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Fresh from her session on assertiveness with Ruby Bailey-Pratt at this years Institute of Fundraising Convention, =mc Director Yvette Gyles offers insight into why training is not always the solution.

When we get calls asking us to come in and provide mandatory training for all staff / managers / leaders in order to ‘fix’ them, I go a little cold. As a Learning & Development consultant, I am of course passionate about learning and the power that training and development interventions can have in creating lasting change for people and organisations. And I also understand that forced attendance may result in a great pound-per-heard investment ratio. But knowing everyone has turned up for the day does not guarantee that every participant has learned something or that they will take ownership for ‘fixing’ whatever the problem is – and surely that’s where the RoI really needs to kick in?

That said, the one-size-fits-all-and-all-must-attend training programme seems to remain a popular approach. Take these three headlines from a recent People Management alert (PM Daily, 9 May 2019 – see individual articles via links below):

  1. ‘TUC calls for urgent investment in line management training as research suggests bosses are often bad for morale’. This tells us that managers are often promoted into position for being good at a ‘thing’, and not because they have shown great people management skills. Technical training and expertise is not the same skill set as being a manager. However: to be a great manager, you have to want to be a great manager and not only a technical expert. Otherwise training in management cannot work. Management development starts with an assumption that managers want to be managers.
  2. ‘Workplace learning opportunities got to those who benefit the least’. Training can be a reward and a great day out. It shows an investment in and commitment to your staff. Therefore, the people most likely to take you up on training opportunities will be keen to develop, progress and learn. On the other hand, forcing someone onto a course because they are underperforming or behaving badly (and therefore need to be ‘fixed’) rarely works unless they accept they need to make a change. Training is not punitive or corrective and sending someone on a course to hint at a problem is not enough – they need feedback, preparation and follow up guidance. Making mandatory attendance will only create tension and resentment. It will not be a prize, but a command from management. To get the right people onto a course, they need to know why they need to change, and to be inspired to make that change.
  3. Training, recruitment and culture are all vital tools in getting more from your people’. Training will not fix your problems if you are not willing to talk about your challenges as an organisation. Any training or development intervention needs to have a clear set of drivers and outcomes in mind. This means that if you want to create culture change, you need to go beyond training and look at other initiatives that can work alongside training to create change. Change is both personal and organisational.

Therefore, please don’t ask us to put on enforced training. Instead ask us how to engage your people in learning. This means:

  1. Putting training into practice, encouraging reflection, giving ownership and personal responsibility
  2. Being clear with people through effective feedback about what they can gain from learning and what they need to change
  3. Taking an organisational approach to learning – being fully inclusive; looking at what else is needed to support people in making change

And if you want to see how you can build a programme that will work, read this article on designing your own training programme.

Follow Yvette Gyles on twitter: @yvettegylesmc

What’s next?

To find out how Yvette and the team at =mc can help you explore effective training options suited to your situation, contact us online or call 020 7978 1516 to speak to one of our consultants.

The post When training is not the right answer appeared first on The Management Centre.

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In this blog, =mc Director Yvette Gyles shares the secrets of leading without knowing everything.

Recently, I have been running a lot of training programmes for Future Leaders. These are experienced managers or experts, looking to develop their leadership capability. Sometimes they have people management responsibility, and sometimes they need to lead people through influence rather than authority. But there seems to be a similar thread running through the minds of potential leaders: I’m not really a leader. I do not have the skills / rights / abilities to be doing this. In short, I’m an imposter.

I asked a few groups what they thought they were missing. Many of them described a sense of being overwhelmed, and not being able to make decisions confidently. Knowing there isn’t an obvious way forward or a simple answer can be paralysing.

One participant told me:

‘I’m an IT relationship manager. That means I don’t manage staff – I manage the relationship non-IT people have with IT people. It’s a tough one, because at the end of the day, everyone just wants their gadgets to work and then forget about them. But when things go wrong, people can get so frustrated. I get really worried about this when there is a system failure that I don’t understand. Or when we have new projects or programmes, and decisions are needed from me as the leader. I don’t know what the technical issues are, or how to explain them, let alone resolve them, or make a critical decision’. She went on to say that she felt like a fraud – because she did not have the answers and people were looking to her to show them the way forward. Not knowing was holding her back, and being worried about not knowing was preventing her from having the impact at work she wanted to have. She is not alone.

Often managers and leaders are created because they are experts at a thing. And that thing is something they understand really well, can manage well, and make decisions about. Stepping into leadership then requires a whole lot of other skills. Where knowing all the answers has gotten people into a new role, they now need to rely on not-knowing to get by. And this is one of the paradoxes of leadership.

Great leaders are comfortable in this space. They know that they don’t need to know everything. But what they do need to know is how to find out answers, challenge others to find solutions, and be curious enough to explore issues. It is only then that decisions can be made.

The answer is to lead with questions, not answers. Be curious before rushing into decisions.

Try this 10-question approach:

  1. What are we trying to achieve?
  2. Do we have a clear intended outcome?
  3. Where are we now?
  4. What are the causes of this problem / situation?
  5. How does this issue relate to other work, situations or issues we have?
  6. Who do we need to consider or involve?
  7. What facts and data do we have / not have?
  8. What criteria would we be looking for, in a successful approach?
  9. What would our values tell us to do?
  10. What other specific questions do we need to ask and answer to make a good decision?

Leadership can be tough and uncomfortable. Some decisions are hard. Some decisions won’t always be popular. But if you know you have asked and answered the right questions, you can be confident in the conclusion that is reached. You will be comfortable to occupy a curiosity-space, rather than a know-it-all space. In addition you can explain to others how the answer was reached, helping them to understand the decision.

We explore strategic decision making in more depth in our Strategy Toolbox training programme. And if you are a Future Leader and want to learn about other areas of leadership, read about the Leadership Practices Inventory.

Visit the training programmes page to browse all the management and leadership programmes we offer.

The post How to lead without having all the answers appeared first on The Management Centre.

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In this blog, =mc Director Yvette Gyles shares the secrets of leading without knowing everything.

Recently, I have been running a lot of training programmes for Future Leaders. These are experienced managers or experts, looking to develop their leadership capability. Sometimes they have people management responsibility, and sometimes they need to lead people through influence rather than authority. But there seems to be a similar thread running through the minds of potential leaders: I’m not really a leader. I do not have the skills / rights / abilities to be doing this. In short, I’m an imposter.

