Category Archives: Good Boss

Recruitment? Don’t make me laugh. Seriously.

I am passionate about recruitment – it is one job we really have to get right, so crucial it squeaks. Without the right people in the right places we might as well fold and go home. And the time and effort we have to put in if we get it too wrong is unbearable. After laughing until I also squeaked about a recent interview experience of my chum  – to be described at various points in this blog but briefly it was a bit 1970s sitcom awful – I drifted off into a daydream about what it is that makes recruitment go well. So here goes.

I have worked with too many organisations who don’t actually know what they want in a candidate, or even in a role, but plough on anyway perhaps thinking they know or perhaps not knowing what knowing and not knowing looks like. Bear with.  Looking in from outside, understanding where the organisation has come from and where it is now (which happens because of conversations that are had….), without the emotional investment in the place that people often develop, I can often see a different picture. Organisation A thinks they want a process driven go-getter with bells and whistles to grow the business – what they really need is a relationship builder who will warm up the group and grow friends for them and grow it that way. What organisation B thinks they need is a chummy friend to get the best out of people – what they actually need is a ballsy battleaxe who will weed out those irksome poorly practicing people and replace them with the right ones so that the good ones are enabled and retained. All without a damp eye but with definite precision and skill. On the inside it can be difficult to see clearly for all the fog of commitment, fear, pressures, emotional baggage, time constraints. From the outside none of those things impact and the clear air allows a forensic view to be taken. So often, before we even get as far as a JD PS and advertisement we are on the wrong tracks.

Tip one: be rigorously clear about what is needed and before you can do that, be rigorously clear about why you are recruiting. What outcome do you actually need rather than what kind of person do you think you want?

So, we have decided what we want. Now we set about finding the who.

My chums sitcom style interview (if only that had been intentional……) was such a hoot he was almost left lost for words. Props: a desk, some chairs, people with double sided A4 pages covered in pre-set questions (probably taken off t’internet) who were congenitally unable to deviate from script. Questions that seemed unrelated to the job itself (asking someone if they can perform a certain task, apart from begging an affirmative – who says they are crap at things during interview?! – relies on that task being relevant to the job ) demonstrate very clearly the interviewers own lack of skill and understanding. It was almost as weird as asking someone interviewing for a job as an HGV driver if they can ski or  bake bread. A bit WTF.

Interviews, which only occur after a bit of screening, should be a conversation, not a set of boxes that get ticked. Those boxes will tick themselves if you talk in the right way. Sitting behind a desk asking a series of usually pretty meaningless questions (“describe your management style” “well pretty shite really, I am a bully and I hate my colleagues”……..) is the death knell for relationship building. We talk endlessly about networking, the how why and wherefore, and in reality interviews are the budding start of a working relationship and an opportunity to connect. Wasted if we just sit there asking if someone knows which piece of legislation goes where, but so so useful if we chat about experience and knowledge and see the person. A personality unfolds in front of us, we share stuff, we connect. Even if that person isn’t the right one for this job that relationship is started, and who knows where you might all end up. There are lots of bits of research, practice guidance, training courses, manuals, that all try to teach people about interviewing and recruitment, but at heart, once you know what you are looking for and  realise you might find it in an unexpected place, having a conversation is the best way to find the right person. The rest follows.

So, Tip two: throw away the bog standard question-and-answer nonsense. Have a nice conversation that everyone can enjoy being sure to incorporate those requirements without making a big fat hairy deal of them. Be interested in the candidate, who is, after all, a person, and one with background, experiences, views, skills and probably a nice sense of humour and some pictures of their kids/grandkids that would be nice to see, possibly some Out There hobbies that would grab you, maybe even a great recipe for soda bread (yes, I blagged a really good soda bread recipe during an interview – it was brilliant).

Finally, if someone has taken the trouble to apply for a job, has had a detailed conversation with a recruiter or similar about it and has been put forward, courtesy kind of tells you that a quick email or phone call with the outcome would be appreciated. It would be good manners. It would be kind. Not, as happened recently, the candidate following up and receiving an email by return that simply said “This position is no longer available”. Nothing else, nada, zip, tumbleweed. In what realm is that ok? Even just in terms of relationship management – presumably that candidate will remember that recruiter in the future, perhaps when recruiting to positions themselves. But really just common courtesy, which after all oils the wheels of relationships.

