Written by Nathanial Marshall, Engagement Manager at LI Europe.

Much has already been written on what the legacy of Covid-19 and lockdown will have on businesses. One of the big discussions has been around how leaders deal with their staff working remotely.

Is a business leader’s trust in their team a reflection of themselves, their team, company culture or all?

In “First, Break All the Rules” by Marcus Buckingham, research is compiled which empirically finds that an employee’s level of engagement is primarily related to their relationship with their line manager, even above company culture.

How does Covid and remote working affect this relationship?

Traditionally, one of the ways productivity has been perceived is through how hours people have worked. In these cases, firms have suffered from a culture of presenteeism. The phrase “working from home” was spoken with an emphasis on “working” in inverted commas and those who did work remotely were seen as having an easy day or a day off.

More progressive businesses have adopted remote working for many years placing a focus on employee wellbeing and have trusted their teams to get the work done by the agreed deadline regardless of where/when it is done.

McGregor’s theory of management split people into X theory or Y theory. The traditional businesses/managers who scorn at the thought of working from home would likely be X theory type:

These believe

  • The average person dislikes work and will avoid it if possible.
  • Therefore, most people must be forced with the threat of punishment to work towards objectives.
  • The average person prefers to be directed; to avoid responsibility; is relatively un-ambitious, and most of all wants security.

Those adopting remote working, prior to it being normalised by Covid would likely have been Y theory types:

These believe

  • Effort in work is as natural as work and play.
  • People will generally try to achieve objectives, without the threat of punishment.
  • The commitment to an objective is a function of the reward associated with achieving it.
  • People usually accept responsibility, and will seek it too.
  • Most people actually have a good imagination, ingenuity and creativity, and will use them to solve organisational problems.

Theory Y managers generally have a higher level of engagement with their teams. Thus, they give discretionary effort to improve the business which results in a higher level of productivity.

Trust is always needed in the relationship between leaders and their teams. Clearly defined outcomes and accountabilities are still required regardless of location the work is being done.

Should the manager take a one size fits all approach to this new way of working? Is everyone able to achieve their best results at home?

Some people might prefer to be directed and guided which can come hand in hand with office working and regular contact with their manager. These people may struggle when at “arm’s length” through remote working. This links with the theory of Tannenbaum-Schmidt and their levels of delegated freedom.

Every member of a team will have their place on this red line where they feel most comfortable.  Those who prefer freedom could flourish with remote working. Those further to the left may struggle. It is vital that the leader knows where every member of their team is on the continuum and adapt accordingly. The ultimate goal is to shift everyone to the right, but only gradually. Sudden shifts can cause disengagement and people to be disenfranchised.

Similarly, does the leader know who in their team are extroverts and introverts?

Extroverts might want to retain office time and face to face contact with people in order to energise themselves through their working day.

Introverts could be in heaven working from home. They don’t have to make small talk with their teams or feel the social pressure of being part of the team.

Can the leader adapt their amount and style of contact with each member of their team to work not only to their position on the Tannenbaum-Schmidt continuum but also on their personality style?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to pivot and adapt their ways of working to deal with the situation. Remote working has become more of a norm which is, in my opinion, for the better. However, this doesn’t come without increased challenges and the onus on the manager in ensuring their teams can perform and thrive in these circumstances is significantly greater.

Want to develop your team further? Keen to enhance your management skills? Why not get in touch.

Written by Erica Bassford, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

I’ve carved pumpkins before but, this year, we went one step further, we ventured to the pumpkin fields to select our specimens.

Armed with wheelbarrow, accompanied by two children decked out in wellies, off we went. I had in mind the perfect pumpkin, you know the one, not too large, swelling nicely in the middle with a perfect orange glow. Clearly my children had different ideas, my youngest set out to find not only the largest pumpkin in the field but also the smallest. My eldest was more concerned about the pumpkin retaining a decent sized stalk and with no blemishes to the skin.

Some 30 minutes later we were armed with the 3 chosen delights and headed to the cleaning station. I am pleased to say, the child that then proceeded to face plant into the mud was not one of mine. A little t.l.c. and the promise of a hot chocolate seemed to refocus him to his efforts of pumpkin cleaning but alerted my two to the proximity of a café serving of hot chocolate!

Payment made, hot chocolate consumed, we were ready for home and to start the challenge in earnest.

Taking into account the shape of each specimen we negotiated, and agreed, the pattern for each pumpkin. We prepared a template to follow, the children traced out the template which they then followed with their cutting tools. Two hours later their toils were rewarded with three half decent pumpkins carved and ready to display.

Why am I drivelling on about pumpkins? For me the pumpkin field resembled a business and its employees. Not that I am implying your employees are swelling nicely in the middle with a perfect orange glow. More the fact that each one is different, with their own strengths, and so needs to be treated differently. For example, the larger pumpkin was tall but less round, making it a perfect shape for carving a rearing unicorn. Identifying the strengths in your team and optimising their use can deliver great results.

