Mining Rough Diamonds

Or why the best candidate may not be the obvious one


This post is based on an article I wrote for the spring 2019 edition of the Institute of Water’s magazine


The problem

What do you do with a team member best described as a rough diamond, technically brilliant but a challenge to work with?

How about promoting them to a quality critical management position in a new team in a new section in a new directorate?

While not without risks, it can work.

The situation

As interim Water Quality Monitoring Manager for Southern Water, I had to form a team to provide scientific expertise to the new Compliance and Resilience (CAR) directorate.

Being a new team in a new section, it was agreed that the team principal would require exceptional technical and leadership skills.

And, probably, the hide of a rhinoceros, the patience of Jobe and the wisdom of Solomon.

Making the choice

I see managers as the conductor of the orchestra, able to combine a broad technical understanding with great leadership skills to liberate their team’s potential, so this was my aim.

Informal discussions on potential candidates brought up Lee Dark’s name. Reaction split broadly into: “he’s a pain, recruit at your peril” or “he’s good but can be prickly”.

However, no-one was lukewarm about Lee, something I thought potentially valuable.

Looking beyond the obvious

Lee’s technical expertise was never in doubt, but I didn’t know how he would adapt to running a team of widely differing capabilities.

At interview I asked how he thought others saw him. He immediately he offered the thought that “I can be a challenge, but I know my stuff and am passionate about doing it right”.

He also spoke fluently on how he would grow and develop the team, especially that they were trained before being thrown into the mix and gave examples of how the team could help Southern Water improve its compliance.

Clearly he had given the matter a lot of thought, which I liked, and in the end it was an easy choice.

How did it work out?

In a recent 360 appraisal Lee got the highest team score of all the CAR managers for his engagement with his team. And that was just the icing on the cake.

Lee and his team earned the respect of the business, working on projects including assessing the company’s reservoir sampling points against the Water Quality Regulations, Hazrev (Hazard Review) looking at Monitoring and Sampling across all of Southern Water’s water treatment works.

They also led the critical on-line monitoring trial on accrediting data from Southern Water’s myriad of on-line analysers to the ISO17025 standard, a new area of work for UK water companies

Lee himself somehow found time to apply for and get Chartered Scientist, getting good feedback on his application and CPD plan, and being recommended as an assessor for the Institute of Water.

Since his appointment as principal, he has also taken on the role Technical Manager working alongside the Quality Team helping to ensure Southern Water maintains it’s ISO17025 accreditation.

I think we can safely call the appointment a success

But what did his team say?

Team well-being is very important for Lee. He provided us with all necessary training prior to our roles and responsibilities. He supports us 100% and we can count on him any time and day.

Ewa Esposito

Lee is a dedicated manager whose main focus is on his staff. He goes above and beyond to ensured we are all content in our roles as monitoring scientists. I am very glad he is my boss!

Grace Gledhill

Our manager always encourages us in self-development. He is giving us the best training and support, to do the job to the highest standard. We can always count on him and he can always count on us.

Magdalena Sobkowiak

How would you like feedback like that from your teams?

Managing the risk

What if I’d been wrong and Lee had not stepped up as he did? Or worse, crumled under the pressure?

My safeguard was that all Southern Water appointments have a probationary period and, while unpleasant, terminating an unsuccessful appointment is sometimes necessary.

If you ever do have to do this, do it quickly and humanely. Just remember, you appointed them and hence you have some responsibility here.

The moral of the story

Do take soundings when recruiting but make up you own mind. If in doubt, interview them and ask directly about relevant issues. And don’t beat about the bush.

A footnote

How did I develop the idea of giving people a chance? Back in the mists I time I was like Lee, great technically but a challenge to work with because I felt frustrated by my role.

However, once I got an opportunity, I blossomed.

Ask yourself this: How many Lee’s and Bob’s might there be in your organisation?

Finally

Did you find this post interesting? Would you like to say something about it? Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or start a discussion.

Thanks

Bob Windmill

Building a team of many talents

In the summer of 2017 I was offered a three month contract as Interim Water Quality Monitoring Manager with Southern Water to help implement a new Compliance and Resilience directorate.

Writes Bob Windmill

Eight months later (yeah, I know) I had led the creation of an entirely new team of six monitoring scientists and a principal, fitting this into a new department made up of existing teams.

