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.


Happiness is more important than wealth

87% of UK adults say that wellbeing and happiness is more important than wealth.

According to a survey published last week 87% of UK adults said that wellbeing and happiness is more important than wealth. So why are UK businesses not taking it more seriously? I just wish that organisations would stop paying lip service to wellbeing at work and start introducing sustainable working practices which promote both mental and physical wellbeing. If employees are the only real differentiator between a business and their competitors than surely it makes good business sense to encourage and support people to develop behaviours and working practices which supports their wellbeing.

On too many occasions, I have witnessed organisations where the senior managers and directors recognise the need for changes in the working practices. They have supported and invested in the introduction of quiet spaces and informal break out areas where employees can go when they start to feel overwhelmed by the busyness of the 24/7/365 constantly switched on world in which we live and work. Yet all too often these spaces do not get used as they were intended. Why? Because whilst the senior managers may have recognised the need and can see the financial sense of encouraging employees to take regular purposeful breaks, to enable their minds to pause for a few minutes. Line managers do not want to take the risk of one of their team being “caught” doing nothing.

The latest neuroscience research provides evidence that by taking regular short breaks where the mind is allowed to just “be” as it presents itself in that moment, not forcing or suppressing thoughts, enable the mind to refresh itself, which means that the individual can return to their work with a renewed sense of clarity and focus.

The introduction of mindful working practices and leadership is starting to take hold in the UK, with organisations such as Transport for London (TfL), Google, GlaxoSmithKline, SAS, the Home Office, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the Cabinet Office, introducing programmes to support staff in developing their personal practice and embedding mindful practices into the workplace. But more organisations need to take action, if they want to make the most of the growing economy, they will need their people to be at the top of their game.

Mindfulness is not about sitting crossed legged on a cushion and chanting, it is about providing space for our minds, to enable clarity, awareness, focus, creativity and compassion, all vital ingredients for a happy and healthy life. The fantastic news about Mindfulness is that you don’t need to invest in lots of equipment, or take hours out of your week. All it takes is just a few minutes a day and a little discipline and within a few weeks you will be reaping the benefits. 



Coaching may historically have been considered an executive perk but today it plays a successful and crucial role in effective organisational change and personal development.

Long gone are the days when senior executives used personal coaches just for obtaining a work life balance. Coaching is now an accepted mainstream tool for individuals at all levels of the organisation, in small-to-medium enterprises through to large multi-nationals in the private, public and voluntary sectors.

This is reinforced by the Chartered Institute of Personal Development’s (CIPD) Learning and Development Survey 2008, which showed that “just over seven out of ten respondents reported that they now use coaching in their organisation, 44% offer coaching to all employees whilst just under two fifths offer it to directors and senior management.”

David Taylor, Coach and Training Partner tells us why adopting a coaching culture has a positive impact on organisations and individuals. He examines what evidence exists to support the effectiveness of coaching and identifies why coaching is being used to support training programmes.

A Coaching Culture

Coaching is often called upon to support staff development, focusing on individuals and teams. Equally organisations are reaping the rewards of adopting a coaching culture that supports organisational change, learning and development.

At the heart of a successful business is the ability to link individual need to organisational vision. This is done by finding the connection between the individual’s values and those of the organisation and then taking action that is an expression of both. A coaching culture is built on this dynamic.

Coaching is about getting people to perform at their best, bringing out their creativity, acknowledging their experience, enabling them to learn as they progress through their career and helping individuals to engage a sense of responsibility – all crucial to successful change and growth.

The biggest driver of culture change is changing the behaviours in an organisation in a conscious way. Coaching provides an effective framework, allowing this to happen in practice and delivering measurable results, which can be tracked through each stage of a training programme.

Benefits to an Organisation and Individual

Coaching has many uses, according to the CIPD Learning and Development Survey 2008. They recorded the purpose of coaching, stating that “just over three fifths of those surveyed saw its main purpose as general personal development, just over half use the technique for transition support and 35% use it both as a culture change tool and to support organisational objectives.”

