United Leadership (part 2)

Following on from my first post, I now bring you United Leadership (part 2) which concludes the learning and lessons that I took away from that fantastic trip I made up to Old Trafford earlier this month.

As in the words of dance music guru Pete Tong; “weee continue…”

United in history

United in history

Remembering history

If I’m ever lucky enough to win the lottery I’d like to think that I will remain true to myself, remain grounded and not forget where I came from. Manchester United kind of echoes that. Wherever you walk around Old Trafford, whoever you speak to – they all talk of that defining moment. Sadly it wasn’t a lottery win or a multi-million pound investment that they talk of, nor was it that kung-fu kick. It was a much darker moment in history that still resonates throughout the ground today, 55 years after the event. The Munich air disaster claimed the lives of 23 people; 2 crew members, 8 players, 3 staff, 8 journalists, a travel agent and a fan (who was a close friend of the then manager; Matt Busby). But the tragedy, and those affected during the incident, will never be allowed to be forgotten. Plaques, clocks, pictures and flags decorate the ground – even today – as a mark of respect and constant reminder that there have been dark times at the club but they will, together, overcome them to once again shine brighter days over the club that they love.

How often do we do this in our organisations? How often do we reflect on colleagues of yesteryear – those who have contributed to the successes of today and give us a hope for tomorrow?

Celebrate your successes

Next time you watch Manchester United play look carefully at the players after they score a goal; you’ll notice that almost every single one of the team (exception to the goalkeeper here) celebrate together. The club want everyone to feel the success. And what I think is brilliant is that Manchester United instil this same sentiment throughout the club. Whenever they reach a cup final, at home or abroad, all of the 700 colleagues that work for the club are taken along – they do this because they want everyone to be a part of the experience and for the whole United family to celebrate success together. It’s what teamwork is all about here and makes for a great culture.

Fitting your culture

When Manchester United are looking to buy a new player they don’t just look at his goal scoring record and price tag, they look at the whole package that the player would bring with them; Where are they based? What is their family like? Who is part of their entourage? They are looking to see if their target man will fit into the culture and the environment at the club. Players come and players go. It’s not just about performances on the field, it’s every much about their performances off it too, so if an individual is being just that – not adopting the values of the club, the team or the bigger family, the likelihood is that they’ll soon be looking for another club to move onto.

United they believe!

United, they believe!

Watch the competition, carefully

Believe is a word that vibrates throughout Manchester United. They believe so much in success that they never know when they are beaten.

Picture the scene; it’s the 1999 Champions League final between Manchester United and Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp, Barcelona. United are losing 1-0 with 1 minute of normal time left to play. Sir Bobby Charlton and Franz Beckenbauer are behind the scenes watching the game draw to a close and Beckenbauer is seen decorating the prestigious trophy with ribbons in his team’s colours. Sir Bobby walks over and congratulates him on his team’s feat. They start to make their way down to the pitch via the passenger lift unaware of the drama that is unfolding beneath them. The two club legends come out to the news that Manchester United had done the impossible and scored two late goals and have claimed the title!

Pitch-side, United’s Assistant Manager; Steve McClaren, looked happy with the score at 1-1 and was happy for the club to defend the remainder of the game to play for extra time. Sir Alex on the other hand was not, he wanted his team to push for the second goal and win the match in normal time.

In the games leading up to the final Bayern Munich seemed to always substitute defender Lothar Matthaus on or around the 75th minute of play so, just before that, Sir Alex introduced a third striker to the game in the shape of Teddy Sheringham. When the eventual Matthaus substitution happened on 80 minutes the United manager knew this was his opportunity and switched one of his on-field strikers for a fresh player; Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Manchester United won the game thanks to two goals scored by – you guessed it – Sheringham and Solskjaer! It goes to show that this result didn’t just happen, it happened with purpose. Sir Alex knew his opposition and believed in what his side could achieve.

Great leaders go the extra mile

When people speak from the heart, others believe in them. If you see it matters to them, it will matter to you. It’s what makes Sir Alex a great leader.