And I guess that is really where I am heading with this. Our whole journey is about relationships. Trust, courtesy, honesty, purpose. If what we are doing is a barrier to that rather than a bridge we are doing it wrong. If we are doing it wrong, it will not go well for us.

So……have a chat, make some coffee and get out the good biscuits, make sure there are enough cushions and the room is warm without being oppressive. And if you are recruiting to a social care or health care post, make sure the people that will be on the receiving end are at the heart of it – not a boltontokenpopinboxtickingshallow here-we-are-with-some-punters-aren’t-we-inclusive-and-personcentred-and-lovely effort, but a genuine involvement with proper engagement and listening to the people with the lived experience and then using that and showing it working alongside each other.

Are you hearing the passion, that real passion I have for recruiting? Well, if you are recruiting and you don’t feel that passion you might want to get someone else to do it for you………….I mean it kindly. xx




I am worried about you……

I am worried about you. Seriously.

Scene setting: I have matured well, professionally. I do a pretty good job without fanfare and hullabaloo. I am ambitious, always, for the organisation hiring me, but personally, not much. I just want to do a job that is engaging, makes a difference, pays the bills and allows me to do my thing and meet people I like. Mostly that means being quite a bit senior, responsible,  knowledgeable, and I enjoy that. It is where I sit best. Worth hiring, more than competent, happy where I am, unimpressed by job titles, efficient, a bit zippy, a bit quirky, funny when you know me, incredibly (possibly surprisingly…) interested in what makes you tick, passionate about some stuff, and I know what works, really well. Have been there, done that, and understand the value. In short I have been around the block and have knocked it into shape a few times.

And I worry about people. You. People being urged to set goals, reach for the stars, be the best, win win win, go for it, push push push, told they can have it all if they only work harder, strive better, sleep less, plan better, attend the courses, buy the product, network network network.

My best networks are made up of people I just like and respect, I don’t really give a damn if they will “further my career” (whatever that is) or be “of use”. And I don’t usually go without. It works. My best pitch is just to do a great job. That works too. And my most enjoyable, satisfying  work has come from places I am passionate about – not furthering my career  or making my name, but making things better for people who have to use or work inside services and facilities. Not covering up when an organisation screws up, but facing that and making it better, making amends, making stuff happen in the best way it can. Validating and valuing everyone.

It makes me happy to do that.

What I have seen – increasingly – is that those people working in health or social support or allied organisations for their career prospects, to make their name and their fortune, are the ones whose mess I sometimes have to clean up. The ones who cause pain and grief rather than reducing it, who misunderstand what health and social care and support or charitable groups are actually for. Their drive to set career goals, to win, to achieve (for themselves) sets aside all other considerations and removes the ability to view the people they serve as, well, the people they serve. That is not right, attractive or humane. Sometimes, for sure, it is just that they have been promoted beyond their ability and capacity, usually by people with the same outlook. And perhaps malice doesn’t enter into it, just incompetence or avarice, the road to Hell being paved with such. But it is definitely a Thing…….

With all the complex safeguards and governance we now have, one would hope that cruelty, negligence, incompetence, abuse might be eradicated, but far from it. The very complexity of the systems creates a vacuum in which chaos is allowed to thrive and systems are so muddled and misused that people with an agenda and an axe grinding away behind them can use the system expertly and avoid – mostly – consequences.

And there we are: I worry about people being told to strive for “success” with very loose parameters around what that means. Numerous courses, sites, companies, ready to sell people ways to succeed which take little account of genuine personal happiness, desire and responsibility. As an old battleaxe I can see from the top of this hill (and not yet over it by a long way, most certainly……..) how dangerous those things are.

A plea – enjoy what you do. Success is measured in different ways and your way is probably not my way and is almost certainly not the way of the people selling you success plans and schemes. Smell the coffee, taste the cake, see the people, enjoy their company, believe in what you do. Make chums. Make coffee. Eat cake. Did I mention coffee? The most attractive people to work with and for, for me, have been those who genuinely give a damn about their purpose and believe what they do matters, not those who just want to climb. There are many of them about, thank goodness. And here’s the thing: they are often, almost always, the most successful………….

