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Overcoming Fear of Failure & Embracing New Challenges: What I Learnt in the Mountains!

How are you at dealing with challenges that take you outside your comfort zone and require you to go beyond your usual points of reference?

When you have to do something new, something you’re not familiar with or don’t understand, it’s natural your ‘fight or flight response will kick in, causing you to feel nervous, anxious – perhaps even frightened.

In the workplace, where organisations must continually respond to threats and opportunities, and the people working in them have to adapt and evolve, change is a constant. Constant change creates uncertainty, and that creates stress.

Understanding how you behave in stressful situations, the reactions that are triggered and how you can manage them is crucial. It’s why each year, our client Berkeley Construction takes their new apprentices out of the workplace and into the great outdoors for a week of team-building and personal development exercises. Working with our client, we use behavioural observations made during these activities to inform the learning and development programmes we deliver to their apprentices.

In February, I joined a group of first-year apprentices in the Lake District, undertaking a wide range of adventure experiences, including mountain climbing, abseiling and kayaking. I was there primarily to observe, but as an active participant as well, the five days I spent in Eskdale provided me with insights into how I personally respond when mentally and physically tested. By coincidence, this was something I had a further opportunity to reflect on just a few weeks ago, when I went on a ski holiday with friends from my BNI networking group.

The first time I went skiing, it reminded me how we all learn in different ways and inspired me to draft my blog, 4 Insights That Will Boost Your Learning Power. This time – only the second time I’ve skied – my experiences gave me an opportunity to reflect on how I deal with stressful situations.

My mountain adventures in the Lake District and the Alps both helped to reinforce some important lessons about the process of learning to overcome fear of failure and embrace new challenges:

  • Stress testing is best done in a safe space

We all respond differently to stress. Understanding where you go mentally and physically when dealing with a stressful situation will help you recognise warning signs and put coping mechanisms in place, ensuring you stay in full control.

Learning these things about yourself is best done in a safe, non-work environment. Finding settings outside of work where you can safely activate stress triggers, see how you respond, and practice managing responses will help you develop skills you can transfer to work situations.

Scrambling up cliffs and throwing oneself down icy mountains might be extreme examples, but under skilled supervision, they certainly helped teach me a lot about my own instinctive responses.

My ski experience also gave me a real insight into why, in new environments, we might not always comply with logical instructions. Many of the critical actions that keep you upright while skiing – like leaning forward when going downhill and out when making a turn, are counter-intuitive. I knew these things because I had a great instructor, but despite knowing what I had to do, there were times early on when fear took over and made me doubt what I’d learnt – with inevitable results!

  • Developing muscle memory takes time

It was interesting to see the different approaches to skiing in our mixed ability group. While I worried I hadn’t put enough time and effort into preparing myself properly, the more advanced skiers never questioned their fitness levels or capabilities. It took me a while to overcome this feeling and to recognise I wasn’t asking anything of my body that it wasn’t’ already capable of doing.

I noticed too that while I was comfortable putting lessons learnt into practice on wide, gentle slopes, as soon as the environment changed to narrower, steeper gradients with more significant drops to the side, all my training was – initially at least, forgotten. In my head, the consequences of crashing overrode all I’d been taught. Instead, I automatically reverted to the brace position, incapable of implementing the techniques I knew would get me down the mountain safely.

What became clear was that learning was a process. I needed to constantly remind myself that I did know how to deal with the new environment I was in, that I did have the skills but not, as yet, the experience that only comes with practice.

After my lessons were over for the day, I’d practice the techniques I’d learnt on safer, less steep slopes. They quickly became second nature as learning transitioned into embedded muscle memory – in my head as much as my legs – and I felt able to trust my instincts in more testing environments.

  • Trusting those with experience & knowledge is vital

Both experiences reinforced the importance of trusting those who are teaching a skill we want to learn. Of course, this is especially true when there is a physical risk to our person, but it applies equally in a business environment.

On one of my ski lessons, the weather suddenly closed in around us at the top of a run, and visibility became very poor. Normally, I’m pretty unflappable but without visual cues. I found myself starting to panic.

What got me to the bottom of the slope in one piece was the level of trust I’d developed with my instructor. I knew she was an expert in the skill I still had to master and that having taught me for several days, she had the measure of my capabilities, limits, character and personality and wouldn’t ask me to undertake something I wasn’t capable of doing.

By being consistent, supportive, and direct during the week about what I needed to do to improve my skiing, she’d earned my trust. As a result, I was completely comfortable following the instructions she gave me as she helped me negotiate my way to the bottom of the slope – which it transpired as the weather cleared, was significantly less steep than I’d imagined!

If she hadn’t managed my crisis of confidence sensitively and had instead simply barked instructions at me, my belief in my ability would almost certainly have been seriously damaged.

My mountain top wobble also demonstrated how nervousness and uncertainty can transfer to those going through a learning process together: how a person leading a team through a new challenge may need to manage fall-out in those around someone struggling with a task – as well as managing the individual themselves.

One of our group, who up to that point had been making good progress and was very confident, lost their nerve when they saw me panic, with the result that the instructor had to talk us both down.

The activity leaders on our Outward Bound adventure were similarly perceptive and professional in their approach, ensuring that if someone was nervous about participating in an activity, the feelings of the whole group were considered.

How often, in a work situation, do we miss subtle signals in communication because we’re so focused on getting someone to complete a task?

  • A supportive, sharing environment aids learning

In the Lake District and in the mountains too, I found being part of a supportive team of people all striving to overcome the same challenges and achieve shared goals helped me with the learning process.

The Outward Bound programme allowed for regular periods of review and reflection, enabling us to consolidate learning points and helping to foster a cycle of continuous improvement. And on my ski trip, although our group consisted of a wide range of abilities and we went our own ways on the slopes, we came together in our chalet at the end of each day to exchange stories, discuss experiences, celebrate success, talk through fails, and provide moral and technical support.

For me, this part of the day was an especially important component of the learning process. In the workplace, the power of providing a space where colleagues going through a learning programme together can engage in useful dialogue, share and compare experiences and generally support one another can often be overlooked.

If you have to face a new challenge or go through a difficult transition at work, you might not be aware of feelings of fear or resistance. Because you’re not physically at risk, they may be relegated to your subconscious.

