Showing all pages regarding leadership development.
(Firs published 9 March 2011)
Last month the UK Employers’ Federation, the CBI, called for more proactive steps to redress the gender imbalance in Board Rooms. A report from Cranfield University had found that only 12.5% of Board positions in the UK are held by females and that there had been little change in this proportion over recent years. To its credit, the CBI argued that, with women accounting for half the population and making up just under half of the workforce, their continuing under representation at Board level was unacceptable. Indeed, there is strong evidence to suggest that companies with more diverse Boards tend to perform better than others. Instinctively we can appreciate how a more diverse top team, involving different perspectives, attitudes and experiences is likely to make for better, more robust, decision-making.
But the CBI’s proposal, that UK listed companies should be required to achieve internally set targets for female Board participation, is too simplistic a response to a complex issue. Enforcement through legislation only aggravates the ‘political correctness gone mad’ lobby – who would argue that, in bending over backwards for women, we end up with female executives who achieve their senior positions not through merit, but solely because of their gender. In fact targets and quotas for achieving diversity at the top may redress the gender imbalance but such measures are unlikely to change attitudes or workplace practices that lead to inequality in the first place. The reality is that there are many reasons why women are in the minority at the top and each reason requires a particular and different response.
As Chief Executive of the Association of MBAs I became particularly interested in understanding why there were so few women MBA students. Women account for between just 25-30% of students taking MBA courses anywhere in the world and this figure hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years. My investigations and research into the issue failed to establish a single explanation for the low number of women MBAs. But there is evidence to support a fascinating range of possible causes:
- MBA students tend to be in their late 20s and early 30s – this is not an ideal time for women to commit to such a demanding and rigorous course as many are likely to be having or considering having children at this age;
- There is a continuing perception that the MBA environment is competitive, macho and hard-nosed – concerned primarily with big city finance and number crunching. Although this perception no longer reflects the reality, many women are put off by this impression of MBA study and the business school environment;
- It appears that, when it comes to sponsoring staff to undertake MBA study, employers tend to favour male employees over females. Prejudice may be at play here but there are other factors including the way in which women view their own self-development and their apparent lack of assertiveness (relative to men) when it comes to seeking support for their advancement at work;
- There are very few high profile female role models at the top – in business or in business schools – thus reinforcing the perception that women have no place or little chance of success in leadership or at an executive level in business.
I could go on. There are further issues relating to the lack of confidence that some women have in their own ability and potential. The point is that the many and varied reasons behind the low number of women MBAs also tell us something about the under representation of women in the Board Room.
Telling employers to simply appoint more women Board members is not the answer. Helping employers to recognise the skills women bring to business and their value in the workplace; working with companies to improve the recruitment, development and support given to female employees, is likely to be a better solution in the long run.
This week I was delighted to support and sponsor the launch of a provocative and insightful book – “How to make a million jobs” by Colin Crooks. You can order a copy here. Colin is a social entrepreneur who, in his book, challenges all of us to think differently about unemployment and its causes. His solutions are radical but not unrealistic and are based on Colin’s experiences as well as persuasive, independent evidence.
As a leadership specialist, working with corporates, professional associations and universities, it is not immediately clear why I should decide to sponsor such a book.
The main reason is that I share with the book’s author a concern about people and their development. I also believe in the capacity for people to change their attitude and behaviour and to learn new skills.
The book is full of real stories about people, young and old, who had given up all hope of finding work. They were poorly educated, lacked confidence and had few social or employability skills. When these people were offered an opportunity to work and when this was accompanied by some support and encouragement they responded positively. Many went on to better jobs and have not looked back.
The book, and my own experience, demonstrates this: that when people at work are supported and developed in the right way they tend to be good employees. They become committed, engaged, interested and keen to learn. They gain in confidence and in ambition. Of course there are always exceptions. But, in general, we know this simple statement of cause and effect to be true.
The problem is that so many employers do not have the commitment or the capability to provide the support required. The challenge for government, policy makers and anyone with an interest in this area, is to change the attitude of employers. We need to be better at getting employers to truly appreciate and realise the business benefits of developing their people. Then we need employers to be better at motivating, supporting and engaging their staff. Employers should be asking whether they and their managers are managing people effectively and providing good role models to all staff.
The people in Colin’s book were fortunate to be taken on by a good employer with good people management skills. Sadly that’s not true of all employers, and many people entering a new job do not get the support and development they need.
Developing people and changing their behaviour requires patience, and this isn’t easy in the current climate where many companies are driven by an obsession with short term results. But understanding that link: between managing people effectively and building a successful business is fundamental to good leadership. It informs everything I do and it is at the heart of Colin Crooks’ book.
