Healthy Minds at work…Goes much deeper than Gym Memberships and Mindfulness Classes

A lot has been written about mental health in the workplace, and thankfully, leaders, banging-head-against-wallmanagers and business owners are starting to see how important it is that healthy minds and bodies make up their workforce.

Whilst we have an idea of what a healthy body looks like, we’re perhaps less sure of what a healthy mind constitutes. We need a little stress in our lives to function, for example. Though mindfulness practices are a step in the right direction, unfortunately, they only scratch the surface.

Three-quarters of the working population cite their managers as the reason they’re unhappy at work or why they seek new opportunities. ‘They don’t listen’, ‘They don’t understand’, ‘It’s clearly ‘them and us’’ are all popular lamentations from employees painfully aware of the lack of understanding their manager demonstrates.

It’s expensive to hire and train new staff when the one you’ve hired, trained and developed decides to leave. If 75% of workers simply spend their time shifting companies, shouldn’t we focus on simply putting things right? Wouldn’t that be cheaper for companies?

So, how easy is it to nurture healthy brains?

It doesn’t have to be laborious. For example, think about the way you communicate with your team, as their leader. Words can be weapons capable of wounding if they’re chosen without care.

But before leaders can hope to better communicate or engage with their team members, they should first try and understand them.

Neuroleadership is the concept of applying neuroscience to create or enrich leadership practices. Over the last decade we have learnt so much more about the brain as an organ, and research into the workings of the mind and brain, highlight that many of the established management practices are no longer appropriate in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous working environment of today. And why shouldn’t we see the brain as key to leadership and performance, when it’s the command room for all our thoughts and actions?

Our brains are larger than ever before, and we use more and more of our grey matter as we continue to evolve. On top of this, our brains are always switched on in today’s 24/7 world; they don’t get the downtime they used to.

That said, there’s no reason why our brains can’t thrive in today’s frantic, pressured workplaces, if we look at the way we lead our people and the working practices we follow.

Psychological safety is paramount!

Leaders should look at fostering a psychologically safe climate – one where employees feel motivated and appreciated, where they can voice concerns or suggestions without fear or insecurity. As a result, mistakes are fewer, attendance is higher, and employees become more content.

Of course, that’s a simplified view. There’s much more to providing a healthy workspace for brain and body. Instilling autonomy, imparting clarity, and aligning work with skill levels and passions are also vital elements.

Whilst it could be open to debate, what a healthy workplace could look like, it’s perhaps easy to see what would make up an ineffective one: employees working in a ‘blame’ culture; a common lack of motivation; devalued, isolated, indifferent and/or antagonistic team members. Because factions form and engagement between team members begins to fall apart. If people felt safe to raise concerns in organisations, the term ‘whistle blower’ wouldn’t exist.

An ineffective leader is not a write-off. They may simply lack the confidence or experience to talk openly and comfortably about how team members are feeling and coping.  An understanding of Neuroscience can help leaders and managers recognise when an employee is experiencing overwhelm, as well as equip them with the skills to open up conversations where employees feel safe to talk about how they are feeling and the support they need. Having an awareness and understanding of Neuro-leadership can support better decision-making; it can bring clarity of mind, and help leaders give effective feedback to their team.

No employee would speak up if they thought what they said would be held against them. Whilst managers across the country may think they’re already fostering an open, honest workplace, is that really how employees feel? Do the actions of departments match their supposed ethos? In practice, are your employees’ concerns supported and investigated, or are they easily dismissed?

Openness isn’t just there for pointing out mistakes. It’s also gives employees the confidence to share their ideas and innovations, without fear of being laughed at or criticised. Either way, it only takes the experience of one employee to set a precedence for others.

Creating a brain-friendly workplace, where people can thrive – even in our technology-driven world – should be paramount. In 2018 and beyond, employee wellbeing goes much deeper than gym memberships and mindfulness workshops…


Should you ignore the differences within your team or ignore them?

