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You could love her, you could loathe her but you could not be indifferent about her. Everyone who lived through the Thatcher years had a strong opinion about her style of leadership.
And as we listen to numerous tributes to her it is clear that even those who held fundamentally different political views admired Margaret Thatcher for her qualities as a leader.
For me, three things set her apart as a leader:
Strong beliefs, which she stuck to even in the face of opposition, often from within her own party. Others would have buckled and compromised but she did not. ‘The lady’s not for turning’ is a phrase that will be remembered for a long time.
The courage to change things for what she saw as the better. As The Economist describes it: ‘The lady who changed the world’ Good leaders do not maintain the status quo, they change their world.
A bias for action. She did not dither, she decided. She did not discuss, she handbagged. She got things done.
We rarely see such strong leadership qualities displayed in business and even less so in professional service firms. That is a shame, especially as political leaders have a much more difficult leadership task than business leaders. Politicians have to win the votes of a majority of their electorates, whereas no business leader has to win a 50% market share in order to survive.
Even though grocery shopping is a chore, shopping on-line is a big unfamiliar step for many. So they keep going to the store. That will change.
Clients can now buy many professional services on-line, but that is a big unknown step for many. So they keep instructing their lawyer and accountant in the traditional way and pay the price. That will change too.
People can now access training on-line but, despite the convenience and low cost, the experience is usually a disappointment. So despite shrinking budgets, firms stick to the norm of sending people on training courses. That also will change.
Changing what we do to benefit from digital tools is inevitable, particularly as on-line experiences improve. But what can providers do to accelerate the process?
Faced with the challenge of growing its market in South Korea without opening more stores (constraints like this are known to spark innovation) Tesco came up with a surprising solution, as this video illustrates:
I am not suggesting virtual lawyers or trainers in subway stations but I do think we can learn from Tesco’s bold willingness to think differently. Don’t you?
I often ask professional people what improvements they would like to see in those a level beneath them. The ideas quickly start to tumble and they usually include things like:
Be more proactive
Deliver better client service
Show more attention to detail
Be more commercially aware
Keep me better informed
Take more ownership
… and so it goes on.
If I then ask them to identify whether the behaviour change they are seeking will require a change in knowledge, skills, attitude or some combination of these, it may come as no surprise that ‘attitude’ is mentioned most commonly.
Even where changing attitude is only part of the solution it is usually an obvious starting point because without changing attitudes there may be little receptiveness to acquiring new knowledge or learning new skills.
Paradoxically, I suspect that most learning interventions in these areas focus on knowledge and skills rather than attitudes.
It is not often that I venture into religious commentary but I found myself agreeing with Jill King’s recent article in Managing Partner Magazine in which she suggested that law firm leaders could do well to learn from the humility and humble leadership of the newly appointed Pope.
As well as drawing inspiration from Pope Francis, Jill also quotes two very different authors:
‘…the best leaders combine intense professional will with extreme personal humility.’ (Jim Collins)
‘..humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.’ (C S Lewis)
When we design training courses, we usually take time and trouble to structure it in a ‘logical’ order; we might start with the basics and then move on to more advanced topics, or we use the order of the process being trained (first you log in, then you enter your details….and finally you print the report) . But do we really need to do this? Is this really how people learn best?
The answer is, it depends.
When I first learned to play golf, after some frustrating hacking around, I decided to take lessons. It turns out there is a logical order in which to learn the basics. The coach will start with the grip, then cover the stance, the backswing, the downswing and finally the follow-through. Each builds on the earlier stage.
But once we have gained a basic proficiency, further learning need not follow this order, or indeed any order. We can learn to refine our game at any point in the swing. We don’t need to learn to drive before we learn to put, just because that is the order in which we use the techniques.
If there is any order at all to advanced learning, it might best start where there is most potential gain (easier one-to-one than when training groups) or where it is easiest to engage the learner.
I suspect that most corporate training, and almost all in soft skills, falls into the advanced learning category because most people already have an awareness of the basics.
March 22nd, 2013 | Category: learning | Comments are closed
How do you interview someone for a job in social media? Well if you are Pizza Hut, you give them a 140 second interview. The thinking being that if they cannot sell themselves in 140 seconds, how can they promote the company in a 140 character tweet?
It is an innovative approach that may well serve its purpose and at the same time gets ample coverage for pizza Hut and the role itself. Not bad!
This ARK Group report examines ways in which law firms can improve their profitability and performance. Phil contributed a chapter on ‘Earning more means learning more’, which examines four main ways law firms can profit from learning:
Re-equipping people (not just lawyers) for new roles
Using new approaches for more effective learning and to reduce training costs
Improving the retention and motivation of your people
Offering training as an added value service for your clients
The people at struggling Yahoo! probably expected great things when Marissa Mayer took up the reins following her successes at Google. What they most likely did not expect was an edict that flexible working is no longer acceptable and from June staff must be present in the office or find another job. (You can see the ‘confidential’ internal memo here.)
The reason given – to encourage communication and collaboration – does not stand too much scrutiny. Yahoo! is a technology company and technology offers many better ways to communicate and collaborate with colleagues than simply being physically present.
The real reason – which holds back the growth of telecommuting in many organisations – is likely to have more to do with trust and accountability.
Presumably Marissa Mayer would like to improve the productivity of her Yahoos, but enforced presenteeism is a sticking plaster that is likely to cause irritation rather than healing.
The more robust alternative is to create a culture in which:
1 People feel they are involved in worthwhile and fulfilling work (so that they want to work rather than shirk). Of course, we all get distracted and lose focus some of the time, but that happens when working in the office as well as at home.
2 Contribution is measured not in terms of the hours people spend at their desks but in the value they create (i.e. measuring outputs rather than inputs). It may be more difficult to measure outputs, rather than simply having people clock in and out, but with imagination it is certainly possible to come up with more valid measure of contribution than the number of hours a person has worked.
These matters are of direct importance to professional service firms because telecommuting, with its potential to lower costs and improve motivation, holds great promise for firms that can learn to handle it. It is a shame to see Yahoo! taking a step in the wrong direction on this.