I asked a few groups what they thought they were missing. Many of them described a sense of being overwhelmed, and not being able to make decisions confidently. Knowing there isn’t an obvious way forward or a simple answer can be paralysing.

One participant told me:

‘I’m an IT relationship manager. That means I don’t manage staff – I manage the relationship non-IT people have with IT people. It’s a tough one, because at the end of the day, everyone just wants their gadgets to work and then forget about them. But when things go wrong, people can get so frustrated. I get really worried about this when there is a system failure that I don’t understand. Or when we have new projects or programmes, and decisions are needed from me as the leader. I don’t know what the technical issues are, or how to explain them, let alone resolve them, or make a critical decision’. She went on to say that she felt like a fraud – because she did not have the answers and people were looking to her to show them the way forward. Not knowing was holding her back, and being worried about not knowing was preventing her from having the impact at work she wanted to have. She is not alone.

Often managers and leaders are created because they are experts at a thing. And that thing is something they understand really well, can manage well, and make decisions about. Stepping into leadership then requires a whole lot of other skills. Where knowing all the answers has gotten people into a new role, they now need to rely on not-knowing to get by. And this is one of the paradoxes of leadership.

Great leaders are comfortable in this space. They know that they don’t need to know everything. But what they do need to know is how to find out answers, challenge others to find solutions, and be curious enough to explore issues. It is only then that decisions can be made.

The answer is to lead with questions, not answers. Be curious before rushing into decisions.

Try this 10-question approach:

  1. What are we trying to achieve?
  2. Do we have a clear intended outcome?
  3. Where are we now?
  4. What are the causes of this problem / situation?
  5. How does this issue relate to other work, situations or issues we have?
  6. Who do we need to consider or involve?
  7. What facts and data do we have / not have?
  8. What criteria would we be looking for, in a successful approach?
  9. What would our values tell us to do?
  10. What other specific questions do we need to ask and answer to make a good decision?

Leadership can be tough and uncomfortable. Some decisions are hard. Some decisions won’t always be popular. But if you know you have asked and answered the right questions, you can be confident in the conclusion that is reached. You will be comfortable to occupy a curiosity-space, rather than a know-it-all space. In addition you can explain to others how the answer was reached, helping them to understand the decision.

We explore strategic decision making in more depth in our Strategy Toolbox training programme. And if you are a Future Leader and want to learn about other areas of leadership, read about the Leadership Practices Inventory.

Visit the training programme page to browse all the management and leadership programmes we offer.

The post How to lead without having all the answers appeared first on The Management Centre.

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Being assertive at work can be really hard, and this is something many people struggle with. Our insecurities, perceived weaknesses, motivations and goals can all stop us from being assertive when we need to be. In this article, Charlotte Scott explains why we need assertiveness, what it actually is, and how to be assertive.

Why we need assertiveness

Assertiveness is a communication skill, and displaying assertiveness is essential to working with others. Being assertive enables you to put forward your ideas, thoughts and opinions by expressing yourself effectively. It also helps to earn others’ respect and boost your self-esteem.

You have probably encountered assertive people who are able to navigate difficult situations calmly and professionally, deflecting others anger and frustration with diplomacy and confidence. This level of assertiveness helps to achieve results, solve problems and build good relationships with others. It’s a useful skill we should all aim to develop.

Understanding Assertiveness

Many people don’t understand what assertiveness truly is. They think it is only about putting their opinions forward and speaking up.

Assertiveness is actually an interplay between how we communicate and how we treat the other person in the conversation.

The I’m Ok, You’re Ok model created by Thomas Anthony Harris, brings this balance to life:

I’m ok means I respect myself and feel confident to put forward my thoughts and opinions.

I’m not ok means I don’t feel able to express myself or my ideas.

You’re ok means I respect you, I am interested in your perspective and want to hear it.

You’re not ok means I’m not respecting you, and don’t value your ideas.

The results of this balancing act are:

Aggressive: I’m ok – you’re not ok

People sometimes believe that speaking up is the same as being bossy, pushy, or disrespectful of other people. When we take this aggressive approach, we’re enabling our voice to be heard, but we’re not respecting or listening to the other person.

We can display aggression by talking over people, exaggerating and overstating our point, or using words to belittle the other person or their idea in a way that can be easily dismissed.

Aggressive behaviour is selfish, rude and controlling, it shuts down the conversation. Whilst you might win the conversation you have not actually won-over the other person and will have damaged the relationship.

Result: winning the conversation, losing the relationship

Passive: I’m not ok – you’re ok

Being passive means that you’re not respecting yourself and so are not willing to put forward your ideas and thoughts. While at the same time you’re allowing the other person to express themselves.

Sometimes we become passive because we don’t want to be seen as pushy, or because we don’t believe our voice is valued, for example when speaking with a more senior person. When we act passively, we might understate how we’re feeling, use humour to deflect the situation, or steer the conversation to something safer.

By taking this approach true dialogue doesn’t happen so your vital perspective is lost. Being unable to share your opinion can also lead to stress, frustration or at worst burnout.

Result: losing yourself, allowing others to win

Passive-Aggressive: I’m not ok – you’re not ok

People often think they are being passive, when actually they are being passive-aggressive. Being passive-aggressive means that you are not respecting yourself by being honest about your point of view, but you are also showing subtly that the other person is in the wrong. Passive-aggressive behaviour makes both you and the other person feel bad.

We can display this when we feel wronged, but not able to solve the situation. When we act passive-aggressively we might use words to agree with the other person, but show our unhappiness through our tone of voice, facial expression or negative body language. We might display grumpy, sulky or moody behaviour. We might ignore others’ comments or not follow-through on agreed tasks.

These indirect expressions of hostility make those around us feel very uncomfortable. Over time we will be seen as unreasonable and unprofessional. As problems and issues aren’t solved, our resentment and feelings of powerlessness can grow.

Result: everybody loses 

Assertive: I’m ok – you’re ok

Being assertive means that you respect yourself enough to put forward your thoughts and suggestions, whilst also respecting the other person and their point of view. You are communicating directly and honestly as well as being kind and likeable.