Team DiversityIf asked, would you want to lead a team of people who you know you can get on with, who share the same values as you, and who are your kind of people? How much easier would that make life? Few disagreements, greater harmony, and a shared vision that everyone understands. Sounds like a good team, right?
It may feel like this would be the best scenario, but it would be a far less effective team than if everyone was ‘on a different page’, so to speak.
As leader, your skills at steering the group towards an outcome, and the examples you set, are the glue that holds everything together. But it doesn’t mean that your ideas, your thoughts, your plan of action are automatically the right ones. Would you want an army of ‘yes men’ if you’re unconsciously heading towards a disaster? Or would you prefer people on your team that have the ability to question the status quo if there’s actually a better way?
And, if everyone is like you, you’ll probably all have the same likes and dislikes, which tend to serve as the foundations of the things we’re good at. Think about it, would you really want a team of people who are all good at similar things?
Senior consultant Michelle, recalls, being asked to work with a local authority accounts team. The Finance Director had previously attended a Jigsaw Discovery Experience and thought that his team could benefit from a similar experience. Before working with the finance team Michelle had been informed that the department was not functioning as effectively as the FD would have liked. The Finance Director was a self-aware leader and had recognised that his strengths were strategy development, taking tough decisions, delivering the result and driving the department forward, he also recognised that people development and engagement were his blindspots. Armed with this self-knowledge, he recruited a team manager who complimented his behavioural preferences. The team manager was a people person, who had the ability to make his people feel valued and inspired, he empowered team members and encouraged them to be independent and innovative.
So, what was the problem? Why was the department not functioning as the FD wanted?
The answer was not an uncommon one, whilst The FD had an understanding of self and knew that diversity within a team was essential to effective teamworking, his team manager did not have a similar understanding. The outcome was that when recruiting new team members the decision was influenced by the unconscious bias of the team manager as he recruited likeminded individuals into the team. Something which Michelle was able to help the team manager identify when he and his team attended the Jigsaw Discovery Experience. Michelle recalls “It was certainly a lightbulb moment, for the manager as he and his team revealed that they all had very similar behavioural preferences and strengths and started to realise the true implications of the lack of diversity within the team.”
Effective teams need a multitude of completely different skills to achieve their goals.
Yes, such diversity may result in differences of opinion, but effective team leaders should be able to resolve conflict effectively and positively.
Firstly, it’s crucial to find out what everyone’s individual strengths are – something that our Jigsaw Discovery Tool can help with. (We also run workshops on how to turn differences into strengths for the greater good of a team.)
According to historians, Albert Einstein could not have achieved what he did without drawing strength from his wife. A dreamer, with huge drive and ambition, it was his wife who kept Einstein’s feet on the ground, and who put forward different perspectives on what he tried to accomplish – despite the fact she had no formal qualifications. Clearly, what she did have was buckets of common-sense and good logic. She was the ying to Einstein’s yang. Do you imagine history would have been the same if he’d married another dreamer with their head in the clouds?
That’s not to say you should just chuck people in teams because they’re different, or the antithesis of other members; for a truly effective team, it’s important to have the right mix of personality types at the heart of its operation. These could include:
1. The dreamer (the Einstein) – someone who is a great visionary, and who can keep their eye on the bigger picture at all time. Most leaders naturally fill this role themselves
2. The worker – someone who will actually get things done. Whilst it’s lovely to be an ‘ideas’ person, if everyone had this mentality, nothing would happen – you need workers!
3. The double-checker – someone who can assess if things are on track
4. The inquisitor – someone with a plethora of ideas and who can spot new ways of doing things that others may be blind to
5. The talker – a great communicator who can motivate others, talk to people at all levels, and smooth out any differences before they escalate
And two to avoid…
1. The negative one – who doesn’t like any idea, and who could pick fault with perfection itself. They’re quite vocal and usually quite strong personalities; they have the power to bring down the morale of the whole team
2. The martyr – a control freak who wants to do everything, take all the glory, and who doesn’t trust their team-mates to achieve anything
Once you have a good mix of personalities, and a range of skills and strengths, you can work on leading, inspiring, and bringing people together.
That doesn’t mean changing the people in your team, moulding them into something they’re not. It’s about setting boundaries and ‘typical behaviour’. These boundaries don’t have to be identical – because people approach and work with things in different ways – but they must be inclusive and make people feel good about the work they’re doing. When an individual feels valued and understands that what they’re bringing to the team makes as much a difference as that from the next guy, things will move in the right direction. Discuss what’s acceptable, what’s expected, and what constitutes a line being crossed.
The reason why our Jigsaw Discovery Tool is so popular is because it offers understanding. The end goal can change, but if each member of a team knows what they bring to the group, and how they can positively work and communicate with each other, the team will be effective regardless. The tool helps you get to know yourself better, and it also helps you understand how those around you perceive things. For example, if you knew the person next to you was allergic to peanuts, you’d hardly be likely to pull out a bag of KP’s Dry Roasted, would you (unless you’re a sadist)? It’s likely you’d refrain from doing just that; you’d change your behaviour because you’d understand the impact it would have on your team-mate. Imagine doing the same with the words you use, the actions you take, and which approach you choose to get the best from everyone. That’s effective teamwork.


A hub of knowledge-sharing, support and networking for L&D professionals

WOL 17Each autumn, senior learning and development professionals from global and national organisations converge at Birmingham’s NEC for the most comprehensive event in the L&D calendar –  the World of Learning Conference & Exhibition.

