Simple Steps for Creating a Mindful Workplace

The busyness of working in a 24/7 365 world of interconnectedness is often distracting and limits our capacity for clear thinking and good decision making.

At the forthcoming Learning & Skills exhibition Michelle McArthur-Morgan, Managing Partner and Brain Mechanic at Jigsaw@work, will be delivering a number of free workshops to provide delegates with simple and practical ways of creating a workplace where employees are able to thrive and achieve sustainable effectiveness.  During the workshops Michelle will be sharing her experience and knowledge of Mindfulness practice and its application within the modern workplace.

People who are more adept at working with their mind and mental states perform better that benefits their teams, colleagues, clients, customers and all other stakeholders. “There has been thousands of studies conducted on various aspects of mindfulness and on that basis I can say with confidence that mindfulness training enhances focus and attention, increases awareness, raises levels of resilience and strengthens cognitive effectiveness.” said Michelle.

Mindfulness at work training is fast becoming accepted as an essential core programme for leaders and their teams. The five core areas which mindfulness can impact upon in the workplace are leadership & strategic thinking, productivity, self management, interpersonal relationships and wellbeing.

Only this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, a conference room jammed full with over 100 of the global elite came together for “Leading Mindfully”. A panel discussion with a mix of breathing instruction, management theory and personal reflection, the session focused upon how mediation is impacting the workplace. According to a report in the New York Times, Jon Kabat-Zinn, a molecular biologist who helped popularize mindfulness meditation in recent decades, said “This is a very unusual event at the World Economic Forum, and it’s diagnostic of something much larger that is happening.”


Regain Your Sanity

In recent figures published by the HSE 1 in 5 of the workforce are affected by stress, it is now the biggest single course of sickness in the UK, with 105 million working days lost each year, costing employers £1.24 billion. Although from a reliable source these figures do not illustrate the whole picture as they do not take into account the loss of productivity of employees who continue to work but due to anxiety, depression and the adverse effects of the pressure of the work are not able to perform at optimum levels, resulting in under performance and loss of revenue and profitability.

Many of us know only too well that the busyness of the 24/7 365 knowledge economy that we are living in values how well we use our minds more than how many things we make each hour. It is ideas, inventions, innovation and creativity that fuel our rapidly changing global economy yet organisations still largely operate on old notions of productivity, work faster, think faster and use as much technology as possible to increase efficiency. People skills, even in this age of ‘Emotional Intelligence’ are more expected than cultivated and the idea that the workplace should be a place where people flourish and develop sets heads nodding, but are we really making this happen?

Traditionally when we think about people development we look at the skills level (capabilities) of our people and identify skills gaps which go onto form the training plans. However developing skills, behaviour and capability is only part of the picture and whilst skill development does lead to enhanced performance, if we want to optimise performance we need to look at the bigger picture.

A question we ask at the beginning of our Leadership programmes is “If you could have an abundance of one more thing, what would it be?” The over whelming response I get back is “space”. Space to stop and think. Creating Mental Space is critical for innovation, creativity, decision making and general performance.

If you would like to receive a copy of our paper “The Performance Equation” in which we discuss creating mental space please contact


Mentioning the Unmentionable – Having Difficult Conversations

A common topic of conversation (not a difficult one) at the moment, and that has been discussed for some time now, is how to have difficult conversations.

There is a natural resistance to difficult conversations.  In fact, you are invited right now to think of reasons why you believe people do not have their difficult conversation.  Maybe it is what you do to not have the conversation you know you need to have, but that you have been avoiding?

Have you done that?

What types of answers did you come up with?  Maybe it is because people generally seek to avoid what they might perceive to be a confrontation.  Maybe the organisational policies and procedures make it more difficult? Maybe it is the age old challenge of a lack of time.

Now, you are invited to think of a time that you did have a difficult conversation, maybe with a direct report for example or with a Manager that had not been managing?  Think back to that situation. 

What was going on for you?  What were you thinking and feeling?