When you’re assertive, you talk openly about what you need. You might not always get what you want, but by listening to others and by having the courage to speak candidly and respectfully, your calm and agreeable style will earn others’ respect.

Because assertiveness is based on mutual respect, it’s an effective and diplomatic approach. It allows us to cooperate, to understand both points of view and ideally to resolve conflict by finding an outcome that suits us both.

Result: it’s not about winning, its about outcomes for everyone

How to be assertive in five steps:

Learning to be assertive takes time, self-control and confidence. Follow these five steps to develop your assertiveness skills:

  1. Be curious about the other person’s point of view. Even if they are not acting professionally, they will have reasons for their behaviour or opinion. Ask open questions and really listen to understand what they have to say. If people are being unreasonable, listening to their needs and expectations can be really challenging. But if you ensure they feel listened to and respected, the conversation can shift to a more positive dialogue.
  2. Speak up and express yourself. People can’t read your mind, so be honest and specific. Use “I” language to avoid sounding critical. For example: “I have another suggestion” rather than “You’re wrong”. Or “I noticed the deadline wasn’t met” instead of “You didn’t meet the deadline”. If you have a hard time turning down requests, learn to say no, not yet, or not now. Saying no is not selfish, it shows you are able to prioritise and can set healthy limits. Remember, every time you say yes to something you are saying no to something else. Saying no therefore also enables you to say yes to the things that matter most. Explain your perspective and ask for help if needed. Keep any explanations short and simple.
  3. Watch your tone: It not just what you say but how you say it. Keep your tone of voice and body language open and warm. You don’t want your message to get lost because people are reacting to your delivery. We read a great deal into the way something is said, not just the words people use. When you are preparing for an assertive interaction, think ahead about your body language and how you can show you are OK and so are they. Pay particular attention to your facial expressions, arms and posture.
  4. Think win-win: don’t assume the other person is aiming to undermine or belittle you. Even if they are, don’t sink to their level, don’t treat them badly, and don’t withdraw from the conversation. Build on their ideas rather than dismissing them. Offer potential solutions and ask the other person to help you shape an answer that works for both of you. Work together on the challenge or issue, exploring it from all sides, finding common ground and a way forward that deals with both of your concerns.
  5. Respond, don’t react: if you find yourself feeling strong and unhelpful emotions in an interaction, it can be really hard to stay assertive. Take a deep breath, pause and think. Your feelings and emotions are entirely valid, however assertiveness means not allowing those feelings to drive your behaviour.
Summary

Thinking I’m Ok, You’re Ok will keep you assertive no matter how difficult the conversation. You might not always get exactly what you want, but your pride and self-respect won’t be damaged. And you will build a reputation for being confident, professional and great to work with.

What’s next?

To find out more about the I’m Ok, You’re Ok model and other ways we can help you improve assertiveness at work contact us online or call 020 7978 1516.

We also explore issues around self-confidence and assertiveness on the one-day Developing Personal Presence course.

The post I’m Ok, You’re Ok – Assertiveness at work explained appeared first on The Management Centre.

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Winter is finally over. The days are getting longer. The trees are blossoming and all around us cute, fluffy bunnies are happily hopping about as the birds sing hallelujah and lay chocolate eggs for Easter.

…Not quite accurate? Are you struggling to find the joys of spring at work? Feeling a bit flat or stagnant? If so, read on for  4 practical ways to help you put a spring in your step at work this April:

1. Spring clean your to-do list

2018 may feel like a distant memory, but maybe you still have tasks hanging around. If you’ve been carrying a task (or tasks) from list to list to list that you never get round to doing, try this:

  • Do it

If it genuinely needs to be done, make time to do it. If it’s a huge task then break it down – give yourself a small chunk that you can tick off.

  • Dump it

Ask yourself if the task is still relevant? If it’s been on your list for this long and no major consequences have come from not doing it then it may be time to get rid.

  • Delegate it

Is the reason you’re putting it off because it actually isn’t your task? Is there someone else who could do it? Should they? Could they do a better job of it? If so, pass it on.

For more tips on productivity, have a look at these to-do list tools.

2. SWOT up

The changing of a season is a great time to take stock and think about the lay of the land. Using a SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is both easy to use and hugely effective. This brilliant and simple tool can be used in a myriad of different situations. Last week, (and I kid you not) I used it in both a strategic planning meeting with one of my Directors, and then again at home – working out what to cook for friends. It will help you analyse a situation, a project or even yourself. If you’re looking for a strategic way to help you make a decision, this is a great starting point.

And before you groan, let’s take a quick quote from our favourite strategy guru Bernard Ross:

I’m so bored hearing people say they’re bored using PEST or SWOT. On day one at Harvard Business School you learn that PEST and SWOT are essential for your planning process – and you learn to do them properly. Strategy isn’t necessarily meant to be fun! And sometimes you have to do boring stuff to be successful.”

In a nutshell, the tool asks you to figure out what the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are.

Some specific examples (with instructions) for different uses are:

3. Tune in (EI > EI > OH!)

Spring is all about growth and development, therefore it may be time to focus on your personal development. Understanding and honing your Emotional Intelligence is vital to success at work, from decision making to building positive relationships. Thanks to a lot of proven research and a number of years since the concept was introduced, Emotional Intelligence (EI) doesn’t tend to get the eye roll response at work that it used to. But it also doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves. With many organisations looking at how to implement the latest psychological thinking into their work, from neuroscience to behavioural economics,  it’s also worth remembering to develop EI as a way to unleash potential and develop further. Do you really need it? Well unless you’re working completely by yourself and never have to interact with any other humans (even by email) ever… then learning the basics of EI is a fundamental part of a successful life.

There are five key elements in emotional intelligence: Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Motivation, Social Skill and Empathy. If you can learn how to recognise and respond to all five of these,  you will be more confident, more resilient and perform even better at work.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about what means what, and how you can become more emotionally intelligent in work situations: Emotional Intelligence at work

4. Work out when you need a break – then take one

Have you been working flat out since New Year? If so, you may not be working in a productive way. If we don’t take breaks, we end up breaking. There are a lot of suggestions online for how often you should take a break in order to reach maximum productivity. The most specific I’ve seen being ‘work for 52 minutes, break for 17.’ But if like most of us, you’re too busy to look into optimum work/break times let’s start with this: you need to take a break.