Go, make coffee. Bring me cake. xx




Smell the coffee, make a difference

If you click the picture a charming video plays. Please take a couple of minutes to watch. I think this makes an effective point, and one with which I agree. These days I make sure to spend time smelling the coffee, so to speak. For years I rushed, head down, trying to do good stuff. When my parents died I realised how much I had missed and how much I had made other people miss in my hurry to be good. In my hurry to be good I had been, perhaps, less effective. Now I take time to sit on my front steps and watch the birds in the sky and listen to their songs; I watch people as they hurry by, perhaps missing things too; I watch the clouds and wonder how to paint them properly and then go and try; I smell the earth. I still make a difference sometimes, and still try to be good: I work doing things I believe in with people I admire and respect, but I don’t do it exclusively any more. I also choose words for stories, colours for paintings, actually hear the music I am playing. My life is the better for it and I think I make a better difference now. Working smarter not harder is a cliche, but it is a cliche because it makes sense. I just wanted to share the point…If you have some interesting work, let me know. I am your woman.


A criminal waste, a disabled society. Unlock Your Future.

Easter is a time for reflection. I have been reflecting on the many people it has been my privilege to meet over the years. Many of the people I have worked with are people that the Jesus that I like to imagine would recognize: vulnerable, damaged, disenfranchised, hostile, broken, pathetic, lost, abused. I like them.

Disability is a strange concept, and many of the people with disabilities who I know would strongly suggest that it is not them with the disability but society, culture, which is disabled or which provides the disability. We build streets fit for the able bodied, buildings that exclude all but the well and the fit, work that suits only the driven and the straight and “normal”.  We see “work” as a means for economic growth and acquisition, and ignore the very real other benefits work can bring such as purpose, esteem, quality of life, respect. We patronise the successful disabled and express astonishment at their success. We create targets and drivers that take no account of alternative talents and aspirations, that fail to value otherness, indeed in a tabloid sense disability is so often viewed simply as a problem, a drain, a fiscal error.

If you look for the word “disability” online these are some of the words you get:

handicapafflictiondisorderdefectimpairment, disablement, infirmity  incapacityweaknessinability • Disability can make extra demands on financial resources.

Transfer those words to our environment and see what happens. Our shops have defects and will not allow wheelchairs in, our streets are afflicted with high kerbs and a lack of ramps, many work environments lack the capacity to value a range of people and talents and are, as a result, weak and impaired. Recruitment is afflicted by a set of rules and processes that despite legislation and encouragement still often excludes too many and that handicaps the workforce.

I would go further and suggest that people with a criminal history have been handicapped or disabled by society. Their forensic history effectively cripples their employment potential and afflicts their family life. If we suppose that it is indeed society and our culture that creates disability, in effect cripples its citizens, it follows that society can redress that. Some legislation attempts to do that by supporting “equal opportunities”, but equal ops can only happen if we view all candidates with an equal eye and the work environment is capable of accepting all candidates equally.

If you look for the word “criminal” online these are some of the words you get:

unlawfulillicitlawlesswrongillegalcorruptcrookedviciousimmoralwicked, culpable, disgracefulridiculousfoolishsenselessscandalouspreposterousdeplorable

I notice that none of those characteristics is irreversible. They are a description of how it is at the moment, not how it will be in the future. If we continue to exclude people from employment, to ignore the many benefits a varied and experienced workforce can bring, to expect jobless hopeless futureless people to suddenly somehow behave like employed, hopeful people with aspirations on release from prison, we set ourselves up to fail, and we fail our communities.

I don’t suggest for a moment that we employ anyone and everyone into any vacancy without safeguards and safety nets. I don’t do soft and fluffy. I do however suggest that we create those safeguards and safety nets and take the trouble to include the excluded and create a properly integrated and cohered environment in which everyone is valued, has the space to grow, and has their aspirations valued. Not because it is soft and fluffy, but because it reduces the risks of offending, of disaffection, and increases the chances of people buying into their communities and making the effort to support their futures and crucially it means we reduce the risk of missing out on some serious talent. Back in the day when social and health care services were even more rigid in their outlook than they are now, I employed an ex-offender who had done time for murder. I employed him in elder care. This was not universally welcomed…….But I ran the checks, created the risk assessment, spoke to the people I needed to speak to and importantly offered him a mentor and some effective support to re-adjust. It was a success.