Maybe you were feeling frustrated, maybe you felt uncomfortable or felt that you were just listening to excuses or felt that the other person was not taking ownership or responsibility. Maybe you just wanted to tell them straight but you professionalism dictated that this was not an option.  Most probably by the end of the conversation you were emotionally drained.

Now, take a moment to think what was going on for the other person?

What do you think might have been going through their mind? You might think that the odd person was playing the system.  But if we are honest that is not true for most people, even if the occasional one.  You might have felt that the other person was not revealing their true emotions, that they felt under attack, that they did not know how to deal with the situation in the most adult way, that they were becoming defensive or even aggressive. 

How do you feel now?

Maybe (I said ‘maybe’), now you have taken a moment to walk in the other persons shoes, you are feeling a little more empathy.

This taking a mindful moment to reflect, taking a moment to breathe and to focus, to think that the other person is just like you but facing  a different challenge might just allow you to take the time that is needed to think about how best to prepare for the conversation you know is necessary.  What might be the best possible outcome for you both? It might not be a true win-win, or an ideal outcome, but it is the best one that can be achieved at that moment in time.

With all the thoughts, feelings, observations and thoughts that go hand in hand with these uncomfortable situations, it is no wonder that many people might choose to avoid having difficult conversations.  It is an understandable human reaction.  But just because it is understandable does not mean it is useful or helpful.

What are the consequences, however, of not having difficult conversations?

Maybe a team is demotivated because the one poor performer is not dealt with from a capability or conduct point of view. Maybe your job is infinitely more difficult because you are doing the job that your Managers should be doing.  Rather than supporting them in having difficult conversations with their team, you find that you are dealing with the consequences of them not having those conversation, maybe you have inherited a poor performer that has had several previous line managers that have never dealt with the situation and now there is a legacy, an historical precedent, an expectation that has been set, but difficult to resolve.  Maybe the department, or even the organisation, is suffering the consequences of avoiding conversations that are really open and honest. Even if this can be painful on occasion, if done in the right way, those conversations need and must take place.  Unless people talk about feelings, values and behaviours levels of trust will never increase and organisation performance will not reach its full potential.

No-one can afford not to have these conversations, on a personal or organisational level.  Issues and challenges need to be ‘nipped in the bud’. So, if we need to have these conversations how can we have them in the most appropriate and helpful way.  In a way that does not evoke an ‘amygdala hijack’ on the part of the other person, which immediately results in a less useful and emotional response, but instead a logical and adult response.

It is important to focus on the proximal effect, what is happening in the room now, rather than focusing on the distol effect, what might happen after, outside the room.  Very often our preoccupation with what might happen afterwards adds to our anxiety and might incline us to avoid the conversation.  It is important, as mentioned, to take a moment, to pause, breathe and focus.  Take time out to think about the conversation and prepare.  Take a walk in the other person’s shoes and focus on the best possible outcome for both parties before the conversation takes place.  This mindful reflection and pause is important.

We can also think about good high quality open questions.  The ‘CREATE’ model by David Rock from the Quiet Leader, 2006, is an excellent model that generates excellent high quality open questions.  The model stands for Current Reality, Exploring Alternatives and Tapping Energy.  It is a model that supports coaching and creates the need to listen and thereby create rapport, but also encourages the other person to take responsibility.

Think carefully beforehand about the conversation and prepare in order to give you the best chance possible chance to stay calm.  Do not allow emotions to dictate the outcome, but the willingness that both parties seek the best possible outcome. 

In summary, two things are critical.  Firstly, have the conversation.  Secondly, remain calm. 


Well Done! Measuring and Celebrating Success

One area of potential areas that has been noticed recently when working with different organisations is the fact that few seem to celebrate success.  In fact one client, when they discovered other parts of the business had achieved significant milestones in the recent months – and they didn’t know about it – were not only surprised but it completely changed the morale of the group.  The group was in fact two teams brought together with the aim of working more collaboratively.  The mindset of the group suddenly shifted from a slightly negative approach to the realization that if the two groups started to collaborate more effectively they could achieve significantly more than if they worked independently.  This was all down to simply hearing some good news.