A Man City fan, who was training to be a football coach, wrote a letter to Sir Alex asking him a few questions in hope he could help him with his studies. Surely he wouldn’t reply to the fan of a rival team, would he? He certainly did, in style too. He responded by sending a video to the fan which was a recording of himself answering the questions posed in the letter! Receiving that video must have been so much more powerful than just a few written words, it showed that Sir Alex cared because it was a subject close to his heart and demonstrated that we’re all leaders – inside and outside of our immediate teams – great leadership is about going the extra mile for others.

Surround yourself with great people and invest in them

Great leaders facilitate rather than do, you can’t do everything yourself. It’s about building trust with your people. Winning trophies didn’t just happen for Sir Alex, the manager learnt to be competent in the roles he wasn’t because he surrounded himself with good people who excelled in those areas. As a result he became a better leader and a better person, and the stories of success followed shortly after.

But to build that trust element you have to let your people know that you know them. Great leaders make people feel important. They invest in them, not just financially but emotionally too – it shows that they care.

David Gill (CEO of Manchester United) was leaving Old Trafford one Friday evening and was saying goodnight to each colleague as he passed them. The last person he saw was one of the ladies at the reception desk; he addressed her by name, exchanged pleasantries and then made his way to his car. It then dawned on him that he’d made a terrible mistake. That lady he’d just spoken to in reception was not the person he thought she was – he’d gotten her name wrong!

He quickly made his way back into the foyer and with the upmost sincerity apologised for his wrong-doing and stood chatting for a couple of minutes asking how she was and what she had planned for that weekend.

David Gill didn’t need to do what he did but he chose to, knowing that in doing so he could quickly turn the situation on its head. That lady on the reception desk has never forgotten this moment and will now do anything for Mr Gill and his guests. She is one of the first people that visitors see when coming into this section of Old Trafford – so will ensure that she gives a warm welcome and a lasting impression to all who she sees.

As leaders we don’t always get it right first time but we can make a positive difference with even the smallest amount of investment.

Is that Paul Scholes or Andy Johnson?!

Paul Scholes or Andy Johnson?!?

Recognise people’s differences and how to get the best out of them

People have their differences, even at Manchester United there are personal altercations between people. We were told of two key players who didn’t see eye-to-eye off the field, but on it, it never affected their game. In fact I never noticed it in the times I’d watched them play together. They came to work to do a job, and to do their job to the best of their ability. In work you have to respect that and understand how you can get the best out of your people. What is it that motivates them? Are they motivated toward or away from something? There’s a difference. Ryan Giggs was motivated toward achieving something – for him it was about getting fitter and faster, so the coaches worked with him to develop him on these areas. When Nemanja Vidic joined the club he was motivated away from being rubbish – he was/is one hell of a defender but he couldn’t pass the ball for toffee! So, the coaches had to tell him how bad he was at passing to help him to get better.

Rest more…often

The final story I’d like to share with you is one that is often shared around the club; it’s about two lumberjacks that challenge each other to a dual. One is a big strong burly fella and the other resembles more of an average figure – not quite so strong. The challenge is to see who can fell the most trees during an 8 hour session.

The big guy is straight to it, sawing into the trees relentlessly from the word go up until the siren sounds as the 8th hour is signalled. The smaller guy works his way through the trees but on the hour, at every hour, he takes himself off for a 5 minute break.

When the siren blows the felled trees are counted and we learn that the smaller of the two has won the friendly competition. The big guy cannot believe it. He is much stronger and worked straight through whilst his opponent rested – surely this cannot be so. The smaller guy explains that by taking regular breaks he was able to rest and re-focus on the job in-hand. Not only this but he was able to sharpen his saw, making sure his equipment was best prepared for the next gruelling session.

The ability to relax is a skill, a very effective one. If we want to set-out to achieve amazing things we must make sure we rest and recoup. Manchester United are no different – they have a 25 man squad for a reason and use it to ensure they rotate their players and give respite to all in the team

United in our learning

So, what have I learnt from Manchester United that we can take away into our own working lives? Successful teams and leadership goes way beyond the starting XI; it’s about the preparation, the coaching, the understanding of others and your surroundings. You need to learn from your mistakes but not dwell on them, create a positive environment in which to work and with people you can trust who are great at what they do. Surround yourself with good people who are willing to go the extra mile, who get your culture and want to celebrate as you do. It’s about remembering where you came from, knowing where you’re going and making sure that, now and again, you take the time to sharpen you saw!

