grassroots talk

With the summer approaching, a number of youth football teams will be signing up and playing in tournaments as part of their continuing football experience. These summer tournaments can be a great opportunity for our players to learn, offering them the chance to experience the highs and lows, the winning and the losing in a format that often means a whole competition in one day.

However, there is often too much pressure placed on our young players by focussing solely on results a determinant of success from these competitions. Our children are so often provided an adult’s version of competition when they are crying out for a child friendly alternative.

As a team, we began thinking about how we could run a tournament that would provide a rich and valuable learning environment for our young players. This summer, that is what we tried to do and this is the experience…


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Poor management

Poor line management is recognised by workplaces as having a negative impact on the performance of the business. A report by the CIPD and the UK Government published in 2012 revealed that more than two-fifths of managers regard their own line manager as ineffective. Meanwhile, a 2012 study from the Chartered Management Institute found that 43 per cent of managers are rated as ineffective or highly ineffective by staff.

The effects of poor management can harm the growth and competitiveness of a business. Research has shown that poor management can have a detrimental impact on employee engagement levels within a business, which in turn affects employee retention and performance, customer service and satisfaction, and business performance.

To deal with these issues, the UK Government has set up a new cross-party Parliamentary Commission to examine why so many line managers are “failing” their employer. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Management (APPGM), in partnership with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), will examine how management can be transformed to drive growth across UK businesses to boost the economy.

The commission will attempt to highlight where employers have successfully used innovative approaches to management that have helped create growth and increase employee engagement. The most innovative and successful businesses will be invited to discuss their techniques with the Commission in Parliament. The commission plans to report on their findings in 2014.

The aim, according to Peter Ayliffe, CMI president and fellow co-chair of the Commission,’ is to identify the practical changes in line management behaviour that managers will need to make to lead and grow our businesses in the years ahead.’

For me, it is really positive to see the Government attempt to deal with the issue of poor management. Too many businesses are being held back by line managers not having the required skills to lead their people properly. Hopefully the work by the Commission will lead to the provision of training and support networks that UK businesses can tap into for their managers. This will especially benefit the smaller businesses that don’t have the expertise or resources to tackle the problem of underperforming managers.


According to L&D Manager Jeff Turner at Facebook, the social network giant has introduced a novel approach to dealing with poorly performing managers in which they are given a ‘get out of jail free card’. Instead of putting them through the normal process of performance management, Facebook managers are given the option of dropping-out from direct line management altogether.

Their approach is an attempt to lessen the gap between managers who are doing a very good job and those who aren’t. This is because poor line management can harm the development of a company. Research has shown that poor management can have a detrimental impact on employee engagement levels within a business, which in turn affects employee retention and performance, customer service and satisfaction, and business performance.

In order to support this initiative, Facebook have developed a manager philosophy – “set context, create focus, drive impact and cultivate growth” – backed up by its model for manager effectiveness. This is instead of more traditional competency models.  Their approach also supports the make-up of its workforce, in which 70% are from Generation Y. Those from Generation Y are the most high-maintenance and the most high-performing in the workforce, so a novel approach to managing performance is required.

Since Facebook introduced the initiative, ten per cent of managers have given up line management every year in favour of a role with no direct reports. Facebook’s dual career track approach allows employees to reach a senior position without managing people. They are of the belief that management should not be about getting a pay rise or other benefits, it should be about wanting to manage people.

This approach is great for a large company like Facebook, who can invest the time and resource in developing such a strategy, but most businesses don’t have this opportunity. In reality, most businesses have to rely on effective recruitment practices when hiring people managers, as there is no ‘get out jail free card’. Instead they will rely on assessing the candidate’s suitability for the role through competency based questioning and psychometric testing. Once the candidate has been hired, businesses will have to ensure that sufficient coaching and training is in place to develop their managers further.

This flexible approach from Facebook in dealing with underperformance certainly makes it easier for them, as it reduces the need for performance management, but most other businesses will just have to ensure they select the right candidate first time round.


Recent business articles show that people managers are coming under greater pressure to ensure they manage their staff well. The following recent headlines demonstrate this:

  • Lack of management accountability eroding staff engagement
  • Lack of management training causing culture problems, finds CIPD
  • Only 3 per cent of firms find performance management great value

The reason why poor management needs to be tackled is because staff engagement is directly influenced by people managers. Research has shown that higher employee engagement is associated with gains in employee retention and performance, customer service and satisfaction, and business performance. A report published in 2012 by the government, in partnership with the CIPD, found that more than two-fifths of managers regard their own line manager as ineffective, while it concluded that the problem was holding back the UK’s economic recovery.

Government Review

This issue of poor management has even prompted the UK Government to begin to looking in to what can be done with the launch a new cross-party Parliamentary Commission. Led by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Management (APPGM) and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), the commission aims to focus on how management can be transformed to drive growth across UK businesses to boost the economy. The commission aims to highlight where employers have successfully used innovative approaches to management that have helped create growth. The best and most innovative will be invited to discuss their work with the Commission in Parliament.