Furthermore, the fact that the good news was now being recognised, albeit later than originally hoped, was key.  Recognition responds to a deep motivational need within most people, as many of the motivational models have long since identified.  From a neuro-scientific point of view it also is intrinsically linked to the ‘Status’ element of David Rock’s SCARF model which talks of the importance of status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness.  In terms of allowing our people to work with the brain, rather than against it, it is important to recognise achievements.  As neuro scientist Evian Gordon noted, ‘To minimise danger and maximise reward is an overarching organising principle of the brain’.  It is observed ‘when SCARF concerns are mitigated, an individual’s state of readiness appears to increase, and vice versa’.

There is also another key and beneficial consequence of recognising success.  In order to recognise success, we have to be clear on when that success has been achieved.  In this sense we are then forced to identify the key measures of success at the start of an initiative.  Although this is important, that too can sometimes be overlooked.  Why are we doing something? What is the purpose? We need to know before we proceed.

Although this is clearly best practice when setting ourselves a goal, it very often occurs that once a goal has been achieved, some organisations do little to then measure and review the success of the goal.  This could provide important information to either maintain the success or even improve on the standard achieved.  This stage, whatever we call it, be it evaluating, monitoring, measuring, reviewing or even de-briefing , could add so much to a process.  This is a shame since the lion’s share of the work has essentially been completed by this stage, the measuring which is the icing on the cake could add so much, and could be done easily if the key measures have been clearly identified and articulated from the start.

Not only that but it makes people feel great!  Recognising success is cheap, often polite, can be easily role modelled by leaders, and can even have a cultural impact on an organisation which, we all know, can positively affect the all-important financial performance.


The Non Leader

I am sure many blogs have been recently written with the World Cup as a theme, and so in the spirit of ‘fellowship’, I will do exactly the same.  Leadership of course is never a role to be underestimated, although sometimes difficult to articulate why.  Very often people might say, ‘But really what difference can one person make? Especially when they take over a team who already know what they are doing? That have been doing the same things for years, each of have their own recognised and established role and the strategy has not changed?’ I have never seen this as being as evident as when Alex Ferguson left Manchester United.  I was actually quite surprised that the team, despite knowing and playing with each other, very often for years, still stumbled, and fell.  And yet, with the new incoming manager, who did well as the Manager of Holland in the recent World Cup, maybe the team will rally again, energise, and perform.

Ultimately, therefore the impact of a good leader is evident.  Of course we could attribute a dip in performance to the fact that there had been a change, a new significant member which catapulted the team back to the storming phase of the team dynamic.  These are all possibilities but the feeling is the influence of one leader was significant but the influence of the other leader was not.

This provided consideration for the importance of a leader who is possibly not there, at least all the time.  In the age of multi-site, multi-location and international organisations, how can we ensure the presence of the leader is felt, even when they are not physically present?  Seemingly, this presence does need to be felt.  So the possibility of visits, where possible, might be considered, communication via technological means might certainly be used.  Ultimately regular communication in whatever form must continue.  Otherwise the clarity of message that comes directly from the leader is diluted, translated weakly by transmitters less articulate, resulting in a message that has been amended, tweaked, changed by the time it arrives at the door of the final recipient.  The meaning, and impact, will have subtly changed.

What is also interesting however is the impact of the ‘significant individual’.  Although this is commonly thought to be just the leader, very often other people in the team can robustly demonstrate leadership behaviours.  Actually we sometimes talk about leaders being the only ones that need to demonstrate role modelling behaviour, but actually everyone needs to demonstrate the majority of good leadership behaviours, such as the ability to communicate, influence and build relationships.  The impact of the significant ‘non-leader’ was also demonstrated within the football world.  When Neymar, and even, dare I say it Suarez, left their team.  Regardless of the external impression, their own team, and country, validated their presence as significant to the success of the team.  When they left, so there teams also left the World Cup.