Taking place on 16 & 17 October this year, the event offers multiple interactive attractions within its exhibition. These have been carefully designed to help visitors explore matters at the heart of L&D through interactive experiences, one-to-one advice and educational workshops and seminars.

The Experiential Learning Zone will support visitors to change, learn and grow in a VUCA world. Facilitated for the tenth year by Pearlcatchers, the zone offers a programme of 11 seminars covering topics including emotionally intelligent leadership, how to minimise the negative impacts of remote working and digital communication, and how to supercharge design and delivery to achieve learning impact.

Sharon Young, Director at Pearlcatchers, comments: “We’re looking forward to providing real-time guidance to visitors to World of Learning as our experienced consultants share practical advice and proven methodologies for operating successfully in a VUCA world.”

In response to the challenge of rapidly changing work environments and the resulting impact on the workforce, a new feature at this year’s show is the Agility Zone.

Liggy Webb, founder of The Learning Architect who will facilitate the zone, comments: “In the fast-changing and agile working environments employees face today there is the potential risk of increased anxiety, stress and, ultimately, burnout. This is can have a huge impact on wellbeing, morale and productivity. The Learning Architect has developed a range of useful resources and pragmatic advice to help organisations support their people and help them to adapt and flourish through uncertain and volatile times.”

Seminars and one-to-one consultations will be offered by Jigsaw@Work in the Mental Wellbeing Zone, as their team support event visitors to discuss mental health and teach them how to create healthy workplaces and develop managers who are trained to identify employees with the early signs of mental illness.

Michelle McArthur-Morgan, Managing Partner at Jigsaw@work, comments “It takes more than a discounted health-club membership and mindfulness programs to move the needle on employee wellbeing. Seventy-five per cent of people say that the most stressful part of their job is their immediate manager. The biggest cause of chronic illness is stress and the biggest cause of stress is work.”

Michelle will be discussing why psychological safety is the key factor in high performing teams, wellbeing and engagement. What organisations can do to improve  psychological safety and how insights from neuroscience can be applied to create a safe and healthy workplace.

Visitors are invited to Join iTOL, the UK’s professional body for trainers and L&D professionals, in their dedicated VIP and International Lounge. An open space designed to encourage conversations with and among international visitors, guests in the lounge can also find out more about iTOL and the services they provide. A series of short seminars will allow visitors to get a taste of iTOL’s learning and training style.

The Apprenticeship Zone brings together specialist training providers so that visitors can have all their questions about the Apprenticeship Levy answered. In a dedicated theatre, a programme of free seminars covers all aspects of the levy, including structuring and delivering an effective apprenticeship programme.

Those visitors wishing to get hands on with the latest innovations and technology can do so at the Technology Showcase. Here attendees can learn how cutting-edge technology can support their organisation’s learning objectives and deliver business value.

Colleagues can build on productivity, motivation and communication through a series of team building exercises at the Team Building Zone. Sponsored by KDM Events, teams can enjoy a range of team building exercises such as solving cryptic clues and a series of activities to support productivity within an organisation.

Sponsored by Rising Vibe, the Business and Networking lounge gives visitors the chance to keep in touch with the office, meet new contacts or just relax with colleagues.

The exhibition runs alongside the renowned World of Learning conference which offers inspiration from the industry’s leading thinkers and practitioners in a two-day programme of presentations and panel discussions.

The World of Learning 2018 is held in association with the Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (iTOL) and the event once again promises to act as a catalyst for inspiration, action and progress in the fascinating sphere of L&D.

For more information on all aspects of the event please visit









WOL 17


Resilience: trendy term or momentous mechanism?

