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Posts from the ‘Employees and Teams’ Category

Business leaders to be inspired and challenged by Alastair Campbell and ASDA’s David Smith: ‘Winning and building a high performance culture’

November 23rd, 2016





London based business leaders join Academy for Chief Executives at key ‘Unlocking Potential’ event aimed at inspiring and challenging leaders’ mindset

Alastair Campbell, communications director to Tony Blair, will share his thoughts and experiences around creating a winning mindset at a keynote conference of business leaders brought together by the Academy for Chief Executives.

He is joined on the platform by David Smith who, as people director and part of the Asda board, led the failing grocers to become a highly profitable 170,000 employee business, doubling its market share and subsequently being sold to Walmart for £15bn and voted Sunday Times ‘Best Place to Work’

The conference in the City of London on Thursday 24th November; ‘Winning and building a high performance culture’, is part of a major series of ‘Unlocking Potential’ events hosted by the Academy for Chief Executives, one of the UK’s leading coaching and leadership support groups for senior executives.

Alastair Campbell will set out a blueprint for winning which can be used by all business leaders to achieve more and be more successful. His unique access to the world’s elite in business, sport and politics led him to write ‘Winners and how they succeed’. He identifies that the most ‘winning winners’ are sports people and he says:

“..what few people in business and politics ever do is really try to learn from how the best in sport get to be the best and stay the best…… To be brutally frank, as the waves of change lap around us and the lapping feels like it may turn to a lashing and then a hurricane, the challenges at home and abroad at times make it feel as though a perfect storm is brewing, I think we need to [learn].”

David Smith will share some of the key principles in creating high performance cultures that can be implemented into any business to help it grow. He deployed seven key elements to change the culture and performance of Asda and he shares and reinforces the need for any business leader to adopt consistency if they are to grow their business.

Tony Carey, Chief Executive of New Chase Homes Limited specialist house builders with a significant growth target to increase their annual build targets by around 300% over the next four years and who is also a group member of the Academy for Chief Executives says:

“I’m very curious to hear from both Alastair Campbell and David Smith. Both have powerful track records which speak for themselves – I want to meet the men and get a feel for their character. I’m fascinated that Campbell appears to sit in the background and supports others to win. I’m keen to know how that impacts on him and where and how he sees himself as a winner.

“As with all my Academy for Chief Executives’ experiences, I’m expecting this to be a really valuable event for both me and my business and hope to take much learning from it.”

Vince Tickel, Group Chairman of the Academy for Chief Executives in Central London said:

“In business I always learned by watching the way someone better than me performs. By copying them and what they do I find it makes a massive difference to me and my business performance.

“Here we have two highly experienced leaders sharing key insights they have learned over decades boiled down and shared in bite-sized chunks that can be taken away and implemented to help get you as a business leader, and your business, to the next level. That’s what our work at the Academy for Chief Executives is all about, helping successful leaders become more successful.”

The event is to be held at Blake Morgan, New Street Square London EC4A 3DJ. Further information is available from Lizzie Stuart-Bennett

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For further information, please contact:

Karen Gray :: 07976 841123


The Academy for Chief Executives is one of the UK’s leading coaching and mentoring organisations for senior executives. With more than 30 groups nationwide it aims to improve lives by unlocking the potential of every business leader.

The Keys to Organisational Agility

August 13th, 2016



by Gary Ashton

It used to be said that the only two certainties in life were death and taxes. In business life there is a third certainty: change. And in today’s atmosphere of deep uncertainty, it’s clearer than ever that the success (even survival) of many organisations will be partially determined by their ability to adapt and respond to change in a quick, agile and appropriate manner.

Organisational agility is achieved by being alert to both internal and environmental changes – opportunities as well as challenges – and the ability to use available resources in a timely, flexible, affordable and relevant manner, in order to respond to those changes effectively.

An agile organisation embraces change by moving quickly, decisively and effectively to anticipate, initiate and take advantage of change, yet remains robust enough to absorb any set-backs. But agility is not just about being fast: it also implies the capacity to remain in touch with customer needs.

Six Dimensions of Agility
If we examine more closely the human aspects of organisational agility and how each dimension influences business success, we start to see a new order emerging in the way that leading organisations operate.

1. Leadership & Management: The style of your leadership and its alignment to your strategy, the strength and speed of decision-making, the clarity of communication and the degree to which it is trusted.

2. Innovation: The degree to which an organisation has a systematic approach for sharing insights and continually generating new ideas, as well as the degree to which it uses internal and external networks to share ideas.

3. Strategy: The way in which strategy is developed, encouraging internal dialogue, and how clearly your strategic intent is communicated and the level of stretch you impose.