The importance of the ‘non-leaders’ as significant individuals, can also be seen in the Tour de France.  Although one person is elected to be the leader, the other individuals step up at various times.  It’s almost as thought the role of leader is rotated, they are all on relay unit the final stages when the ‘leader’s leader’ emerges to win, on behalf of the team.  Here is an excellent example that demonstrates not only the role of leader, but also the role of switching that position; the importance of the team.  Every person is critical to the team’s performance and every person has a chance to be a leader.

Maybe leadership can be moveable feast.  That one person is elected but the domain of leadership behaviours does not just stay with that one person but is actively encouraged for all to experience.



For those who are regular readers of our blogs you might remember that we talked recently about the subject of happiness.  It somehow seems a little inappropriate to talk about being ‘happy’ with regards to the workplace, as though it is a slightly unprofessional word.  Or, that it simplifies a large problem that is too complicated to describe in one word that is rarely used in a corporate sense.  We could therefore consider other words that represent some kind of happiness at work.  Maybe ‘employee engagement’, ‘satisfaction’ or we could refer to those who have successfully managed their emotional intelligence as achieving some form of happiness.  Although telling someone ‘Don’t worry, may be emotionally intelligent’ it isn’t as catchy as the famous tune. There is however some merit because ‘optimism’ is a recognised measure when considering how emotionally intelligent someone is.  Alternatively, we might think that someone who is happy at work , is someone who is not frazzled or having an amygdala hijack!

It is this important that we focus on ensuring people maintain some kind of contentment at work, for many reasons.  Of course it depends how we categorise happiness or contentment and for the purposes of this article it might be described as an environment that is not threatening, but safe, where relationships are productive and based on trust.
This is a little like the adage of why aging is ‘better than the alternative’.  The same is true with this subject, it is important we focus on creating the right environment because the alternative is a lot worse.  The alternative means an environment where stress is pervasive, our ability to make rational decisions is hampered, our health can be affected, we have a need to resort to fight or flight and our ability to think calmly is hindered.  Fundamentally it means that our working environment will then impede the workings of the brain and prevent flow state working making optimal performance impossible.  This then massively impacts on the long term performance of the organisation.

If we are to have clarity of mind, even in the frantic working environment most of us find ourselves in, it is vital that we create space for our minds, to allow them to function naturally, without being forced to do anything. Our minds need a rest approximately every 90 minutes yet most people are not aware of the signals their minds send out and continue working on in oblivion. Recent findings in neuroscience show that we are at our most creative when our minds are at rest. Immediately before we have an “insight” moment (a burst of Gamma waves) and our great idea emerges, brain scans show that the mind is in a restful state (Alpha waves). It is important to maintain clarity of mind and the ability to think clearly not only for creativity but also to have the capability to learn, to listen wholeheartedly, take information in and make great decisions. Learning to create space for our minds and working with the natural flow helps us to have greater control over our emotions and therefore reducing the likelihood of an ‘amygdala hijack’ which robs us of the ability to have clarity of mind as we go into panic mode, on high alert, and our emotional response takes over our rational thinking.  When our emotional and psychological responses are negatively affected, we become distressed and will not act in our ‘best self’ so our relationships can be damaged.

Relationships are key for an organisation to be able to successfully do business and function.  Today’s organisations face significant change, significant pressure on both human and financial resources, restructure and even sometimes purpose.  All these challenges require that people buy in to the communication, that organisations ‘take people with them’ and if the relationships break down and people start not being able to hear, not wanting to be part of the ‘organisational relationship’ due to a pressure ridden environment, this can have far reaching detrimental effects.

As we know, the challenges themselves will not cease so the only thing we can do is manage our response.  The emotional intelligence of the organisation needs to improve.  The senior managers need to understood if and how they have been emotionally affected, is the pressure getting to them, how is this manifesting in their communication ‘down’ the organisation?  There needs to be increased ‘other awareness’ to see, feel and hear how other people are being affected.  Do they still feel they are in the safe environment?  Are they being put in a position that is not stressful that enables listening and to continue and therefore dialogue?