We need to remember that one person’s fear may be very different to someone else’s. Fear of failure or not being good enough can come from many places, and an employer or line manager can’t be expected to know or understand everything about the feelings of those people for whom they have responsibility.

Perhaps the most important thing we can do is to recognise that we’re all on our own journey. If you or a colleague are struggling with a challenge, could a different environment bring a better understanding of your automatic responses and help uncover solutions to help deal with them?

In the mountains, the guidance and support of experts gave us the confidence to put learning into practice in safety. It enabled us to test new skills, reflect on results and push boundaries without fear, and return to our workplaces with a much better understanding of ourselves.

Can Organic P&O Solutions Help You with Bespoke Learning & Development?

Dealing with demanding challenges in an ever-changing environment means your employees and line managers are under constant pressure to take decisive – often difficult actions. The success of your organisation depends on their ability to perform under pressure.

Organic P&O Solutions’ strategic and operational Learning and Development programmes are designed to equip you and your team with the skills needed to deal with all eventualities. We can create customised topical training programmes to address your requirements – and with the lifting of Covid regulations, we’re now able to deliver them face to face again.

Call us today to find out more about our Learning and Development programmes and how they can help you!

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Making it Personal: 6 Ways to Use Personality Profiling to Build a Better Business

Being aware of the qualities and characteristics that create the unique personalities of the people we work with is essential – especially right now, when the pandemic means many of us are not able to connect with colleagues in person.

So, do you know what makes each individual in your organisation tick? Can you say what motivates them or which communication style they prefer? Do you know how they respond to stress or the types of people they do and don’t work well with? Can you predict how they’re likely to think and behave in different situations?

These are just a few of the questions you need to be able to answer if you’re going to get the best out of your people – and all of them require insight into the diverse range of personality types you’ll have in your business.

Understanding where your employees – and you – sit on the personality spectrum is a crucial step to developing improved teamwork, communication and productivity.

Thankfully, getting inside the heads of your employees doesn’t require you to be a trained psychologist. Ascertaining personality types is relatively straightforward. There are many profiling tools available that can assess and compare personality characteristics. They vary in sophistication and the level of information they return, but most are based on simple, multiple-choice questionnaires. There’s no pass or fail – each of us has a place on the spectrum – but the information they can provide has a range of practical uses.

You might think of profiling as something primarily used by employers when recruiting, to check a candidate has the qualities – as well as the qualifications and experience a position calls for. Certainly, if you’re recruiting, personality profiling tools can help make sure a candidate is a good fit for a vacancy – although, if this is the goal, they shouldn’t be used simply to identify traits, but rather as a means to understand the preferences of candidates in work situations.

At Organic P&O Solutions, we use personality profiling both for our clients and our own team. Here are six ways you can use it to benefit your business:

1. To Improve personal effectiveness

Profiling tools can be used on a one to one basis to help anyone get a deeper understanding of their personality. The process will provide insight into areas the person being assessed may not consciously be aware of, including how they make decisions, what they like to be appreciated for, their preferred communication style and their stress triggers.

Profiling shouldn’t be used as a one-time checking tool. Personally, I think there’s a good rationale for revisiting results regularly as context and circumstances change. As an example, at Organic P&O Solutions, we recently looked at our own team profiles to learn how each of us was likely to be affected by lockdown. It was a valuable exercise that helped us understand what we needed to do to assist each other and get the best out of ourselves individually and collectively.

2. To increase employee engagement

By helping employees understand their personality traits and how they fit within their team and organisation, profiling can help employees feel recognised, valued and accepted. As a result, it can bring about greater cohesion, a sense of belonging, higher engagement and more robust performance.

Research has shown that employees having the highest levels of engagement with their employer are likely to perform 20% better than other employees and are 87% less likely to leave the organisation. Clearly, engagement is directly linked to organisational performance (to find out more, download our whitepaper here).

3. To develop more robust team dynamics

When team members and managers understand the motives, tendencies and behaviours of each other, they can use this knowledge to inform how they interact. Profiling can create the opportunity for a more effective dialogue where team roles and responsibilities can be agreed, and where communication and conflict are easier to manage – leading to a strong team bond based on mutual understanding.

4. To enhance management skills

Personality profiling can help managers adapt their leadership style to get the best from their team. When a manager understands their own personality characteristics and those of their team, important decisions can be communicated in a way that takes into account what works best for individuals.

5. To build better communications
Personality profiling creates a common language that allows individuals to explore their differences more constructively. Knowing the personality types and preferences in a team, and understanding how you and others like to interact can facilitate better communication

Sharing results with employees will encourage them to adapt their behaviour where change may be needed, and make them aware that people may interpret the same thing in different ways – helping them understand why colleagues might see something one way while they see it differently.

6. To increase productivity
Crucially, personality profiling can positively impact your bottom line. Companies that focus on developing people and strengthening teams to their fullest potential will see an increase in productivity levels. This is because their team learning and individual preferences are linked to how goals can be delivered, and those, in turn, are connected with overall business objectives and performance metrics in a way that works for everyone.

You might believe you know what personality type you are – but you’ll almost certainly know someone who’s opinion of themselves – at least in certain situations, is entirely at odds with your own. You may believe you’re a good judge of other peoples’ personalities, but be honest – how often have you been proved wrong?

The fact is that we’re all capable of working outside of our preferred styles. For many years I worked in an environment that required me to be outgoing, so that’s the persona I adopted – but actually, I lean more towards the introvert/thinker end of the scale. When I have a problem to solve, the last thing I want to do is talk it through with someone: I need time to myself to focus and think things through. Because profiling has helped make me aware of this, and I’ve shared it with my team, they understand that this is how I like to work, they know to leave me alone while I consider the challenge and come up with a solution, before I bring it to the table for discussion.

Tools of the Trade

As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of personality profiling tools to choose from. In no particular order, here are three of our favourites:

  • Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
    MBTI has been around for nearly six decades. It’s my preferred tool when it comes to working with teams because it’s very scientific and can produce real ‘light bulb’ moments. However, being able to interpret the results and translate them into practical actions requires having a good understanding of the process.
  • DISC Profile
    Even older than MBTI, DISC is an intuitive profiling solution that’s simple to implement. DISC refers to the four behaviour types the test assesses: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. It is more focused on behaviours than preferences but has the same Jungian roots as MBTI.
  • Thomas Kilmanm Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI)
    TKI looks at how individuals deal with negotiation and conflict – both of which call for the same skills. We use this tool to help people understand how they can adapt their behaviour to address challenges and reduce the likelihood of conflict.