  1. When you are working constantly, it is hard to stay fully engaged in a task for long periods of time. Clock when your concentration starts to drop – is it roughly always the same amount of time? Does it depend on the task?
  2. Start building in breaks just before this drop-off point – even if you just go and make a cup of tea, walk round the block or go to the bathroom. Try to take 10 minutes if you can.
  3. Take a lunch break. If you really can’t leave your desk – then at least give your brain a break. Read a book while you eat, plug in headphones and catch up on Eastenders. Letting your mind rest will make you far more capable for the rest of the day.
  4. Book time off work far in advance. It’s not about going to the Bahamas to relax on a yacht, staying at home for a break can be just as effective. But if you don’t book holiday in advance, chances are by the time you realise you need a break you won’t be able to take it because of work commitments.
  5. Check your batteries at home too – this article offers a tool to review your home and work energy levels.

We all know we’re more effective when we’re not stressed up to the hilt and utterly exhausted… so my final spring tip is to take a leaf out of NHS doctors in Scotland and prescribe yourself some outdoor nature time. Even if you can’t take time off just yet, a walk around the park at lunchtime or after work will work wonders. With the longer days and warmer weather, get out there!

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you and your organisations work more effectively and in more productive ways, call 020 7978 1516, or contact us online.

The post 4 Ways to put a Spring in your Step at work appeared first on The Management Centre.

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Over the course of my career I have been very fortunate to have support from some brilliant people. I genuinely would not be where I am today without the input, insight and inspiration from my mentors – and indeed, my mentees. A mentor can be defined as simply as ‘an experienced and trusted advisor’. But for me, a mentor is more than that. They hold the role of critic, coach, challenger, champion and confidant.

I have twice had mentors through formal schemes. Once when I worked in the commercial sector. At that time I was both studying my masters in HR management and seeking ways to progress from HR officer to a more senior position. My mentor helped me identify ways to manage my time (and sanity!) during this busy period, gave me insights into her role as an HR manager, and even read over draft essays for my studies. She didn’t let me off lightly either – she was forthcoming and on point with her feedback. She challenged me.

The second time I had a mentor was through a charity scheme, that placed experienced professionals from commercial organisations with women working in charities. At that time I was moving from a managerial role in a small charity into a more strategic position. I was anxious as I faced the challenges of transitioning whilst in the same team, learning what ‘strategic’ means, and so I needed mentoring for developing my confidence. My mentor was someone who worked globally, and managed a staff team of over 250 people in an organisation of over 45,000 employees. A very different setting! She helped me identify ways to build, nurture, develop and improve relationships as well as challenging my inner-voice which kept crying ‘imposter, imposter’. She made me braver.

And that’s not all. I was so grateful for the support, that I asked what I could do in return. And she simply asked me to pay it forward: find someone who I could mentor, who could benefit from my experiences and expertise. And so I did. I took part in a formal scheme with the university where I had done my Masters. I helped a very ambitious young person at the very start of her career. We explored areas such as career goals, networking opportunities, CV writing, and interview skills. We even role played interviews. I learned so much from this experience – how to coach without advising, how to give useful feedback, and I gained a great deal of confidence from realising these were things I was good at myself.

I have also mentored people informally – ex-colleagues and contacts who are looking to progress in their careers in HR and want someone to turn to other than their manager. I have been delighted to provide this support, and share my experiences, including mistakes I have made and what I have learned from them.

With these experiences in mind, here are my 5 top tips to make your mentoring relationship a success:

  1. Set boundaries: I’m talking about career mentoring. It is not about personal life, counselling or mediation. Therefore it is really important to have a shared agreement about ground rules. Confidentiality is a must, but so is a professional focus.
  2. Clear outcomes: It really helps to establish a goal or outcome from the partnership. Then you know when to end. Otherwise the conversations can turn into cosy chats. Nice, but not necessarily a good use of your time.
  3. Prepare to share: Mentoring is all about a sharing experiences and insights. As a mentor this includes learning from mistakes and thinking about tools that have helped you. As a mentee this is about reflecting on your strengths and development areas.
  4. Review throughout: It is really helpful to review each meeting and together explore what has worked well, and what could be done differently next time. This will help make sure each meeting is effective and you gain momentum.
  5. Do your homework: Mentoring is an investment in your time and that means more than the meetings when you come together. Prepare for each meeting; and assign actions for work between.

And finally, pay it forward. If you have had the benefit of having a mentor, try being a mentor for someone else. It is both rewarding and stretching, and you will learn a great deal.

If you are interested in finding a mentor or being a mentor we can help – get in touch for an initial conversation about how mentoring would help you. Or if you need something more formal we have several experienced coaches available. Call us on 020 7978 1516 or email yvette@managementcentre.co.uk

The post Mentoring – a gift that keeps on giving appeared first on The Management Centre.

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Investing in developing your team or your whole organisation is a bold commitment. Choose the right training and it can help you improve productivity, achieve more goals and make a lasting difference to working life. Get it wrong and you’ve invested money from the shrinking (or non-existent) L&D budget and simply opened a can of worms too vast to solve.

One solution is to tailor the learning to your specific needs. In short, to build your own training programme.

In this blog =mc Director Charlotte Scott looks at some considerations for tailored training, and shares examples of who it’s worked for.

The Bespoke Approach

At =mc we regularly work with organisations to design training programmes that suit the specific needs of their teams – which can vary dramatically. We also deliver a wide range of standard programmes that have proven to support people to be effective in their roles. But for many customers a more bespoke approach is needed. Consider the following:

Align and Conquer

Within any organisation the skills that staff need may be dependent on:

  • the results strived for or the work being delivered
  • customer and stakeholder groups
  • the opportunities and challenges present
  • the organisational culture.

An effective training programme will align with these demands, so that people can connect the learning to their current situations in a practical action-orientated way.

Consider also the idea that people learn better when they have to learn, when they have an immediate need to apply a new skill or to take a new approach. This concept is called just-in-time training. It comes from Toyota who promote using effort only when it is needed. In training this means taking a flexible approach to learning, giving people the range of skills they need, at the time they need them.

Today’s learners expect training and development to be relevant and instantly applicable, not purely interesting. When it is, their learning experience is more stimulating, and they have a strong drive to apply what they have learnt back at work.