Resilience wordWe’ve talked about mindfulness before, and how it can help an employee’s productivity. Resilience is a similar term that’s batted about nowadays – the new buzzword in the workplace, perhaps. But what is it, and why do we need it?
Let’s look at the psychology. Resilience is defined as ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties’. Well, difficulties certainly crop up for most employees throughout the working day.
But, before you sign your employees up to the first resilience workshop you see, consider why you’d be initiating such training.
We all have a measure of personal resilience. This is what sees us get up, get dressed, and look after our loved ones when tragedy strikes. And not the type of heartbreak you may feel when you go to the office biscuit tin to find it’s empty…we’re talking real life-changing events: the death of a family member, divorce, even moving house. Resilience is your auto-pilot; it makes you put one foot in front of the other when all you really want to do is curl up in bed and never come out. It’s the motivation to carry on with your life, however much it may have changed.
Resilience in the workplace is quite different. Unless you work in a high-risk industry, few employees hold their lives in their hands during the 9 – 5. Challenges at the office may be more frequent, but they’re hardly ‘life-changing’.
If that sounds like you can dismiss that thought of resilience training…not so fast. What today’s workplaces resemble is a continuously bubbling pan of hot water. On a daily basis, your employees probably experience one or (many) more of the following:
• Clients wanting everything yesterday
• Clients exercising their consumer rights
• Competition like never before
• Continually shrinking margins
• Reduced training budgets
• Zero contracts; the pressure to offer/enjoy flexible working and unsociable hours
• Blurred boundaries between work and home, due to technology
• Same workload, but fewer employees to ensure it gets done
• High number of outlets for negative feedback
• Greater expectations from managers
• Lack of pay increments
We could go on.
Some of the above may sound like the concern of the man or woman at the top of the organisation, but the fallout is likely to impact everyone else in the company, right down to the people on the front line.
Whilst none of the issues demand huge resilience individually, put together they can chip away at an employee’s stress levels, productivity, self-esteem and mental health. And this is the huge red flag you’ve to look out for, and hopefully, avoid completely.
Think of resilience like a reservoir. A personal catastrophe occurs, and you may need to use every drop in there to get yourself back on your feet. No doubt you will also have people rallying round you after a huge knockback, which will help fill your reservoir back up to full strength. And on you go until life decides to smack you in the face again.
But go into work, where you may be faced with any number of the issues listed above, and you may find you dip into your reservoir little and often. The danger comes when you eventually take more out than what’s actually in there. And because you’ve been dipping into your reservoir of resilience on a daily basis no one will have noticed – least of all you. And suddenly, the bottom of the reservoir is dry. There’s no more to draw upon. Burnout. Breakdown. By then it’s too late.

As manager or business owner in this situation, you’re likely to need to find (and pay for) cover as your employee takes time away from work to replenish their inner pools of strength. You’ll probably also have to foot sickness pay, too. Disruption to the status quo occurs, which puts more pressure on those remaining. Let’s just hope their reservoirs are plentiful.
If water was trickling, or flowing, from a crack in a reservoir what would you use to stop this happening? A plank of wood? Or would you alter and improve its whole structure? Something that’s not meaningful and quickly forgotten represents the plank of wood. An understanding of pressure points and learning a range of resilience techniques are akin to putting in a strong, sturdy structure to stop that reservoir from caving in.
Our Jigsaw Development Tool introduces resilience management. It helps employees understand the emotional states that could lead to burnout, as well as show them various tools and techniques to help promote resilience on a daily basis. We’re all different, and we deal with things differently as a result. What one person takes in their stride is another’s tipping point. That’s why we work with attendees of our resilience workshops to create a personal resilience plan.
Resilience is not a trend. The world will not slow down – it will only get faster. Healthy resilience is an effective way to keep up and keep on top of things.
To find out more about our resilience workshops and brain bytes, contact Michelle on 01924 898930 or email


Is Your Management Style Fit For Purpose?

The effectiveness of management is a consideration of all businesses, from the small to the medium-sized, to the big boys, in every town and city. Wherever there’s a workforce, there is usually some semblance and structure of management.

How do today’s managers compare with those of a generation ago? Has the typical management style and approach changed much over the last thirty years?

Perhaps that’s an unfair question to ask. The world was a very different place back then. For a start, it was easily contained within the hours of 9-5. Today, with all the advances in technology, we live in a world permanently switched on. We want everything yesterday; decisions need to be made on the spot; consumers drive change through public feedback and review.

Employees want more from their careers, they don’t want to just turn up and serve their superiors. Their value systems are different, and the range of opportunities on offer to today’s workers are dizzying in comparison to the ‘job for life’ aspirations their parents had.

The people on the front line are very different nowadays.

Jigsaw management

So, have managers adapted to these changes in culture, personalities and expectations?

We’re not generalists, so we won’t commit to a full-blown ‘no’. What we will say is: there are many examples to be found of management practices that are still designed for yesterday’s industrial society, rather than today’s knowledge-driven world.

Fact: Our brains take in five times as much information today as we did thirty years ago. Our brains are working overtime already.

Because their mental input and output has rocketed, employees today have outgrown being told what to think and do by their bosses. They don’t want to be herded like sheep or to feel constrained, which is a fair analogy of old-style management. They crave autonomy, and to be left to think for themselves. All they need from their manager is leadership, i.e. to be guided, inspired, valued and encouraged. They need examples, a role model – someone to lead them into commercial battle. More Shackleton, less Stalin.

Is it possible to lead a generation if you’re not OF that generation? Do you have to be able to understand your deputies to know what they want and what will push them to be more productive? Seems a silly question, really. Of course, you do. How can you inspire them if you don’t know what evokes their interest? How can you motivate them if you don’t know what will make them act? How can you make them feel valued if you don’t know the measures, ethics and standards they abide by and/or work towards?

