Whenever I’m delivering management training, I always ask delegates “Do you watch Supernanny?” Because if they don’t, they should! I don’t have children (I’d rather have measles, to be honest) but I do watch Supernanny religiously. Her techniques for taming tiny terrors are essentially the same as those for effective people management. Now I’m not saying that you should put an errant staff member on the naughty step for 37 minutes, but here are the essential SN principles and how you can make them work for line management.
SN always starts by watching and listening the family she’s helping, so she knows exactly what issues she’s dealing with. Don’t be an ivory-tower manager who has no clue what your team members actually do! Make sure you keep your eyes and ears open, ask questions, and find out what goes on – how people behave, what problems they have to face, how they handle them etc.
2. Set expectations
SN usually starts by drawing up a list of house rules so the kids know exactly what they should and shouldn’t be doing – no fighting, listen to Mum and Dad etc. – and putting it up on the wall. So be crystal about what you expect from your team – whether it’s in job descriptions, codes of conduct, competency frameworks or individual objectives – and make sure you communicate it clearly to everyone.
3. Give warnings
If the kids step out of line, SN tells them in no uncertain terms “That behaviour is unacceptable!”, closely followed by “This is your warning!” So they have an opportunity to improve before any next steps are taken. In the same way, don’t suddenly come down on an employee like a ton of bricks without making it known first that they need to change their behaviour or work standards. SN is strict about only giving one warning though, not endless chances – otherwise they will know that you’re full of hot air and the warnings are pointless!
Badly behaved children and poorly performing staff all need to understand that their actions have consequences. For bratty kids, it’s one minute spent sitting on the Naughty Step for every year of their age. For someone nearing retirement, that’s over an entire lunchbreak! So obviously the consequences will be different, but the principle remains the same, which is – follow through. Whether it’s formal disciplinary or capability procedures, withdrawing privileges or responsibilities, demotion or even dismissal, make sure that you do what you say you’re going to do. They’ll soon learn that you mean business!
5. Monitor, review, feedback
SN’s aim is to make the hapless parents self-sufficient so they can implement the techniques successfully for themselves. So she shows them what to do, lets them have a go at it, sees how they get on by themselves, then goes back to give them some feedback and encouragement and show them how they can improve. Erm – that’s it really, not much to add there! A technique you just can’t argue with for managers!
If you have children, watching Supernanny should be compulsory – but if you’re a line manager, you should still tune in to the double-bill on E4 on weekend mornings, as you could definitely pick up a few tips!