Let Us Help You Make It Personal

If you’ve not used personality profiling, you may not be getting the best out of yourself or your employees. Here at Organic P&O Solutions, we’re expert practitioners in a range of profiling tools. Contact us today to find out more about how we can use them to help improved personal and team performance in your organisation.

Get Your FREE Personality Profile Report!

Would you like a free personality profile report on yourself? We’re giving 7 reports away free of charge – but hurry, this offer is on a first-come-first-served basis.

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Lessons Learnt

7 Important Lessons I’ve Learnt Over 7 Years Running a Small Business

This month, Organic P&O Solutions celebrates seven years in business.

Back in 2013, having spent many years in the corporate world working in senior HR roles, I took the plunge, leaving the relative security of salaried employment to go solo and set up my own business.

It was a huge, life-changing step and turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Starting my own business was something I’d been thinking about for a long time. I wanted to create an agency that would provide access to the best learning and development resources, help clients develop effective and productive workforces – and I knew there was a place for my HR ethos.

It was a statistic I saw in an FSB survey that finally convinced me. While nearly all the HR agencies I’d come across (apart from one-person independents) were focused on working with large businesses and corporates, the survey highlighted that 60% of all UK employers were SMEs.

I could see there was a gap in the market, and once I realised I had a unique blend of employee relations skills and specialist qualifications and experience in learning and development – two areas where typically one route is chosen over the other – I knew the time was right to launch Organic P&O Solutions

It’s been quite a journey. In the last seven years, the business has grown from just me, into a team of specialist HR consultants. Today, we’re working with a broad range of companies – and our client base includes SMEs and corporate organisations.

Along the way, I’ve learnt a lot of lessons about running a small business and our 7th anniversary gives me an excuse to share a few of them with you:


Lesson #1: Be flexible: things change

It’s true! To paraphrase Helmuth von Moltke, “No plan survives the first encounter with the enemy”. I’d suggest the same is true of the best-prepared business plan – although I’m not for a moment making a comparison between clients and hostile forces!

Yes, have a business plan but keep things flexible. Listen carefully to what your client’s challenges are and be prepared to adapt your strategy if they are not aligned with your original expectations.

As mentioned, when I set out, I planned to use my strong HR and learning development experience to help SMEs. I did, and I still do, but early on, I found I was also being asked by corporate clients to train and support HR teams, and work on complex projects requiring me to engage and manage other specialist consultants.

Because – rather than rigidly following our original business plan, we took time to listen to our clients, our business has evolved and changed shape to meet their needs.


Lesson #2: Find out what you’re good at

Whatever area you work in, the likelihood is that you’ll be competing with other businesses for projects. While you might offer similar services, there will be aspects you excel in that set you apart. Being clear about these key differentiators will help you develop a unique identity and ensure you stand out from competitors. Keep in mind that it’s not only what you do that helps establish you as a brand; it’s also the way you do it.

Reading the Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz helped me understand the importance of identifying a niche, staying focused and being brave enough not to take on projects that don’t fit – no matter how tempting they may seem.

Once we were clear about our HR specialisms and had developed our own unique style of working, marketing and promoting our offering became much easier.


Lesson #3: Surround yourself with the right people

A benefit of running your own business is the freedom to be selective about the clients and projects you take on. But of course, you can’t run a business on your own, and making sure you choose the right people to work with is crucial.

If you have ambitions to scale up, you’ll need to hire staff, and even if you don’t, you’ll almost certainly have to appoint suppliers and partners.

From the outset then, you need to surround yourself with people who share your ethics and values. We call our values our Rules of Play, and we use them as a reference point to check the compatibility of anyone we’re considering working with.

Establishing values you’re happy to share with all your stakeholders will probably take longer than you anticipate. Even though I’d worked a lot on values with clients in the course of my career, I didn’t find it easy summarising them for my own business!


Lesson #4: Whatever the size of your business, run it like a big company

The professionalism and confidence that doing this will bring will enable you to punch well above your weight. As well as helping you to attract the best clients and staff, it will also reduce any ‘growing pains’ as your business expands.

It’s something I took on board right from the start. Even when I was the only person in the business, I’d schedule monthly board meetings, draw up an agenda and review each function in the company.

As the business grew and finances permitted, I engaged a business coach to fill gaps in my knowledge, teach me skills I’d not needed in my previous corporate roles, and help me make some critical decisions that would have been difficult to work through on my own. As well as outsourcing my general admin, social media and bookkeeping, I invested in technology, and introduced systems and processes (see lesson #7) which meant I – and later my team and I had more time to spend on servicing clients.

We’re still a small business, but we’re ambitious. By thinking and behaving like a big company, I believe we’re far more likely to achieve our goals.


Lesson #5: Keep up your personal development

As a business that promotes personal development for our clients, you won’t be surprised to hear that we practice what we preach. I don’t believe self-improvement and personal development should end because you run your own business. If anything, it becomes even more vital. I read a lot of books by and about people who have set up successful businesses, and a commitment to ongoing learning is a recurring theme.

Ongoing development doesn’t have to be overly complicated or time-consuming though. At Organic P&O Solutions, instead of having a big development plan with lots of activities, we simply choose themes to focus on each year.

During 2020, I’m working on rebalancing the time I spend on the business versus the time I spend in it. It’s something that’s changed over time, and the growth we’ve experienced over the last two years means I now need to give more time to my MD responsibilities. Even though I’m still very much involved in delivering for clients, now that I have a team around me, I can give my MD functions the attention they deserve. It’s a real shift in perspective for me, so I’ve made it my development focus.


Lesson #6: Don’t let insecurities get in the way of talent

Running your own business can be lonely. Inevitably, there are times when self-doubt will creep in. I’m sure most business owners will admit to the occasional crisis of confidence – especially in the early days – and I was no exception.

My advice is to trust your instincts and believe in yourself. You know more than you think you do. Don’t be afraid to seek advice and share your fears or insecurities with others who might be able to help. I’ve had amazing support from some really great people.

I will always remember when I pitched for my very first project. It was only a half-day training programme, and even though I knew I had the skills and experience needed, I was convinced the client was looking for a bigger, more established consultancy.