The Jigsaw Development Tool not only gives you, insight about yourself, it can also be applied to teams of people. It not only delivers insight, it also offers strategies to communicate with, motivate and differentiate today’s workers. Unlike some of the tools available, the Jigsaw Discovery Tool answers the “So what?” question.

It’s a fact that 75% of employees don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers. This represents a significant cost to any company. Time spent on continuous recruitment could be better employed elsewhere (pardon the pun).

In a knowledge economy, it’s the most learned who will succeed. Therefore, a manager needs to be continually adapting and evolving, learning and developing, to help their team do the same. They need to know how to get the best from their people. If their approach to management is the same as it was in ‘the good old days’, this doesn’t happen. Employees feel frustrated at the lack of autonomy, morale dips, ideas turn stale and innovation stalls.

Since the industrial revolution, our bodies have always taken the brunt of our hard work. Today, our brains feel the impact. Most heavy, manual tasks are carried out by machines and most people work in an office, not a factory. Despite knowing more about the brain than we ever have in history, we’re not recognising what research is telling us. For example, the working day, traditionally 9-5, was based on how long an employee could keep up a manual-based task without collapsing with exhaustion. Our brains don’t work in the same way as our bodies. When we need a little more energy running through our veins, we produce adrenaline. If our brain turns to a chemical because it’s exhausted, it’s not a good one that gives us more power – it tends to be cortisol, or some other stress-related hormone, that does damage.

It may be a muscle, but our brain wasn’t designed to run at the same capacity/output for eight hours solid, which means today’s way of working doesn’t fit. A manager expecting to see their team with their noses to their computer screens hour after hour is not just unrealistic, they’re also likely to receive poorer results from their workers as the hours tick by.

Contrast this with a working day that incorporates plenty of opportunity for mental downtime, with physical areas offering peace and quiet, and bright, fun spaces designed to stimulate creativity – you know, like Google’s offices, or the inside of Apple’s headquarters. They don’t provide such workplaces for effect, or because they look nice; they know how today’s masterminds need to be nurtured…

This October, Jigsaw is hosting the ‘Mental Wellbeing Zone’ at the World of Learning Conference, held at the NEC in Birmingham. It’s a two-day learning and development show that attracts visitors from all over the UK and overseas, and from all sectors and sizes of organisations. Over the course of the event, our founder, Michelle McArthur- Morgan, will deliver six seminars, on the subject of developing and maintaining a workplace culture which promotes mental health and wellbeing. Why not join us?




Jigsaw management


A Positive Employee is Worth Pounds

money-manResearch shows that employee wellbeing can influence an employer’s bottom line. It’s not just an indulgence of companies like Google – with their fun slides, colourful workspaces and pool tables – focus on developing your staff and you’ll see financial and reputational benefits that far outweigh the time and money invested. A content, fulfilled employee is more productive than a demotivated, dissatisfied workforce.

Positivity at work isn’t necessarily aligned to a huge pay packet; there are a number of ways to help employees get more from their working hours: such as offering a decent work/life balance and flexible working arrangements, ongoing development and training, clear acknowledgement and reward, and values within an organisation.

So, how can employers get the best form their people? Do they focus on improving employees’ weaknesses, or should they work to develop their strengths? Don’t both options reach the same end?

Research by Gallup shows that there’s greater potential associated with the developing of employees’ strengths, as opposed to ‘fixing’ their weaknesses. It’s not that difficult to understand…just think about it: would you feel good if you had to think about the specific things you don’t do well (and, likely, don’t enjoy either)? Would this motivate you to change these aspects? Human nature means you’re also likely to compare yourself to people who don’t have issues in those areas – how’s that going to make you feel?

We’ve written before about how you become what you think, and if your point of view is one of negativity, it’s not the best foundation for your inspiration and innate talent to shine through.

Think about something you’re good at. Something that you already know you like to do. Something that you’re already skilled at…how would it feel if you were even better at it?! Would you be happy to go to work to develop this strength? Do you think you’d feel better about your job? Wouldn’t you want to apply your new-improved skills?

The Gallup study showed that the more people think about and use their strengths, the happier they are. They feel calmer and that their quality of life is good. They also feel more engaged with their work.

And here’s the bottom-line effect. More than a million employees took part in Gallup’s study; they were arranged into groups that received A) intensive intervention relating to their strengths, B) moderate intervention on strengths, and C) no intervention at all.

90% of the employees in groups A and B showed an increase in productivity. Even moderate intervention had the potential to realise up to 29% more profit, 19% better sales, and 15% improved employee engagement.