4. Culture: The way your employees’ collective values and opinions guide behaviour will impact on how agile your organisation can be. This culture can be influenced by your policies and practices.

5. Learning & Change: The degree to which the organisation has a shared vision, has an appetite for change and the capability to enact the changes, and how it deals with the consequences of past decisions.

6. Structure: The strength and robustness of operations and processes combined with the degree to which your managers have clear delegated decision-making authority.

A New Model of Leadership
Traditional thinking in this area is based on the Hierarchical Principal (where each level has a clear and defined role in a top down strategic process) and the Linear Principle (a logical chain starting with strategic thinking, then organisational design, finishing with the development of management).

But the current level of business complexity, plus the need to respond quickly to change, is challenging this way of thinking and forcing the development of capabilities in the six dimensions outlined above.

Building a new leadership model where management focuses on “acting in time” rather than “being right” will require a change in mindset.

Key to achieving this shift is the notion of value-based leadership i.e. ensuring that management behaviour is consistent with the organisation’s core values. As Steve Jobs put it, “the only thing that works is management by values”.

It isn’t just leadership competencies that will need to change to achieve this shift. Throughout the organisation, employees’ goals will need to shift and stretch.

The idea here is to set targets that cannot be reached through ‘business as usual’. Employees need to feel that they are being challenged to innovate and drive change. However – and this is the difficult bit – employees must be convinced that they will not be perceived as failures if they are unable to reach any extreme objective.

Goals need to be stretched, too, if the organisations are to reawaken their powers of innovation and build stronger, more collaborative ways of working – both internally and through their external networks.

So the building blocks of organisational agility are not complex. Accelerate the pace of strategic renewal, make innovation everyone’s job, every day and create an engaging, inspiring working environment and agility will follow – bringing with it the confidence and skills needed to steer your organisation through troubled waters.

AshtonGary Ashton is a director of OE Cam, a UK-based business consultancy specialising in organisational behaviour change. He specialises in the re-design and implementation of organisation structures and management processes, post-merger integration, improvement of joint venture organisation capability, and Board and senior management team assessment and development.

The Academy for Chief Executives is a leading executive coaching and mentoring organisation working with business leaders and their teams throughout the UK.

Member companies collectively turnover £3.5 billion per annum and on average employ 75 people each. &

To find out more about membership of the Academy for Chief Executives contact us on: 07714 246509 or

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A Reason for Being

May 27th, 2016



by Clive Wilson

Everything in life has its purpose. Purpose is the force that keeps all of life growing, creating and thriving. When life steps out of line with purpose, or fails to adapt to changing contexts, unintended outcomes result. In the worst cases life declines rapidly and ultimately dies. So it is with organisations. Those that are purposeful have the energy to create and grow, to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems.
Organisations that lose their way tend to fragment, become chaotic and may end up as prey for predators.A stated purpose serves to inspire and focus an organisation’s efforts and those of the teams and people that make up its workforce. But we need to be careful. A stated purpose will also create boundaries, some of which may be helpful and some may be severely limiting.In 2010, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development conducted a study to find out whether a shared sense of purpose was useful to organisations. What it found, in a nutshell, was that employees are motivated less by profit and more by being of service to customers or society. Where profit was perceived as the primary purpose, a third of respondents said that they were actually demotivated that their hard work and efforts were going into the pockets of investors and owners. In contrast, in organisations whose main purpose is to add value to customers, six out of 10 agreed that ‘by focusing on customers, in the long run we are benefiting ourselves’.

The situation was also improved when organisations had balanced the interests of all stakeholder groups, including investors and owners. Moreover, there is clear evidence that organisations with a sense of purpose outperform those where purpose does not permeate throughout. This outperformance is in terms of employee satisfaction and engagement indicators as well as financial and service delivery.

So for me the formula is simple:

Alignment = strength and focus = energy reinforced consistently = results and success 

It seems to make sense, then, to articulate the purpose of our organisation. But if we really want to inspire energy and maximum performance, we have to craft our statement in a way that will touch the hearts of the people we most need to motivate.

What is Purpose?

Purposeful people are easy to spot. They seem energised, focused and attentive. At the same time they exude an air of confidence, being less affected by the trivia that gets those who are less purposeful down. And the same is true of an organisation: its purpose is both its very reason for its existence and that imponderable ‘something’ that inspires resolve and determination from its people.

Purpose is a powerful strategic anchor. Compared with other aspects of strategy, including the corporate vision, purpose is relatively stable. Its essence may shift a little and, as such, should be kept under strategic review but, for most organisations, the purpose may change little for many years.