At the time, I was fortunate to have an unofficial mentor in Paul Connor who gave me a confidence-boosting pep talk. He reassured me that I did have the expertise the client was looking for and that the size and relative newness of the agency was irrelevant.

He was right. The client told me my proposal was the best they’d seen, that I was the only consultant to ask crucial diagnostic questions, and I won the business!


#7 Implement robust systems & processes

To optimise efficiency and ensure you deliver a consistent level of service, you need to have clear, robust systems and processes in place. My business coach Rob Pickering of ActionCOACH reminded me (often!) of this. In fact, I already knew it from my time working in the retail sector – but I wasn’t applying the principle enough to my own business.

Although I’ve always considered myself to be well organised, it was only when Rob got me to focus on documenting things that I realised how much information I was keeping in my head.

When there’s only one of you in the business, it’s very easy to dismiss the need for systems and processes. But establishing them will increase efficiency levels and lead to a better, more consistent client experience. And as your business grows, scaling up will be far easier

There are some caveats though. Focus only on things that will help you to generate more revenue and profit, and bear in mind that ‘back of house’ systems and processes don’t have to look perfect. Also, accept it’s an ongoing process. You’ll always be refining how you work.

There are plenty of tech solutions out there to help too, including things like Hootsuite for managing and scheduling social media, Xero for finance and accounting and for project management – to name-check just a few of the online tools we use.


Can We Help You to Grow Your Business Organically?

As we know first-hand, growing a business isn’t easy, but it is rewarding and exhilarating. We can support you, helping you to nurture and develop your single-most important assets – your people.

Call us today to arrange an initial conversation.

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5 Essential Tips for Creating an Effective Homeworking Team

None of us has ever had to confront personal or work challenges quite like those we’re experiencing right now. Enforced social distancing has required virtually all of us to find new ways of working. But the disruption to normal life has – for some organisations at least – highlighted an opportunity that could lead to a permanent shift in the way they work.

Although re-evaluating and re-inventing work processes has presented enormous issues for many businesses, some service-based companies have been reminded that they don’t necessarily need employees based in one central location.

Homeworking can deliver a range of benefits. There are obvious financial advantages arising from running a business with a reduced physical workspace – or even none at all.  Some global tech companies had already adopted remote models: understanding that productivity is positively impacted when employees no longer have to commute or travel to meetings, and morale and mental wellbeing levels improve as staff have more quality time available for families, loved ones and personal pursuits.

For many businesses now, the realisation that they can operate effectively with staff working from home – and that the homeworking model offers significant advantages, makes it likely they will look to continue working this way – in whole or in part – post-lockdown.

It’s hard to find many positives during this crisis, but perhaps this might be one of them. Could this be the nudge you need to migrate some or all of your team to homeworking?

Are you ready to fully embrace homeworking in your business?

If you’ve previously had reservations about having your team work from home, perhaps the enforced circumstances of the lockdown have made you think again? Or maybe you have already introduced homeworking into your business, and while you don’t need convincing of its benefits, you want to make it work even better for you? You could have made the initial transition without establishing a working from home policy, trusting people to adapt and get on with things.  This may have worked at the outset, but perhaps you now have team members who are presenting challenges or not working as effectively as they should?

Our business model here at Organic P&O Solutions has always been based around a homeworking team, and we know from experience that the key to success is flexibility. Here are 5 essential tips for creating an effective homeworking team:

Be aware that everyone in your team has unique personal & family needs

Outside of work, team members will have very different family and home lives. They might have shared or sole responsibility for looking after young children or be carers for elderly or sick relatives. Support networks will vary for each of them, and they’ll have to balance work with personal responsibilities.

To get the best out of your team, you’ll need to identify the needs of individual employees, then help them to find and implement solutions that accommodate their circumstances. At Organic P&O Solutions, we’ve done this very successfully with our own team, including Natalie, one of our home-based consultants.

Natalie’s husband, Nick, has a full-time job in the RAF, and they share responsibility for looking after their two young daughters. From the outset, Natalie was very clear about what she needed to be able to carry out her full-time role effectively – while still continuing to share parenting duties and be there for her girls.

Some employers might dismiss out of hand the idea that a mum of two young children and a working partner could find the time (or energy!) to undertake a full-time job. But we knew Natalie was perfect for the role, and by taking the time to understand how she prefers to work, we’ve been able to meet her needs, so we all benefit.

“I told Tash I needed to be able to function as a single parent so that if Nick is relocated, nothing changes for the girls. Tash completely understood this, and as long as I make my commitments to clients and meet my goals each week, she’s happy for me to decide what I do, how and when”.

 “While the lockdown is on and Nick and I are both at home, I’m typically working between 6 am until midday, then doing a couple more hours in the evening. It works well as I’m more productive in the mornings anyway. Nick looks after the girls and helps them with schoolwork. We reverse roles in the afternoon, and I get to do the messy, creative stuff with them while Nick works. Then, when the house is quiet again in the evening, I go back to work.” (Natalie).

All of us in the Organic P&O Solutions team have very different family circumstances, but by having open and honest discussions and testing solutions, we’ve reached outcomes that work for everyone and found ways round our collective and unique challenges.

Family-friendly employment policies are an essential aspect of retaining loyal, engaged, productive teams – for more information, read our blog, 5 ways to make sure you’re a truly family-friendly employer.

Learn to trust your team

For an employer used to sharing the same physical workspace with their team, adjusting to the concept of remote managing can be challenging. As with any relationship – personal or professional, trust is vital.

In our view, team members must be given the latitude to deliver their contributions in their preferred way: working the hours best suited to their situation and temperament – within an agreed timeframe of course. But with that trust, comes the responsibility to own their results, adapt and self-motivate so they deliver. No excuses.

It’s human nature to worry about what you can’t see. But does it really matter if an employee working at home takes five minutes to check their social media during ‘work time’ or get some exercise? We think not. Especially if it means they’re going to get their job done more effectively and be more focused because they’ve taken a short break in a way that works for them.

We’ve had clients question how an employee could possibly work from home if they have to look after their children all day. How could they ever be trusted to be productive, and not put childcare responsibilities first? Our response is always the same. We’ve never let them down or missed a deadline due to our children and when we’re not out delivering for clients, we’re working from home. We’re all parents with differing levels of support, so if we can do it, maybe it’s time for them to think again about what’s being asked of them?

