By Roger Whalley, Non-Executive Director for Aspire

A couple of months ago I mentioned a book called “The One Minute Manager” and the affect it had on my management style. If you recall I used the phrase “Different Strokes for Different Folks”? I explained how it had helped me to understand better the way to get the best out of my team. I started to understand more about what made my colleagues tick.

Further on in the same series of books Ken Blanchard uses the phrase “Different Strokes for the Same Folks at Different Times” When I read his rationale for this phrase, I started to appreciate that what he was saying was that people change. Outside influences which make people what they are change. They grow older; they get married; they start a family; I’m sorry to say they get divorced; they get ill. I could go on there are many events that surround people and which change them.

We need to understand just what it is that is making Jimmy consistently late for work; why Mary spends so much time on the phone; Why Bill always seems to be so bad tempered. There is always a reason and it’s our job as a manager to understand the reason and how it impacts upon work performance. Our job is to help people perform better and become more efficient at their work.

A couple of months ago I also used the analogy of sports team captains and how their behaviour needs to change to make a winning team. Now I would like you to think about the team manager. This person spends no time participating in the game but does have an impact on how the team performs. Effectively they select the team according to their knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the various players.

A football team manager is often also the team coach. Not the bus that takes them to matches, but the person who builds up the strengths and eliminates the weaknesses. The manager identifies his strongest players and what their strongest individual skills are. As managers of our teams we need to know just who in our team can take responsibility to make decisions in our absence; who we can rely upon to solve unplanned problems; who wants our job.

We have all got strengths and weaknesses. I know what mine are and I guess you know what yours are. We need to know what they are in our colleagues. Only then can we apply the words” Different Strokes for the Same Folks at Different Times” We need to constantly evaluate our behaviour and how we can best help our team. It’s very difficult identifying the person who wants our job. Our ego stops us from considering that there might be someone who could replace us.

I need to move now from my analogies about sport and consider how management development happens in the military. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Army, Navy or the RAF, all the branches of the military have management development beyond any which we can imagine. There is a well-defined strata of management development in the armed forces. This has developed from the days when they truly did go into battle. An officer had to know that if he fell there was someone in place who would take his role immediately; without any discussion or the seeking of advice.

A Corporal needed to step up to be a Sergeant; a Sergeant needed to step up to be a Sergeant Major and so on up through the ranks until the level where they didn’t see the enemy. I guess that would be a General or Field Marshall where they would probably have plenty of people waiting to step up into their rank. Training and development of our people is one of the major tasks in management and you can’t train people until you where they are now. Going back to the football manager, they need to know the level of personal fitness in their potential team members.

Only when you know where your team members are now can you decide what training and development they need. It may be that you don’t carry out the training yourself; it may be that others who have greater knowledge about the skill that is needed carry out the training but you must monitor the training and evaluate the effect that it has had. Only then can you apply different strokes to the same folks. There is a major hurdle in management and that is the concept of fairness. I hope you read my last article about Fairness being an 8-letter word. Often as a manager you will have to appear to be unfair. What is fair to one guy might be seen as being unfair by another.

This is a very difficult part of the management role. We all want to be liked by everyone but I don’t need to tell you that this will never happen. You will find times when you upset someone. It’s unfortunate but it will happen. Again, this is a time when different strokes for the same folks applies. Try to replace the upset with something else; hope is a good alternative; temptation is another; both of these can remotivate. And motivation will replace upset. The sports person who is dropped for an important game might be motivated by the promise that they will play in the next game.

Next month I will try to help you motivate your team. However, it will still stress the importance of “Different Strokes for the Same Folks at Different Times”. It’s you who needs to change to help your people change.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you always got”. I love that phrase. It has guided me through my career. When I first heard it, I had been going through a difficult period in my life. That phrase made me realise that it was me who was out of step and who needed to change, not the rest of the world. It helped me immensely in deciding on a change in my life which was to prove to be the best possible outcome.

Be prepared to change; look for the changes that will help you to help others; never say” that doesn’t work, we tried that years ago” because it might work now!