Not an everyday situation……

Continue reading “Building a team of many talents”

Three things I value: Part 1 – the cheap but effective

Reading the post you will see why I value a device that cost less than thirty pounds, that at various points caused me to pull my hair out, but yet I wouldn’t want to be without.


So what’s the cheap but effective example, then?

Continue reading “Three things I value: Part 1 – the cheap but effective”

Solving the right problem

And not the one you thought it was…

Have you ever wrestled with a problem, spending hours and days getting nowhere? Where what ever solution you come up with just wouldn’t work?

This post is about a recent example of my own making.

Happily the consequences were not serious but it was a sharp reminder of the need to troubleshoot systematically.

FROM THE START

Continue reading “Solving the right problem”

3×3 Management : 9 key things every manager should do – Part 3

In my first post on 3×3 Management I gave my thoughts Leadership and the three key ideas of management styles, effective recruitment and personal values.

In my second post I looked at people management and the three key ideas of treating people with respect but setting limits, recognising good performance and addressing poor performance, and giving your people room to grow and develop.

In this post I will look at the need for self-awareness and the three key ideas of recognising how you feel in certain situations, understanding why you feel the way you do, and the vital skill of learning to separate how you feel from how you behave

Theme 3: SELF-AWARENESS

Continue reading “3×3 Management : 9 key things every manager should do – Part 3”

3×3 Management : 9 key things every manager should do – Part 2

In my first post on 3×3 Management I gave my thoughts Leadership and the three key ideas of management styles, effective recruitment and personal values.

In this post I will look at people management and the three key ideas of treating people with respect but setting limits, recognising good performance and addressing poor performance, and giving your people room to grow and develop.

Theme 2: PEOPLE MANAGEMENT

Continue reading “3×3 Management : 9 key things every manager should do – Part 2”

3×3 Management : 9 key things every manager should do – Part 1

My journey to today

A while ago I was asked the question: “why have you been so lucky with the teams you’ve had? They all seem to do great things while I struggle to get mine to do the basics”.

I can’t remember exactly what I replied, but I’m guessing that it probably wasn’t particularly insightful.

What I do know is that the question made me think about why some people almost effortlessly achieved great results as a manager while others sweated blood just to be average.

Continue reading “3×3 Management : 9 key things every manager should do – Part 1”

Safeguarding data: saving your business’ life

A few years ago I heard this statement:

Before you’ve had a major data loss you wonder what the fuss is. After you’ve had a major data loss you wonder why people are so unconcerned“.

Personal Computer World

And before you ask, yes I was one of the unconcerned. At best I would copy my data to a CD or DVD when ever I thought about it.

The speaker went on explain how they nearly lost their business just because of a hard drive failure.

They also presented some frightening statistics on the consequence of data loss on businesses. The one that stood out for me was that 70% of small firms that have a major data loss go out of business within 1 year. (DTI/PCW).

Not wanting to join the 70% I decided that I needed a robust and systematic way of protecting my data. Here’s what I did.

Continue reading “Safeguarding data: saving your business’ life”

SPOC: Students Planning Their Own Careers (Full Article)


This Post

This post is based on a paper I presented at INTED2013 (7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference)


Introduction

In our ever more complex world, as illustrated by the video “Shift Happens“, the idea of careers being planned in some linear manner is increasingly untenable.

However individuals still need a way of identifying the skills that will underpin their future personal and professional development.

The challenge is this: how do they decide the skills they will need in the short, medium and long term.

Why careers guidance doesn’t work

In this environment it can be difficult to know what the end of next week will look like, so understanding the skills requirements of the world of work in 10 years’ time would appear to be an impossible task.

Continue reading “SPOC: Students Planning Their Own Careers (Full Article)”

SPOC: Students Planning Their Own Careers (Abstract)


This Post

This post is based on a paper I presented at INTED2013 (7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference)


Abstract

In our ever more complex world, as illustrated by the video “Shift Happens“, the idea of careers being planned in some linear manner is increasingly untenable. However individuals still need a way of identifying the skills that will underpin their future professional and personal development. The challenge is this: how do they decide the skills they will need in the short, medium and long term.

Continue reading “SPOC: Students Planning Their Own Careers (Abstract)”