managing change

Managing Staff is Like Tying Your Shoelaces

Posted on October 2, 2014. Filed under: leadership response, managing change |

No, really it is.  Managing staff is like tying your shoelaces.

Everyone does it in slightly different ways.

If it isn’t done right and the laces come undone mid run or walk  it’s annoying, frustrating, interrupts your rhythm and is important to effective operation and function.

Blog shoelacesThis came to me while I was out walking. A time and activity where I often do my best thinking.

(and here’s a pic of my foot and the lace in question!)

You see in recent weeks I have noticed that the shoelace on my left shoe keeps coming undone while I’m walking or running.


And it annoys me when I have to stop and retie it.


This shoelace has never been a problem previously and I’m sure that I am tying it the same way as I usually do, and yet it keeps coming undone. At least two to three times in a 30 minute run or walk. Only the left foot. Only in the past 4 months or so.


And then it struck me, I was getting frustrated because I had to keep stopping and tying it back up – repeating what had already been done.

(Those are sentiments that some of my clients have shared with me – that the process of dealing with repetitive staff issues is a distraction from the work that needs to be done)

It seemed the more I thought about it, the more fitting the analogy between shoelaces and managing staff was an appropriate one.

everyone has their own style of tying shoelaces, and for managing people. The core principles are the same yet the actual process is different. Some people double knot their laces – that’s probably enough on that point 🙂

– once tied we assume that the lace will remain tied until it is undone with a purpose. Managers often assume that people know what is expected of them after one conversation or briefing

it’s easy to feel frustrated with the lace for coming undone rather than first asking “is there something different that I need to have done”

having to stop frequently disrupts the rhythm and output of the run/walk and the business. SO it is really important to do it well to begin with.

Stop and reflect before the task begins on whether there is something different that staff may need to be briefed on, or that may mean the laces need double knots (rain or their age)

Consider what I need to adapt to. If the lace has come undone several times recently then it may need to be double knotted from now on to give it the extra support it needs. Perhaps I should see a podiatrist or gait analyst to assess if there is something changing in my hip or knee that is affecting the way that I run/walk.

Maybe I could use the pause to catch my breath and assess my progress – in other words turn it into a positive and useful activity.

In the words of an old song “perhaps, perhaps, perhaps”

The important thing is that leaders need to adapt just as much as staff are asked to do.


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Are you connected with technology but not with people around you?

Posted on July 12, 2014. Filed under: coaching, culture, Leadership and teams, managing change, personal leadership, team dynamics |

Many people and businesses have been grappling with the range of technology and devices and channels that are now available for us to communicate. In fact the rate of change with technology has far outstripped the development and evolution of pretty much every other element of our work and personal worlds.

In businesses, large amounts of money have been spent on upgrading IT systems, telecommunications and internat access and speeds. (Australians know all about the publicity around the NBN). And the pace of change with technology has been astounding -there are policies about social media use and access, policies on whether employees can access work applications and systems from their own device or only from a work device. Then of course there is the aspect of time at work becoming more elastic as people read emails and the like on their device while commuting to and from work, as well as those who review and write reports after hours and on weekends.

All this technology has meant that we are better connected than ever before – with people in our own workplace and also with people around the world. (I am currently reading The World is Flat by Professor Thomas Friedman which is all about the ease with which we deal with people anywhere in the world)

And yet, despite all of this capacity to connect we seem to be experiencing greater disconnection as human beings. People have devices and tools with which to communicate, and yet in some ways there seems to be more confusion and mis-communication than ever before.

People and businesses have been grappling with increasing
– bullying
– complaints of harassment
– tension and conflict at work
– mental health issues
– complaints, sick leave and confusion

What does this all mean? Does it mean we should abandon our technology?
Not at all in my view, the technology is merely the tool or the channel. We seem to have been cut adrift from the essence of why we communicate with each other.
To share news.
To learn.
To collaborate.
To provide feedback.

It seems that the ease of using the tools has somehow been transposed into an assumption that communication itself is easy.
Which it is not. Human communication is a complex interplay of voice, language and body language. Layered on top of beliefs and mental models and assumptions. Added to cultural and interpretation differences – some cultures do not shake hands while others rely on that action to establish trust.

When you distl your communication down to words on a screen – such as I am doing right now – you cannot glean any real insight to how I am feeling right now, unlike that which you would gain if we were face to face (or I had posted this as a video).

Research tells us that only 7% of our total communication message is derived from the words we choose, whereas 38% is from our tone and 55% from the rest of our body language.
If you picture me with my arms crossed and with a frown on my face this blog takes on a much different meaning than the one you would gain if I was sitting in a relaxed pose with a quizzical or curious expression on my face.
Consider how the message may change if I were speaking in slow and measured tones as opposed to a fast and higher pitched tone.

While the technology enables us to connect more readily with others locally and in other geographic locations, we cannot ever afford to lose sight of the importance of the person to person communication.
Has technology made us more complacent or lazy?
Has technology led to assumptions that we are all alike?

Technology has improved our physical process of communicating and yet we as humans need to remain attentive to the emotive and relationship process of communicating.

Workplaces of today perhaps need effective communication skills and stakeholder management (or relationship building) skills more than ever before.

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