Recognise everyone works differently 

If you’re managing homeworking employees, consider the wide range of personality types within a team. Some people enjoy working on their own and will naturally thrive in a homeworking environment, while others may require a higher degree of support and nurturing.

In an office-based team, employees are generally required to work within a structured, 9-5 day. While this rhythm suits some, it can constrain others who may prefer more elasticity in their routine. Many people are more alert, creative and productive and do their best work outside of these hours.  I know I am and I always have been.

I spent many years working in the retail sector and remember the difficulty I had making the transition to a ‘regular’ working day. I’d become used to working irregular hours with early morning starts, late-night finishes, and week-end working. Making the switch was hard and I found conforming to a regular office day far more tiring than working longer, uncertain hours. Needless to say, I’m far happier working the way I do today! So, our advice is don’t make assumptions about what works for people. We all have different energisers.  Help people find theirs and you’ll see results soar.

Adjust how you monitor individual performance

Monitoring the performance of remote working staff is very different from monitoring performance in an office-based team. When you’re working alongside your employees, you can observe performance first-hand and discuss work in progress, picking up potential issues as they arise.

Technology options abound to make people more accessible but you can’t be there all the time if your team is home-based.  To know what employees have been doing, how they’ve got on and what they’ve achieved, the nature of the conversations you have will need thought, a little planning and some organisation.

So, focus on results – and not necessarily on the process or the hours taken to achieve the outcome. Allow employees some flexibility and freedom to complete work in their own way to an agreed schedule – and be prepared to adjust until you find and keep what works.

Ensure you communicate regularly

With team members working from disparate locations and potentially working different hours, finding time to schedule regular team meetings and one to one catch-ups is vital.

At Organic P&O Solutions, as well as being essential for running shared projects, these meetings help us understand how each of us is managing our work-life balance and can inform our planning.

“We get together for a half-hour team video call at least once a week, discussing what’s going on in each of our areas and sharing ideas. It’s not uncommon for us to start with our children present at first. It gives us a window on what’s going on in each of our personal lives and helps us work better together. I’ll also have a weekly one to one call with Tash to talk about what I’m working on and to plan ahead. This is my opportunity to raise any work-life challenges, and if necessary, discuss any adjustments to the way I need to work.” (Natalie).

 Can We Help Make Homeworking Work for You?

The business advantages of moving to a homeworking model can be significant, but to be effective, it will require careful planning, sensitivity and consultation with employees.

If you’ve implemented home-based team working into your organisation but have encountered issues, or if you’ve considered introducing it but have held back until now because you can’t see how to overcome particular challenges, we can help.  We can work with you to understand your obligations, challenges and opportunities and recommend a strategy that will address your situation and deliver your objectives.

Call us today to arrange an initial conversation.

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5 insights that create order through disruption and chaos

Uncertainty. Upheaval. Disruption. Life as you know it is changing and it’s not letting up.  What’s your response to it?  Foggy head? Clear head? Ok with going with the flow or do you resent changing your clearly defined plans? As an HR specialist who helps people navigate times of change, I’ve observed (and displayed!) many behaviours that support navigating through change successfully (and not!).

This blog captures practices that build resilience and infrastructure to support leaders navigate the changes that significantly impact people and organisations.

Deploy consistent habits

Put first things, first.  We are conditioned, many of us, for the ‘end’ point.  Passing the exam, getting the promotion, hitting our sales or revenue targets, getting married, losing weight etc etc. It’s great to have a goal and have a plan.  It’s not possible to deliver the plan in a linear order, illustrated beautifully by one of my favourite quotes “No plan survives contact with the enemy”.

I fell afoul of this personally, only recently. I was running up a hill, that was in the plan. I couldn’t run up the hill because I couldn’t breathe. Feeling like I should be able to do it by now (I’ve done it before, it’s the right stage of the plan) meant I tensed and told myself to ‘just get up the hill!’ I had enlisted the help of a running

coach who gave me some sage advice. “Don’t look at the top of the hill, look just forward of where you are, maintain your optimum posture for breathing and moving and keep going with small steps. Believe in your legs, your mind will quit before your legs will.” She was right, of course. As a coach, I knew this, and I’ve been known to give the advice before, but I was at a point of personal difficulty because I was in my ‘get on with it’ mindset. The answer wasn’t in the grit or the capability (it wasn’t a very big hill and I was determined!). It was all in the technique. It was a great metaphor for life and business showing what happens when we focus on the end point and get frustrated that we’re not where we want to be. Identify and practice the consistent habits and processes and we can keep sight of the end point and focus on the here and now moves to get there. In this example, once I focused on technique, my determination had something tangible to deliver, my heart-rate settled and I ran up the hill with less effort than my starting point.

Prioritise often

Prioritising is a skill that delivers plans and takes practice to make sure, ironically, that we prioritise using it. So, blend vision with pragmatism. It’s important to identify possible outcomes and what if’s in times of change however it’s also important not to overanalyse. Keep your focus on thinking about the likelihood of something affecting your plans and weigh it up with gauging the potential impact, then prioritise the things that will make the biggest difference. Once the plan is executed, keep visiting the ‘what-if’s’ and adjust them. Take time to identify what now, then what next, repeat and/or adjust and you’ll create space for movement in the right way without losing time or direction.

In high VUCA (volatile, uncertain, changing, adaptive) situations, the next right move might not be in the well thought through plan, it’s more likely to be found in the evolution of a situation and so prioritising frequently becomes the tool for adapting once a plan is in ‘play’.  It’s especially important when we’re in uncertainty, as it allows you to adapt as information and resources unfold.

Embrace, manage and don’t judge, your emotions

When something rocks our world, whether we think it should, or whether we think it shouldn’t, it has.  Our attachment to something isn’t logical, it’s emotional. We don’t judge our nerves when they tell us something is hot or cold, so when our emotions tell us we feel happy or sad, we need to drop the notion that our feelings are good or bad. Instead, understanding that emotions are the psychological equivalent of our nerve system mean we can access them as data. Uncomfortable data sometimes, yes, but data, nonetheless. So, take the time to find out how you’re feeling about the changes you’re facing, and notice and you’ll be in a better position to move identify what you need and move into a productive space, quicker. For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or helpless, accept it. It makes sense when there’s a lack of information and the implications are serious. It doesn’t need to be dramatic, but it isn’t helpful to ignore it.  It will affect the way you function whether you want it to or not, at some point. So, face into it, look it in the eye and process it. Simple ways to do this are moving to another room, going for a walk, making a drink, listening to some music, exercising, talking to someone you trust.  Allow the same for others and you’ll find collective solutions and build trust so, encourage your team to identify and use their emotions, then enjoy the benefits of a more resilient, rounded, solution focused team.

