The importance of a happy workplace, why you should audit your internal communications, managing difficult people and how to introduce performance-related pay were among a huge variety of sessions at English UK's Management Conference in York.
More than a hundred managers attended the annual conference, taking advantage of the opportunity to catch up with the latest trends and thinking in ELT and, equally importantly, catch up with colleagues.
Lucy Pereira of One to One explained why she had decided to come back to the event this year: "It's nice to get out with colleagues and share ideas… it gives you an injection of ideas and energy, talk through issues and look at things differently. The topics are really well-connected and I like the environment where you are able to talk to everybody even if you've never met before. "
Huan Japes, Deputy Chief Executive of English UK (Professional Services), said he thought moving the conference to Thursday and Friday this year had increased its popularity. "People preferred that they weren't giving up any of their weekend to come. It's been a fantastic conference: we were pleased to have industry and non-industry speakers, including Henry Stewart, who talked about creating a happy workplace and got us off to such a good start, Loraine Kennedy who made us all think in a new way about communications, and Helen Chambers who talked about conflict, reminding us that it is inevitable: people are difficult. In all that, and our other sessions, we had an underlying theme of motivating people, and how to manage them effectively."
Next year's conference was likely to be somewhere in the South of England, he said, but the venue was yet to be decided.
The opening session, by the very cheerful Henry Stewart, was still being talked about by delegates the following day. He runs a company called Happy, driven by his conviction - supported by research - that happy and trusted workers are more productive. Research had showed that an investor in companies scoring highly for worker satisfaction would have made considerably more return than those investing in those riding high in the stock markets.
This meant trust, freedom, challenge and support were most important aspects of the workplace. He suggested the value of pre-approving: that managers delegate a project, give a full explanation of what's needed and approve the solution before knowing what it will be.
"Like most managers I am a barrier for change, so I make sure things don't come across my desk," he said, adding that the three most important management behaviours were to express interest, empower staff and at number one, be a good coach. A core principle was to ask, don't tell people - but give a scaffold to their work. If something went wrong, he said: "We talk about celebrating mistakes because we learn from them."
Other sessions over the two days included advice on how to create your own CPD toolkit, a challenging session on the way in which new technology and social media in particular were affecting communication and management within companies. "Social media will be affected by the organisation you have. If people are unhappy, griping, unsatisfied - that's what will come through. It really does raise questions about the type of culture you have. Ask yourself: would your staff recommend your workplace to a friend?"
She recommended a communications audit, asking people what they needed to do the job better and asking everybody on staff.
Helen Chambers, talking about managing difficult people, reminded that managers needed to look at their own behaviour to help deal with the "emotional soup" in the workplace.
"Hold a mirror to yourself.," she said. "Did I do something cause that person to behave in what I perceive as a difficult manner?… I say do, not be that manager whose arrival I wait for to see what my day is going to be like."
It was a manager's responsibility to ensure a good atmosphere within the environment, she said, adding: "Prevention is better than cure." Other sessions included Quiet Leadership, an Open Space session for managers to discuss common issues, and Michael Carrier of Cambridge English outlining useful MBA techniques for managers, asking the question: "Are you a Skoda or a Rolls Royce?"
View the English UK Management Conference 2015 image gallery
Find out more about English UK conferences and training days.
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