HUGE thanks for reading and sticking around for part 2, and special thanks to HouseMark and John Shiels for a fantastic day.

Are you working with or are you working for?

On Monday night Manchester United claimed their 20th League title, this despite the fact that there are still 4 games left to play this season. I’m not a United fan myself but I can’t help but applaud this amazing achievement, something made possible through incredible leadership and unparalleled teamwork. But I think that you and your organisation could have something that edges Manchester United and their multi-million pound stars…

Every Manchester United player will tell you that they play for a fantastic club – and I do not doubt that for one second – but because of the relationship I have with my employer I use a slightly different language; I say I work with them.

AJ twitter

Now this may seem a little odd to some of you and admittedly it might read a little weird, but when you think about it do you:

Work for your organisation to achieve their goals?

or do you:

Work with your organisation to achieve shared goals?

For me, it’s the latter.

I share the same values, I embrace the culture and I love the people who work here. I have an emotional attachment, a sense of pride, a willingness to learn and a commitment to do good. I work with Bromford to achieve my goals. I don’t say ‘my goals’ selfishly I say that because we share the same.

I work with my colleagues to achieve great things. I work with the people that I do because we have a desire to achieve the same objectives. We work together, in tandem, in unity, as one.

It’s not just about me helping Bromford be successful, it’s every bit as much about Bromford helping me to be successful. They support me, invest in me, they believe in me. Any company that does that will get the gesture replicated, ten-fold. If that culture doesn’t exist, you’re simply not working with one another.

Bromford is a people place – it’s about the relationships your form and making every single interaction count.

glue

Last week we had our annual conference; the Bromford Bash, a coming together of more than 1100 colleagues sharing and celebrating our 50 year anniversary. We had videos, music, tears and laughter, some fancy dress, an Apprentice winner, a Harlem Shake and our colleague awards. It was an incredible day. People from all over our organisation gathered under one-roof; customers, colleagues, board members, executives – we even opened up a live twitter feed using the hashtag #bash2013 which gathered energy from people outside of the room as well as those who were sat (or dancing) inside it!

And it was the words of our very own CEO who summed up this magical day, and what this great place to work is all about, and I quote:

“It’s the social glue that sticks this organisation together”

I am most definitely with Mick on that!

Are your friends giving you a helping hand?

Blog hand

I’ve been privileged enough to attend some pretty fantastic training sessions through my time here at Bromford and one in particular was with a brilliant guest speaker by the name of Nigel Risner. If you’re not familiar with him I encourage you to visit his website and subscribe yourself to his newsletter. I did this shortly after he presented to my Leadership session and remember reading one particular post entitled; ‘Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?’ Nigel stated:

“You are the average of the five people that you hang around with”

It’s a great saying and one I’ve not really thought about properly until now. I’m fortunate enough to have a circle of friends that stretches slightly wider than the above quota but I can’t say that I see each and every one all of the time. Some of my friends live and work hundreds of miles away, some in this country and some jet-setting or cruising around the world (lucky devils), so really I guess those that I actively see right now probably is a little closer to five.

So, what do my current circle of friends bring to the table? In no particular order (and I’ve named them A – E here so to not embarass them!), let’s take a look:

A Confident
My first friend is without a doubt the confident one of the bunch. Nothing seems to faze him. He has certain suave about the character he portrays although when you know him like I do he’s actually quite aloof and a private person. So, despite any woes or worries you may be languishing try and rise above them and apply yourself 100%, be confident and be the best you can be.

B Supportive
There will always be a moment when you need that helping hand, somebody to run an errand for you or a person to talk to. More often than not you turn to that same person, time after time. I’m fortunate enough to have a guy like this in my life right now. You always need somebody like this person. That one you can depend upon for that second opinion and to tell you how it is, not just what you want to hear. Have someone like this close by and you’ll never feel as though you’re ‘going it alone’.