But that’s not to say that it is set in stone. Purpose is context-driven. This is vitally important. As human beings, we move in numerous contexts and so have numerous purposes – bringing up children; being a partner, friend or colleague; serving our organisation and profession; and so on. Some of these purposes will come and go and some may be with us for most of our lives.

Even within the relative constant of our organisation, our context may shift. As the market changes, our purpose may change. One of my clients began life making bicycles in the 19th century. It now makes ducting for nuclear power installations. Another started as a coal merchant and transitioned into international removals and storage.

And as well as being context-driven, purpose is also stakeholder-driven – it changes depending on whose eyes we are looking through. For example, customers may see the purpose of the organisation being about the provision of excellent services; owners, investors and shareholders about maximising their investments; staff about earning a wage to provide for their families and having meaningful work to do that inspires them; and communities about providing all the above in such a manner as to maximise positive impact and minimise negative impact.

This means that we need to strike a balance. Neglecting one stakeholder at the expense of another puts the organisation at risk. We only have to look at the demise this century of the many organisations that placed undue emphasis on shareholder profit or directors’ bonuses at the expense of the needs of other stakeholders, especially those of their customers.

So while we need to consider all stakeholder needs – and doing so represents a fantastic opportunity to grow an understanding between us and them – we still need to ask ourselves this: ‘What is our primary reason for existence? What are we fundamentally here to do?’

For most organisations, the answer is likely to be about providing a specific service or set of services for a particular customer base in a cost-effective way. The reason that this purpose may well be the primary purpose is that all other purposes hang off this one. Without this purpose, there is no employment for our staff and no return on our investment. It is therefore likely to be a statement that all parties can sign on to and be proud of.

Crafting (I use the word deliberately) the declared purpose of our organisation is a real art and worthy of our time and energy. We should bear in mind that our espoused purpose will have a significant impact on performance. In other words, as far as our businesses are concerned, it is probably the most important sentence or paragraph that we will ever write.


Clive Wilkinson ThumbnailClive Wilson is an author and a board director at Primeast, a consultancy that has been promoting purposeful leadership since 1987. He is a facilitator and executive coach and happy to engage audiences on the subjects of purposeful leadership and sustainable development. This extract from his book Designing the Purposeful Organization is ©2015 and reproduced with permission from Kogan Page Ltd. You can get a 20% off the book at using the discount code HRDPOS


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Leadership, Emotion and Purpose

May 26th, 2016



By Chris Burton

If you want your people to perform at their very best, collaborate effectively, pull together but still show initiative and stick with it no matter how hard it gets, it all comes down to three simple factors:

  1. Having trust in those around them;
  2. How they feel about the job they do; having a strong sense of pride and purpose;
  3. How they feel about the people they work with.

Everything we experience, whether at work or in our personal life, gives rise to emotions which we then interpret (make sense of) and give meaning to. The interpretations we make are based on a number of considerations; our own beliefs, values and attitudes as well as the organisational context. It appears that for the vast majority of us the three factors listed above give rise to the strongest emotions and perceptions and that’s why they play such an important part in keeping us motivated and performing at our best. There’s plenty of other contemporary research which explains why this should be the case.

We all have a basic human need to trust. And when trust exists great things can happen. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey demonstrates that in organisations with high levels of trust, things can happen up to 60% faster than in low trust organisations. This trust “dividend” means that in business, when trust increases speed also increases and costs fall. Conversely, lower levels of trust incur a “tax” of decreased speed and increased costs.

There is an extensive body of research demonstrating the link between how people feel about the work they do and their respective levels of motivation. If we feel that our work has value and purpose and we are making an effective personal contribution, this has a huge impact on levels of self and team motivation.

It’s the Relationships, Stupid
But enjoying our work and having a sense of pride in what we achieve isn’t enough to deliver the very highest levels of motivation and engagement; there’s an old adage that we join a company for the job and leave for the people. Relationships then are the glue that binds us together and see us through the toughest of challenges; in the face of adversity, ambiguity and uncertainty it’s the strength of our relationships and the breadth of our personal network that keeps us steady.

Studies have found that the more socially connected people are, the better they tend to perform. But very few organisations actually do very much to proactively encourage stronger relationships at work – which brings us neatly back to the role of leaders.

When things are easy and life is comfortable it’s easy to ignore weak leadership; mediocrity can be tolerated because the impact weak leaders have on those around them is less obvious. I’ve witnessed this myself in organisations of all shapes and sizes when (perhaps because of strong market conditions) things are going well; leaders being largely ignored by the people they’re supposed to lead, and even worse the leaders know they’re being ignored and don’t really care. Everyone just keeps their heads down, quietly gets on with things and ignores the problem. But the
problem comes rushing to the surface the moment there’s a crisis.