Coaching presents many benefits to the organisation from supporting strategic objectives, contributing to the effectiveness of teams through to creating high employee engagement, retention and productivity. Other key benefits include:

  • improves relationships
  • improves confidence and communication skills, enabling managers to lead by example
  • challenges perceptions and practices to enable cultural change
  • enables people to learn through doing
  • provides a structured process
  • is based on continuous, measureable improvement
  • means expertise is often transferred in the coaching process
  • promotes a ‘learning organisation’
  • improves quality, customer service and shareholder value.

Coaching can also have a profound effect on an individuals working and personal life. It’s often used to help individuals create the results they want in their life and business, whether they are ‘stuck’ with a specific problem or starting out on new initiatives.

Key benefits to individuals within the organisation include:

  • know where they stand
  • know what is expected of them
  • know they are valued and recognised
  • know they are supported
  • know where they are going
  • are given objective feedback on progress.

The Effectiveness of Coaching

There is more and more research being carried out into the effectiveness of coaching as a development strategy for people and business.

The Manchester Review (2001 – Volume 6) claims that the return on investment (ROI) from coaching senior executives can be a least 5.7 times the original outlay. In a recent study by the International Coach Federation, quoted by the CIPD, individuals reported a range of benefits from those who use coaches in the world of work:

  • increased self awareness 68%
  • improved quality of life 43%
  • better goal setting 62%
  • enhanced communication skills 40%
  • more balanced life 61%
  • lower stress levels 57%
  • enhanced self discovery 53%
  • increased confidence 52%

In 2001 MetrixGlobal also carried out a survey of executives who had completed a coaching programme. This survey found that coaching produced a 529% ROI and that the financial benefits from employee retention boosted the ROI to 788%.

Coaching to Support Training

Coaching can be used in isolation but evidence shows that it can also accelerate the take-up of skills learned in training – helping individuals to develop the effectiveness of training programmes.

Joyce and Flowers (2003) have shown some interesting data regarding the various approaches to take-up and application of skills from training:

  • Presentation 5% success and application
  • Demonstration 10%
  • Initial Practice 20%
  • Participation & Feedback 25%
  • Coaching 90%

According to this research, after a training programme, a coached participant:

  • will practice new strategies with greater skill
  • will adapt the strategies more appropriately to their own goals and contexts
  • retain and increase skills over time

Getting the Best Coach

There are plenty of people within the business environment who call themselves ‘coaches’, very often with little or no training. Training or coaching purchasers need to be sure that they are working with coaches who can provide the ‘Coaching Essentials’ – delivering measurable results taht create a successful coaching culture within an organisation.

Coaching Essentials’

The foundation of successful coaching:

  • the skills, knowledge, qualifications and experience of the coach
  • the structure of the coaching (including clarity, discipline and challenge)
  • the coaching environment (time, space, safety and confidentiality)
  • the levels of trust in the relationship
  • the levels of confidence built in the relationship

Overall Coaching is an accepted learning and development tool that offers bespoke and personalised training. Research indicates that Coaching is having a profound impact on individuals, as well as supporting business growth and organisational culture change.

However, getting the right coach in a sector that has no entry barriers and few standards and accreditations is crucial to the success of any coaching programme.

How is Coaching measured?

The value of coaching can be measured through impact analysis, which looks at both tangible and intangible results. Tangible results focus around measurable targets such as increasing productivity or improving a products performance. Intangible measures include better relationships, being more self aware, improving employee engagement or improving teamwork.

As with any measure, a clear purpose and specific objectives need to be established. The coach should be able to understand what a client requires and how they will know when it has been achieved.

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


Passion Killers or Thrillers?

At the start of a new year many teams may be having discussions around how they want the rest of the year to go.  Not necessarily with regards to financial targets, although this is still important, for many the end of the financial year is imminent.  Rather about the more difficult to define qualities.  Very often the first 30 days of the year can determine the tone for the rest of the year, it can bring a sort of ‘start as we mean to go on’ element to the proceedings.  Teams might discuss what atmosphere they would like to work in, how to bring their values to life, how to achieve personal goals that conveniently align to the organisations own goals.  All these discussion points are valid and worthwhile.  We have also done the same here at Jigsaw@work.  That’s when the discussion started about Andre Rieu.

