Another great conversation at my IoD Surrey People Forum on Friday 4th November. A big thanks to everyone for their attendance, their insights and their contributions to the conversation. I came away with much to think about. Here are my memory prompters from my notes which I am happy to share with you here:

1 Mark Craven’s experience in using a neutral outsider to engage his team members meaningfully in conversations on how they contribute to the overall effort and results of the business.

2 The economy: News is invariably bad and hyped. There are real challenges that must be managed. BUT we are in Surrey in the sunny South East. John Stuttaford’s clients at MSP Chartered Secretaries are NOT issuing floods of P45s for them to process. Many of us have SME clients who are growing. Jonathan Richards can’t fill 2 vacancies. As always it is important to back winning sectors and players and there are always winners in every market – even this one!

3 Many large organisations are in a holding pattern at the moment. Mike Shephard is aware that interim engagements are increasingly used to plug experience/skills gaps rather than direct employment. I am getting this feedback from some of my clients too.

4 Reflecting on Robin Pearce’s experience at Cartwright Group. Never underestimate how fearful employees can be – even when their management team point out the real security of company income, margin and importance derived from their employment in as open a way as he is doing right now. This somehow, for me , links back to our opening conversation about …. well ……. conversation!

5 One of my old outstanding Manager’s mantra ‘Richard, leaders must always be drip-feeding good news’

6 This links into the conversation that Jonathan Richards initiated about how leadership styles have been evolving over time. Certainly, there is far less formality apparent within the companies that appear to be winning at the moment. There is still a relentless focus on results, huge expectations and massive efforts being demanded but the leaders who are winning tend to be more engaging, less formal and closer to their people. I also see this in the clients have the privilege of working alongside recently. Remember my friend Tony – leading a 10-12 year old company, 15 or so people, engineers in the main, in a crowded competitive market. The standards he has built are very high. All his people are well above the market standard. He always engages them in assessing new recruits, recognising that they have a valid voice in the standards he drives into the business. How many people do you know who do this?

7 To John Everist’s point about bad apples and the 2 very valid reminders by Michelle Tudor and Carolyn Hopewell that (1) In far too many cases the ‘Performance Management and Exit Process’ is initiated after the decision is already made to exit someone from the business. This is just too late! (2) There is a big difference between ‘Performance Management’ and the formal ‘Appraisal’ process.

8 Finally, to Jonathan Richard’s point about DropBox. Go check them out sometime. They tried to grow through ppc and other Google search strategies. They offer an unlimited feature, unlimited time freemium service on their basic storage offering that suites the vast majority of their (non-paying) customers. The biggest engine of growth? Giving away even more storage space to happy non-paying customers for referring new paying and NON paying customers to them. Go figure!

Next IoD People Forum meeting will be in January 2012