Category Archives: Managing people

First manage yourself, then manage others

A client of mine lost her temper with her assistant. She was stressed and tired, and, sooner or later, it was bound to show in her behaviour. As lost tempers go it probably wasn’t very high up the scale – it was more of a momentary lapse of control, a sharp word, some cynicism, a snarl.

But the damage had been done. Months of building a working relationship had been destroyed.

What a waste!

Many people are elevated to be managers without proper training. And, much of what managers are taught is designed to help them direct and support their staff, to motivate staff and bring about effective and productive working. Little or no attention is paid to the skills managers need to manage themselves!

A manager’s emotions can have a profound impact on staff morale, working relationships, and ultimately productivity.  Think about how you have been managed or want to be managed – remember the difference between being managed by someone who is happy or sad, passive or aggressive, resistant or compliant, supportive or indifferent.

Understanding emotions, knowing how and why they ‘happen’, how they affect behaviour and relations with others, is an essential skill for a good manager. One way of improving this skill is offered by the concept of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is ‘the ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions’. The American psychologist Daniel Goleman has developed the concept in relation to work and working with others. Goleman proposes that we should have two broad sets of competencies – personal competencies through which we manage ourselves, and social competencies through which we handle relationships with others.


These are Goleman’s suggested competencies for a manager/leader.

Personal competences – self-awareness and self-management

Emotional self-awareness – the ability to recognize our emotions as well as understand their impact on our behaviour, relationships etc.

Accurate self-assessment – a realistic evaluation of our strengths and limitations.

Self-confidence – a strong and positive sense of self-worth.

Self-control – the ability to keep destructive emotions under control.

Trustworthiness – a consistent display of honesty and integrity.

Conscientiousness – the ability to manage ourselves and our responsibilities.

Adaptability – skill at adjusting to changing situations.

Social competences – social awareness and social skill

Empathy – skill at sensing other people’s emotions, understanding their perspective, and taking an active interest in their concerns.

Organisational awareness – the ability to read the currents of organisational life, and navigate workplace politics.

Developing others – the ability and propensity to improve the skills of others through feedback and guidance.

Communications – skill at listening and at sending clear, convincing and well-tuned messages.

Influence – the ability to wield a range of persuasive tactics.

Change catalyst – proficiency in initiating new ideas and leading people in a new direction.

Conflict management – the ability to defuse disagreements and orchestrate resolutions.

Building bonds – proficiency at cultivating and maintaining a network of relationships.

Teamwork and collaboration – competence at promoting co-operation and building teams.


It’s obvious that we all have at least a degree of emotional intelligence – we can sense our own emotions and see emotions in others etc. As a way of improving (we can always improve!) your own emotional intelligence, read through the list again and start to:

  • think about your own level of competence in these areas
  • become aware of some areas where you have competencies you hadn’t noticed, or areas where your competencies need to be improved
  • think about the impact of your emotions on your relationships with people in both your private and work life
  • ask others (staff, colleagues, your own manager, friends and family) for their thoughts.


I run workshops for those new to management or those who have been managers for a while but have never had any proper training. The workshops include an introduction to emotional intelligence. I also deal with emotional intelligence in my one-to-one coaching sessions. For more information email me at or phone 07932 657925.

This list of competences is taken from Daniel Goleman, Leadership That Gets Results, Harvard Business Review, March-April 2000.

You have three brains, this is how to use them

Did you know that your gut contains a neural network that can learn, store memories, and perform complex processes. It sends and receives nerve signals and has every type of neurotransmitter found in your brain. In other words, your gut is a brain!

If that’s not enough of a surprise, neuroscientific research has found that the heart also has a sophisticated neural network and functions in a similar way. So, you have three brains.

Working with these findings and adding some behavioural modelling, researchers have now started to identify how our brains work together, and how each has its own specialisms. It seems that our three brains each have specific forms of intelligence and intuitive functions. Uncannily, the findings are starting to point to specialisms that confirm what we’ve experienced intuitively and expressed as our ‘heartfelt feelings’ and the ‘having the guts’ to do something – plus ‘thinking things through’ in our heads.

It seems that our heart brains play a major role in the processes that we experience as emotions and our connections to others. Our gut brains play a similar role in our sense of self and in self-protection. As we’ve known for a while, our head brains are great at the cerebral activities, like reasoning and language.

There also seems to be a significance in how we use our brains together, with research suggesting that there’s a neurologically preferred sequence that uses their individual strengths. In decision making, for example, the most effective sequence is (1) to start with the heart to see how a possible decision or choice or solution feels. If it feels positive, (2) employ the head brain to work out how to follow through and achieve our goal. Then (3) check things with the heart again to see if things still feel right. Finally (4) use your gut, go or it, draw on the courage that flows from your sense of self and self-preservation.

Another spin-off from this research is a re-thinking of the role and attributes of good leaders. Good leaders must use the strengths of their three brains. They must use their hearts to engage with colleagues and customers, lead through connection, rapport and bonds, not from a position of power and authority. They must use their heads to think creatively to see new possibilities, and rationally to devise strategies, plans and goals to deliver these. And, use their guts to provide the courage and determination to lead from the front and follow through.