C Sociable
This person is one of the friendliest of human beings I’ve ever come across. I’m not aware of anyone who’s said a bad word about him and should anyone choose to, I wouldn’t have it! He’s young, sociable, and punctual and really easy going, he’s a pleasure to be around. It’s not easy to get along with everyone, you never will I don’t think, but we can at least make every effort to make every interaction count. Always present yourself in the best fashion and you’ll make a lasting impression.

D Happy
This guy never fails to raise a smile. Call him daft; call him stupid, there are never dull moments when this guy is around; the life and soul of every party. A sense of humour is so important to me. I do my best to wear a smile every single day, no matter how I feel and what might be happening personally. A smile is radiant and infectious, go ahead and smile at the next person you see – they’ll almost always smile back at you!

E Successful
I’ve known this guy the longest of all my mates and have always admired what he has done with his life. Every group of people has at least one success story; somebody who, against all odds, no matter how big or small will always achieve great things – even when things are stacked against them. They lead from the front, they innovate, create and succeed – but most important of all they never forget where they have come from. They remember those who supported them from the beginning; and this is something I’m always mindful of.

And that’s it, these are my five. Like I said, these are the main people who currently keep my company. But are these really my fingerprints that make up my identity? In reflection I can say that I do take on some of these qualities, I’m not sure whether they come across and are perceived by the wider audience, but I’d like to think so.

So what do you think? Who would make up your five? Are you happy with the people you hang around with and do you see their qualities in you?

Is there anyone who’s zapping all of your energy, who brings you down? Is it time for a change or do your group bring the best out of you? Have a think and let me know.

Once a Leader, always a Leader

Follow the leader

Leadership is something that’s very relevant in my life right now, both at work and for me personally. Here at Bromford I’ve recently completed the first part of my Living Leadership training which is designed to deliver our core strategic objectives:

  • Delivering A Role Model Service
  • Creating A Great Place To Work
  • Leading Innovation and Change

With an itinerary that covered topics ranging from Fierce Conversations to Getting to Yes and Knowing the Numbers to Leading Change, I knew this was going to be a journey that I could look back upon to help me improve my leadership qualities. My next steps see me walking within our Talent Academy; a 12 month journey which was launched on 16th August by our CEO Mick Kent and special guest Jeff Grout. You might ask; why so much learning? Before I answer that let me share a Mahatma Gandhi quote with you that Mick used in that opening session:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever.”

We should use every opportunity we are presented with to enhance ourselves and build on our personal development, Mick himself will be the first to admit; “we are all trainees”.

For me Leadership is about how you portray yourself, how you represent the organisation you work for and the influence you have on others. And you don’t need to be directly managing anybody to be a leader. My current secondment means that I don’t have any direct responsibility of a team but I do feel that I’ve always got a wider team at heart. I feel that I have a duty of care to anyone who may turn to me for help, advice or support within their work – and even if I don’t know the answer to something I’ll always do my best to point them in the direction of somebody that will. I always try to do my best for others, encouraging their work and demonstrating a positive attitude when I’m around them, if I don’t then I would feel as though I’ve failed the people who turn to me and I’d even feel as though I’ve failed myself.

John Terry was recently stripped of the England captaincy after he was found guilty of racial abuse by the Football Association. But despite his actions he is still seen as a role model to many young Chelsea fans up and down the country and most probably in many countries around the world too. Chelsea’s recent dip in form, which led to the sacking of manager Roberto Di Matteo last week, is said by some to have been contributed to by John Terry’s absence through suspension and injury. Whatever your opinion of John Terry, rightly or wrongly, he is a leader. On and off the pitch, inside and outside of football, people watch his every move and a number of people look up to him for inspiration, guidance and support. So John must always be at his best, if not for his own sake most definitely for others.

Andy & Paul

I’m not posting this saying I want to be the next John Terry, I’m not the best at football for starters (although I’m told I do resemble Paul Scholes in the looks department) but we can take something from his situation. John Terry has achieved pretty much everything a footballer would dream of having captained his team to Premier League glory, lifted the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Community Shield. He’s won the Champions League, PFA Player of the Year and captained his country – but is John Terry the best player in world; no. Are there things he wishes he would have done differently; I’d say so. Is he still learning; most definitely!

