The National Learning Institute

Monthly Archives: August 2009

Great leadership insights

August 16, 2009 No Comments

Reading a great book on leadership at the moment, “Creating Magic” by Lee Cokerill, former VP Operations at Walt Disney World, Florida.  It’s early in the book yet, Cockerill has already tackled the thorny topic of the difference between leadership and management.  Some quotes . . .

“No one ever explained to me the difference between managing and leading.  I wish someone had; it would have spared me a lot of anguish.”

“Despite the amazing variety of human beings out there, all everyone wants is to feel special, to be treated with respect, and to be seen as an individual.”

” . . . managerial skills are absolutely essential for getting results, but they are not enough to drive excellence.  Excellence requires common sense leadership.”

One of the other reasons I like this book is that it is written by a manager (and leader), not by a management guru.

PS.  The links are to articles of mine that relate to these topics.



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The Boss

August 13, 2009 No Comments

The Boss is a novel – and is also a novel way of learning about management and leadership. Author Andrew O’Keeffe has used his years of experience working with bosses and the stories he has been told about bosses, to pen this enlightening read. O’Keeffe has also used his vast knowledge of what makes people tick to ensure that there is a message in every chapter for anybody who wants to be a better boss or for someone who might need to manage their current boss better.

Told through the eyes of Lauren Johnson, the talented but perennial adherent to her bosses whims, it will keep you interested and involved to the final chapter. Early in the book we find Lauren finally deciding to move from her current job to get away from “Deadly Di”, the boss from hell, only to end up in a worse situation. In her new organisation, not only is her new boss somewhat inept, but many of the other senior managers have failings, quirks and even personality disorders which I am sure readers will recognise in bosses they have known.

When will Lauren wake up and do something about her situation? This is a clever concept O’Keeffe has used. By keeping us in tune with Lauren, but also keeping us frustrated that she is not taking it upon herself to get out from under, it enables O’Keeffe to achieve two aims. Firstly it is an excellent way of getting the reader to think of ways that he or she might act in Lauren’s situation, thus ensuring we learn about ourselves. Secondly, it enables the author to introduce all the various difficult boss types that need to be managed.

It might sound as if this book has quite a negative flavour. This is not so. There are enough examples of good bosses sprinkled throughout to provide the example of “what to do” in addition to “what to avoid doing”. Coupled with this is O’Keeffe’s quiet sense of humour and the quirky situations in which Lauren finds herself.

You could read this book as a novel and I’m sure get great satisfaction. However for me, The Boss is an excellent learning tool for managers. There’s a “Workplace Guide” at the end of the book with discussion questions for developing leadership. You’ll also see here chapter headings with the key management process covered, such as interviewing, appraisals, first impressions, salary reviews etc. However, my advice is to keep a pen and paper close by as you read in case you miss some of the gems such as “How to set a shared objective for an interview or discussion”.

Highly recommended for anyone who wants to be a better boss, or who wants to manage their current boss better, or just as a good read. Because of the way it is written, it would also make an excellent gift for someone who may be a manager, but does not like to read heavy technical or theoretical type books.

What's in a name – Bingo!

August 11, 2009 No Comments


Not all business-speak is jargon – some of it can even be useful. The trouble is, there’s so much nonsense spoken in workplaces these days that it’s easy for valuable concepts to be tarred with the “office-speak” brush.

Recently the BBC ran a story on the “business phrases we love to hate”.  It was not intended to be a survey.  However, email responses to the article poured in from all over the world.  Here (in no particular order) are some of the 50 terms that were sent to the BBC:

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Managers must harness power and politics

August 11, 2009 No Comments


Competition for resources – internal and external – means power and politics become even greater issues for managers in today’s tough economic times.

Add to that the closer scrutiny of performance, particularly in terms of cost-management, and managers face some real challenges.

Many employees are busy “keeping their heads down” in the hope that they will not be targeted for redundancy.  So, although people are still motivated, their motivation seems to come from job security rather than job-fulfillment and satisfaction.

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You're the Boss…Now What?

August 11, 2009 No Comments


Congratulations! You scored that big promotion and have moved up from the world of prospecting and sales quotas. You now have the nice office with the large desk-and all the managerial responsibilities to go with it. But just because you were a star seller, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be a star manager too. And, sadly enough, many organizations don’t provide their newly promoted managers the proper training-even though one could cost them as much as one million dollars in lost productivity.

Do organizations realize this?

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What's your moment of learning need?

August 11, 2009 No Comments


Just as some organisations manage their way through a crisis better than others, so do some people.  Studies suggest that a protein Neuropetide Y helps people stay focused in an emergency or stress event.  What’s this got to do with training and learning you might ask?

Well, in the current economic crisis, people are looking for support – not everyone has the same amount of Neuropetide Y protein that enables them to cope easily.  Trainers need to look at what people need, how they access that need, and importantly, when support is needed.


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Who’s depositing and who’s withdrawing from the Trust Bank?

August 11, 2009 No Comments



In my current role, I get to talk with managers at all levels across a range of countries including the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, India, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland.  And there’s a strange phenomenon happening at the moment around the globe.

When the financial crisis first took hold, people in firms gathered together and supported one another.  It seems that the usual response to an external threat was taking place,  ”We’re being attacked.  We’re in this together and we can support one another through the difficulty.”

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Change management : What works and what doesn’t when communicating change?

August 11, 2009 No Comments


How does change management work best?

What positively affects change management:

  • frankness and openness of communication?
  • one-on-one and team meetings?
  • access to electronic technology (email and intranet)?
  • immediate manager and supervisor?
  • team interaction?
  • other communication approaches (including publications)?
  • electronic communication?

At first glance, most of us would probably give a resounding “Yes” to each of the above.  Well, a major study of more than 1,000 employees across nine organisations (The Allen Consulting Group, Oct. 2003) found that the above factors did NOT have a major impact on successful change management.  Whilst they all are perhaps good forms of communication, it’s important to realise that communication and change are not the same thing.

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Learning Style – A misnomer or useful business strategy?

August 11, 2009 No Comments


Learning styles – A quick quiz…

- What do a German Shepherd dog’s ears look like?

- Who has a deeper voice, your best friend or your boss?

- How do you tie your shoelaces each morning?

As you read these questions, there’s a high probability that you accessed your memory in three different ways – visually (for the dog’s ears), in an auditory manner (to compare your friend’s voice with that of your boss) and kinaesthetically (you may have actually gone through the movement of tying your laces).

What is your learning style?

We all store memories in three formats … visual. auditory, kinaesthetic.  Although every one of us uses all three every day, as individuals we tend to have better access to our memory for specific events, using one of these three modalities.

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How creative is your training?

August 11, 2009 No Comments


Using creative learning appropriately, will not only make your sessions more fun, most importantly they will be memorable and transferable learning experiences for your participants.

As a young trainer, I was fortunate to work with a group of extremely talented and creative trainers.  This experience has fostered in me the drive to ensure my training initiatives are as creative as possible.  I was also fortunate to have a boss who whilst encouraging our creativity, ensured the training was meaningful.  All training had to have behavioural objectives with outcomes that stipulated what was to be learned, to what degree of proficiency and where and when the learning would be applied.

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