I was amazed and encouraged by the overwhelming response to my article published this week in the Financial Times (“Rip up the MBA and start afresh”, The Financial Times, Monday 16 April). My mission to reinvent the MBA has sparked quite a debate. In the article I call for a review of the MBA, arguing that, if it is to continue to provide business with well rounded, effective leaders, it needs to change. I have long been an advocate for the MBA and have first hand experience of its benefits. I will continue to recommend the MBA as a means of broadening your business knowledge, acquiring new skills and achieving a step change in your career.
My concern is that the MBA curriculum has become too crowded and confused, partly because business schools have, to their credit, responded to changes in business and to demands for more skills and specialisms in the MBA syllabus. The time has come for a fundamental review starting with a fresh look at what it takes to be an effective business leader. I would like to see an MBA that truly reflects the needs of business today and that places a much greater importance on the development of practical leadership skills.
I demonstrate in my work every day that, with the right support and coaching, people are capable of learning how to lead effectively. It would be a significant step forward for the MBA if leadership development became central to the qualification. The mission continues.
To read my FT article go to http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/c5b11ece-6229-11e1-872e-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1sOUZwmeO
A recent article by Robert Terry in the Financial Times (FT) complains that, despite the significant sums spent annually on training and development by companies, very little of what is learnt translates into improved performance in the workplace. Studies shows that only 5-20% of the learning from training has any impact on the business. Given the current obsession with measuring everything against business targets, this is puzzling if not shocking. “Surely” Terry suggests “a training industry that delivers less than 20 per cent cannot be fit for purpose.”
He is right. Much of the training delivered globally, within companies or by universities, is probably ineffectual. Yet still many organisations fail to measure the impact of training on the business and individual performance. Terry suggests that one reason for this is the lack of any participation or involvement of line managers in individual staff development. He argues that managers fail to take responsibility for the learning and development of their staff and should be held to account for the transfer of training to the workplace. Trainers should also be more concerned with the application of training and how it will benefit the business.
As a leadership development specialist I take this issue very seriously and have long been promoting various approaches which help to ensure that companies and individuals get a return on their investment in training and development. First let’s look at business schools and the MBA – generally considered to be the leading international business qualification. I am a strong advocate of the MBA, but, despite the considerable cost of tuition, there is surprisingly little evaluation of how the qualification benefits business or its impact on individual performance. Many employers express the concern that MBA training is too divorced from the reality of business. Some are also reluctant to sponsor employees to take an MBA because of the risk that, once qualified, their employee will be off to find a higher paid job with better prospects. Many companies attempt to manage this risk by ‘tying in’ the employee with a contract requiring them to stay with the company for a certain period after qualifying. Well, it may stop them leaving but does this restraining order really help employers to get the most out of their highly qualified senior staff?
To be sure of a better payback, employers need to take a more considered approach to MBA sponsorship. I have always encouraged employers to address the following questions. Which employees would you select to support through their MBA training and why? How can the business get the best return from investing in MBA training? What are your long term plans for the development and progression of your most talented employees? While these employees are training, or when they are qualified, what new opportunities and challenges are you able to offer them? How will their new learning be applied in order to benefit the business? Dealing with these questions will not only keep senior staff motivated and engaged but will also help to ensure that employers realise the full value of MBA training.
Then there is workplace or corporate training. How do we improve the transfer of learning in this context? It’s true that some managers are too ready to shirk their responsibility for staff development, turning to HR to solve their performance problems with the wave of a wand or the provision of a 2 day training course. When I am asked to provide management and leadership training I spend some time during the planning stage with the CEO, line managers or ideally the management team. The aim is to get an understanding of the business, the people, the challenges they face and any specific performance problems so that I can make what I deliver as relevant and meaningful as possible. I want them to see my participation as an intervention in their company’s business process, picking up on what is already going on and developing ideas and actions for implementation in the future. It is essential to get the manager’s or CEO’s commitment to deal with any follow up and to support further development after my input. That way the training and development doesn’t end when I walk away.
Measuring the impact of training on business performance isn’t easy. But with a considered approach to staff development, the involvement of managers and input from trainers who are concerned with the application of learning, the returns can be considerable.
UK customers are more likely to complain about poor service than customers anywhere else in Europe. A study of 11,000 adults across Europe found that 96% of people in the UK would complain if they were unhappy with the service they received. This compares with the European average of just 67%.