Example 1

The following example of a bespoke training programme =mc designed for The Institute of Physics illustrates just-in-time training:

The Institute of Physics works to advance physics for the benefit of all. It provides professional support and engages with policymakers and the public to inspire, represent and celebrate all who share a passion for physics.

The Institute recognises that people at every level need to get the very best from themselves and from each other, to develop effective working teams and to influence both internally and externally. Cross team working is vital to the Institute’s success which means people need to be supported to work fluidly with each other outside of formal hierarchical structures.

We have been working with the Institute since 2015, to deliver a Personal Development Programme for all staff. This programme takes elements from our management, personal effectiveness and communication training courses. By attending the programme, staff are now able to focus their time and energy in the right place, develop and work well with others and communicate and engage others effectively.

What do you need?

In order to design a programme that works, it helps to first figure out what you need.

Spend time talking to your team, walk in their shoes and identify what they need every day to be even more successful. Work out what is working and what isn’t working. For example, are teams who need to work together doing so effectively? Are any workplace conflicts not being resolved? Are people successfully delegating work? What results are people struggling to achieve and why? Are people spending their time and effort in the right places?

Once you have had identified these needs you can then come to us with the learning outcomes you want: what will people be confident and able to do moving forward? We can then help you build a programme that achieves these outcomes.

What do you do if you’re not sure the assessment of team needs goes deep enough? If you can figure out some of the headline outcomes you want to achieve, we could then design a programme that can flex to the group needs discovered during the training. How does that work? Let’s take a look at this example…

Example 2

Frontline AIDS (previously known as the International HIV/AIDS Alliance) works towards a future free from AIDS for everyone, everywhere. Through work with community groups in the countries most affected by the global AIDS epidemic, they are committed to helping marginalised people who are denied HIV prevention and treatment simply because of who they are and where they live.

Frontline AIDS is a matrix organisation and managers need to work with people in their own project teams and across other functions/project portfolios, in person and through remote management. The matrix approach allows a more integrated and global delivery of work, but it increases complexity with the potential for competing goals and poor accountability without control.

To help in the first instance, we tailored our standard Leadership Skills for Managers programme for Frontline Managers. It was run as two consecutive days with the third day a month later. The first two days of the training programme kept some core elements of our Leadership Skills course but were adapted to also leading effectively without authority. The tailoring came as we then designed the third day based on the aims the participants shared on day one. Content for day three was taken from our Managing Difficult Conversations and Coaching Skills programmes. This means that this cohort of Managers have become more confident and skilled in holding performance conversations with people they don’t formally manage and are still able to maintain and create positive working relationships with these colleagues. Through becoming stronger coaches, they can also now support others to solve their own problems, building capability and effectiveness close to where the problems are.

Summary

Training is especially effective when it directly answers the needs of the participants. In order to do this, you might need to select elements from a variety of programmes. It also works well to have it relate to participants current situations – supporting people with skills and knowledge they can implement successfully and straight-away. If your teams are facing a range of demands, consider what will make them even more effective and then contact us to create a programme that works. Call us on 020 7978 1516 or click to contact us online.

For further information on how we can help, take a look at our Learning and Development webpages and our standard training programmes.

The post Design your own training programme appeared first on The Management Centre.

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I’ve been working with managers and leaders in public sector organisations for some time now. It’s still a bleak picture for many: a lack of central funding and increasing demand means crucial services are under more and more pressure. In nearly every programme I’ve delivered I have been asked to help managers with leading their teams through difficult times whilst also pushing those same teams to perform at higher levels. And it’s not just a recurring theme in the public sector – we’re seeing it across charities too. Sound familiar?

Managers are taking a long hard look at productivity and asking their teams to seek more effective ways of doing things – aka ‘more for less’. This means having the right people working in the right ways. Not easily achieved when there is a well-documented skills shortage and competition for talented staff remains high. And let’s be honest, another challenge is that some people are just happy to stay as they are, thank you very much.

So what is a leader to do? Give up? Bang head on desk? Have yet another restructure? Put up with the mediocre? No, not at all. Here are just three practical steps you can take:

  1. Train for talent

If your team needs to step up, change their approach and adapt to a new world, give them support to do so through training. Consider the areas that will set them up in the long-term to deliver better services: problem solving, empathy, project management, making effective use of their time and innovative thinking. Help them to see that a job for life is no longer guaranteed. Encourage them to embrace learning so that they can adapt and keep developing – making themselves indispensable. Ensure any training you get for your team provides added value by encouraging staff to share their learning far and wide. Don’t limit your training budget to specialist skills and qualifications for the few – make it support professional development for the many.

  1. Gain through diversification

If you find yourself facing skills gaps, and fruitless recruitment rounds, either losing good candidates or not attracting them as you can’t compete on wages and bonuses, ask yourself: what can you offer instead? Can you hire for potential rather than experience and give people the opportunity to learn and grow with you? Can you keep them for longer by getting them in earlier in their career? This is not about lowering your standards. It is about seeking more diversity in your team, encouraging fresh thinking and creating lasting relationships. Remember, all too often people suffer from imposter syndrome especially those in groups that have to deal with discrimination and face inequality, and may not apply unless they can tick every box. If your role looks like a big deal, but you can’t offer a big pay to go with it, you will put people off. Therefore encourage applicants to put themselves forward. Tell them about the transferable skills you would like to see, and the development opportunities you can offer.

  1. Build resilience – don’t drain energy

Asking your team to continue to work hard, to adapt and change, to work through ambiguity, and be even more productive is a big ask.  It can be pretty draining. And you push too hard, people will start leaving. As a leader it’s your responsibility to take steps to avoid this brain-drain to prevent your team burning out. Whether they need to develop new skills, embrace new ways of working or manage demanding workloads, give people boosts and help them find ways to be resilient. This means taking a whole-person perspective. Remember your team have other things going on outside of work too. Show empathy and understanding, and do small things to support wellbeing. Practical things you can do include allowing people extra flexibility around working hours to take time out; or providing structured support using coaching circles or action learning sets to give people space to reflect on what change means for them. And get to know your teams – understand their individual motivations and concerns when it comes to change; ask questions and give room for discussion. Be available.

And finally, if you are struggling with working in ambiguity or suffering from imposter syndrome yourself, ask: what strengths do you have that you can gain confidence from? What opportunities do you have to gain new experiences? How can you push yourself out of your comfort zone? And what are you doing to look after yourself?