Live through the unknown

Some people have a higher need for certainty and control than others. High change and high uncertainty situations reveal this. Neuroscience explains that we get an addictive hit of dopamine when we deal with something quickly. This feel good hormone keeps us wanting to complete and conquer over and over.  The short-term hit gets in the way of our ‘better judgement’ though and robs us of the longer-term satisfaction of achieving something worthwhile, because the longer-term piece can’t be done in one hit or in this mode of working.  So, next time you find yourself living off dopamine hits, check you’re working in urgent mode because that’s what really is needed. Then move out of it as soon as you can, allow your adrenaline levels to settle so you’ll restore the ability to see and move towards the longer-term gain.

Preparation and practice for times of high stress also work well here. We don’t see athletes at starting lines using things to distract themselves for their nerves, musicians turn up at concerts at the last minute or emergency services arrive in a harried rushed state. They turn up for their event or situation focused on what’s before them in the knowledge they were prepared to cope with what they couldn’t predict because they have rehearsed the habits they’d need for the things they could predict. They rehearse crucial technical pieces.  I’m a rugby fan. Johnny Wilkinson’s 2003 drop goal is my personal reminder of the benefits of practicing for times of pressure – what’s yours?

So, prepare and practice the small things, so you can employ them in habit form when you need them urgently and develop your ability to hold your nerve through the waiting period so you can be ready and able to act at the right time, in the right way. You’ll feel better, more often, longer term.  You’ll also be easier to work with!

Replace your agenda with empathy

Changing and uncertain times feel chaotic because they involve people who are communicating in different ways, with different perspectives, about an evolving situation. As humans, we experience a loss of control when we wait for decisions from others and we experience a sense of control when the decision is ours.

I see it play out with employers and employees often.  ‘Why is she being so difficult?’ they say.  ‘Why is he being so insensitive?” they ask.  There are differences in agendas and to truly understand what’s going on, agendas need to be replaced with a genuine desire to understand the other person’s view.  I have lost count of the number of times I’ve facilitated a discussion where people agreed, but just couldn’t see it at first because they described their experience and views so differently.

This is where judgements really surface too. The minute we start deciding whether someone is right or wrong, it’s because we are comparing it to our own frame of reference.  If it matches, they’re right. If it doesn’t, they’re wrong. It’s human, it’s understandable but it’s not helpful. So, move towards understanding what someone disagrees with by removing your own listening lense, and then share your perspective responsively e.g. in relation to their view, not in an oppositional reply and you’ll find ways towards solutions.  Sometimes you’ll need to adapt more than others and not everyone will respond well. Once you’ve genuinely dropped your agenda, persevere. It’s less likely to feel like a compromise, and more likely to feel like a good way forward.

In summary

Navigating disruption is exhausting for many because of the constant need to switch between being future focused and working with constantly developing information. It takes concentration and energy.  Clarity, planning, adaptability, high emotional intelligence and strong communication skills are pivotal to navigating change successfully.

We work with teams in small and large businesses to support them in their organisational change needs. Whether that’s supporting senior people with their ideas and plans or leading HR teams to a new level of service to their businesses.

If you would like to see how we might help you navigate a period of significant change, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today.

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5 ways to confident hiring decisions

You know you’ve worked in a great team when you pick up the phone after a few years to a former colleague and when you start reminiscing about working together, the conversation covers three things. What you’re proud of achieving together, how you got through the tough times and how much you enjoyed working and learning together. Yet, when I reflect on conversations I have with employers, job applicants, freelancers etc about what they look for during a hiring / engagement process, these three things aren’t a ready focus point.

In my experience, great hiring strategies involve a combination of deliberate and accidental matching criteria. The most successful processes have a greater degree of the former (criteria and process) so the latter (surprises) can emerge. The best ones focus on what the team needs to deliver next and what they need both technically and behaviourally to do it. Here are some of the ways we help our clients build their teams making sure they use their own unique blend of foresight and hindsight, to make confident hiring decisions.

Values value values
We know that employers need to hire technical skills and experience. We also know that when appointments go sour, the cause is often behaviour. The behaviour is a problem but not the main issue. Quite often, it’s a clash of personal values. This is often a surprise and that’s because values are innate. And, because they’re innate, they’re usually not discussed openly. Get clear about personal and team values and you’ll have a description for your culture and a tool you can use time after time, no matter what the role is. You’ll also have criteria to help manage individual and team performance.

A note of caution here, don’t rule people out just because they don’t directly agree with you or your team’s ‘norms’. Values transcend diversity. More importantly, difference is essential for rounded performance. Do think about how you’ll manage differences though and don’t take it so far that you find yourself on the wrong side of discrimination. Sometimes the path to collaboration, whilst worthwhile, isn’t smooth!

Business phase and role life span
Have a ‘people’ plan. Something that shows how roles relate to each other and what they will deliver for the business. Identify what you’re happy to invest in and what you expect someone to turn up with.

In your plan, get clear about the phase your business is in. What’s the lifespan of the vacancy? Will it stay in its current form or evolve over time? How much? How quickly? Resourcing is an ongoing activity. Over time, things change. Help people manage careers not job roles and you’ll gain loyalty and commitment that salaries and benefits can’t buy.

Keep in touch
When you meet a candidate you just ‘really liked’ but they didn’t get the job, think about what they would have been right for and keep in touch. Maybe they need a more settled, stable company phase or conversely, there won’t be enough pace, change and challenge in this assignment. If they’re not right for you, they may be right for someone you know and better still, they may be right for your team in the future. There are so many ways to keep in touch, choose what works for you. Perhaps you’ll call them periodically or connect with them on LinkedIn. If it won’t upset their current employer, and you’d like to help them secure a new role, perhaps give them a ‘Kudos’ post. In short, when you meet top talent, keep in touch and nurture it.