The study, by Kelkoo, found that poor customer service, rude employees, poor quality products and delivery issues were the main reasons for complaints in the UK. Gone are the days when we would ‘put up and shut up’. Today’s customers know their rights, they are better informed and have more choice. And in a highly competitive environment, it is far easier for customers to take their business elsewhere if they are dissatisfied with the service they receive.
So the business imperative for good customer service is clear. Treat your customers badly and they will complain. Deal with their complaints badly and they will leave you. Worse, they will tell others about their bad experience.
But there’s a positive side to all of this. First, it’s not hard to get customer service right. With some investment in recruitment and training, and with committed leadership from the top, you can create the culture, attitudes and behaviours required to deliver great customer service. Second, all customer feedback (even complaints) is valuable and can be used to inform the development and improvement of your services. Third, an unhappy customer can be turned into a happy and loyal customer if their complaint is dealt with properly.
I worked with a company recently where most customer contact was by phone or email. Dealing with demanding, unhappy, confused and angry customers was the responsibility of a busy call centre staffed by a young enthusiastic team. The team were patient and polite to callers but lacked some of the basic tools and techniques to really delight their customers. I put together some top tips for this team. Feel free to download these tips and pass them on to others. Top Ten Tips for keeping customers happy
In today’s complaining culture it’s unrealistic to aim for 100% customer satisfaction. But making even the most difficult customers happy is not an unreasonable goal.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the CBI’s proposal that the UK’s top companies should have targets for increasing the number of women on their Boards. Now, the World Economic Forum (WEF), meeting in Davos later this month, has advised its strategic partners that one in every five of their senior executives attending the conference must be a woman. Female quotas certainly seem to be fashionable at the moment.
Apparently women participants at Davos have never exceeded 17% of all delegates (for several years the proportion of women attendees was between just 9-15%). According to the WEF Gender Parity Programme, which produced a report in 2010 on The Global Gender Gap, the introduction of quotas is a way of getting things moving.
The WEF has around 100 strategic partners (drawn from some 2,500 companies attending the event). Strategic partners span all sectors and include companies such as Google, Barclays and Goldman Sachs who are represented at Davos by the highest levels of leadership. I am sure most of these companies will have no difficulty in meeting the WEF’s new requirements regarding women attendees. However, with less than three weeks to go to the Conference, I can’t help imagining that, for some of the strategic partners, the reaction to the WEF’s announcement has been one of panic, perhaps involving a frantic search for a female employee (any female!) who was willing and available to join the male posse and tag along to Davos at short notice.
And of course, as I’ve said before, that’s the problem with quotas. I accept the argument that, until we have improved the visibility of women in leadership roles and positions of influence, change will be difficult to achieve. But forcing businesses to put more women at the top does not address the underlying issues relating to women and their development in leadership roles. Quotas are artificial; they misrepresent the reality and often breed resentment and cynicism about the drive for greater diversity in business. Perhaps the WEF sees this initiative as just one of a number of actions to address gender imbalance on a global scale. I hope so – as a single measure, quotas are unlikely to be effective.
See the WEF report here: WEF Women Leaders Report 2010
“As Chief Executive of the Association of MBAs (AMBA), Jeanette had the courage and determination to tackle several challenges facing the Association in an increasingly competitive environment. Under her leadership the Association rapidly developed and established its international profile and reputation as the authority on MBA education and the most respected accreditation agency for MBA courses.”
Sir Paul Judge, President of the Association of MBAs
“Jeanette Purcell is refreshingly unpretentious. Her advice and support are built on the firm foundations of practical experience, knowledge and understanding. She listens to clients and stakeholders and builds on their strengths to deliver tailor-made, effective and sustainable solutions. “
Jane Scott Paul OBE, Chief Executive, Association of Accounting Technicians
“Having known Jeanette for some years, she was a natural choice when it came to developing a higher skills framework for the building services engineering sector. She readily understood the brief and that, together with her approachability and integrity, inspired confidence and co-operation amongst the participants. The outcome has been an acknowledgement of the importance of developing higher management skills amongst key industry players and the establishment of a collaborative approach to doing so.”
Iain MacDonald, Head of Education and Training, Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA)
“Marubeni, a Commodities Trading Company, appointed Jeanette Purcell to deliver a workshop for our 3 day European Training Event. Jeanette delivered a very interesting and interactive session. She is an excellent speaker, and demonstrated a high level of knowledge and expertise in this area. The feedback from participants was extremely good, and we would definitely consider inviting Jeanette to deliver future training workshops.”