When things are tough, strong leadership is required. The actions and behaviour of leaders is seen through a magnifying glass which highlights every small imperfection and their impact on those around them becomes immediately apparent.

Regardless of organisational intent, it is the leaders, who either create an environment where people can build strong relationships based on trust and take pride in what they do, or who will constrain potential and performance through their own actions and behaviour. In his book ‘The New Leaders’, Daniel Goleman describes “resonant” leaders as being attuned to people’s feelings, able to channel their own positive energy into the rest of their team. Most of us are extremely receptive to the emotions of others; this is because our brain’s emotional system is an open loop, designed specifically to pick up, and reflect, the emotions of those around us.

In the workplace we constantly watch our leaders and managers for emotional cues and we reflect these emotions and copy their behaviour often at a subconscious level. Leaders who recognise this and create positive resonance achieve high levels of motivation, performance and engagement. Daniel Goleman calls these leaders “High Impact Leaders”.

High Impact Leaders are highly self-aware and recognise the impact their actions and interactions have on others. This knowledge enables them to inspire trust and build strong relationships, ensuring that the people they work with understand the value and purpose of their work, instilling a sense of pride in what they do. This more than anything achieves engagement and creates a positive environment where people want to achieve their best, and are able to do so.

What this means is that a ‘great place to work’ isn’t about the building you go to each day for work, the office you sit in or the benefits you receive; it’s simply loving what you do and who you do it with. And that’s something that with the right leadership, everyone can enjoy.


Chris Burton ThumbnailChris Burton is a leading consultant in the field of organisational behaviour and leadership development and leads the Work Life Motivation programme at t-three consulting. This excerpt is adapted from his research into the factors which most influence motivation and engagement when things get really tough, which interviews and surveys conducted with soldiers returning from active service in Afghanistan.


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The Power of Purpose

May 25th, 2016



by Ian Price

Why are we doing this? As business leaders, we need to be able to answer this almost without thinking, because without a clear sense of our own purpose, how can we expect to inspire others?
Moreover, if we are not finding purpose at work, the chances are that we’re finding the other aspects of our lives equally unsatisfying.
If we think about the people who have inspired us during our careers, who springs to mind? It’s unlikely to be people who were just smart – it’s far more likely to be people who were inspirational – it’s about how they made us FEEL, not about how competent they were.
So when we see statements like “Organisations that focus beyond profit and instil a strong sense of purpose among their employees are more likely to find long-term success.” (Deloitte, 2013), remember that a sense of purpose is about an emotional connection – and that connection starts with the people at the top. 

Ian Price Article Thumbnail

Ian Price became Chief Executive of the Academy in February 2016. He has a reputation and track-record for growing profitable businesses rapidly. His affable demeanour and relaxed style of working hides an exceptional talent at being able to focus on what makes a business tick.

To find out more about membership of the Academy for Chief Executives contact Glenn Watkins on 07714 246509

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100 Jobs of the Future

March 29th, 2016



A new report from BrightHR, a ‘A Future that Works’ , investigates how workplaces will evolve in the future and key trends that are likely to emerge to affect all of us. Its key findings include the claim that a fifth of workforce tasks are expected to have an element of robotics in them by 2020 and that a third of UK jobs are under threat from automation.

But while job substitution by machines is always alarming for those caught up in it, we have always been able to adapt and find new roles for ourselves.  So looking forward, what sort of jobs can we expect to see in two decades’ time? A Future that Works suggests 100 new roles – some inevitable, others perhaps more fanciful. But all of them should give us food for thought about the opportunities these might represent.