A 2012 study by David MacLeod and Nita Clarke, in association with the University of Bath, backs up the benefits of a happy, engaged employee. It reports: “As well as performance and productivity, employee engagement impacts positively on levels of absenteeism, on retention, on levels of innovation, customer service, and staff advocacy of their organisations.” Just last November the CIPD published the findings of their own study, which showed that team performance is better when focus is on employees’ strengths.

Make it a habit

Our brains don’t have infinite capacity. We can only process a certain amount of information at a time, which is why we form habits – often-repeated tasks that can be carried out by our subconscious mind. Experts can’t quite pin down how many daily tasks come with their own mental shortcuts; some believe it’s around 40%, whilst others think it could be as much as 80% of what we do.

Thinking positively and concentrating on pushing our strengths forward can become a habit. Our brains are pliable enough to make new habits; however, it’s easier to focus on a new habit if we rid ourselves of old ones that no longer serve us – such as any thought we may give to our weaknesses. When we apply our strengths to problems, we acquire the skills to solve them, which in turn helps us to grow and develop.

This all sounds fantastic if you know what your strengths are. Given that we’re continually learning things and undergoing new experiences, we can potentially pick up new ones all the time. We’re all works-in-progress.

The Jigsaw Discovery Tool is a unique solution that not only identifies strengths, it also gives you an insight into how to apply them, when it comes to communicating and interacting with others. Great for leaders and managers looking to get the best from their team, using the positives of each individual to achieve the end goal.

Emotions are contagious, as are ideas (Schachter, 1959: 15; Cacioppo and Petty, 1987; Levy and Nail, 1993). We’re back in the subconscious again: our physiological responses mirror that of those around us. If we’re faced with hostility, that’s what we’ll fire back. If there’s enthusiasm and warmth bouncing around us, that’s what we’ll project, too.

That’s why it’s so important to create a positive culture. One where employees’ strengths are paramount.

Your bottom line will thank you…

If you would like to find out more about the Jigsaw Discovery Tool, please contact Michelle McArthur-Morgan on 01924 898930


Is our Generation a Ticking Time Bomb?


Everyone is made up of matter, we know this. We need oxygen to breathe, and various other elements to stay alive.

Chemicals (hormones) gush through our bodies and nervous systems: the vast majority benefiting us on a short-term basis. But, you can have too much of a good thing.

Take cortisol. Often called the ‘stress’ hormone, this chemical can have a range of functions: it can help regulate blood sugar and salt in the body, improve memory function and control our blood pressure. If we have too much cortisol in our bodies, though, it can interrupt our sleep patterns, affect fertility, cause muscle weakness, and much more.

Research has shown that we have more cortisol in our systems that our parents and grandparents carried. We have learned to react to a 24/7 world, which means we don’t spend as much time relaxing as previous generations did. And we don’t mean being physically relaxed; for many of us, even if we sit down to rest, our minds still turn over the things that worry us. And in this instance, your body will still produce cortisol – as it gears up for what it thinks could be a ‘fight or flight’ situation.

In a 2017 study, 40% of the employees questioned said they experienced ‘excessive pressure’ at least once a week. Do you imagine your parents or grandparents would have said the same? Yes, they lived through traumatic periods, no more so than during world wars, but outside of these horrific incidents, was life for them as stressful on a daily basis?

Have you ever fallen ill when on holiday? On a daily basis cortisol keeps our wits sharp, its stirs our adrenaline, and it makes sure we function well, but constant overproduction can affect our immune systems long-term. One reason why people in demanding jobs often get sick in their downtime is because the sudden drop in cortisol production causes an inflammatory response.

Mindfulness is a word that’s been batted about in recent years, though there are still many of us who don’t practise it. It’s not a New Age practice, but the simple act of slowing down and clearing your mind for a short while. Your brain is a muscle; we would gladly rest our legs if we’d been on them all day – why should our minds be any different?

Ten minutes meditation/mindfulness once a day is a help, but for long-term benefits, and so we can avoid the cortisol time bomb going off – which has the potential to explode into a breakdown of some kind – we need to flood our systems with positive chemicals. These include dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins, which are all part of a group often called ‘the happiness chemicals’. With an amygdala full of ‘happiness’ hormones, we react to situations calmly and with a positive attitude. If cortisol overrides these chemicals our reactions tend to come from a point of anger and frustration.

Incorporating mindfulness into our daily lives is not a case of jumping onto the latest self-help bandwagon – it has real effects on our effectiveness and productivity. Consider this: the number of sick days employees take from work each year, due to anxiety and stress, costs the economy £29bn.

So, how do we increase our happy vibes? How do we ensure there are more happy chemicals in our systems?

Well, they don’t derive from having the biggest house, the latest designer handbag, or the flashiest car – sorry! Research has shown that people are happiest when they “feel good about themselves and what they’re doing”. According to Fredrickson et al, happiness stems from gratitude, love, inspiration, awe, hope, pride and more.

