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How to be a better boss with CMI

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How can I get the most from my workforce without upsetting the status quo?

Jo Causon, Director, marketing and corporate affairs, Chartered Management Institute

Start by looking at objectives. What are you trying to achieve? Have you been able to meet these goals in the past and what strategies have you been putting in place for the future? How much change is down to external market conditions?

Depending on what you discover, you may need to revisit your plans.

The point is that if a problem exists, it needs to be challenged and addressed so that you can get the best from your team. This can mean upsetting the apple cart.

Of course, as research called The Quality of Working Life has revealed, sudden unexplained change does increase discomfort in the workplace, but uncertainty is no reason to shy away from making changes to ensure the business performs to expectation.

It might, for example, mean altering an individual's role or adjusting how the team dynamics work. The important thing, though, is to know what alterations you want to make, so that you can develop a plan of action.

If you do decide that change is needed, rather than impose it you need to position your plans from the perspective of the individual and the organization to gain buy-in.

Think about how the changes will improve the working environment. Demonstrate how you expect they will ensure results are as high as expected. In other words, identify what needs adjusting, explain what the changes will look like and clarify your expectations so that colleagues have a benchmark against which to measure performance.

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Alternatively, you may find that your strategy and operational tactics are correct. If that is the case, it may be that performance has been hindered because of low levels of motivation.

According to research conducted by the Chartered Management Institute, many individuals want a sense of purpose and achievement from the work they do. Certainly this counts far more than pay, so don't assume that increasing salaries or bonus payments is the answer to boost performance. Of course, it would be naive to think that remuneration does not matter -- we all have bills to pay -- but only 11 percent of senior professionals cite their income as their main motivational driver.

The research, called Motivation Matters, provided evidence to suggest that motivation is hampered by the frustration of perceived blocks to career development.

Many managers believe that flat organizational structures hinder promotion. So, if you want to retain your best talent and motivate them, are there ways you can change team structures? Are there opportunities for promotion that are open to your team? Consider, perhaps, project working or cross-functional approaches to workplace issues. It allows you to keep the core team structure, but still give added responsibilities.

You should also focus on areas of influence within the organization. One in four individuals cite the "old boys' network" as a de-motivating factor. If you develop specific and measurable objectives for your team, surely that is that what merits reward, not who they happen to know. It might mean adjusting the status quo in terms of the reward structure, but it will also help retain the best talent.

The desire for personal growth is another area to consider. Of those questioned in the research, more than half under the age of 40 have said they want promotion within three years. They recognize that continuous professional development will help them achieve their aim, so why are increasing numbers of organizations admitting they fail to support their staff in this way.

The message couldn't be clearer -- to get the best from your workforce, make sure you equip them with the right skills and knowledge to perform. But be discerning; training and development for its own sake will not help and anything undertaken must be relevant to the individual's needs and the strategic goals of your organization.

Jo Causon
Director, marketing and corporate affairs,
Chartered Management Institute
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