Motivational techniques need to be adapted for each individual. The offer of a hot chocolate worked for the mud coated child but not everyone is motivated by the same things. You need to differentiate.

To get success my children had a template, a plan to follow. Each employee needs an individual ‘template’ a development plan to achieve their potential. They need to contribute to that development plan, just as my children did when choosing their pattern, it mustn’t be imposed.

When recruiting, what we each look for in an employee is also different, just like my children wanted different things from their pumpkin. All too often I see managers recruit in their own image. Involving others in the recruitment process can provide different perspectives to help avoid this.

Using the right management tools, even the weakest member of your team can deliver great results.

Want to develop your team further? Keen to enhance your management skills? Why not get in touch.

Written by Jason Gledhill, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

Christmas is quickly approaching, and like many people, my thoughts have turned to the coming festivities. There’s so much to plan and prepare – buying enough food to feed a small army, festooning the house with gaudy decorations, organising festive gatherings and procuring the perfect presents.

I’m usually rather blasé when it comes to buying gifts, generally waiting until the week before, and occasionally even leaving it as late as Christmas Eve. This year, however, I was ahead of the game; I managed to buy all my wife’s Christmas presents in early November. Not only did I buy them, but I also wrapped them. I was more prepared than ever before, and I was feeling rather smug about it. Until yesterday.

My wife and I were discussing Christmas preparations – Christmas dinner, the carol service on Christmas Eve, our Boxing Day party, and so on. The conversation eventually moved on to gifts and my eyes lit up. Feeling delighted with my accomplishment, I proudly announced that I had finished all my Christmas shopping.

“You’ve got me everything I asked for?” she exclaimed excitedly.

Panic set in. I wasn’t aware that she had asked for anything specific.

“I think I’ve got everything, but just remind me,” I said, trying to sound calm. As she listed the items she had requested via various emails, texts and WhatsApp messages, it became apparent that I hadn’t got anything she had asked for. Christmas wasn’t as organised as I’d thought, and it was going to cost me even more time and money.

So, who was at fault? Was it me for not remembering or paying attention to every message conveyed to me via the different communication channels? Or was it my wife’s fault for not communicating with me effectively by talking through the items on her wish list and making sure I had received her messages?

Effective communication at all levels is imperative, both in the workplace and at home. But how often do we just send an email or text message without following it up with a conversation? How often do we have a conversation and then fail to follow it up with an email confirming what was said? Do we all communicate as effectively as we should? I know I don’t.

Ineffective communication results in messages getting lost, tasks not being completed correctly or work not being delivered. As a result, conflicts arise, and neither party wants to be held accountable for the oversight.

Rather than worry about who is to blame, we need to understand what caused the problem. Where was the breakdown in communication? How could the information have been communicated more effectively? How can this problem be prevented going forward?

If you want to find out how to be more effective through communication, why don’t you join us at our Ambassadors Academy?

The Ambassadors Academy is an opportunity for manufacturing professionals to share best practice and learn how to improve communication and operations within their organisations. Take the Ambassador’s quiz to find out if it’s is right for you.

Written by Nathanial Marshall, Practitioner at LI Europe

The world is full of information – more data has been created in the last 5 years than in the entire previous history of human existence. While this may seem like an excess of information, data is essential for the world economy and for business.

For example, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the typical yardstick to measure a country’s economic performance. But did you know that this wasn’t used as standard until after the Wall Street Crash of 1929? It was then decided that a country’s output and value would be a good measurement of economic performance and could help prevent future economic catastrophe.

In business, we must collect data so that we can measure performance. However, it is not enough to simply collect the data, we need to ensure it is clearly presented so that our teams understand when they are performing well.

Visual management is an excellent way of communicating information, and some of the best illustrations of this are in sport.

Take cricket for example – Jofra Archer is running in and bowling to the Aussie Batsmen at 90mph, and the ball hits the player on the leg pad.  Archer appeals to the umpire for leg before wicket. The umpire raises a single finger to give the batsman, the crowd and the viewers at home a clear visual signal that the player is out.

And while hand signals are used in cricket, other sports such as football use red and yellow cards as visual cues.

So how can we apply visual management to business? What simple cues can be used to let teams know whether they are meeting KPIs?

I was recently working with a steel manufacturer that wanted to improve their output following a move to a new factory. They knew at the end of the day how many products they had produced, but how useful is that information to them once the day is finished? How would they know where and when the performance was? Was it consistent on an hourly basis, or was it a day with peaks and troughs of productivity?

One of the first things we did was introduce an hourly performance tracker board (short interval control).  We asked the line crew to complete it every hour to visually demonstrate how many products that line had produced in that hour. They were given red and green pens to clearly show if this was at the pre-defined target or not.

Looking at the performance of the factory the following week, output improved by 20%. Nothing else had been changed apart from the introduction of visual boards.

I asked the operator how the line had improved. “I am showing everyone in the factory how we are performing; I want to make sure we perform well and have green on that board every hour,” she told me.

That simple visual tool had automatically improved the level of engagement as well as ownership for the improvement.