These positive emotional states improve our decision-making, productivity and resilience. Another significant benefit that comes from increasing these chemicals in our systems is better life expectancy: studies show that happy people live 7-10 years longer. These people don’t have better circumstances, more money or greater health than the rest of us, but they exercise acceptance and gratefulness for what they do have and can do, rather than stressing about what they haven’t got or what they’re unable to do.

Our Jigsaw Development Tool is useful in this instance. It can help you understand in which scenarios in life, and within which aspects of your personality, improvements could be made – to achieve a greater balance between cortisol and happiness chemicals. We’re all a work in progress; increasing the flow of endorphins and its stable-mates won’t happen overnight. They will only come with effort and from forming new habits. For example, gratitude is a state of mind; experts recommend taking a few moments at the end of each day to consider what you’re grateful for from the last 24 hours and recording it in a journal, so that it’s more tangible. Doing this often enough will create a habit, and before long, you’ll be exercising gratitude throughout the day, not just when you’re winding down to sleep.

This quote from Abraham Lincoln sums it up: “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

How happy do YOU want to be? How happy do you want your EMPLOYEES to be, when you realise the effect it will have on them…and your business?

 For further information contact Michelle on 01924 898930 or




I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better……

Abraham LincolnWhilst scanning through a book of quotations, I noticed “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” Abraham Lincoln. These words are a perfect reflection of my vision for a better world, where an attitude of openness and affectionate curiosity existed between people and individuals were accepted for who they were rather than judgements been made about them before even getting to know them. You may think that this is a wonderful philosophy but somewhat unrealistic, but is it really that big a leap to hope for less conflict in our workplaces and home? Emotional Intelligence, Behavioural Styles and Mindfulness are all terms we are familiar with, yet few have learned from. I work with leaders, and their teams helping them to be more accepting and less judgemental of each other and would like to share a few ideas of how workplace conflicts can be minimised and a culture of valuing the diversity within a team be nurtured. Create understanding and appreciation of differences, when the conflict is based in clashes of behavioural styles and working preferences, simply telling team members that they are different is seldom enough, they already know that much! The key is to demonstrate that each of the preferences and styles are normal and that each brings unique qualities and strengths contributing to the overall effectiveness of the team. Each style and preference is equally valid and important to the success of the team, however don’t tell them show them! A simple yet powerful activity, I use is to bring together the individual’s or teams and ask them to reflect upon what they need to be productive within their workplace taking into account their working preferences. Debriefing the lists in terms of behavioural styles, illustrates the significant, yet normal differences in working preferences. At this point comments such as “So that is why you do that. You are not just doing it to be awkward.” Having identified the differences, a few minutes reflection about how the individual preferences contribute to the effectiveness of the team, is a worthwhile activity to reframe the differences as valuable strengths. The next stage I move to is to facilitate discussion between the individual’s or teams to move them towards generating ideas for working out the situation and enable them to be more tolerant of differences, see beyond the differences and work more effectively together. Non judgemental acceptance of others. A natural reaction when we don’t like someone, is to have as little as possible to do with them, we exclude them from conversations and other activities, only including them when we are forced to do so. The action of exclusion then creates an even bigger rift between the two parties, conflicts escalate and atmospheres can develop which impede upon the whole team. Practitioners of Mindfulness refer to the Seven Pillars: Non Judging, Patience, Beginners Mind, Trust, Non Striving, Acceptance and Letting Go. The Seven Pillars provide some very valuable lessons which can be applied into the workplace, to help address issues such as conflict management and being more accepting of others. I referred earlier to having increased awareness of self, with regards to behavioural styles and working preferences. We also need to be aware of the judgements we make all day every day, judgements which influence the way we treat individuals, which influence whether we include or exclude our colleagues. Having increased awareness of our judgements means we can make a conscious decision about our actions. A beginners mind enables an openness and affectionate curiosity about the way we approach a situation or the way we communicate with our colleagues. It creates a deeper empathy and understanding of how the other person is feeling and what is going on for them and enables us to get to know them in a whole new way. Another valuable lesson is “Letting Go” or as my colleague Sian says “Drop the bone.” Don’t carry grudges and resentment, let unpleasant and conflict situations go as soon as you become aware you are holding onto them. Don’t let them get in the way of getting to your know your colleague better. So as Abraham Lincoln said “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”Abraham Lincoln  Could be very good advice we should take heed of in the workplace as a way of reducing conflict and improving team effectiveness.


Change – It’s All About the people

Change Curve SimonThere is a whole range of theories and models around change management. Each theory offers its own solution to sustainable change and many adopt a logical and sequential approach, which in many instances leads projects to fail or to be only partially successful.