Information &  communications

Personal Entertainment Programmers

Complexity Analyst, Gaiantologist


Human to Machine Interface Controller


Data Miner

Waste Data Handler

Social Network Analysts

In-House Simplicity Experts

Global Work Process Coordinators

Privacy Protection Consultants

Complex Security Integrators

Chief Networking Officer

Virtual Clutter Organizer

Machine Linguist

Off-the-Grid/off-the-Net Facilitator

Mind Reading Specialist

Quantum Computing Specialist

Media Ethicist

Designer of Advanced Interfaces for Ambient Intelligence systems

Knowledge Guide

Knowledge Broker

Professional VR Citizen

Virtual Lawyer

Virtual Property / Home Owners’ Association (HOA) Managers

Intelligent Agent Designers

Avatar Manager / Devotees

Network Relationship Counsellors / Therapist / Designer

Virtual Police

Virtual Personal Shopper






Robot Designers / Trainers

Robot Mechanic

Robot Counsellors

Dirigible Pilot

Alternative Vehicle Developers

Teleportation Specialists

Solar Flight Specialists

Infrastructure Specialists

Monorail Designer



Spaceline Pilots

Spaceport Designers

Space Tour Guides

Space Architect

Terraformer of the Moon and Other Planets

Astrogeologists, Astrophysiologists and Astrobiologists



Population Status Manager

Personal Learning Programmer

Societal Systems Designer

Social ‘Networking’ Worker

Intelligent Clothing

Designer / Engineer

Ghost Experience Assistant

Personal Branders

Socialization/Culturalisation Therapists

Enhanced Games Specialist



Biorefinery Operative

Wind Farmer

Battery Technician

Insect-Based Food Developers, Chefs, Nutritionists

Chlorophyll Technician

Fusion Engineers



Resource Use Consultant

Vertical Farmers

Climate Change Reversal Specialist

Drowned City Specialist

Quarantine Enforcer

Experimental Petrologist

In-Company Sustainability Coordinator

Weather Modification Police

Consumer Energy Analysts

Water Traders

Desert Land Rights Trader

Climate Change Compliance Auditor

Business Consultant for Climate Change Compliance

Recycling Analyst


Medicine, biology and biogenetics

Genomics Developer / Architect / Baby Designer

Body Part Maker

Personal Enhancement Advisors


Synthetic Life Designer / Scientist / Engineer

Chief In-Company Health

Enhancement Officer

Telemedicine Technician

Farmer of Genetically Engineered Crops and Livestock

In-Company Gene Screener

Biometric Identification Specialist



Experimental Therapy Experts

Old Age Wellness Manager / Consultant Specialists

Personal Body Weight / Obesity Consultant

Memory Augmentation Surgeon

‘New Science’ Ethicist

Genetic Hacker

Longevity Providers

Cryonics Technicians

End-of-Life Planner


Download the report:

About the authors

Lynda Gratton

“The Hot Spots Movement is a specialist research and consulting team founded by Professor Lynda Gratton of the London Business School, a leading expert in organisational behaviour and a world-renowned speaker on the future of work. The team works to identify where companies can future-proof their working practice, in order to foster innovation and enhance performance.”

David Smith

“A futurologist, and Chief Executive of GFF – a strategic futures research organisation, David Smith’s 30 year diverse business career has made him recognisable as one of the world’s leading futurists and strategic thinkers.David prepares views of the future on many topics including the Travel and Tourism industry, the world Insurance markets and visions of the future for government, the food, real estate, information technology and communications industries.”

Top Tips: Secrets of a successful remote team

January 22nd, 2016



It’s increasingly common to work with people who you’ve never met or who may be in a different town or even be a different time zone. Working in a remote team isn’t intrinsically more difficult than working with people who are sitting across the room from you, but it is different and it does demand some adaptations.

Here are seven key factors to take into account.

Don’t treat remote employees and in-house staff differently. Some employees may be slightly jealous or even resentful of employees who get to work from home. Remote employees may feel that in-house staff receives more perks (eg, catered lunches and social functions). You will exacerbate the problem if you treat the two groups differently, so ensure that you are assigning equal, fair workloads, offering the same perks and benefits, and creating learning and growth opportunities for everyone.

Communicate! Remote workers lack those ‘water-cooler’ conversations that give people an opportunity to bounce ideas off one another outside the context of a formal meeting. Your remote team members need to be encouraged to do the same things. Pick up the phone and call another team member to discuss a potential idea. Use tools like Skype, Google Hangouts or any other video-conferencing software to keep them in the loop.

If you leave employees in the dark, they will soon feel confused, isolated and even angry. Make sure that you are updating virtual employees of any changes, decisions or plans that affect them. And make sure you do it before they hear the news from someone else.

Remember, when people work remotely, they rely on their managers for the context they need to work effectively. What might be seen as over-communicating if you were all in the same office can be critical information when someone is working at home on the other side of the country.

Be responsive. If you force employees to wait for your response or help, they lose precious time. Worse, they may opt to go above your head for answers. And if teammates constantly slow progress because they don’t respond quickly enough, it is frustrating for everyone involved. Set a ground rule that every team member, including you, must respond to one another within 24 hours, even if that is to say nothing more than “I got your message, and I will follow up no later than …”

Strike the right balance of meetings. Too many meetings are overkill and are a huge drain on productivity. However, if you aren’t scheduling time for the entire team to connect and collaborate, employees will become distant and teamwork will suffer. In addition, you need to make sure that you are talking one-on-one with each of your virtual staffers at least weekly to check their progress, troubleshoot problems they are having, and update them on any developments or changes.

