSME is a visual methodology that if applied, will change the functioning of your organisation, improving it incrementally on a continuous basis.

What feedback have you gotten from participants on the Management Team Programme?
The message is keep going. Keep engaging with our company and doing what you’re doing because it’s working. This programme would normally cost €7200, but with the governments support through the Action Plan for Jobs under ManagementWorks, the cost per participating company is €3500. That’s all in, for as many members of the management team as they require to attend the programme. It’s run in-house and it’s sharp and snappy: 6 workshops, typically delivered over a 12 week period.

Visual strategic management is driving company success

 

LEAP’s Tricia Cunningham explains the advantages for small and mediumTricia Cunningham
enterprises (SME) participating in development programmes using the futureSME methodology. This business framework was the result of an €8 million EU research project that was successfully carried out by the University of Strathclyde and tried and tested on SMEs across Europe.

Tricia, how does futureSME come alive in a business?

One of the critical tools that we explore in the programme workshops is ‘thinking as one brain.’ We try to get the leaders and managers to understand what they need to put in place to ensure the team are in sync, and implement this in the workplace. So the teams work through how they can develop the team to think as one brain, and understand what the guidelines are for managing team meetings effectively.  That way they can work through information quickly, succinctly and cohesively.

Meetings become productive and employees walk away from the meetings with a clear understanding of what has been discussed, what has been decided, and they are clear about any actions that need to be taken.

We also explore any issues of dissent; when you are trying to implement the visual strategy there are times when the team will encounter road blocks i.e. challenges that have to be overcome. We explore what you can do to ensure that those obstacles can be overcome.

Implementation is Critical

Many times in the SME sector you are working with small teams because there aren’t that many layers in the organisation. You have the business owner and key employees as opposed to a team of managers. But it’s still vitally important that these key people make it happen.

So the leader and the key people have to decide how they are going to work effectively together, to ensure the visual strategy comes alive and achieves the desired results. Having the visual strategy alone will not ensure success. Having the visual strategy, and working together as one brain, will ensure that you make progress in achieving your business goals.

How many workshops are on the programme?

There are 6 workshops on the programme; the first 4 are focused on developing the visual strategy, and also examining the leader’s role to ensure he/she is functioning properly as a leader in their business. Then we look at the roles of the rest of the team in terms of implementation. So the first half of the programme develops the visual strategy; the second half looks at getting the team on board and moving them along that strategy.

Is there any support system on the programme for participating companies?

Mentoring is an important element on the programme, so at the start of the programme we do a capability diagnostic to assess where the business is today, and that’s completed with the mentor. There are 6 mentoring sessions in total.

On the Business Leadership Programme  they are 6 mentoring sessions for each business owner, and on the Management Team Development Programme there are team mentoring sessions.  So you might have three people from one business and they will have one mentoring session after each workshop.

Why would you recommend this programme over others Tricia?

It’s based on intensive research on large successful corporations by the EU Framework 7 project . These programmes have been proven to work, they’ve been validated. They have been used by large organisations to succeed, and they have been translated in a way that is workable and practical in an SME environment.

It’s also different from other programmes because it comes with qualified mentors. They fully understand the futureSME process, they understand small and medium businesses, and they know what it’s like for a leader trying to transform their business.

They work closely with the participating companies. So you have that individual element in the workshops where people can exchange ideas, share their understanding, and then the individual can apply what they learn to their own company. That’s what makes the difference, and that’s what makes it so successful.