In this sense leaders are forced to consider the ‘how’ much more than just the ‘what’.  Attention needs to be given to how leaders communicate, what forums are made available to let people have their voice, how to create environment where feelings are not just considered but discussed.  In a solution-focussed way of course so it is not just an opportunity to download, which is why coaching is so important as asking open questions gives permission to talk about feelings but also encourages responsibility and accountability.

Maybe we could have conversations that meaningfully ask the question ‘How are you feeling?’ to an individual or a group, but wait and listen to the response and then discuss together how everyone can move forward, ‘What can we do together to overcome these challenges we face?’  Open dialogue, permission to speak without hierarchal awareness, honest conversations are useful, necessary and essential.  Otherwise we are asking people to do things that their brains are not equipped to deal with, if we work with their brain, we will be working with the people, not against them.  In that way the organisation stands the best chance possible of being emotionally intelligent, both organisation and employee being  ‘happy’ and, a much better chance of achieving long term strategic objectives.


Katherine Farnworth


It’s all in a song

‘Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony’ Ghandi

Every now and then you hear a song that just makes you feel happy.  In my case recently it was actually a song called ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams.  It certainly did what is it said on the tin.

When helping an organisation to focus on their people there can be many interventions available.  Quite rightly as people can provide a wide range of differing challenges and each needs to be supported appropriately.  As many of us know very often the most common challenges will be around clarity, communication and change.  This is to simplify greatly but by and large most challenges can cross into one or more of these areas.

When managers and leaders are supported in their approach they in turn offer appropriate support to their teams.  Very often their help is to support someone be more emotionally intelligent or develop resilience.  To help people be more self aware and aware of others to improve communication, to understand people and their preferences so they can be a better motivator.  What has occurred to me is that many of these things can sometimes help people to simply be more ‘happy.

Maybe in the midst of the learning, which is essential, there, is an opportunity to have a discussion around fun.  What makes you happy? What makes your team happy? What makes your organisation happy? What makes your customer happy? How can we have more fun at work?

‘True happiness… is attained through fidelity to a worthy purpose’ Helen Keller

Several years ago Ken Blanchard created the ‘Fish! film.  A short film about a fish market in Seattle.  It has been used by many organisations.  The guiding principles are still valid today.  ‘Be there’ very aptly describes mindfulness.  ‘Choose your attitude’ could be interpreted as being about accountability, responsibility and ownership.  ‘Make their day’ could be about taking time to understand what other people want and need.  Working out what their agenda is rather than concentrating on your own; a key element of most influencing and negotiating models.  And finally ‘Play’ which is just about having simple, old fashioned fun!

What I do like about the film is that at one point one of the men that works on the fish market talks about how they approach their work and how they incorporate their four principles and adds ‘…and by the way, we sell more fish’.  The happier we are, the more successful we are.

‘Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go’ Oscar Wilde

What might be interesting is not to focus on how we can have fun either before or after work, but during work.  How can we make communicating our strategy fun? How can we make achieving targets fun? How can we create an environment where more people are happier about change? How can we make a challenge fun?  How can we be happier working with each other?  What is really going to make us happy?

The final thought here can go to the creator of my happiness, at least for the three minute duration of a song.  He suggests to:

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you want do!


Katherine Farnworth


How can Emotional Intelligence really help an organisation?

Recently a survey from Insynergi demonstrated some interesting findings.  Thanks to their survey it was revealed that there are several key factors that contribute to project failures.  Namely these were:

  1. Lack of clear objectives                                                                    66%
  2. Unrealistic deadlines                                                                         58%
  3. Poor communication with teams and 3rd parties                               45%
  4. Lack of communication form Senior Managers                                 33%
  5. Lack of core skills                                                                             30%

Interestingly, although many people surveyed had done professional qualifications, up to 41%, it was also shown that only 19% had received development on ‘soft skills or Emotional Intelligence’ programmes.  Very often, as Insynergi points out, these programmes are referred to as ‘soft skills’ but in actual fact there can be nothing harder to deal with than people.  And these ‘soft skills and Emotional Intelligence’ programmes are specifically designed to help Managers deal with the very subject of people.

