Reap What You Sow, by Steve Farmer

It has been a little while since my last tip and a couple of things have prompted me to get back in the swing of it. Firstly I have received several really nice bits of feedback saying how useful the old tips have been and that they have helped with some challenging conversations. Secondly I have run a ‘difficult conversations’ workshop this week and a new ‘top tip’ emerged from one of the ‘Real Play’ scenarios.

This scenario was different in that the difficult conversation was going to be with a person the manager had not met and did not know. In this case it was going to be a conversation with a key customer about outstanding invoices but it equally could have been any number of other situations where you need to influence or negotiate with a new customer/supplier/employer.

The manager in this instance was new in role and was picking up a problem that others had failed to resolve. He had been given snippets of information about the customer (a senior manager in a council department) and most of that feedback had been about how difficult this person was to deal with. Apparently he was unsmiling, short of time, unfriendly, only interested in own agenda and generally tough.

Now those things may well have been true and were shared honestly to try to help this manager. The problem in this case was that these impressions were used to shape the approach that this manager took. In the ‘Real Play’ (where an actor is the council manager) our manager had the conversation expecting bluntness and a battle and lo and behold that is exactly what he got back.

When we unpicked what had happened it started to emerge that our manager had almost tried to mirror his expectations. He had been unsmiling and serious. He had adopted a fixed posture and steely gaze which remained unaltered. He had used very direct language and failed to listen stating only his needs.

Management Tips Graphic - Businessman Reaps What He Sows

The beauty of ‘Real Play’ is that you can rewind and try different approaches. The second time our manager was more ‘himself’. He smiled a little more, was more relaxed and listened better. He put aside his script and responded to the other person and lo and behold a dialogue started with scope for better understanding and finding areas of mutual benefit.

The real meeting is due to take place next week and of course there is no guarantee it will go anything like our second iteration. However, I can guarantee it will certainly go like the first attempt if our manager assumes too much of how the other person is going to be.

Fundamentally whether the other person is an actor or a real person they will respond to your behaviours. In other words we reap what we sow.

Stepping Up to the next Management Level

tim fuller

The Reality Business have been running Management and Leadership programmes now for just over 10 years. Over that time we’ve experienced a multitude of organisations and business sectors and worked with delegates from junior first line management roles all the way up to Director’s and CEO’s.

We often get asked by senior managers for our views of the people we’ve had through our programmes and where this can be done in a way that satisfies our values of trust and integrity we are happy to do this.  Such discussions very often include the question “are they ready for stepping up to the next management level yet”?   So I’ve been thinking recently as to what criteria I think need to be satisfied for us to answer that question with an unequivocal “YES, ABSOLUTELY”.

For me the starting point is to ask myself “to what extent would I trust this person to be able to do a great job” and I therefore reflect on the dual axis of trust namely “character” and “competence”.


On the former I’m looking to feel comfortable that the individual demonstrates confidence, integrity, passion, drive, energy and an appetite for continual learning – and one might well argue that these aren’t things that can be trained…………………….whereas in terms of competence I’d be looking to see that they had demonstrated a multitude of people related skills such as managing and leading, working well with stakeholders and so on, and the technical knowledge needed for the role in question.

On this competency axis is where investment in that individual both by themselves and the organisation they work for can help move those people who aren’t ready, or are nearly ready, up the necessary level of notches to be banging at the promotional door. In a similar way, a lack of recognition of the need to create this sort of “talent pipeline” or recognising the need but not doing anything about it, can leave organisations very vulnerable to losing key talent and to costly recruitment from the external marketplace.

Such investment should, or could, include a range of planned and targeted development such as active involvement with both technical and people training, which can be sourced and run either internally or externally, managers being trained as coaches, mentoring schemes, self-study initiatives, job swaps, opportunities to “act up” for short periods of time and formal qualifications.

I have a deep belief that there is a massive pool of talent out there, and I see numerous examples of incredibly talented individuals hugely frustrated by their organisations inability to provide aspirational opportunity to them and typically they either lose their energy and motivation and just “accept” it, or they leave – neither of which strike me as a great outcome for the organisation they work for.

So, if you know you have talent in your organisation, you need to cherish and nurture it, and make sure you provide opportunities!