Evaluate how the team is functioning. You need to take time to assess how well the team is communicating, collaborating and problem solving. Schedule a team meeting at least quarterly to analyse your productivity and performance and to establish plans for making needed improvements.

Get to know your remote workers. Employees want to know that you care about them as people, not just as workers. It’s harder to do that when you never see them. Don’t forget to learn about remote workers’ families, hobbies, interests and lives outside of work. A little small talk at the beginning of each call or meeting offers you an opportunity to build relationships with and among your staffers and will make them feel more connected to the organization.

Support your managers. Any organisation with remote staff or virtual teams needs to support the people who are expected to manage them. So you need to do more than simply hand a list of employees to managers and expect them to figure it out for themselves. They’ll need help to recognise the similarities and differences between the way we’ve worked traditionally and the new world of virtual work.

Similarly, organisations need to provide the technology and tools to achieve the goals you’ve set. You can’t hold people accountable for failure if you’re not giving them the tools they need to do the work.

Finally, create expectations for remote team leaders that reflect the way they function. “Management by walking around” is fine, but it’s a long walk to Bangalore. Yes, the work appears the same. But there are skills that are unique to that environment: appropriate use of technology, ability to engage employees, managing performance from a distance all need to be built into the way we choose, assess, coach and promote managers.

Wayne Turnel


Wayne Turmel helps companies and their people learn the communication and presentation skills to sell, train, present and manage their teams using any web presentation platform. He is the founder of, a co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute and the author of Meet Like you Mean it, a book that helps virtual and remote teams collaborate more effectively.

Dealing with Discord

January 22nd, 2016



Wherever you have a team you have the potential for conflict. And the secret when conflict arises is to deal with it fast to stop any lasting damage being done. Here are a few thoughts to help to deal with discord. 

Work out the Root Cause
Only once the reason for the argument is established can a resolution be sought. More often than not the behaviour that caused the upset is not the original cause of the problem at all. When someone upsets us, before responding it’s well worth looking for the ‘One More Fact’ that motivates that person’s views or behaviours. I’m reminded of a woman regarded by many as a neurotic and overprotective mother who, it turns out, lost her own brother in a tragic accident as a teenager. Knowledge of this one fact helps to make sense of her behaviour.

Acknowledge Differences
The modern workplace contains people from different cultures, educational backgrounds and generations. Baby boomers can differ from Gen-Y in their approach to work, preferring to see work as a “place”, whereas new entrants to the workforce simply need to plug in electronically to be at work.

All too often differences are exaggerated and we don’t see the real person because of our assumptions based on their background. Not all Americans are loud, not all German’s precise and not all Brits reserved. It’s important to get to know the individual and their strengths; a great way to do this in a team is to use psychometrics and questionnaires to identify each team member’s true personality.  Once a team can see themselves as a group of talented but different people they immediately lay to rest the inaccurate preconceptions based on background.

Agree on what Matters
Very often disagreements arise over issues that don’t really matter to the organisation. Just because one person wears certain clothes or another likes to go for a cigarette break doesn’t necessarily impede the team’s performance.

I like the example of Best Buy, a US electronics retailer who set out on a radical experiment to transform its culture. Called ROWE, for “results-only work environment,” Best Buy will no longer equate physical presence with productivity. The goal is to judge performance on output instead of hours. There are no schedules, no mandatory meetings, work is no longer a place where you go, but something you do. It’s OK to take conference calls while you fish, collaborate from your garden, or log on after dinner having spent the afternoon with your children. ROWE is an indication of how some teams have managed to recalibrate their activity so that what matters, is what really makes a difference to their business.

Make Memories
The workplace has become increasingly transactional, a perpetual cycle of meetings, telephone calls and hours spent behind screens. From time to time teams must break free of their routine and do something different together, away from the office. Someone once said “You only really get to know someone when you waste time with them.”

Sometimes our closest colleagues are the people who we’ve travelled with and got to know whilst waiting for a delayed flight. Where conflict exists it can often be because the two parties have never had the opportunity to get to know the person beyond the job role. I’m not advocating that two people in conflict should be forced together, but time and time again we’ve seen long-held grudges melt away when a team take part in a shared experience together.

Talk about it!
Possibly the most awkward and feared aspect of conflict is the point at which the two parties must face each other and their differences. Mediation by an independent and respected third party is undoubtedly an excellent way to resolve severe differences, better still don’t let differences escalate to this level.