No-one would suggest  there is an easy answer or that it is a simple matter. But that is not a good enough reason not to try.

No Offence CiC is a social enterprise  and I am lucky enough to be on the Board. We are not driven by private profit and we facilitate open access to crime and justice information. By challenging barriers to positive change and influencing future policy, our objective is simple: to make a difference. My own organisation, Mayall Management Ltd, is proud to support the Unlock Your Future project that No Offence is driving.

Unlock your Future

‘Breaking down barriers to employment for people with convictions’

This project will focus on identifying and breaking down the barriers to employment for people with convictions, to bring employers and employees together.

A simple key discreetly placed on a job advert will indicate that this employer will consider all applications on their merit and not their past.

Many employers have a skills shortage and would benefit from an increased pool of suitable candidates from which to recruit.

Unfilled vacancies can have an economic impact on any business and increase pressure on other employees attempting to make up the resourcing short fall.

We need a network of champions to raise awareness of this project and support employers to use the key either on their own website and/or on our jobs board and spread the word to those people looking for a job and also recruit other champions. Could you help us?

Employment provides us with a significant opportunity to break the cycle of reoffending. If you are an employer please join our network and we will send you the key to use free of charge.


The Light Of The World

You are light for the world… your light must shine in people’s sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus declares that he is the light of the world. Here, in Matthew, each of us is told that we, too, are light for the world.

Sometimes we miss the point of light: complacently we accept it as just light, the element that allows us to see. But we forget that it does not illuminate itself, it enables vision. We shine a light away from ourselves in order that sight is allowed. Humility can be difficult to practice, especially in a competitive and often adversarial environment, but practice it we must. As regular readers and colleagues who know me well already understand, I see business as a means to an end and not an end in itself, with integrity and respect at its heart. If business is not enhancing life, what is its point? Without that humility we will miss the point of what we do and we will have failed. Success so often means highlighting others aspirations, successes and ways forward – shine your light and let others dance in the spotlight.

Remember this……….




Another powerful argument against Yes-Men and Yes-Women!


Being a good boss, being a good team member

Good Bosses are Good Leaders, and they all have three things in common: they all care about their team, they all care about quality, and they all care about their customers/punters/people using their services or products. Because of those three things they all also provide three things in common: Vision, Systems, and Cherishing. I will explain!

A Good Boss has the bigger picture at the front of her mind. She thinks, listens, plans, analyses, and brings the parts into the whole. This isn’t simple: it takes time, skill, the ability to see past the stats to the reality, and to see how that reality impacts on the Big Plan and the direction the team needs to take to make sure the Big Plan happens, and indeed what the Big Plan needs to be. It means factoring in the even bigger picture, political, economic, and social; factoring in the individual talents of the team so that they work to the benefit of the whole and she provides opportunities for people to develop the skills they have and grow skills they didn’t know they had. She takes the rap and acknowledges that The Buck Stops Here. She keeps her head slightly above the other heads in the team so that she can see further ahead and spot the icebergs.

A Good Boss makes sure that, once the direction is set, as above, the pathways are clear. This involves putting systems into place, the pathways that make sure stuff happens at the right time, in the right way, and that it can be demonstrated, monitored and maintained . She doesn’t have to service the systems, she just needs to make sure the right systems are in  place and people know how to use them. The systems should free her up to do the other things a Boss needs to do. She will be making sure that Quality Happens.

A Good Boss cherishes her team. This isn’t all cuddly and fluffy, it is more about motivating and developing people, maximising their abilities and making sure that even their hidden talents are revealed and developed and that they know that their talents and qualities are valued and appreciated . This can mean all kinds of things from coaching individually, developing team events and forums, increasing peoples responsibilities to encourage their growth and confidence, devolving projects to people, maybe just talking and listening and being credible.

A Good Boss works towards being redundant: if she does all of the above the project/team/service will run itself, at least for a while. Once all the above is in place and working properly a Boss could take a few weeks off, could run another project, without her absence being noticed. After a few weeks her vision and clarity might be needed again to re-set the process, but it should maintain itself  for a short period just on its own momentum.