If you found this article interesting and would like to find out how we can support high performance in your team, contact me on 020 7978 1516 or email yvette@managementcentre.co.uk.

For more information on our leadership training, visit the leadership skills for managers programme page.

The post Developing teams for high performance during times of change appeared first on The Management Centre.

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Working in local government has never been so tough. The economic, political and social context means more and more services are feeling the strain. The outlook is a bit on the bleak side, with damning reports from the UN on UK austerity highlighting a disconnect between policy and reality. For many leaders of councils, this is a worrying time – knowing that services need to change to meet need, but also balancing that demand with the fact that fewer resources are available means making some hard calls. This is going to need transformational change, and new approaches – not just cost-cutting. But such change is also going to need specialist skills, new insights and new ways of working.

Wealden District Council are doing just that. The leadership team decided that meeting such challenges required a fresh approach – and they met those challenges by putting in place a team of specialists to act as internal consultants. Their mission – to assess and find new ways of working for cross-team, specialist, and unique projects. How did they do it? By adopting a partnership approach and applying specialist skills and learning to make change happen.

In the following interview, Yvette Gyles – Director at =mc talks to Gill Cameron-Waller – Policy, Insights and Communications Manager (pictured below) at Wealden District Council about their exciting journey:

Gill, tell me about your role and what it is the Policy, Insights and Communications (PIC) team do at Wealden?

Well, we have lots of strings to our bow – and have our fingers in all the pies! The short explanation is that we lead on cross-organisational projects and communications, in order to ensure the council is as efficient and as effective as possible. However, it is also much more exciting than that. We look outside, at the external world, and use this to deliver added value to the services the council provides.  We do this by influencing the agenda and strategic direction of the council – largely through our work in research, policy development, and external partnerships.  Our role is also about looking inside and being innovative – using analysis and insights to drive changes to the way we work within the council. And finally, our role is about communication – using our knowledge of behavioural sciences to shape our services, manage demands, and improve experiences for people who are engaged with the council.

There’s a whole heap of actions behind all of this of course. But in the main, our team is unique in that we both promote change and innovation at the council, whilst supporting other teams to do their important work.

What is an internal consultant and how does that role work within a council?

In our capacity as internal consultants we have a really unique role. We are a team that works across the organisation and this gives us a different perspective to others, including the “bigger picture”. We can see where there is space for collaboration, networking, and shared knowledge. This means we can add real value to our colleagues – both by supporting their projects with insights and communications; and also in leading projects that perhaps others wouldn’t be able to see. Therefore, we work in partnership with our colleagues in other departments. We couldn’t do what we do without their expertise, and we help them harness this to do the really important things that they do.

We do this in a disciplined way – using research, data, insights analysis and rigorous project management to make changes and craft our communications.

How we do this is really important. We don’t just barge in and take over. We instead play the role of “critical friend, and trusted advisor”.  We can challenge our colleagues, as well as being creative in looking at new approaches to the work of the council. It’s a partnership.

Sounds like an innovative approach to local government – how did this come about?

Working in local government at the moment is interesting, challenging and frustrating. It is well known we are under a lot of pressure – doing more for less has been the mantra for many years. However, the reality now is that “less” is no longer an option. Many councils are looking hard at their finances and surviving is about “doing what can be done with the resources we have”. We don’t have enough money to do things the way we used to do. So, that’s an interesting challenge – we want to deliver all the services our residents expect, but we can’t deliver them in the same way. We also want to do better than surviving – we want to thrive. Councils need to change, and change fast. Not something they are used to.

But what excites me, and what excited our CEO when we started this approach, is that the extreme challenge also gives us huge scope to look at things differently – to work in completely different ways and challenge our thinking. That is where our team comes in.

As a result of working in this context our work comes in two ways: we either get given a challenge to solve whereby teams will come to us for our skills and insights. Or we will spot an opportunity to make a change, improve a service, work in partnership and achieve better outcomes in doing so.

What success have you and your team had?

We’ve delivered some brilliant pieces of work in the last year, which have had a real impact.

One of our early successes was to reduce workload for our Car Parking team who were inundated with appeals against parking tickets. We were commissioned by the Head of Housing and Property Services to come up with ways to reduce the workload.

Our initial approach was to explore the dimensions of the problem with members of the front line team, listen to what they were telling us and probe what they weren’t.  In parallel we did our own desk research to check out practice elsewhere. Two things quickly became evident: the instinctive kindly, helpful customer service approach was inappropriate in this instance – making the rules crystal clear was key. Over the years, the council’s car parking web pages had been tweaked and added to, creating layers of information which was confusing and even out of date. We revised the pages, simplified language and structure, worked with IT to make online payment the norm, with the ‘reward’ being to save £30 by paying within the first 14 days – classic behavioural techniques. We recommended removing the phone number too, to help manage the time pressures.  The number was already pre-printed on the offence notices so that is an option for further down the line. But we did succeed in getting calls diverted to the council’s contact centre so that the straightforward cases were kept away from the specialised team.

So, by listening to the actual problem, we were better able to define the challenge and understand who else we might need to engage to solve it, resulting in a successful way forward.

Our role as Internal Consultants has also allowed us to help other teams within the council receive national recognition and exposure for their work. Previously, it was the responsibility of for each individual department to put their projects up for awards, however this meant the council’s approach was not consistent and Senior Management could not keep track of submissions. Success rates for submissions using this approach was also fairly low.

The Senior Management Team gave us responsibility for submitting award entries on behalf of other departments. This ensured branding for the council was consistent, and awards submissions could be tracked. Performance Management and Communication expertise means we are now able to build stronger arguments and evidence bases for our awards submissions. It is also welcome PR for the council when we gain recognition in this way.

Since the PIC team have been working with other departments on their award entries, Wealden has been shortlisted as finalists for 7 awards. Including most recently, a nomination for a Local Government Chronicle Award in the category of “Driving Efficiency through Technology” through our Drive to Digital Group – the only District Council to be shortlisted in this category. Whilst the officers involved in the council’s Drive to Digital initiative have produced a project worthy of an award nomination, our success as internal consultants can also be attributed to the effective telling of their story. We look good when they do, so it really is win win.