If we look at the challenges we could consider which challenges deal with the ‘what’ (i.e. the technical or operational areas) and those that deal with the ‘how’ (namely those that deal with people).  It could be said that the first four challenges deal with the ‘how’.  Only the last one deals with the ‘what’ being the area of core skills.  So, although the majority of challenges deal with people – only 19% of people receive support in this area.

Similarly, the main concerns of dealing with complex projects were once again mainly dealing with the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’.

  1. Managing complex change with limited resources                             56%
  2. Large teams in multiple locations                                                       42%
  3. Skills Shortage                                                                                   35%
  4. Increased complexity of projects                                                        35%
  5. Measuring success                                                                            30%
  6. Outsourcing                                                                                       20%

What is exciting about the ‘how’ but can also be overwhelming without support, is that the ‘how’ is very much within our control.  It is about how we respond, how we communicate, how we challenge appropriately, how we motivate and how we role model.  However, to do any of these well we need to first know the ‘current reality’ and understand how we perform.  In order to answer that we need self awareness.  This is why Emotional Intelligence is so important.

Self awareness can help project managers and leaders understand what they do, how they do it, how they can become better, but also how they can help others respond more appropriately because as a result of Emotional Intelligence they also have increased ‘other awareness’.

On a very simple level, Emotional Intelligence focuses on 4 areas.

  • Firstly, understanding self.  Who am I? What makes me tick? What are my triggers?
  • Then, managing self.  How do I manager my triggers, How do I manage the way I communicate to others?
  • Thirdly, being aware of others.  Are other people even on my radar? Do I ‘listen’ to their non verbal communication? What do they need from me?
  • Finally, managing our relationship.  How can I find a common ground for us both to communicate?

In summary, what language do I speak, what language do you speak and how can I initiate a language where we can communicate with each other, meaningfully.  By giving this mindful consideration we can then think about ‘how’ we can overcome the challenges mentioned.  Evidently, what we can do better is:

1. Provide clear objectives              

Build in time to prepare and plan.  What are the objectives?  How can we make them SMART?  How can we communicate in such a way that understanding is robust?  How can I test that understanding?  If we ensure absolute clarity around objectives, we then have very clear target.  When that is achieved we have the opportunity to celebrate success.  This is something many organisations could do better.  It does also provide us with evidence when we need to face into a performance issue because the clear target might not have been achieved.  Whether for a ‘can’t do’ (should the leader have already known this?) or a ‘won’t do’ reason , action is needed, rather than a passive, head in the sand approach.  To nip things in the bud early on is a form of clarity and can be in the long run motivating to the group as a whole because it is fair and consistent.  Providing SMART and clear objectives will, if done properly, also solve the other issues of being able to ‘measure success’ and ‘unrealistic deadlines’.

2. Focus on mindful communication

Communication is particularly important when it comes to ‘poor communication with teams and 3rd parties’, managing ‘large teams in multiple locations’ and improving ‘communication from Senior Managers’.  We could consider how we currently communicate, how we reach out to others to understand what they need, how much do we then focus on their agenda and build that knowledge into our communication to ensure their buy in.  How much do I listen?

3. Leading change

Very often it is not so much change that unsettles people, although as a human race it seems we are not a big fan, but within the business world, it is very often ‘how’ that change has been communicated that overwhelms people and invites a negative response.  Kotters model of change can help here.  Kotter eloquently provides a structure to dealing with change to inform and engage.  Whatever process is preferred certain simple steps are essential.  Communicate, communicate, communicate!  And engage.  By giving people, as another established author, Covey, suggests ‘Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs’.

Emotional Intelligence now seems to be evolving alongside another intelligence, that of social intelligence.  Whatever label we give, it’s all to do with PEOPLE.


Katherine Farnworth


Change – It’s All About the People

Adopting a change culture is no longer an option for organisations, it’s a necessity for businesses looking to remain competitive, retain talent, support growth and ultimately survive. But when planning, implementing and managing a change initiative what steps can we take to adopt a sustainable solution?