So encourage a culture in the team in which feedback is welcomed and given regularly by all team members regardless of seniority.


Dan Collins (1)

Dan Collins is a team-builder, business mentor and founder of  Fresh Tracks. He has worked with some of the world’s most respected companies, along with some vibrant, fast growing smaller businesses. The motto ‘teams that play together, work together’ underpins his approach of combining fun with learning. He is co-author, with David Thompson, of Trust Unwrapped, a story of ethics, integrity and chocolate.

Top Tips: Give your Away Day a Boost

January 22nd, 2016



Away days are often criticized for being ‘fun’ but having no productive outputs. But if they’re planned and facilitated well, they can encourage creativity and innovation by breaking routines and changing dynamics. So for anyone responsible for organising an away day, here are our top tips for success.

 Be clear on your outcome

This is the most common cause of unsuccessful away days – not being clear. Because it’s a rare opportunity to get people out of the office, too much is attempted in the day with no overall purpose.

Leaders say to us, “I want to bring the team together and help them get to know each other and flesh out some issues we have with a certain project, oh and I want them to all buy in to the new strategy, oh and for us to talk about better ways of working together.”

These are great outcomes, but too ambitious and too much for people to grasp in one day.  If the people are only just learning about each others’ styles and ways of working, it’s not realistic to then expect them to agree to adapt those or have them challenged all in one day.

It may seem ironic, but you need to be strategic about your away days, think about how you want to build people up. In this case you could have your first day about getting to know each other and maybe bringing out some issues that people have and then the next day becomes a working group on working together, followed by one on strategy.

The key thing to get clear is this: if you could only achieve one thing on this away day, what would it be? Once you are clear, be open with the attendees as to the purpose. That way you are far more likely to get people engaged and prevent them diverting off onto their favourite topics.

 Choose your facilitator wisely

The person should be both able to get rapport with the group easily and be objective enough to stay detached from some of the content. If you are using someone internal, could you use someone who represents another part of the business? If you use someone too close to those attending there is a danger of them, often unconsciously, getting too drawn into the discussion. Someone who is a bit more detached will help people to come forward with ideas more knowing they won’t be discussing a team members performance issue with them tomorrow.

 If you are using an external facilitator, make sure they understand enough about your business to be credible. We’ve seen facilitators fail badly because they’ve assumed that credible is not important. Particularly where their industry expertise is valued, anyone who is not credible will struggle to be respected and that will disrupt the day. Check that their style is a good fit. People should stretch their thinking but not be intimidated or turned off. If you have a group of serious pragmatists, asking them to do whacky free flowing activities will not work.

 Choose your venue wisely

Most people want to go offsite, but economic reality means that organisations have got more cautious about spending money on external venues. You don’t need to spend a fortune on taking the whole team on a yacht in the South of France, but you do need to think carefully about where you hold it. Key tips are:

  • Beware of venues that offer you the room free if you buy refreshments etc. In our experience you are not treated as professionally as you would be at a paid for venue (we’ve had people walking through the room to unload furniture from another room in the middle of any away day!) and you are often distracted by their other customers or activities. If you want to use a free venue make sure you visit it, during the working day, before you book.
  • Think about the style of your organisation or group. If it’s a creative organisation, then a standard hotel training room will not inspire and you may as well do it in the office. Stretch people out of their comfort zone without it frightening them or turning them off. If the group is creative but one of their problems is lack of organisation, we wouldn’t choose a venue that is also disorganised – we’d want to give them a bit of professional structure whilst respecting their desire for a creative space. With a serious inward thinking group, take them somewhere professional but gives them access to green space and nature.
  • Consider individuals’ needs. If they are all family people, how do they feel about staying away? Some people welcome the night off but for some people it’s a hassle and they’d rather go home at the end of the day. You can’t please everyone but if you can be flexible to their needs, they will be more enthusiastic and engaged.
  • It is essential the group have access to natural light throughout the day. This is key for mood stability, attention focus and above all staying sane. If you need to close the curtains for a presentation, open them straight away after you’ve stopped using a projector and don’t ever use a room with no windows, however cheap or convenient it is.

Remember, with just a little planning any organisation can have a successful and productive away day.

John Mclachlan (1)

John McLachlan is the co-founder of Monkey Puzzle Training, a leadership development and NLP consultancy whose clients include Heathrow Airport, Thomson Reuters, Cath Kidston, John Lewis and Aberdeen Asset Management. He specialises in training, coaching and board-level facilitation and is the co-author of Real Leaders for the Real World. He is a qualified accountant and former group financial director.