You must have faced some hurdles in getting to this position – how did you overcome those?

You’re right, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Traditionally, councils are structured along specialist lines – departments with hierarchies. So, you’ll have a housing department, a planning department, a waste management department etc, etc. We have to keep working hard to get across that – to help people to see we are not so much another department, but a team that works across those lines. Sometimes this is relatively straight forward – for example, if the CEO or Senior Management Team gave a direct instruction on a project it would be easy to get our colleagues on board and buy-in to a project. Other times that is much harder – we may be seeing something they can’t see and need to push the agenda; using influence and insights rather than direct challenge.

Another challenge we had was in articulating ourselves. We have such technical skills in our team, that we found it hard to communicate what we were all about to others. Thankfully the training we had from =mc really helped with that. We now have a very clear purpose and can explain that to people: we provide insights, developments and communications that deliver outcomes for the District.

Finally, we had to learn to be a team – and that takes time. We were fortunate to have a team away day, to spend the day working out what we need to focus on and our priorities. We all have different disciplines and technical specialisms to bring to the table – and it has been important to get to know the strengths we can offer each other individually, so that we can provide joined-up solutions and ideas to the council. The two-day training programme we had with =mc helped with that – we all learned about our communication preferences and how to adapt our style in order to get the most from each other and our colleagues.

The team is in such a good place now – confident, enthusiastic, satisfied. The hurdle we are now facing is that, having made a good name for ourselves, we are getting more work and projects in than we can handle! It’s a good thing, and we need to work through our priorities. Being systematic will help with that.

What advice would you give to anyone else wanting to try this approach in their organisation?

Like anything, you need to have a clear purpose. You need to be really honest about why you want this approach, what the benefits will be and most importantly what the limitations are. There can be a tendency for our team to get pulled into lots and lots of things. We are clear on our unique skills and contributions, how we bring that to the table – and therefore, when we don’t need to be involved. Consultancy isn’t about always saying yes – it’s also about saying no. That’s what partnership means too – working collaboratively whilst being clear on roles and boundaries.

If you are going to work in any kind of innovation, improvement or internal collaboration team you need to make sure you have buy-in from all levels, including the top. This will go a long way in influencing colleagues and getting traction with the projects you take on. Being an internal consultant means being objective, and looking at what is best for the organisation, which at times is quite challenging, so you need that support in your corner.

Finally, having a toolkit and agreed process makes consultancy work in a joined-up way. That’s why we really liked the systematic approach from =mc, which we could build on, adapting it to make it our own. It gave us a language and collective understanding, helped us to frame our approach and work better together.

What are your plans now? What can we expect next from the team?

We’ve been working as a team for a while now, and since our =mc training (where we agreed how we need to work together) it’s full steam ahead. Currently our focus is on strengthening our relationships, prioritising our programme of work, and embedding our learning from the last year. Like any team, there are unexpected changes, and the shared approach =mc helped us achieve has made us far more resilient and flexible. We are also much more at ease with uncertainty.

I’m really excited about the work we can do, and the changes we can help bring about. We need to take other people on that journey with us – and that’s now happening.

Find out more

If you would like to know more about the work of the Policy, Insights and Communication team, or how to use =mc’s approach to internal consultancy to improve your cross-organisational working then get in touch by emailing yvette@managementcentre.co.uk.

The post Interview with the Internal Consultant appeared first on The Management Centre.

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Working in local government has never been so tough. The economic, political and social context means more and more services are feeling the strain. The outlook is a bit on the bleak side, with damning reports from the UN on UK austerity highlighting a disconnect between policy and reality. For many leaders of councils, this is a worrying time – knowing that services need to change to meet need, but also balancing that demand with the fact that fewer resources are available means making some hard calls. This is going to need transformational change, and new approaches – not just cost-cutting. But such change is also going to need specialist skills, new insights and new ways of working.

Wealden District Council are doing just that. The leadership team decided that meeting such challenges required a fresh approach – and they met those challenges by putting in place a team of specialists to act as internal consultants. Their mission – to assess and find new ways of working for cross-team, specialist, and unique projects. How did they do it? By adopting a partnership approach and applying specialist skills and learning to make change happen.

In the following interview, Yvette Gyles (Director, =mc) talks to Gill Cameron-Waller (Policy, Insights and Communications Manager at Wealden District Council) about their exciting journey:

Gill, tell me about your role and what it is the Policy, Insights and Communications (PIC) team do at Wealden?

Well, we have lots of strings to our bow – and have our fingers in all the pies! The short explanation is that we lead on cross-organisational projects and communications, in order to ensure the council is as efficient and as effective as possible. However, it is also much more exciting than that. We look outside, at the external world, and use this to deliver added value to the services the council provides.  We do this by influencing the agenda and strategic direction of the council – largely through our work in research, policy development, and external partnerships.  Our role is also about looking inside and being innovative – using analysis and insights to drive changes to the way we work within the council. And finally, our role is about communication – using our knowledge of behavioural sciences to shape our services, manage demands, and improve experiences for people who are engaged with the council.

There’s a whole heap of actions behind all of this of course. But in the main, our team is unique in that we both promote change and innovation at the council, whilst supporting other teams to do their important work.

What is an internal consultant and how does that role work within a council?

In our capacity as internal consultants we have a really unique role. We are a team that works across the organisation and this gives us a different perspective to others, including the “bigger picture”. We can see where there is space for collaboration, networking, and shared knowledge. This means we can add real value to our colleagues – both by supporting their projects with insights and communications; and also in leading projects that perhaps others wouldn’t be able to see. Therefore, we work in partnership with our colleagues in other departments. We couldn’t do what we do without their expertise, and we help them harness this to do the really important things that they do.

We do this in a disciplined way – using research, data, insights analysis and rigorous project management to make changes and craft our communications.

How we do this is really important. We don’t just barge in and take over. We instead play the role of “critical friend, and trusted advisor”.  We can challenge our colleagues, as well as being creative in looking at new approaches to the work of the council. It’s a partnership.

Sounds like an innovative approach to local government – how did this come about?

