In theory: Don't feed the ducks

Emma De Vita's weekly look at management-speak.

Meet Liam O'Connell, a self-styled 'director of positivity' with a perplexing penchant for plastic yellow ducks (more on those later). O'Connell is a professional speaker, author and 'culture change' consultant whose new book Don't Feed the Ducks is not a park warden's manifesto, but a practical book on how managers can improve customer service. And the thinking behind it can be applied more broadly.

Britain doesn't have a great reputation for customer service, so we could do with all the help we can get. And actually, if you can get past the management-speak, O'Connell makes sense. His management theory very simply focuses on turning the negative in your organisation into the positive by getting rid of time-wasters and making everyone else more positively minded. The theory goes that if your workers are happy, your customers will be happy. It's the kind of thing David Brent would be into, clapping along to Tina Turner's Simply the Best on a tinny ghettoblaster.

To kick things off, O'Connell advises that you create a sense of urgency by "giving people a compelling reason to change for the better". This could mean redundancies. If your organisation isn't facing a cash crisis or similar disaster, O'Connell advises that you invent one - nothing like a bit of panic to get things moving. You must then "create a compelling vision" for future success and "deeply embed it in the culture of the organisation".

He also has an addiction to business-speak, urging you to "smell the culture, shock the system". Hmm ... how does your culture smell? Perhaps it reeks of demotivated people? Then there's the odd-sounding chapter entitled Hoovers Really Suck.

That just leaves the plastic yellow ducks, which represent the negative people in your organisation. O'Connell makes it clear that, as a manager, you don't want ducks working for you; you want eagles - highly motivated staff who give their all to soar high. Take a look at the people you manage. Are they eagles or squabbling ducks? If it's the latter, then you know what to do.

- Emma De Vita is editor of the books pages on Management Today.

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