Andre Rieu

Andre Rieu

Andre Rieu you might recognise as being an individual that appears on adverts with a violin, a slightly 80’s haircut and a certain amount of Waltzing glitz and glamour.  Apparently he chose to concentrate on the Waltz because early on in his career he enjoyed the audience’s reaction to this music.  And it appears in our midst we have a fan.  I wanted to understand why.

Now I am a convert.  Not necessarily to his music, but his working philosophy.  Perhaps for those not familiar with Rieu it might be useful to introduce him.  André Léon Marie Nicolas Rieu is a Dutch (I thought he was Austrian) violinist, starting to play at the age of five.  Soon after, he started to develop a fascination with the orchestra.  He certainly has credentials, studying at a number of music colleges and finally receiving his degree “Premier Prix” from the Royal Conservatory of Brussels.

Rieu is also the conductor of the Johann Strauss Orchestra.  Together they have turned classical and waltz music into a worldwide concert touring music act, as successful as some of the biggest global pop and rock music acts.  And this is where he becomes interesting.

The Orchestra began in 1987 with 12 Waltz members.   It now performs with between 80 and 150 musicians. At the time the Orchestra first toured Europe, a renewed interest in waltz music emerged in the continent, and they have since performed around the world.  During the first half of 2009, he was the world’s most successful male touring artist, according to Billboard magazine.  Despite this success, there is controversy that surrounds Rieu because he does things differently.  Especially, for the world of classical music.  However as one critic has noticed, ‘Few in his audiences are regular classical music attendees and it could be seen as promising that, via Rieu, they are listening to standards of the classical canon.’  He is not necessarily better or worse than the traditional orchestras, but it is not what he does, rather how he does it.

So how does he do it?  He seems to be completely passionate about bringing classical music to the masses, so much so that everyone enjoys it.  He has fun.  He allows his orchestra to have fun.  Indeed, he encourages his orchestra to have fun.  He has high standards and encourages everyone around him to fulfil their potential.  He treats everyone the same.  From the solo artist to the individual who plays an instrument for a few moments, they are all treated equally.  It is his attention to how important these things are that is interesting.  He brings his own catering service along, as well as all his decorative elements, such as runners, carpets and even chandeliers to change an old drab building into a romantic oasis for his orchestra and fans.  Rieu says ‘I wanted to make music in a different way.  I wanted to make ‘real’ music, and that entails everything; having fun, laughing, crying.   It is not only the technical and superficial presentation, which is mostly the norm and very prevalent in the classical music world. People want to be entertained. Entertainment is not a dirty word. It belongs’.

This is the ‘how’.  He realized when he was young and playing in the traditional orchestras he was not enjoying it, not having fun.  This is his differentiating factor.  There does actually seem to be many lessons we can draw from this philosophy.   The difference between the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ is the difference between operational focus and a focus on behaviours.  It is the difference between management and leadership.  It is the difference between short term success and long term success.  It is the difference between focusing on what we do as opposed to the people who do it.  It is where we as a leadership and learning consultancy help organisations to grow.

The ‘how’ is worth its weight in gold.  It is not a ‘nice to have’ but a necessity to ensure financial success too.  Indeed Rieu has demonstrated this.  In 2009 he conducted 112 concerts and the revenue earned was more than £95 million.  More recently in 2013, he conducted 70 concerts and made £50m.  It seems passion, and fun, not only make customers feel great, but also the people working hard in the team.  And also, incidentally, the bank manager.


What’s it all about?

There are many facets of leadership and individuals within the world of leadership and development will spend many hours of their time cascading key theories and principles in order that people can become better managers, increase their emotional intelligence if needed and empower their teams through the use of coaching, in order that teams can all perform at their level best, or even at a level above.

Many principles that can be applied to an individual can also be true of the organisation.  For example, if an individual has quite a directing style then so too can an organisation feel as though their culture also has a ‘directing feel’ to it.  In other words by its nature the culture is more transactional, which maintains current performance, rather than transformational, which enhances current performance.

