In this series of articles, I’d like to focus on some practical advice for new or aspiring managers, based on The Six Conversations of a Brilliant Manager* by Alan J Sears. It’s an immensely readable book, structured in two parts: first, an engaging fictional story of a new manager (of a team of six), followed by a ‘simple reference guide’ as the author calls it which recaps the key messages.
Alan’s book is based on the concept that many management conversations with the individuals in your team have a structure, which if followed, makes it more likely you will achieve a good outcome for both you and the team member.
Working with leaders and managers from all walks of life, I came to realise that what makes some people more successful than others is the quality of the conversations they have with others… These high performers know that they need to take a different approach to different conversations – and that the simplest way to do that is to have a different structure for each conversation.”
Part of the reason I enjoyed it so much is that it echoes a number of the themes which resonate strongly with us at Protagion, including treating your team members as individuals, adapting your approach to each of them, and allowing them to shine, and taking charge of your own career proactively and not expecting that your organisation will manage it for you.
Early in the book, the fictional manager realised that he “needed to have a completely different conversation with everyone in the team” to make the difference his company needed. He’s an endearing protagonist for the book’s messages, a good-natured and supportive manager who describes his thought pattern with: “I worked out what I thought the problem was, and then where I should start and finish the conversation in order to get to where I wanted to be – and where I wanted the other person to be.” He even chooses specific locations for conversations in the story based on who he would be speaking with, and the nature of the discussion.
Read more for an introduction to the six conversations, covering coaching, taking responsibility, addressing performance/behaviour, delegation, career paths, and performance appraisals, followed by more of my thoughts on the book and other (related) approaches like Patrick Lencioni’s famous business fable The Five Dysfunctions of a Team*. This article then goes into more detail on four of the conversations, leaving delegation and career conversations for future articles in the series.
One of our mentors (Trevor) likened Protagion to a rotation programme for professionals within and across companies, which got me thinking… He called us a “bigger thinking equivalent to a rotation programme… to plot a [career] path… and see the bigger picture [for your career]”. Definitely an insightful comment which prompted me to reflect further, and I’ve set out my thoughts in two related articles on rotation. This is the first.
Read more for my thoughts on corporate perspectives on employee rotation, the concept of ‘tours of duty’ to align interests, and your developmental responsibilities as a manager. The second rotation-themed article then shares an overview of my own career experiences as an example of internal and external role rotations, and offers suggestions on how you might create your own growth opportunities by rotating during your career.
It’s rare that a book resonates with you on so many levels, especially one that’s not aimed at you! One of Protagion’s coaches recommended Tara Mohr’s work to us, and while on the surface it’s aimed at women, it has practical insights for all of us looking to step up into our unique purpose. It will take many articles to pay homage to her amazing work, so over the coming months I’ll try by diving deeper into some of the topics I touch on in this article.
...I listened to them talk, in awe of their intelligence, their ideas and their character – their honest concern for others and their commitment to doing the right thing. I kept thinking, these are the kind of people I wish were in charge: hardworking, wise, ethical women and men who care a great deal about people.”
A number of times in Playing Big, I felt echoes of Brene Brown’s insights on courage and vulnerability. Two examples: (i) when Tara refers to taking back authority of her own work and not being triggered by praise or criticism, and (ii) when she describes sharing our own stories to support change: “Even when our work is informed by research and professional expertise… it gains power and resonance when we remove the mask and imbue it with a vulnerable sharing about why it matters to us”.
Read more to uncover uplifting insights from Playing Big, including what drove Tara to create the programme, where her material comes from, and how the book’s structure shifts from our inner thoughts to taking and sustaining positive action. The article ends with Tara’s vision for our future world, one shaped by our individual and collective actions to dream, play, and leap bigger.