Tackling the problem

The Corporate Leadership Council conducted research which showed that managers who set clear objectives, discuss their expectations and outline how performance will be measured can have higher performing teams. According to the findings, the top three factors that managers must focus on to improve employee performance are:

  1. Explaining performance evaluation standards
  2. Ensuring projects provide learning
  3. Providing experiences that develop

In my previous articles I have discussed the importance of managers providing more work based training that has meaning for employees. This is based on the 70:20:10 framework of work based learning and Daniel Pink’s research on what motivates employees. I also examined how performance management could be improved by focusing on setting mastery goals, as this gives employees greater control over their work.

Forward thinking

I would hope that the Government review of management practices finds innovative ways in which to improve manager effectiveness in the UK. This should be based around manager support in the performance management process and interventions that afford employees the opportunities to participate in work based learning. These do not have to be costly interventions, out of reach for many businesses, but common sense solutions that ensure managers can get the most from staff.

If these issues aren’t tackled, then according to Barry Sheerman MP, chair of the APPGM:

‘ ….too many businesses will fail because of bad management. This has to change, because the quality of management and leadership will be absolutely key to how well our businesses do in creating jobs and wealth in the years ahead’.


In my last post I talked about how UK businesses believe there is a deficit in leadership and management skills, and that just 3% of organisations worldwide report their overall performance management system provides exceptional value. In order to deal with these issues I discussed how workers are looking for more meaning in their working lives, and that environments where creative, right-brain thinking is encouraged, with more self direction, can help achieve this. In short, I concluded that line managers need to become more effective at coaching their staff and one way in which they may be able to do this is through more effective goal setting. There are three different types of goals line managers can encourage their staff to set; and they are:

An outcome goal is something that can be influenced but cannot be controlled. For instance, an employee may state that their goal for the performance year is to be better influencing people at a more senior level. This is quite a common goal that I see within workplaces and the one to be avoided. The reason being is because it offers no context or example of how the goal might be achieved. Without a specific scenario in which this is to be evaluated, the employee has no control over the situation.

A performance goal, on the face of it, sounds pretty reasonable and has more depth to it than an outcome goal. For example, an employee may want to achieve X-number of sales per month, or get at least one of their business ideas agreed to by a more senior member of the organisation in the year. So although there is a clearer target, compared to the Outcome goal, the employee is still unable to fully control the outcome of these. For instance, the employee may not be able to control the amount of sales they may make because the business has had a drop in referrals for them to convert. Or the idea that they pitch to the senior team might be good, but their other colleagues just always seem to be one step ahead.

Instead, what the employee wants to be setting themselves are Mastery goals as they can fully control them and they aren’t ambiguous. If an employee is not able to achieve their Outcome or Performance goal, then they are likely to become disheartened easily at the first sign of failure. A Mastery goal however, is one that allows the employee to focus the mind on what it is they are trying to achieve and drills right down into the core of that goal.

For instance, rather than state you want to achieve X-number of sales per month, it would be better to state the following:

  • I want to ensure that I stay up-to-date with all current products that we sell
  • I will ensure that I continue to keep in contact with my branch network, on a monthly basis, about sales referrals.

Or, for the employee who wants to get better at influencing, why not set the following goals instead:

  • Improve my ability to analyse and report on data so I can present back to my senior managers and influence decisions.
  • Continue to follow market trends and important industry voices, via social media, to assist in providing me with credible information for making decisions.

The defining characteristic of the Mastery goal is that it is controllable and it digs down to the critical essentials of the task at hand. These are the types of goals that managers need to have their employees set if they want the performance management process to become worthwhile. Employees want to exert control over their working lives, and letting them set ambiguous goals is not going to help this.

Informa Insights

Strategic leadership and influencing skillsEmotional intelligence is a bigger factor in career success than a high intelligence quotient (IQ), according to one researcher.

Dr Jim Worth, a human development specialist with University of Missouri Extension, said a person’s emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) is very important in a corporate environment.

“First and foremost, research shows that executive EQ is directly related to setting the climate of the organisation and sometimes has a 75 per cent impact,” he was quoted by Christian County Headline News as commenting.

“EQ … is at least four times more predictive of job advancement than IQ, and this is true even among scientists.”

High emotional intelligence enables people to control their emotions and use them to their advantage, as well as being able to judge the feelings of others.

This can be extremely important in leadership development, with Dr Worth stating that EQ becomes vital the higher a person climbs the…

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I/O Musings of a Skeptical Positivist

leading_the_packSamantha exuded leadership.  Hell, since the age of twelve, she’d held leadership roles.  Captain of the soccer team.  President of her neighborhood “Kids’ Committee.”  Student Council Vice President, and later President.  By the time she graduated college, she was the co-founder and CEO of a non-profit funding source for low-income housing.  Talk about the fast track!  She was on it!

Fast forward a decade, and Samantha was still leading.  Her focus had changed, though, from the philanthropic to corporate.  At 32, she was the youngest executive vice president in the company’s history.  She was overseeing the marketing operations for a $10 billion corporate giant, leading a 100-person creative team and all the affiliated support roles.  On any traditional measure, she’d made it.  She was a success.  Yet, she found herself increasingly disjointed and unsatisfied professionally.

When Samantha and I first met, she admitted quietly struggling with an interesting leadership…

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