Monday 27 October 2014


There is little in life that irritates me more than a lack of respect for others. I hate the modern cliché “Respect has to be earned”. No it doesn’t! Respect for one another should be the default, it can be vindicated or lost by subsequent actions, but it really should be the starting point.
Here are five ways to spot a lack of respect in managers:

1.  They treat employees like chess pieces.

I once worked in an organisation that employed someone for a specific role in a specific team. The employee took the job because it represented a good opportunity for them to develop their skills and career. On their first day, the company put them into a completely different team for the short-term benefit of the company. TWO YEARS LATER, the employee was having a leaving party with the team because he was finally being moved to the team he was recruited for when he was told that he couldn’t move after all; the company had another short-term issue that was best-solved by keeping the employee where he was.
It’s a mystery to me how the company held on to this good worker as long as they did.

2.  They ignore everyone as they walk through the office

We’ve all seen managers who won’t speak to anyone more than two pay grades below them, preferring instead to go across the management hierarchy and then down via the employee’s line manager. There is something quaintly old-fashioned about this archaic protocol, so perhaps it can be forgiven in managers over 65 or so.
Far worse was the case I saw of the manager who passed between the desks of his team and others on his walk from the lift to his office each morning. Wearing headphones, he walked with his head down, acknowledging none of the staff verbally or via eye contact until he reached his office and closed the door behind him to lock out the outside world.
This was at a company where the CEO knew the majority of people by name and never failed to pass the time of day with them, which just made this manager look even worse in comparison. Small wonder, then, that the culprit could not win hearts and minds, let alone retain staff.

3.  They habitually arrive late for meetings

We all have “Those days”, where nothing seems to go right and issues rain down on us like a bad hailstorm, meaning we sometimes arrive at meetings late, flustered and apologetic. I think we can all empathise with that.
What is far different is the manager who is habitually late for meetings. They usually wander in without a care in the world and then expect a recap of what they’ve missed.
The message this sends out is that they consider their time to be more valuable than that of the other meeting attendees, whom they have so thoughtlessly kept waiting.
Not only that, calculate the cost to the company for the time everyone else has sat waiting and you see that the manager disrespects the company as well.
These same people are usually guilty of the next indicator as well…

4.  They use their smartphones or laptops in meetings

It seems that hardly a meeting goes by these days without someone texting or checking their emails on one device or another. Maybe I’m just getting old, but it seems to me that if you need to be at the meeting you should pay people the courtesy to pay attention and make an appropriate contribution.
If you don’t need to be there, do the company justice and decline the meeting. If you need to be there and you are overwhelmed with emails etc., book yourself on a time management course. The message you are giving out to everyone else in the meeting are “I’m far too busy/important to give you my full attention”. Try winning friends and influencing people with THAT technique!

5.  They only wait for you to finish so they can speak

Sometimes I see manager I think should walk round with a mirror strapped to their shoulders, facing them so that they can truly admire themselves all day. These are they type who believe that they alone have something valuable to say, and everyone else will see the wisdom of it and thus do their bidding.
Whatever they say usually bears little or no relation to the point you have just made, showing that they either weren’t listening or they don’t care about your views.
I’ve never seen a manager like this keep a high-performing team with good morale; more likely, they have the team that grumble about them round the water cooler and watches the clock most of the afternoon.

The book Good to Great by Jim Collins (Random House, 2001) presents empirical evidence to show that good companies that become great are led by self-effacing managers with humility, not superstars with huge egos. Perhaps it should be compulsory reading for some of today’s managers.

I'd like to know what you think; do you have other examples of disrespect by managers? What are your experiences of the examples I have given?

Steve Syder is a Director of Programmes & Projects. He can be contacted directly via this link.

Wednesday 15 October 2014


Recruitment is expensive, and companies pay a premium for experience, so it makes sense to keep staff churn low. In addition to that, good staff morale boosts productivity and attracts and keeps the best people.
Organisations and employees alike need to recognise that their relationship will only survive if both parties believe they benefit. I don’t believe that anybody turns up for work to do a bad job, but I do believe that they are likely to do a better one if they feel valued by the company.
Here are five things a company can do to show they value their employees:

1.  Have a clear career path.

Nobody wants to be stuck in a rut. It’s human nature to strive for better. Does your organisation have recognisable job titles and a clear route to advance from one to the next? Employees will do a far better job when they can relate performance to progression.

2.  Have regular one-to-ones

I mandate my direct report s to have an absolute minimum of 30 mins one-to-one a fortnight with their direct reports, and most respond by scheduling more than that. The employee should dictate the topics for discussion at the meeting; they might have a particular work issue lying heavily on their mind, or a concern about recent statements from the Executive, or they might have career concerns. Whatever it is, give them the opportunity to air their point and respond to them as honestly and openly as you can.
These sessions often turn into useful coaching sessions, where you have the chance to improve the skill of your direct report and if you listen actively – or ask outright – you will find invaluable feedback to improve your own performance.