The Art of Team Selection

January 22nd, 2016



Last year’s Rugby Union World Cup showed, amongst other things, how a great team can often out-perform a collection of superstar individuals. Often the fifteen more talented individuals were surpassed by seemingly ‘lesser’ opponents. Teams like Japan and Argentina illustrate this point and reinforce the enormous value that comes with a strong team.

I also often find it interesting to look at touring teams and other teams that come together for specific events; rugby teams such as the British & Irish Lions and the Barbarians, for example. When we see teams like this at work, it puts recruitment and selection under the spotlight.

In addition to recruiting players and coaching staff, they also have the acute demands of game-by-game selection. The challenge is exacerbated because these teams don’t have a great deal of coaching and development time. They also don’t have very long to get to know the players, experiment with combinations or mould their game-plan. Therefore, team selection becomes crucial.

Businesses have similar demands. They recruit new staff in a similar way to sports organisations creating a squad. Many businesses will also select teams for specific projects or assignments. But often, much more thought goes into recruitment than it does into the selection of team members – with a significant impact on the team’s success.

So, how are teams selected?  Is it simply a case of finding the best player for each position and throwing them onto the field together? Whilst that may be the case with some teams, the very best in the world use a more comprehensive process. In many cases, the coach looks to create a balanced team. In this context, the word ‘balance’ doesn’t mean that there will always be equal distribution. It is better to think of balance in the same way that a chef would think of balancing the flavours in his dish. To do this, the chef won’t use the same quantities of each ingredient. Instead, the chef will skilfully blend the ingredients to ensure that the flavours complement each other perfectly.

One of the ways to do this is to ensure that a team has the correct blend of ‘position specialists’. In sport, the positions are pretty well defined. The number on the back of their shirt often denotes the position they play. Each position has a role and set of expectations that accompany it. However, players are not manufactured in factories. They are unique and therefore have a unique set of skills that they bring. The role and expectations of that position, and therefore the player, also changes from team to team. Some teams struggle because they have a lot of players “who do a bit of this and a bit of that”, and not enough genuine specialists in each area. Other teams struggle because their people are too specialist, almost rigid, and therefore aren’t able to adapt.

But just filling the team with position specialists is not enough to create balance.

Many coaches will also look to ensure that there is a balance between experienced operators and those who are new to the team. There is real value in having both the experienced players, as well as those who have the fresh perspective that comes with naivety. England’s football team have seen the benefit that young ‘fearless’ faces bring. Some of the world’s best coaches also take time to ensure that the blend of experience and ‘new blood’ is interspersed throughout the team. This helps to avoid having pockets of inexperience. In a rugby team, this could mean that the coaching team will take time to assess the overall experience of the units within the team, such as the front row, back row, half-backs or back three.

If we look at our units, or sub-teams, do we have combinations that work well together and complement each other? Do we have personalities that can pull the various units or sub-teams together well? Do the team members make each other’s lives easier or more difficult? I have noticed over the years that successful Barbarians rugby teams often select combinations rather than individual players. They will select pairings, or clusters of players, that have a history of playing together. This enables them to gel a team much quicker, and perform with fewer errors.

A team also needs to ensure it is balanced in other ways. Leadership is a prime example. Experience and leadership don’t always go hand in hand. The experienced members are not always the best leaders, and vice versa. The coach needs to know how the players are likely to respond in various situations. Who is likely to step up and lead in adversity and how they will lead? Who will provide the direction? Who can change the strategy on the field, when necessary? Is the person who detects the need for a change in direction also the person who can best communicate it?

Creating a balanced team also means identifying possible imbalances. Do we have a balance between the dependable players and the risk takers? Do we have both calm heads, and those with ‘fire’? Is there a balance between the intuitive and instinctive players, and calculating or analytical players? Do we have a balance between the predictable and unpredictable, the creative and steady? What is the mix of personalities in the team? Do we have the balance that we need?

In addition to all of these considerations, a coach will also need to ensure that they select a team that can best meet the demands of the immediate challenge. In sport, there are always contextual factors. One of the most obvious is the opposition. However, there are also environmental factors such as the climate and conditions. Business teams also have contextual demands that may impact on team selection. There are many considerations. If we’re not careful, creating a balanced team could begin to look complicated. However, ultimately, there is often a fairly simple guiding question…

Which team is best equipped to execute the game plan?


Simon Hartley is a sport psychology consultant and performance coach who helps organisations, teams and individuals to consistently engineer peak performance and become world class.  In sport, he helps athletes win medals and teams win championships and he applies the same approaches in business. A popular Academy speaker, he is the founder of Be World Class and author of several books including Stronger Together; How Great Teams Work.