Change isn’t logical and no one solution will suit every occasion. Change is complex, full of contradiction and paradox because it includes the business ecosystem. This is the organisational environment, people’s vision, values and beliefs about themselves, their organisation and the world in general. Organisations need to create a clear, realistic vision about what can be achieved through change and be honest about where support is required.

Ultimately organisations need to use creative approaches to change management and understand the conditions necessary for change. Building on the work research by Don Beck and Chris Cowan we can identify six key “musts” necessary for change to be successful:

  1. People will not change unless they appreciate a pressing need to do so
  2. People need to have the will ability and potential to make whatever changes are necessary
  3. People will need to have some idea about why there is a problem and what alternatives exist to do things differently
  4. People need to know how current problems can be resolved so they can move onto new challenges with confidence
  5. People need to know how to deal with resistance to change, resistance may be internal such as a personal fear of the unknown, or external such as a lack of promotional opportunities
  6. People need to be given support and consolidation so they can learn new skills in a relatively safe environment with plenty of encouragement

All effective change comes from within people. Leaders in organisations need to create the kind of environments which support people in change.

Change management is all about people, valuing individuality, positively managing people through the change process, communicating effectively in the language of the people and providing leadership.

Appreciating the value of individuality within the workplace is crucial to successful change. Managers need to be aware of how change affects different types of people, the roles each behavioural type will play and the support that each individual requires during the change process.

The Transition Curve as experienced by the four Jigsaw Behavioural Styles

Circle of Change

Whilst there are many similarities in the way people experience the change process, it is important that managers know their people, and how they are likely to be affected by the change and how

they can be best supported to make sense of the change and be motivated towards the goal. The Jigsaw Discovery Behavioural framework informs managers so they can lead their people through the change process successfully.

So with people at the heart what do leaders need to know?

  1. Know the values and motivators of individual team members
  2. Create an atmosphere of trust, with open honest conversations in a safe environment
  3. Be creative – work out if and how each individual’s motives can be satisfied within the work environment
  4. Create an environment for positive beliefs by creating certainty and focusing on the short term
  5. Communicate on a regular basis even when there is nothing new to say
  6. Provide a range of appropriate support networks and coaching to help motivation, learning and growth
  7. Enable autonomy by asking questions to generate insights rather than providing people with the solution

Overall no one theory or model will offer the right solution to sustainable change. People should be at the heart of all change initiatives and an individual’s needs must be considered at every stage of the change process.




Can You Lead A Horse To Water?

How many times have you heard “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t Horsemake it drink.”?

Well actually that’s not true, if the horse doesn’t want to move it won’t! The only way the horse will choose to go with you is by being confident and developing a trust based relationship with the horse, enabling them to feel safe. Horses are motivated in similar ways to human beings, by satisfying their basic needs for safety, food and staying clear of any threats to their survival. Sound familiar?

It is because of these similarities with human beings that working with horses can provide such a powerful way of gaining feedback and learning invaluable lessons about the impact of your leadership style upon others and the relationships you have with your colleagues, customers, friends and family. The behaviours displayed by the horses when working with them provides you with a reflection of yourself. Just as the developments in neuroscience have shown that emotions between people are contagious, horses too can pick up and sense the emotions and thoughts people. If you approach or stand close to a horse with a head full of negative or stressful thoughts, you will see a behavioural reaction in the horse.

If you want to lead a horse to water, you need to;

  • be confident and clear about where you are going and how you are going to get there
  • build up a relationship of trust
  • and be totally focused on the horse and the present moment.

When I was invited by equine-facilitator Roz Danks, to attend one of her workshops, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the increase in self-awareness and transformations of behaviours in the participants within such a short space of time was absolutely astounding. I observed participants as one by one they nervously approached the horse, heads full of “The horse won’t do it.” or “The horse is much bigger than I am.” And it was of no surprise to them or anyone else when the horse started to turn away or refused to move. However, as the facilitators began to coach the participants, increasing their awareness of their thoughts and behaviours, you could see the participant’s confidence levels rise as they displaced their unhelpful thoughts and began to focus on the horse and what they wanted it to do. In a relatively short space of time, the participants were leading the horses around the arena and guiding them, without holding onto the reins through and around strategically placed obstacles.

As I watched the workshop unfold, the participants grew their confidence and skills in leading the horses and I was drawing the parallels of what I was watching with the situations and challenges people face in the workplace. I started to think about the way mindful practices could support participants to regain and maintain their focus in the present moment and have increased awareness of their thoughts once they returned to the pressures and demands of the workplace.

This is how my interest in developing an equine-facilitated mindfulness workshop began.

If you would like to find out more about our equine-facilitated workshops, please contact Michelle McArthur-Morgan on 07801 056 284 or email