Working in local government at the moment is interesting, challenging and frustrating. It is well known we are under a lot of pressure – doing more for less has been the mantra for many years. However, the reality now is that “less” is no longer an option. Many councils are looking hard at their finances and surviving is about “doing what can be done with the resources we have”. We don’t have enough money to do things the way we used to do. So, that’s an interesting challenge – we want to deliver all the services our residents expect, but we can’t deliver them in the same way. We also want to do better than surviving – we want to thrive. Councils need to change, and change fast. Not something they are used to.

But what excites me, and what excited our CEO when we started this approach, is that the extreme challenge also gives us huge scope to look at things differently – to work in completely different ways and challenge our thinking. That is where our team comes in.

As a result of working in this context our work comes in two ways: we either get given a challenge to solve whereby teams will come to us for our skills and insights. Or we will spot an opportunity to make a change, improve a service, work in partnership and achieve better outcomes in doing so.

What success have you and your team had?

We’ve delivered some brilliant pieces of work in the last year, which have had a real impact.

One of our early successes was to reduce workload for our Car Parking team who were inundated with appeals against parking tickets. We were commissioned by the Head of Housing and Property Services to come up with ways to reduce the workload.

Our initial approach was to explore the dimensions of the problem with members of the front line team, listen to what they were telling us and probe what they weren’t.  In parallel we did our own desk research to check out practice elsewhere. Two things quickly became evident: the instinctive kindly, helpful customer service approach was inappropriate in this instance – making the rules crystal clear was key. Over the years, the council’s car parking web pages had been tweaked and added to, creating layers of information which was confusing and even out of date. We revised the pages, simplified language and structure, worked with IT to make online payment the norm, with the ‘reward’ being to save £30 by paying within the first 14 days – classic behavioural techniques. We recommended removing the phone number too, to help manage the time pressures.  The number was already pre-printed on the offence notices so that is an option for further down the line. But we did succeed in getting calls diverted to the council’s contact centre so that the straightforward cases were kept away from the specialised team.

So, by listening to the actual problem, we were better able to define the challenge and understand who else we might need to engage to solve it, resulting in a successful way forward.

Our role as Internal Consultants has also allowed us to help other teams within the council receive national recognition and exposure for their work. Previously, it was the responsibility of for each individual department to put their projects up for awards, however this meant the council’s approach was not consistent and Senior Management could not keep track of submissions. Success rates for submissions using this approach was also fairly low.

The Senior Management Team gave us responsibility for submitting award entries on behalf of other departments. This ensured branding for the council was consistent, and awards submissions could be tracked. Performance Management and Communication expertise means we are now able to build stronger arguments and evidence bases for our awards submissions. It is also welcome PR for the council when we gain recognition in this way.

Since the PIC team have been working with other departments on their award entries, Wealden has been shortlisted as finalists for 7 awards. Including most recently, a nomination for a Local Government Chronicle Award in the category of “Driving Efficiency through Technology” through our Drive to Digital Group – the only District Council to be shortlisted in this category. Whilst the officers involved in the council’s Drive to Digital initiative have produced a project worthy of an award nomination, our success as internal consultants can also be attributed to the effective telling of their story. We look good when they do, so it really is win win.

You must have faced some hurdles in getting to this position – how did you overcome those?

You’re right, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Traditionally, councils are structured along specialist lines – departments with hierarchies. So, you’ll have a housing department, a planning department, a waste management department etc, etc. We have to keep working hard to get across that – to help people to see we are not so much another department, but a team that works across those lines. Sometimes this is relatively straight forward – for example, if the CEO or Senior Management Team gave a direct instruction on a project it would be easy to get our colleagues on board and buy-in to a project. Other times that is much harder – we may be seeing something they can’t see and need to push the agenda; using influence and insights rather than direct challenge.

Another challenge we had was in articulating ourselves. We have such technical skills in our team, that we found it hard to communicate what we were all about to others. Thankfully the training we had from =mc really helped with that. We now have a very clear purpose and can explain that to people: we provide insights, developments and communications that deliver outcomes for the District.

Finally, we had to learn to be a team – and that takes time. We were fortunate to have a team away day, to spend the day working out what we need to focus on and our priorities. We all have different disciplines and technical specialisms to bring to the table – and it has been important to get to know the strengths we can offer each other individually, so that we can provide joined-up solutions and ideas to the council. The two-day training programme we had with =mc helped with that – we all learned about our communication preferences and how to adapt our style in order to get the most from each other and our colleagues.

The team is in such a good place now – confident, enthusiastic, satisfied. The hurdle we are now facing is that, having made a good name for ourselves, we are getting more work and projects in than we can handle! It’s a good thing, and we need to work through our priorities. Being systematic will help with that.

What advice would you give to anyone else wanting to try this approach in their organisation?

Like anything, you need to have a clear purpose. You need to be really honest about why you want this approach, what the benefits will be and most importantly what the limitations are. There can be a tendency for our team to get pulled into lots and lots of things. We are clear on our unique skills and contributions, how we bring that to the table – and therefore, when we don’t need to be involved. Consultancy isn’t about always saying yes – it’s also about saying no. That’s what partnership means too – working collaboratively whilst being clear on roles and boundaries.

If you are going to work in any kind of innovation, improvement or internal collaboration team you need to make sure you have buy-in from all levels, including the top. This will go a long way in influencing colleagues and getting traction with the projects you take on. Being an internal consultant means being objective, and looking at what is best for the organisation, which at times is quite challenging, so you need that support in your corner.

Finally, having a toolkit and agreed process makes consultancy work in a joined-up way. That’s why we really liked the systematic approach from =mc, which we could build on, adapting it to make it our own. It gave us a language and collective understanding, helped us to frame our approach and work better together.

What are your plans now? What can we expect next from the team?

We’ve been working as a team for a while now, and since our =mc training (where we agreed how we need to work together) it’s full steam ahead. Currently our focus is on strengthening our relationships, prioritising our programme of work, and embedding our learning from the last year. Like any team, there are unexpected changes, and the shared approach =mc helped us achieve has made us far more resilient and flexible. We are also much more at ease with uncertainty.

I’m really excited about the work we can do, and the changes we can help bring about. We need to take other people on that journey with us – and that’s now happening.

Find out more

If you would like to know more about the work of the Policy, Insights and Communication team, or how to use =mc’s approach to internal consultancy to improve your cross-organisational working then get in touch by emailing yvette@managementcentre.co.uk.

The post Interview with the Internal Consultant appeared first on The Management Centre.

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