3.  introduce skip reviews

I’m a big fan of having one-to-one meetings with employees one level below my direct reports. True, it’s logistically impossible to do this on a fortnightly or probably even monthly basis as the numbers grow exponentially, but I try to do at least two a year with each employee.
Not only does it send a message to the employee that you aren’t sitting in your ivory tower with little interest in them or their careers, it also helps you sense-check the quality of line-management service they are receiving from your direct reports, because I truly believe that line management is a service as much as a way to ensure value for money for the company.

4.  Meet appraisal deadlines on time, every time

Nothing screams “I don’t care about your development” louder than being late with objectives setting and the end of year appraisal. If you cannot manage your time well enough to produce SMART objectives on time for all your direct reports then you need to seriously consider some time management training for yourself.
Similarly, if you can’t be bothered writing their appraisal and attending the appraisal one-to-one with them in time for the deadline set by the company you are clearly lacking in the pastoral care element of your management.
Bosses who take time and effort over objectives, mentoring and appraisals can be tough but fair with employees and will earn their respect and commitment.

5.  share the gems

“Leaders are readers”, so the saying goes. If you are like me, you regularly trawl the web and read books for the latest trends/opinions/innovations in your field.
Often, you will find some really valuable pieces, giving you pause for thought and perhaps something to add into your work or management repertoire.
Don’t keep these to yourself. If you think you’ve found something useful identify whom amongst your direct reports would also benefit from the information and share it with them. Not only will they appreciate your interest in their development, but they might become even better employees in the process.

Over to you – what ways does your company demonstrate its commitment to its employees?

Steve Syder RPP, FAPM is an interim Director of Programmes & Projects and RPP Assessor based in London. His web site is

Friday 3 October 2014


In one recent assignment as Director of Programmes & Projects the role of PMs there took me by surprise. The organisation had little understanding of project management – thankfully, because that’s why they needed me!
The work carried out by PMs differed wildly across the organisation, with some doing a fairly recognisable PM job whilst others were little more than admin assistants. There was also no standard project management methodology in place. Small wonder, then, that morale was low and attrition rates high.
Setting the wheels in motion to establish a company-wide methodology was the logical and easy first step – basing it largely on the APM Body of Knowledge (BoK) and PRINCE 2 and ensuring that all PMs gained PRINCE 2 certification and began to prepare for APM qualifications.
What I considered to be far more important was to create a meaningful career path for project managers, sending out a clear message that their contributions are valued within the organisation. These were some of the things I did:

1.  Used the APM’s Competence Framework

Given my history with the Association for Project Management (APM), the APM’s Competence Framework was the logical starting point.
APM’s Registered Project Professional (RPP) process elevates 27 key competencies as the ones to be most closely evaluated when assessing a candidate for RPP status. We identified a subset of those, being the 20 most relevant competencies for PMs’ day-jobs in the company.
We then encouraged PMs – and by that I mean anyone on the PM career path from Project Administrator to Programme Director – to complete a self-assessment measuring his or her experience against those 20 competencies. This enabled them, in agreement with their line managers, to create SMART objectives targeted to boost their overall competence whilst at the same time contributing to the organisation’s goals.

2.  Introduced Continuing Professional Development

Hand in hand with that we introduced the notion of a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Log and encouraged PMs to maintain one, logging a minimum of 35 hours per annum – the APM’s minimum requirement.
This process is a two-way street; project managers give genuine consideration to their own development and the company has to show commitment to training and development.

3.  Made line management a service

All line managers were mandated to hold one-to-one mentoring sessions at a minimum of once a fortnight, and they were given personal objectives that ensured they also completed all mid-year and end-of-year appraisals on time and to a high standard.
This made the project managers feel valued and gave more evidence of the organisation’s commitment to their development.

4.   Introduced “Lunch & Learn” sessions

We introduced “Lunch & Learn” sessions – a monthly gathering of the whole PM community with a guest speaker, internal or external, to speak on a topic of interest at a one-hour session where a finger buffet is provided (sometimes known as “Brown bag” meetings). For example, we have had presentations on the APM and on agile project management amongst other topics. We video these sessions to ensure that anyone who cannot attend, e.g. we have overseas PMs, can catch up via the company wiki.
Attendance was optional but we always saw a very high turn out, and I don’t think it was because of the quality of the catering.

The response from the PM community was quite dramatic. At the first few meetings PMs were introducing themselves to each other, such was the level of “partitioning” between the divisions. They decided independently that completing a self-assessment, although private to them and their line manager, should be compulsory for all PMs, and those PMs lacking qualifications such as PRINCE 2 and MoR (Management of Risk) began asking for training.
Their status has been raised within the company and many are telling me that at last they feel “valued” and believe there is a recognisable career path for project managers at the company.
All of this has raised the standard we require from our project managers and we are attracting and keeping excellent people. Ironically, with a self-assessment matrix and a CPD Log we have armed our project managers with a great “Sales brochure” should they want to move on, and at the same time the attrition rate in the PM community has shrunk to zero. That confirms to me my belief that if a company demonstrably values its people it will reap the benefits.

Over to you – what have you or your company done to improve and motivate a group of subject matter experts?