One area that can be used in reverse, that applies to the organisation but should also be applied to the individual teams is the idea of a ‘Vision’.  All organisations should have a vision, to give directional clarity around direction, a sense of purpose to all employees.  Often the team ‘vision’ will align directly to the vision of the organisation but just on a more local level.  It can also be slightly personalised with an emphasis on the department in question.

During organisational cascades the vision is talked about significantly by the board or the executive team, which at least means the organisation has one! As we know many organisations still do not provide absolutely clarity about what their purpose or vision is and we all need to know that what we do matters, that it fits somehow into a bigger picture.  However, presuming there is an organisational vision how many individual teams actively talk about it, so it does not remain remote, some lofty concept that seems irrelevant to them.  Everyone should know how the Vision relates to them.

So, if a team wants to address this issue how they should do it?  Many leaders take up almost an individual journey when leading a team, they focus on what they do or don’t know in order to be the best leader possible.  This is admirable but sometimes misguided in the sense that this journey should be shared.  The leaders do not ‘own’ the vision; everyone does.   This journey should be shared, should not be personal but focus on all moving in the same direction together.  Having open and honest discussions at the very beginning about the stuff that matters is important.  It is not just about ‘what’ we do but most importantly ‘how’ we do it.  Sometimes, the ‘how’ is seen as a nice to have, rather than a necessity.   However, it is the ‘how’ that will make the difference in the long-term; that will ensure strategic success.  It also takes the weight from the shoulder of the leader.

One approach can be to start the conversation by relating the vision to the team and what it means for them.  What can be so powerful here is that this conversation can start to examine the ‘way we work together’, the agreed ‘contract’ between each other that identifies the best way to achieve the strategic goal.  This invariably leads to the ‘how’ being discussed at length and then we can get into the great conversation of culture, values and behaviours.

Some questions to consider are:

What does the strategic objectives mean for us?

How will we get there?

What challenges do we face?

How do we get in our way?

What do we need to happen?

If we do not agree amongst ourselves how will we overcome that?

What is the ‘culture’ of our team now?

What is it now?

Where does it need to be?

How will we get there?

How do we specifically live our values?

What is unacceptable behaviour for us?

What needs to be addressed?

Very often their might be an ‘issue’ between one and more of the team.  If this is the case, this needs to be addressed.  It is always a judgement call by the leader when this might take place.  Unlikely if they have just taken over and only when the atmosphere is right to do so, but avoidance will only allow issues to escalate and build over time.  It can be false economy.  To leave it for later will only make the challenge more difficult to overcome.  What this can do, however, is also inform the ‘contract’ agreed between people.  If this should happen again how can we nip it in the bud? What should we do first? How will we approach each other to make sure we maintain our relationships?  A positive can emerge from conflict.

It can also provide a framework.  The leaders will now doubt have talked about the benefits of working well together, what can be achieved and how the team can be perceived in a positive way by the rest of the organisation as a high performing team.  But it is also worth having a discussion around what happens when things do not go well.  Particularly if the poor behaviour is as a result of a ‘won’t’ do rather than a ‘can’t’ do issue.  The team needs a framework and rewards, as well as clearly defined consequences are a part of that.  Acceptable attitudes and behaviours should be discussed as early as possible, addressed and adhered to.  Often it is not what people say that will be the issue, but how it is said.  This can also reassure the many who have noticed that the one who is a troublemaker seems to get away with their poor behaviour, which can be demotivating for the majority.  They feel reassured this will no longer continue and whilst poor performance will be faced into, ultimately the focus of the attention will predominantly look at positive behaviour so creating a reward culture.

Sometimes the leader can set the goal, derived from the organisational vision,  but involve the team deciding how to get there.  They can be the decision makers; they can decide the ways of working.  More often than not they will come up with the same thoughts the leader had but because they came up with the solutions means they own them to.   The ‘buy-in’ will increase significantly, as will the accountability.  The role of a Leader is to set direction, with full clarity.  But the rest can be a combined effort where everyone can come to the party and join in.


Short term needs v. Long term goals?