For more information on the three brains see:

Neuroscience andthe Three Brains of Leadership, Grant Soosalu and Marvin Oka –

Head, Heart & Guts – How the World’s Best Companies Develop Complete Leaders, David L. Dotlich, Peter C. Cairo, Stephen Rhinesmith –

Using your multiple brains to do cool stuff, Grant Soosalu, Marvin Oka –


If you want to know about what I do and how I might help you, your colleagues or your organization, contact me on 07932 657925 or

Subtle ways to p*** off your colleagues

Neuroscience is providing some interesting insights into why we behave the way we do at work. 

An example is the SCARF model devised by David Rock. Amongst other things, it gives us a better understanding of why people get fed up, cross, uncooperative, stressed etc.

The underlying idea of SCARF is that our basic flight/fight/avoid mechanism kicks in when we are in various work situations. It suggests that the way we respond is subconscious – it’s automatic, not reasoned and we often don’t realise what we’re doing! Sometimes people get p***ed off but don’t know why.

SCARF (it’s an acronym) suggests that we react badly (we fight, flee or avoid) when we perceive a threat to our:

Status – when our standing, position in the pecking order, seniority etc. is or seems to be challenged or undermined. At work this can happen when a responsibility or task is taken away, and it can happen when someone has a younger manager.

Certainty – when something we believed was fixed, certain, stable etc. is or seems to be changed. At work this can happen when a new system is introduced.

Autonomy – when the degree of control we have over our work is or seems to be lessened. At work this can happen when someone is micro-managed.

Relatedness – we naturally bond and form tribes, teams, groups and don’t like it when there’s a real or apparent shift in the internal relationships. At work this can happened when someone is expected to work with a new colleague, or when there’s a restructure to a team.

Fairness – we don’t like to be treated unfairly or to be disadvantaged. At work this can happen when a colleague receives a reward (perhaps performance related pay) or is or seems to be getting favourable attention from a manager.

There’s lots of possible overlaps, nuances and subtleties in the above categories. However, they can help us to understand why people sometimes get p***ed off when seemingly trivial things happen. They can help to identify some of the causes of low morale.

What have you done today to p*** off a colleague?

If you want to know more about SCARF see


If you want to know about what I do and how I might help you, your colleagues or your organization, contact me on 07932 657925 or

Mr. Men for bad managers

‘So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.’ Peter Drucker

I’m compiling a list of the different types of bad manager. It’s quite a long list. For example, there’s Mr. Absentee who thinks that managing is something he needs to do once a year at appraisal time. And there’s Mr. Dumper who hasn’t the first idea about delegation.

The one I’ve been thinking about recently is Mr. Tantrum, he’s the emotional monster of bad management. His main characteristic is a lack of emotional intelligence. He can’t manage his own emotions and is unaware of the impact of this on his staff. He’s the one who has a row at home and brings his anger to work, and the one who ‘flies off the handle’ when the slightest thing goes wrong. He’s the one who creates a climate of fear and intimidation at work without realizing what he’s doing.

The other day I was talking to Derek (not his real name) who is young and holds a junior manager position at work. He told me of an incident where his MD lost his temper with Derek. Derek said the incident made him feel humiliated and angry. What’s more, his interest in and commitment to the job fell dramatically.

However, the following day the MD returned and apologized. Derek said his first response was to feel relief, his second was to feel honoured and important, and his third was to regain his motivation. Importantly, Derek also acknowledged that he had been at fault in the first place.

Maybe Derek’s MD has still got some work to do to control his behavior, but he certainly understands the negative impact that uncontrolled emotions can have. Mr. Tantrum would have shouted and walked away, and probably thought that a good telling off would ensure that Derek didn’t make the same mistake again.

As Derek’s story shows, Mr. Tantrum’s uncontrolled emotions lead to a lack of commitment and motivation, and very likely to a lack of productivity. In contrast, the manager who is aware of and controls his emotional behavior is able to deal rationally with problems, build trusting and positive relationships with staff, and improve motivation. When this happens, efficiency and productivity are sure to grow.

Unfortunately Mr. Tantrum’s anger is just one aspect of his damaging behaviour. Any unchecked negative emotion in the workplace is likely to have the same effect on staff morale and productivity. And, the flipside to Mr. T’s blindness to his own emotions is a lack of awareness of, and appropriate response to, the emotional life of his staff.

‘People perform better when their workday experiences include more positive emotions, stronger intrinsic motivation (passion for work), and more favorable perceptions of their work, their team, their leaders, and their organization.’ *

So, what sort of bad manager do you have?

And finally, just to be clear, for every Mr. Bad Manager there’s a Ms/Mrs Bad Manager too!


*AMABILE, T. M and KRAMER, S. J. (2007) Work Life: Understanding the Subtext of Business Performance, Harvard Business Review. May 

If you want to know about what I do and how I might help you, your colleagues or your organization, contact me on 07932 657925 or