We look at how motivation is used in change management and offer useful tips to support individuals and organisations through change initiatives.

There are 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 only be partially successful.

Change isn’t logical and no one solution will suit every organisation. Change is complex, full of contradiction and paradox because it includes the “business ecosystem”. This is the organisational environment, people’s vision and values and their beliefs about themselves, their organisation and the world in general. Organisations need to create 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 research by Don Beck and Chris Cowan we can identify six conditions necessary for change; key “musts” in change processes:

  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 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 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.

Change Management is all about people, valuing individuality, positively managing people through the change process, communicating and providing the right leadership.

Michelle McArthur said: “Appreciating the value of individuality within the workplace is crucial to successful change. Managers need to understand how change affects different types of people, the roles each type will play and the support that each individual requires during the change process.

“From having the ability to identify stress indicators, through to anticipating behaviours and reactions, Managers need to improve their skills and have the ability to influence and guide team members during the change process in a positive manner.”

So with people at the heart of our change initiatives, does motivation hold the key to sustainable change?

I hear a lot of talk about motivating people at work but the truth is people motivate themselves. Clearly motivation to change is an essential part of change management but some more common approaches, such as relying on the “Carrot and Stick”, can be very risky.

The carrot or the stick relies on change in response to pleasure and/or pain. This view of change believes that we move towards things that attract us (carrots) that we associate with pleasure and move away from those that we associate with pain (sticks).

We see this situation in organisations every day. Some individuals will be motivated by certain things because they want to achieve a particular outcome, so we find the right ‘carrots’. Others are motivated to do something in order to avoid a particular thing or situation, so we find the right sticks.

This approach should be adopted with caution; ultimately we need to know what constitutes a reward for each individual.

We need to know when and in what contexts people are ‘moving towards’ or ‘moving away’. We also need to consider that if people are trying to move away from a factor that is perceived as a huge threat  they can simply shutdown, overwhelmed by the size of the perceived threat.

So when it comes to motivation what do leaders need to know?

  1. Know the values and the motivations of each of your team
  2. Create an atmosphere of trust
  3. Be creative – work out if and how each individual’s motives can be satisfied in a work setting
  4. Create an environment for positive beliefs and support the confidence of each member of your team
  5. Provide appropriate support networks and coaching to help motivation, learning and change
  6. Celebrate short term success quickly

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.

David Taylor, Senior Learning Consultant

See our Tools and Tips on Change, Change, Change.

*Article originally published in 2010 within our Newsletter, Bits and Pieces.


Change – Just Not What It Used To Be

We may be ‘out’ of the recession but its aftermath rages on as UK businesses in both the public and private sector continue to battle for survival, to address change and overcome the challenges that we face.

The strength to survive and indeed thrive comes only from our ability to be flexible and adaptable, a process we can accelerate through adopting an innovative approach to learning and development (L&D).

Learning Lessons

We need to take valuable lessons from the last recession where so many organisations stopped investing in their teams and as a result lost their best talent. These organisations then suffered the impact when markets picked up and their expertise and best people were no longer there; they were working for the competition.

“Now is the time to invest our training budgets wisely, to help organisations see a clear return on investment and to look at new ways of working; not by doing more of the same but by being more innovative and creative with L&D intervention so that staff are engaged, enthused and motivated; leaders are given the autonomy to lead; and managers are equipped with the skills and knowledge to manage.”

Important and Urgent

One of our biggest challenges is therefore to convince those who are looking to reduce costs that there is now an important and urgent need to use L&D to survive and thrive. We need them to realise that now is not the time to cut training budgets; now is the time to invest in L&D.

Where’s the return

Demonstrating a return on investment (ROI) is crucial to any L&D programme and should be a key part of any plan to secure investment. But whilst many speak about it, few follow up and evaluate training, leaving L&D wide open to budget cuts. Within the public sector the need to justify investment in L&D is only going to intensify as every degree of training spend is scrutinised as budgets are slashed further and should the ‘right to data’ be implemented through plans for the Big Society.