Rebecca Kemp, Marubeni Human Resources
“I first met Jeanette in 2000 when she was a student on our MBA programme. She was an outstanding student and graduated with a distinction. After graduation she took up an executive role and subsequently was appointed as CEO of the Association of MBAs. For the last five years she has been a visiting lecturer at Cass during which time we have worked together to design and deliver developmental assessment centres and a range of leadership courses for our executive MBAs in both London and Dubai. She is a skilled professional coach and excellent course leader and I recommend her without reservation.”
Paul Dobson BSc PhD CPychol CSci AFBPsS, Cass Business School, City University London
“As a new, full-time working mother I wanted coaching from someone who understood my situation. Jeanette was able to give me first hand practical advice. She also helped me set out a strategy to develop my client base. I now feel more in control, and focussed on my real priorities both at work and at home.”
Nicola Tait, Client Advisor, Capital Asset Management
“I have had the pleasure of working together with Jeanette on an international Womens’ Leadership Development program for one of the leading global organizations in the Pharmaceutical sector. Jeanette demonstrated an excellent capability to work with a large group of people from different cultural backgrounds, the design of her workshops was simply perfect, very well adjusted to the needs of the client, both pertinent at an individual level and highly interactive. Jeanette has the rare capacity to make leadership development a pleasant and an enriching experience. I only hope we can do more work together.”
Marc TimmermanPartner Axiom Consulting Partners& Managing Director Axiom Consulting Partners Benelux
“JPA undertook a piece of work for the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services. This provided a detailed analysis of national and international business school programmes for consideration within the design of an executive leadership programme for experienced Directors of Children’s Services. This work was delivered under very tight timescales, to cost, and proved highly valuable.”
Aidan Melling, Operational Director – Children’s Services, National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services
“As an Associate of Make Life Easy, Jeanette has designed and delivered training for our clients by focusing on their needs, and taking time to understand the people, culture and challenges for the company. Drawing on her business experience, her workshops are interactive, practical and fun. Jeanette has the rare ability to engage even the most reluctant participants, sending them away with new insights, skills and ideas to implement immediately. Jeanette has received excellent feedback from work she has delivered for Make Life Easy and has undoubtedly made a positive difference to the clients she has worked with.”
Fiona Hindle, Founder of Make Life Easy Limited www.makelifeeasy.co.uk
As Chief Executive of the Association of MBAs (AMBA) for seven years, Jeanette succeeded in positioning the Association as the international accreditation and membership association for postgraduate business education. Under Jeanette’s leadership, the Association doubled its business school membership, extended its accreditation service to new international markets and to other masters programmes in general management. This move strengthened the Association’s influence globally and helped to establish the MBA’s reputation as the premier international qualification for business leaders.
Jeanette has over 20 years experience in management and has worked in both the commercial and public sectors. She spent 15 years in the field of further and higher education working in the political arena, educational policy development, qualification and assessment frameworks and quality assurance systems. Prior to joining the Association of MBAs, Jeanette was Director of Education and Training for the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), the international professional association for accounting staff with over 100,000 members and 500 approved training institutions worldwide. In this role, she designed a range of new vocational qualifications in accountancy and led the development of UK standards of competence for accounting technicians.
Having completed her MBA (with distinction) at the Cass Business School, Jeanette was asked to join the school’s academic team as a Visiting Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour. She still teaches postgraduate students at Cass, focusing on leadership and interpersonal skills development, and has contributed to the development of a series of skills development workshops at the business school. Jeanette has also delivered these workshops at Cass’s Dubai campus.
Jeanette is an Honorary Fellow of the Economics and Finance Institute, Sinerghia, Moscow (2007) and a Director of the Institute of Financial Accountants.
JPA include a select group of respected and experienced professionals drawn from the many business networks of which Jeanette is a member.
JPA’s consultancy services are based on our experience and understanding of people, their development and their relationships in business, particularly during periods of significant change.
Our approach is based on the philosophy that effective human performance in business (including effective leadership) is achieved by a holistic approach to learning which combines knowledge, experience and skills. The opportunities for working on all three together are so often missed, each one being treated in isolation.
At JPA we look at integrated growth: using skills and experience, for example, to develop knowledge in a specific area. Our philosophy is to develop a more strategic approach to organisational development, focusing on initiatives that draw together and utilise all the components of the person, situation and company in order to really make a difference.
We believe it has proven not only to be a more effective, accelerated approach to staff development but also one that has greater equity for the long term.
Jeanette has over 20 years experience in management and was Chief Executive of AMBA for 7 years. She has worked in both the commercial and public sectors. Having completed her MBA (with distinction) at the Cass Business School, Jeanette was asked to join the school's academic team as a Visiting Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour... [read more]
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