As well as the initial uplift in performance, it allowed us to understand the reasons for poor-performing hours and put plans in place to correct and improve. All with the input and engagement of the team who were providing the information in the first place. 

The initial level of engagement continued and unlocked some potential amongst the shop floor employees who wanted to learn focused improvement techniques.  We supported this with a course of FMCG Lean Sigma Yellow Belts. The factory continues to go from strength to strength on its improvement journey, and we are now supporting the completion of FMCG Green Belts.

What this example shows is that improvement can come through small steps. You don’t have to implement huge major changes across the entire organisation in one swoop. The true definition of engagement is people giving discretionary effort to improve performance.

If you’d like to learn more about how LI can help you improve performance, get in touch with one of our expert consultants. You might be surprised at how quickly you can get results with just a few simple changes.

Check out the different ways LI Europe can work with you to improve factory performance

Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire, LI Europe Ltd

I recently attended a county schools’ athletics meet for eight to ten-year-olds. I was watching the long jump competitors, and as the children took turns, I noticed an interesting difference in how they approached the task.

The first child took his place at the top of the track, waited for the all clear and ran as fast as he could before taking off. He recorded a decent jump of 2.5m, but he was unable to repeat the same success with his second jump. It was clear that he had a lack of experience and repeatability.

The next child had a completely different approach. He carefully paced backwards from the jump board to determine his optimal start position. He was focused and knew what he needed to do to maximise his performance. Just like the first child, he ran at a good pace, but he achieved a much longer jump; an impressive 3.8m. What was more impressive was his ability to repeat his performance on his second attempt.

It struck me that, even at the young age of nine, this child had learnt that process is important if you want consistent results. What he has developed, over time and through practice, is a precise routine that starts minutes before his actual jump. His preparation placed him in a great position to deliver his best performance – a winning performance.

The first child simply threw himself into the event, hoping for a good result; the second child worked out what needed to be done to achieve the desired result. He didn’t leave it to chance.

So, what does this tell us about performing at our best?

We can be like the first child and simply turn up and go for it with no guarantee we will get the outcome we want. Alternatively, we can follow the example of the second child and learn what steps are required to achieve the results we want – we can create a process. We can then repeat that process to get consistency in our results.

Just as the young boy has worked out how far from the board, he should be to start his run, we need to find our optimal starting point. We can then make small continuous improvements to move us to the end goal. Sometimes we will make mistakes but learning from those mistakes will help us move closer to our desired outcome.

Of course, the processes required within a manufacturing business are on a much larger scale than the processes required by a nine-year-old long jumper. That doesn’t mean that you can’t apply this lesson to your business.

We’ve developed a range of tools to help manufacturing businesses. Our FMCG Academy is an ideal starting point for working out where the gaps are in your processes so that you can start working on closing those gaps and getting consistent results.

Visit our FMCG Academy Platform now to learn how process can benefit your business.

Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire, LI Europe Ltd

When do people learn most?

At school or university? Through reading or video? At the start of their career?

It’s easy to think about the knowledge gained from educational institutions, books or documentaries, but real learning comes through experience. Some of my best learning has certainly been established when I have tried to implement a practical solution. 

What I find most interesting is that I always seem to learn more when things have gone wrong rather than when things have gone right. This can be a painful journey, with possible embarrassment and potential cost.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this unfortunate way of learning either. There is an abundance of quotes about how it’s better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all, or how it’s not our mistakes we should be judged on, but how we deal with them. It seems that many people believe that mistakes provide us with an excellent learning opportunity.

But it’s not just our own mistakes we should learn from. The world has only evolved as quickly as it has because people have learnt from each other. They’ve built on what works, improved on it and developed it, but they’ve also analysed the mistakes of those before them. This is true in war, in sport, in politics, in construction, in science and technology, and of course, in business.

Rather than taking huge risks in our own business, we can look at what other businesses have tried. If the results are good, we can implement similar ideas into our own business and make small continuous improvements. If the results are bad, we can work out what went wrong and make the necessary adjustments to avoid similar outcomes.

Even if your business is going well, you will benefit greatly from the experience of others. After all, if you’ve never fallen foul of the common pitfalls yourself, you’ll find it harder to see them coming. Isn’t it better to learn how to avoid them, than to have to overcome them?

This is one of the reasons that many companies utilise external consultants. Consultants and Practitioners who have analysed and fixed the mistakes of other businesses. Consultants who have experience in identifying exactly where the risks are and where improvements need to be made. Consultants who have first-hand experience of what works and what doesn’t.

Through LI Europe, you can tap into the experience of our consultants who will help you avoid common mistakes and ensure you maximise results. You can also benefit from the experience of your peers through our monthly Ambassador’s Academy (TAA).

Ambassador’s is a support network where you can share your challenges with like-minded operational professionals who have probably faced similar challenges in their careers too. They are happy to share their experiences, suggestions and advice, letting you learn from their valuable insights and avoid some potential pitfalls.

Why not find out for yourself how our Ambassador’s Academy can benefit you. Contact us for a free taster session to see what mistakes you can learn from.