Measuring the return on any investment should be our first step to securing sign off on L&D budgets. We should ask “What difference is required?”, “What will participants do differently?” and “How will we know?” Once we have these answers we can then support the overall development needs of the organisation and individual team members.

ROI does not necessarily need to follow a strict formula that takes too much effort, time and money. We also need to remember that ROI is not just about money, bottom line profit or cost savings; demonstrating value to the business can be shown in many other ways.

One of the most effective ways of evaluating the ROI of a L&D initiative is by monitoring the change in, and the impact that the training has had on the individual. If learning is aligned to business goals and strategies then it should produce a measurable return, such as increased customer service levels or shorter delivery times.”

Time Constraints

Once we have demonstrated a suitable return, finding time availability is the next critical factor when it comes to designing L&D intervention, but accommodating training schedules becomes increasingly difficult especially as our teams shrink but tasks and outputs stay the same.

With this in mind traditional training methods may not always offer the best solutions and organisations should look to integrate or adopt alternative blended learning methods.

David Taylor, Coach and Training Partner at Jigsaw@work, comments: “We need to make the most of our time, so adopting focused, integrated and versatile development programmes is crucial. This can be done by combining traditional training and delivery methods with interactive approaches such as open space activities, mentoring and web-based learning.

Coaching, for example, is a very powerful tool. Research proves that coaching is one od the most effective forms of learning and also one of the most flexible, whether you look to deliver coaching on a one-to-one basis, over the telephone, through video telephony or using internet technology such as Skype.”

Make It About The People

The effects of the recession are placing increasing pressure on our leaders, managers and front-line teams, whether this is having to deliver the same high quality products and services with fewer team members or dealing with the effects of merging teams and clashing cultures.

As budget cuts take effect, uncertainty prevails and brings with it scrutiny and low morale as everything is monitored and justified, from how much Sellotape is used through to whether replacing paid staff with volunteers is feasible or simply the only option.

Leaders and managers need emotional intelligence, the confidence and the skills to help their organisation to survive; they need the ability to deal with the effects that this uncertainty has on individuals throughout the organisation.

Those adopting a survival strategy will find little room for dealing with the emotional effects that this will have on colleagues and in turn how this will impact upon their performance. Under pressure care and empathy is often suppressed as those in senior positions prepare to be ‘tough’.

David Taylor offers the following as a definition of Emotional Intelligence “The intelligence of feeling: our ability to understand and express our emotional aspects effectively and creatively so we can use them to take positive actions and make positive communications.”

This is emphasised in recent research by the CIPD and detailed in the ‘Employee Outlook, emerging from the downturn’, Winter 2010, which states that “..’employees’ attitudes to senior managers should ring the alarm bells for employers. Only about a third of employees say they trust or have confidence in their senior managers and just a quarter agree their organisation’s directors consult them about important decisions.”

Frozen in Our Roles       

Albert Einstein once said: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

This too can be said about our systems and processes. Our teams need to look at and adopt new ways of working; this requires support and often the need to adopt new skill sets.

Adopting new ways of working often requires a shift in mindset towards changes in working practices; managers need the knowledge and skills to support individuals through this and individual team members need to feel equipped to manage and cope with the proposed change.

The library sector is a prime example of how change is impacting on systems and processes as RFID technology is embraced and a more proactive approach to customer care is adopted.

We have worked with a number of libraries to devise L&D programmes that lead and support teams through the change process and equip individuals with the skills needed to deliver a modern, personalised, customer centred library service. For frontline teams it was about addressing fears, helping them adapt to the new ways of working and the culture of a modern library service.

The Right Support

Getting the right return from L&D often depends on choosing the right training provider. With few barriers to entry, those choosing external support should start by identifying prospects who are members of institutions such as the Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD) or the British Institute for Learning and Development (BILD); taking these routes can save valuable time and offer a degree of assurance that the said practitioner has the right skills, attitude and experience to deliver.

*Article originally published in 2010 within our Newsletter, Bits and Pieces.