A Good Team values this. There are people who think, because a Boss doesn’t and shouldn’t have to dash about Doing Stuff because she is is internally busy thinking stuff, understanding stuff and planning stuff, she isn’t “doing anything”. Some team members fail to understand that that is their job, and that the Good Boss is freeing them up to do their jobs and to develop their roles. There are team members who get this and value it, and make full use of the Good Boss resource available to them, and they may get to develop themselves into Good Bosses eventually. And enjoy the journey on the way!!

A Good Team works hard at being a Good Team, uses the Good Team muscles that the Good Boss has enabled them to exercise and bulk up and a Good Team  practices and rehearses the ballet that a Good Team performs in order to work together.  But as with all ballet performances, just one shabby dancer can cause chaos. More than one means the dance is chaotic, not a dance, more of a shambles. All the performers need to be able to rely on all the others to play their own parts and all parts might be different, to be in the right place at the right time, move in the right way, and catch the others when they leap or fall. A Good Team identifies the vulnerable spots, the members who are for one reason or another not playing their parts well enough, and the Good Team and Good Boss work together to help that member re-learn their moves. That can only happen when the dancer is willing to learn, willing to rehearse and practice and understand which bits of her dance were not working and trust her colleagues to support her and be honest enough to tell her what she needs to do. The Good Team with a Bad Dancer is a temporarily Less Good Team! But because it is fundamentally a Good Team it has the capacity to carry the weak dancer while she learns the moves.  The weak dancer is not always the same person – the Team is made up of individuals, all of whom have A Life and all of whom will function at different levels at different times. Just because a dancer sprains an ankle and is the weak partner for a while doesn’t mean that dancer is always going to be the weak link – the sprain heals, the dancer re-learns the steps, and the dance goes on. The team bends and shifts and adapts to accommodate that and the boss respects it.

A Good Boss deserves a Good Team, and a Good Team inevitably has a Good Boss. What sort of team do you belong to? How can you improve it? Are you the Weakest Link………? Are your colleagues up to the job of carrying you for a while, and are you up to the job of re-learning your steps? And will your boss take the risk of allowing that to happen?

Message me, email me, and let me know about your team and your boss!!

What we can learn from Cats………

I stood on my cat this morning. Not as a hobby or for fun, you understand, it wasn’t on my To Do list (…brush teeth, make toast, stand on cat…), but because my cat had for some feline reason decided to sleep on the pedestal mat in my bathroom, for the first time ever, and it is dark when I get up. It was an interesting experience for both of us………..there was an instant in which we both held our breath and our silence before the joint yelling and the tearing sounds (that would have been my flesh being scythed out of the way so that the cat could leave the bathroom) woke the people sleeping in the country adjacent to ours.

Cats have much to teach us, especially about managing. Have you tried to manage a cat? Managing dogs, piece of cake. You can make entire teams of dogs pull sleds and beg for food. You can’t make a cat walk in a straight line if it chooses not to. One of my cats was in serious need of a vet – for his own good, mind you – a few years ago. To get him there we had to wrap him in a towel like a Mummy -well, two towels as he soon slashed his way partially through the fabric. The vet was a large, confident and cheerful soul with hands like shovels and I almost felt sorry for him when he told us it would be ok and just to let Thomas out of the towels, he would handle him – despite our protests.  Thomas opened a wound on the vet from ear to elbow and did a wall of death stunt around the walls of the room for at least five minutes, ears flat, eyes wide and black, before collapsing, exhausted, as indeed we all were, onto the table with a “whump” as he landed. We moved soon after that………

I have managed some fabulous people, really bright, determined, intuitive and caring people. I have also managed some horrors: lazy, shiftless, unpleasant  and lacking in the basics such as courtesy, insight  and a personality. Some people are, despite all the management skills and techniques in the world, impossible to manage unless it is to manage them out. One of the greatest tricks to learn, as a manager, is to know when you are defeated. Give it your best shot, have a plan, a timescale, aims and objectives, a sunny exterior while you die inside each time this persons fizzog hoves into view, a secret desire to invite this person on a day trip to Calais and push them into the English Channel, and of course a Plan B. Plan B will usually be the pathway to waving this person goodbye, the options having been manfully and womanfully tried, but receding and failing.   It is kinder in the long run – they are clearly in the wrong job (no, it isn’t you) and a menace to the team, the organisation, and your sanity.

Good luck with managing your Horrors. Remember – execution is the last resort, getting the paperwork right is the best option.

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