As an international, award winning consultancy, that is passionate about developing our clients’ people to grow the success of their business, it is important for us to know we always provide the right solution for our clients.

Whilst doing this we are naturally aware of immediate needs and budgetary constraints of most organisations.  So, it is not always about providing the cheapest option, in fact as most clients agree as they face the same challenges themselves for their customers, it is about providing the best value for money.

In order to determine what exactly their best value for money proposition is, it is important to discuss with the clients what it is exactly they are looking for, and why.  What are they hoping to achieve?  By when are they hoping to achieve it? What outcomes are they looking for? How will they be able to measure the success of the interventions? And how long do they want the success to last?  This last question is actually an important one because it will certainly determine the level of intervention.

Support that just isn’t worth it.

The worst outcome for the client is for the intervention to be a ‘launch and leave’.  No consultancy worth their salt would want this outcome; where support has been provided in the form of development days or a programme but, when the intervention has finished, the results are felt for a while, only to be soon forgotten.  This is also not helpful for the future, when any follow up training is required because the gap remains, and you can hear the cries of ‘here we go again’ or ‘we tried this two years ago but it didn’t make any difference’.  Resistance abounds before the support has even started.  As a consultancy genuinely wanting to make a difference, this is the worst scenario and it might mean advising a client to put the support on hold until the company is really ready to commit to what is needed, rather than go ahead and not provide the all important return on investment.  The reputation is at stake of the organisation, and also of the consultancy.

Options that work.

So, sometimes there is a dilemma but one that could be worth considering in more detail.  As long as the intervention is not a ‘launch and leave’, the development provided can be, in summary, a ‘short term solution’ or a ‘long term solution’.  Both are valid, and purely depend on the needs and wants of the clients.

Being realistic.

When we discuss options and solution with clients we do have to consider the realities of the situation.  Sometimes there is a tick box scenario, where conventional training is needed and is literally a tick box exercise to ensure a significant amount of people have gone through required training.  This is particularly prevalent when the training is a legal requirement or might have legal implications.  For example, health and safety training or manual handling.  The ultimate aim, from a cynical point of view, is to ensure the organisation is covered from a legal standpoint should an accident arise, but also hopefully from a more ethical perspective, to protect the well being of the employee. The reasons to go ahead are probably a mix of the two.

However, as a consultancy that focus’ on the behavioural development of people within an organisation to achieve results, there are two separate discussions, both determined by the client. Do you want a short term result or a long term result? Most clients naturally want to invest in training that will make a difference, to the people, the culture and the long term success of the business, usually the most powerful measure being the bottom line result.  Of course, there are other measures, such as employee engagement, length of service, customer service satisfaction surveys which are all equally important and will contribute to the financial health of the business, but the client is always, and understandably, very concerned with the bottom line performance.  How much money can be made, generally for the private sector, or how much can be saved, generally noted in the public sector.

This is the ideal scenario, to invest and commit enough in developmental support that will attend to all these difficult areas; the culture, the relationships between the most senior leaders that will have an undeniable impact on the rest of the organisation as their role modelling behaviours cascade throughout the business, the personalities, the strategic direction, the leadership capability and the legacy, to name but a few.  This is by far a transformational intervention that will make a difference and will provide a return on investment.  See our Jigsaw Transformation Model for an example of what Jigsaw@work provide that aligns to this school of thought.

But we also have to be able to understand their challenges.  Sometimes organisations cannot afford to make such a lengthy financial or timely investment, albeit it one that will bear richer fruits.  And that’s ok.  Sometimes a less substantial intervention will at least make some difference.  It will provide a short term result or provide clarity to what else might be needed in the future.  It may at least provide a small stepping stone along the road to greater success, for now.

Understanding the pressures and pitfalls faced by organisations is key. There may be an ideal solution.  In an ideal world, if we wanted to be healthier we may not only invest in a gym membership, but also a dietician, medical preventative tests, coaching to achieve our life goals, with yearly reviews to keep us on track.  This is the ideal, and will certainly be worth it, but for now we just might have to make just one small step in the right direction.


Katherine Farnworth – Senior Consultant