Archive Monthly Archives: March 2018

practising guitar, mastery, training and development

How to master your team

How much do you invest in training and coaching your team?  Does everyone feel they are good at what they do and take pride in becoming even better?

My husband runs the family tool hire business, and every now and again, asks me to go in and cover for him for a couple of hours.  He works alone, so if he needs to make a delivery during the day, I get to go in and be the sales assistant.  It’s fine, until someone comes in and asks for something.

Firstly, I struggle with the stock control on the computer – I’m not that familiar with it, so it takes me a while to work out if we’ve got an angle grinder available.  Once I’ve established that we have, the next problem is that a) I don’t know what it looks like; b) I don’t know where we keep it on the shelves; and c) don’t know what disc you need to for the job you want to do.

So I end up feeling useless and incompetent, and just hate being there.   It’s really not a nice feeling.  And yes, if I worked there full time, I’d learn and improve, but because I don’t that feeling of incompetence arises every time I’m on the premises. Also, it’s his business, he wants it run his way, so I don’t get much autonomy either.

We return again to Daniel Pink, and his book Drive; the surprising truth about what motivates us.  As well as purpose and autonomy, there’s mastery.  To develop mastery we need three things. 

  • Firstly, the mindset.  If we approach a task with the view of reaching a specific standard, like getting an A grade in an exam, we are only interested in the performance.  Once reached, that’s it, no more bothering to improve.  Better to take a learning approach, a craftsman mindset, which is all about personal development.
  • Secondly, it’s painful.  It takes effort, hard work, that isn’t always fun.  Take an athlete like Usain Bolt.  He didn’t just turn up one day and run 100 metres in under ten seconds.  He trained, did drills, like perfecting his technique out of the starting blocks, watched his nutrition. He worked hard for years to achieve his world records.
  • Finally, it’s unattainable.  None of us can completely master something, we can’t achieve perfection.  An artist is not satisfied their work is the best it could be.  The next piece of work needs to be better.

How is this relevant to you as a manager?  I’ll introduce another writer here, Cal Newport.  In his book, So Good they can’t Ignore You, he contrasts the passion mindset with the craftsman mindset.  He uses the example of a young man who composes guitar and banjo music, and how he practices small sections repeatedly.  You may have bought into the premise that you should find work that you’re passionate about, if work is your passion you’ll never have to work a day in your life.  I certainly did.  Newport says this is all wrong, for many reasons I don’t have time to explore now.  But one that’s relevant for our purposes, Newport says this is all about what the job can do for you.  Contrast this with the craftsman approach, which is all about what you can bring to the job, what value you add.  If you take this approach to your job as a manager, how can I be a better manager today than I was yesterday, how can I continue to improve and learn more about serving my team, then you will be adding tremendous value to your organisation.  If you can encourage your team to take the same approach, then they too will continue to grow, improve and add more value to your organisation.

Through this approach, you will develop passion, find motivation and have moments of flow, which is beneficial to your wellbeing.  It’s a win-win.  You and your team will be adding value to your organisation, and as a result your motivation and wellbeing increase.

If you want to master your team by developing the craftsman mindset, I’d love to hear from you.  What do you think of this idea?  Let me know in the comments below.



How much do you hate being told what to do?  It’s one of my pet hates – tell me what to do, and I’m likely to do the opposite, even if what you’re telling me is what I was going to do anyway.  Except… can’t really do that at work, if you want to keep the job.

Control is the flip side of autonomy. We’ve all come across those managers who keep a close eye, micromanage, make a song and dance if you’re even a couple of minutes late getting in to the office.  You might even be the kind of manager who likes to keep a close eye on your team, afraid that they won’t get on with it if you don’t.

I once worked for a manager who kept all the bigger picture information, about the key strategies and objectives, in his head.  He only shared what he thought he needed to, jobs were allocated as and when he wanted them done, usually with detailed instructions.  He’d be checking how we got on.  As a result, no one showed any initiative, and waited for his approval before getting on with stuff.  In turn, he’d be really frustrated that no-one showed initiative, setting up an unvirtuous circle.

Daniel Pink, in his book, Drive; the surprising truth about what motivates us, says there are three things, autonomy, mastery and purpose, and that autonomy is the most important.  There are four ways we can exercise autonomy

  • The work we do
  • How we go about it
  • When we get it done
  • Who we work with

Different people will prefer autonomy over different elements, and it may be a little more difficult to have control over who you work with; you may have inherited a team, or joined an existing team.  There’s still some room for creativity though.

Why is this important?  According to Pink, the old fashioned style of management is ineffective at motivating us.  He gives examples of a results only work environment, where employees can decide for themselves how they go about their work, and when it’s done.  Night owls can work at midnight if they like.  They are accountable for results of course, but the results are typically an improvement on the old style of management – a 35% increase in productivity in one example.  Another successful initiative is allowing 20% of time to be spent on a side project.  Employees are allowed to spend one day a week working on a project of their choosing, working with who they’d like. Google is maybe the best known of these employers, and has made a great deal of money from side projects like gmail, and other organisations have also had success with this.

​What issues does this raise for you? You can harness the power of autonomy for your team if you're a manager, and will all reap the benefits.  If you're only responsible for you, there are ways you can craft your work to develop your own autonomy.  If you want some ideas how, please leave a comment below.

You can also find out more about Daniel Pink's book here.