Michael Brennan, Associate Director at Michael Page Engineering & Manufacturing, spoke with recent candidate Jeremy Wood about conflict resolution, identification & development of transferrable skills and successfully implementing new systems & processes.
Tell us about your career to date.
I have been very fortunate and worked with hundreds of dedicated and professional people in numerous military and more recently private sector specialisations. I joined the military straight from college and learnt a technical trade whilst being accepted into a team of fiercely dedicated self-starters and proud completers. During my time there I achieved chartered engineer status.
It is now a little over four years since I left the military and joined a large multinational aerospace company with the remit of changing their UK engineering team’s direction, mind-set and workplace values. It’s been a massive challenge and one that would have been impossible without the transferable generic skills learnt whilst doing a plethora of different roles in the military.
I learnt many skills in my early years and it was the start of understanding that personal discipline, my emotional intelligence (EQ) and my determination to deliver would be essential if I was going to be happy and successful in any career.
Given your remit to bring change to an entire UK division, what is your approach to embedding workplace values within a business?
Managers and leaders can sometimes deliver a tangible proposal but get distracted from delivering on the programme vision which is ultimately more important and will contain the change. In other words, I could deliver a proposal but if I did not ensure that the new product was used, people were trained in it, the business realised it made production more efficient, safer and cost effective, then the project had failed.
So my key tip to making changes to workplace values is the regular effective communication of how delivering the programme vision is bringing benefits to the business. The litmus test to whether changes have stuck is to ask the business team the question of ‘So what are the benefits?’ If they are able to explain the benefits of the project introduced, then the change is acknowledged and you are on route to delivering the project and enabling change.
Key advice for successfully implementing new systems and processes:
- Clear communication – Be clear on what the change will be. Consider the who, why, when and how.
- Allow time – Allow for the new information to be digested.
- Engage with the team - Ask if they have any concerns about the change and then address those concerns. You will inevitably have people who embrace, people who are ambivalent and people who are entrenched and won’t want or who are scared of change. You need to tease this through with an omni-channel set of communications to cater for all.
- Identify and empower – Find those individuals who embrace the proposal; your change agents and involve them in the project.
- Commence and support change - Ensure communication is constant and appropriate.
- Celebrate and reward success – Enjoy the wins as a team and engender that winning mentality
One of the toughest barriers to embedding workplace values can be workplace conflict. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about managing these?
This is simple, professional conflict need not occur. Unfortunately it does, so employing your EQ and being able to act at the appropriate tempo is essential.
It’s important to contain the issue to prevent escalation or volatility either internally or externally. You must employ company process and experts, if required, to understand the issue and treat the root cause whilst bringing all parties to a common understanding. Follow this up by communicating the essential message and ensuring the necessary measures, or training, are in place to make sure there is not a reoccurrence.
If you belong to a multi-site organisation that communication may also need to spread further so all can learn from the issue. However, you should always remember, whilst there is a set of steps to follow they are not prescriptive and everyone is different. Invariably conflict happens due to mis or poor communication, so pro-active communication could reduce any chance of conflict.
What’s the best advice you have received about solving problems at work?
No one has the monopoly on good ideas. Yes, you may be able to solve the problem on your own, but sometimes using a team to brainstorm enables engagement while empowering individuals. Equally, using a team to deliver the idea as a training exercise allows them to take pride in the end result.
How do you go about identifying and developing skills?
I believe you need to start by base lining your own skill-set before identifying and developing skills. Base lining can be done by comparing and examining past experience; think of examples of what you have done and ask a colleague whether they share the same interpretation of that example and whether it demonstrates a certain skill. I think it is beneficial to do this as I believe many roles and industries could refer to a similar skill or duty differently. You may have heard what George Bernard Shaw said about the UK and the USA? ‘Two great nations separated by a common language’. This could also be the same between industries describing the same skill.
By comparing your current baseline to the skills deemed necessary for another role you wish to transfer or grow into, you identify any gaps you need to cover. To close those gaps you can explore a number of options. Consider whether academic training alone will suffice and whether this could be sponsored. Perhaps discrete one and two-day courses or on-the-job training (OJT) would work best? It may even require a mixture of all of the above.
How is this received in the job market if they perceive a skills gap?
I have touched upon the importance of knowing and understanding a team dynamic and how to motivate a team. How discipline, resilience and a high EQ are as beneficial as IQ. It should also be apparent that if you are self-motivated enough to invest in your own development you are a good part of the way to realising your next opportunity.
This is where the support and advice of an excellent recruiter is invaluable. Without that support the opportunity to be able to show a prospective employer your ability and translate your CV to show what you can bring to his or her team can be a difficult task. Michael Page has helped me demonstrate and articulate the difference I can make. Their specialist, professional and honest advice has been invaluable.
For more career advice get in contact with Michael Brennan or follow us on LinkedIn.
T: +44 161 829 0373