Attract the right candidates
Decide on a route to market that will attract and help you identify good candidates, just like you would for attracting customers. Where are the people that would love to find you? What is it that’s unique or different about you as an employer? Spend time building your employer brand as well as your customer brand and you’re more likely to have a quality pool to choose from. For example, where might you find people with the right qualities you’re looking for. Things like empathy, initiative, team player. I have a client who will always interview a candidate who volunteers regularly. They may not get the job every time, but he knows that if they’re a volunteer, they have qualities and values that resonate with what he looks for in his team. The technical training can be learned.

Do more than interview

Good interview skills are essential for giving candidates the best chance of showing you they can deliver. A practical way of looking for an all-round view (technical, experiential, behavioural) is to include a practical exercise in the selection process. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy assessment centre style event, although that may be an option for you. It could be something simple. For example, when I recruit for HR professionals at all levels, I provide scenarios that are unique to the business and role. Part of the exercise will be a form of written correspondence. I need to know the people coming on board can work with more than standard templates. (Tailored, well written correspondence is an absolute must in all HR correspondence, for me).

There are multiple benefits to this, I find out how the ‘fit’ works for the role and business culture, over and above the discussion at interview. I discover congruence so I can assess whether the candidate really can deliver the things they impressed me with during the interview. I receive evidence of things like use of language, tone of voice, empathy, judgment, influence and so on, all critical to the HR role. The blend however may reveal that one candidate is stronger for the assignment than another.

The bonus though, is when a nervous interviewee gets to show me, through the exercise, how they really work and what they’re capable of. Interview nerves don’t go away until they’ve been overcome. Getting through a selection process supports confidence. It’s not always a happy ending, but I can’t put a price on how rewarding it is when it works out.

Where to next?
One of our values is continuous improvement. We make sure we apply our learning from our strongest successes and any of our glorious failures, for future decisions. When it comes to people and organisations, we’ve got plenty we’d love to share and even more passion to continue to explore. Every assignment is unique, every client has evolving needs and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Perhaps you’re a business owner, director or senior manager who could use some fresh ideas or an opportunity to learn from your experiences so far. We’d love to find out how we might help you take your hiring process to the next level. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

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5 reasons performance feedback fails and what to do about it

Giving and receiving feedback is heartland territory for performance conversations. Both delivery and receipt require a combination of skill and character, making it a strong topic for Leadership and Management training programmes everywhere.  It’s essential for continuous performance improvement and without it, effective change won’t gather pace. Yet it’s often delivered and/or received badly; exacerbating poor communication practices and ineffective working relationships.  Here are our top contributors that we believe hamper effective feedback and our ideas for how to solve them.

  1. Feedback is delivered as a one-way conversation

I’ve seen it often. The perception is delivered in a ‘let me tell you what I saw, experienced, felt’ style and standard rules like be clear, be factual, give examples, be assertive are followed. Agreed, these are all important, however, this approach doesn’t allow for a mutual understanding and resolution to be reached.  Feedback is a response to something that we want changed or repeated, and this means co-operation is required. For co-operation, there must be two-way involvement.  If you have a skilled recipient, the conversation may hold promise because they may be able to receive the information in a way that is useful, regardless of the delivery.  However, without managing the conversation, it’s more likely problems will surface.  Above all else, check first if it’s a good time for them to receive this information and whether you are the most effective messenger.

A message delivered articulately and empathetically is as important as the accuracy of the content, so tailor your message delivery to match the context, environment and circumstances of the recipient. Things like ‘Is this a pattern they have noticed for themselves?’  work well.  Inviting someone to self-assess before giving your view means you are less likely to encounter resistance. Another example could be when you’ve observed something that’s out of character. In this case, ask what was different that day or in that meeting etc. before sharing your observations. The response you receive may negate the need to give your view altogether.

  1. You prepare for the conversation without preparing yourself

Particularly when there’s a tough message involved, feelings of uncertainty, anxiousness, nervousness about the potential response combined with fear of negative consequences, can undermine your approach regardless of your intentions.  To control the discomfort, it’s human nature to want to avoid it (flight) or push through it (fight). This usually happens when someone is attached to being ‘right’.  To bolster your view, you may seek agreement from someone you trust. Then share the information according to when you’re ready. The feeling of ‘There, said it. Phew! Now it’s up to them. Right?’ may resonate here.  If so, have a think about how many times you have reached a satisfactory result following just one conversation. It’s unlikely to have a high yield, if at all.

When I have something I feel strongly about, I let it ‘sit’ for a while. Then I discuss it with someone I trust to challenge my views.  The stronger the reaction, the longer I let it sit and the more I seek challenge. Examining your motives and judgments is important because these determine your beliefs.  And those beliefs? They’ll inform how you feel.  If the conversation is going to lead somewhere good, it’ll be because you kept your opinions, judgments and emotions in check. Not absent, they count, but not in the driving seat. I believer if you feel ‘right’, that makes the other person wrong.  That’s a black and white position with no room for exploration.  With no room for taking in the other person’s experience / perspective then it’s a one-way conversation. The result is more likely to be an uncomfortable transaction, without a sustainable resolution.  So, seek alternative views, talk to someone who may share the other person’s perspective as well as your own and who can challenge your thinking. It won’t change what has happened, but it could shape a stronger outcome.

  1. The delivery is formulaic and fails to inspire an appetite to change

We use a variety of communication models in our work and advocate many different feedback models however, we urge our clients not to rely on them. Instead, consider these as criteria for preparation. Like a set piece in sport or a recipe for a meal, formulas support how something is put together.  So use formulae for infrastructure then employ empathy and responsiveness. Avoid over-scripting and over-managing as this will undermine conveyed sincerity.  Instead, join forces to explore relevant issues and find solutions to secure your best chance of co-operation and commitment to change.

If you really want to inspire change, be proactive with your feedback by finding ways to give forward feedback.  For example, when we work with delegates who are taking part in an exercise in our longer-term programmes, we will draw their attention to a skill they’ve shown in a previous session. For example, “I know you’re not sure how to approach this right now, but I know you can do this because you achieved {[X] result in the [Y] module. Use your [mention special skill] here and you’ll be on your way to really seeing some traction on this”.  Express what you’re looking to see more of and what difference it could make to the results of the company, team, project etc and motivation will soar.  It will also build a habit and mindset that will spread like ripples throughout the team. Not only for the individuals receiving it but for those witnessing the culture you’re fostering. 