Leadership is a journey that’s one for all, not all for one. You can be at the very top of your game but if you’ve not careful things can come tumbling down very quickly around you. If we want to achieve amazing things in our careers we cannot afford to become complacent. We need to surround ourselves with fantastic people, have a willingness to get better at what we do and we must use our experiences to help one another. Even when our circumstances change we must remain true to ourselves and one another. If we want to be better leaders we must continue to learn. I believe that we must act on the basis; Once a Leader, always a Leader.

Define your timeline.

Right then, the first thing I’d like you to do is take a blank piece of paper and a pen (or an iPad and stylus, if that’s your thing), and draw a wavy line from the top-left corner to the bottom-right. Go back to where you started the line and make a small dash coming from it. From here I want you to write where your life journey began – a small reference to your family. Making your way down the line continue to make small dashes marking each with significant milestones in your life where someone or something has had a major impact on your life or career. Mine looks something like this:

Image

Why is it I’m asking you to do this? Well, it’s something I’ve never thought of doing before but it was introduced to the group during the launch of Bromford’s Talent Academy by the fantastic Jeff Grout. For around half an hour Jeff took us on his journey, noting key points and his influential milestones along the way. Working within our tables we were each asked to discuss key moments of our own with one person from each group to be elected to share there’s with the room. We heard some incredible stories; funny, sad, motivational, tear-jerking – but all with a fundamental message of inspirational benefits.

So, who has been the biggest influence on me? It was somebody who’s always been there but who I’ve never really recognised as being quite so inspirational in my life until now; my sister.

From an early age my interest in Art quickly becomes apparent and it was Lynn who supported me with this, giving me tips and ideas on how to get the best out of a composition and create a sense of three-dimension through the clever use of shading. My parents would encourage me to do my homework as soon as I came in from school but instead I chose to play out until dusk and then scramble home on my BMX to get it done before bed – and it was Lynn who would often stay up with me to help get it finished. After successfully completing my GCSE’s she made a big fuss of me and celebrated by inviting me to stay over at her house and get pizza and a DVD.  Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t have the perfect of relationships (I know this story is painting a picture that’s quite the contrary) but trust me, we had our tiffs and squabbles!

After passing my A-Levels I made the decision to go on to University, our Dad wasn’t convinced by the idea but it was Lynn who persuaded him this was a good thing if I wanted to progress with a career in design. So at 22 I came out with my degree but no whiff of a job in design – was my dad right after all?

After short spells working in a supermarket and banking, Lynn prompted me to apply for a job working within Bromford. I’d never heard of them before, had no desire to work within housing and didn’t see myself working in a call centre for the rest of my life but figured that if Lynn had several years’ service already here, it can’t be such a bad place.

Yet to pass my driving test I relied on lifts, so very often Lynn would pick me up in the morning and drop me home each night (she never accepted a penny from me). When she wasn’t available she would arrange for some of her colleagues who lived close by to ferry me to and fro! Thanks to Katie and Marg for this.

Fast forward to 2012 and I’m not far off completing 9 years at Bromford – not bad for somebody with no desire to work in Housing who’d never heard of the organisation before, eh?! Working in the Customer Service Centre was a brilliant time for me. It had its ups and downs but gave me an appreciation for the frontline service of a business and how it impacts with many, many people and services within a business – especially the people we are all here for, our customers. From here I went on to work within the Asset Management Team – helping to deliver the repairs that were issued by the team in my previous role – which then leads me to where I am today; the Neighbourhoods Team.

Everybody takes risks in life; one of my biggest ones was to come into housing with no experience. So was it a wasted degree, far from it! My confidence grew, people skills matured, ability to work with others became more natural, my creativity and innovative mind honed and I’ve now taken these into my role as Project Manager today. But if it wasn’t for the influential figure of my sister I’m certain I wouldn’t be where I am, nor who I am, today.

It’s been quite a journey for me so far but one with plenty more mileage in it yet and much more learning to absorb. To finish I quote Mahatma Ghandi (a favourite of Mick Kent too):

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

 

As part of our Talent Academy we’ve all been asked to share our journey, this is just the start of mine and I’d love to hear yours too…