  1. A commitment is expected immediately

I remember a time I received some feedback. It was important I heard it and understood it. It stung a bit!  I accepted it and said I’d go away and think about it.  The person who gave me the feedback was upset that I didn’t have a more committed response. I felt I needed time to work out how best to deal with it.  We found our way through it, but I’ll never forget the feeling of being on the receiving end of feedback that was completely valid, yet outside of my awareness.  Why is this important? Feedback is often a no-brainer to the person giving the information, so the impact it has can often be under-estimated.   Remember, it’s only obvious when you know.  And if they know, it’s not feedback!  In which case, I would challenge you to think about the purpose of the conversation you really need to have here.

On the flipside, you may receive an emotional or highly charged response.  In this case, give it some time and distance. Then return, don’t avoid it.  During the gap think about your timing, delivery, what might help reduce the emotional charge when it’s revisited? Go back to your trusted source(s) for some perspective.  I’m not suggesting you accept unhelpful behaviour; I am suggesting you consider the emotional make-up of the receiver and what their motives might have been for their original actions.  In short, re-visit the qualification points and then adjust from there.  And if you got it wrong, apologise and treat it as feedback for yourself.  Boundaries and ownership are key to achieving personal change, so encourage it by being a role model for it by adjusting your approach if you need to.

  1. Agreed actions sit only with the recipient

Feedback is particularly effective when we know what we want to be different.  I hear people express what they did or didn’t appreciate yet fall short on the required change.  Just as the feedback may have been a surprise to the recipient, the actions required to make a change may feel equally like an enigma.  A strong leader will be clear about what good looks like and will understand how to support without reducing ownership on the individual.  So, it’s a good idea to think about how you will make sure you manage the change and progress that you’re asking for. What are the review timescales? What is reasonable to expect and when? What do the incremental changes look like? For example, if it’s greater accuracy, what’s the reduction in mistakes you’re looking to see? If it’s a more positive contribution in meetings, what does that look like? Then think about what support you need to provide. What will you do to actively encourage commitment to the change? What will need repetition and what will need enough space to allow progress from you?  If you’re thinking about how you can support the process, you’ll handle the conversation and subsequent follow up better, and you’ll be in a better place to use it in an exploratory, solution focused way from the start.

At Organic P&O Solutions we’ve worked with individuals and teams, high performers and underperformers, in high output departments and in personally charged employment disputes. We always talk about constructive dialogue being key and we’ve witnessed it deliver improved performance when done well.  It has also supported companies to manage the destructive effects of toxic relationships and move into a more productive way of working.  If you’d like to find out more about how we might help you build a stronger performance amongst your team, we’d love to hear from you.


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4 Steps to Kindness That Will Deliver Stronger People Performance

The health and wellness sector continues to grow. There are retreats, self-help books and tools, gratitude practices, mindfulness techniques, and so many methods and products that promise a healthier happier life, I can’t begin to count them all. Yet at the same time, suicide rates are at an all-time high, domestic violence and abuse continues to be a growing problem and our young people are reporting the highest rates of anxiety and depression of any generation so far. Something needs to change. As employers we are in a strong position to create a change, but like any behaviour shift, it must start with ourselves. But how?

If our businesses thrive on sustained, productive, effective performance and the ingredients to achieving that are in the vein of clarity, connection, results, learning, what is the missing piece? For me, the answer is always in the dialogue and the ingredient is kindness. This is where nurture lives. Without nurture, we might survive, but we won’t thrive. In a working context, it translates into unexplored and untapped potential. Without kindness in play, organisations miss out on more than productivity. They lose discretionary effort. The compounding effect of the loss of creativity, innovation and progress eats away at the opportunity to achieve organisational goals and the legacy they aspire to create.

So, what’s so tricky? There’s a causal pathway to a kind and compassionate dialogue. That’s what makes it easy to say and not so easy to demonstrate. To get to kindness we need to feel it. To feel it, we need compassion and empathy. If either of those is missing, we won’t be authentic. With a high focus on technology and results, it’s the perceived ‘soft’ skills that take a back seat when it comes to training. But the business case is becoming more and more evident in so many under-skilled managers being unable to make compassionate decisions that are clearly communicated. The question is, will we take time to invest in developing it? If so, where do we start?

The dictionary definition of kindness is “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate”. Here’s our take on what kindness is and how to develop it:


Are you good to be around? To others? What about to yourself? When something goes well do you congratulate or criticise? When you talk about people, do you bring them down or pull them up? Look at the impact, not the intention. If you’re not sure, spend some time simply observing reactions for a month. Listening is a superpower. Make a diary of your observations, then review and see what trends / patterns emerge. When you’re speaking, notice the adjectives and phrases that you use frequently. Is it a helpful dialogue or is it harsh? Does it propel people forward or does it halt them in their tracks? Notice patterns in others and you’ll have data that no spreadsheet can provide. And there’s no better kinship that really hearing and seeing what’s important to someone.

If you’re not getting what you need, do you find ways to connect with others or hope someone else will notice? Assertive behaviour is important here. It’s about making sure everyone’s heard (enough) and considered (enough) before moving forward. Equally, what do you say to yourself, about yourself? If you’re a good friend to yourself, accepting of who you are and what you bring, you’ll be a more accepting, grateful colleague, friend, spouse, parent and so on.


Do you know who and/or what inspires you? Do you allow yourself to be inspired or do you surge forward every day with a list to achieve or perhaps you have a high need for external validation? In the workplace, do you help people find inspiration for themselves? Build a daily habit with as much importance as following your daily hygiene routine for getting absorbed in what inspires you. It could be as simple as watching the sunrise or listening to your favourite music. It doesn’t have to be attending a conference of motivational speakers, but if that’s what works, do that too!

Also, never underestimate how inspirational you might be to someone else. Do what you need to do, and the ripple effect could be significant for others.


Do you allow time to restore your energy when it’s used? Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually? What do you purposefully do to keep your stress levels under control? Do you notice what’s helpful, useful, and act on it before a low or a breaking point? If you’re a manager, how do you encourage this for your people? How do you praise so you can reap the benefits of that great performance again in the future?

An important part of nurture is self-care. The basics in working life are so often missing. Poor nutrition choices, low activity levels, overuse of devices. If we don’t prioritise for ourselves, we can’t be fully available, sustainably, to the people / causes that matter to us. As an employer, it’s in everyone’s best interests to make it a part of our regular conversations with our employees and give support for healthy choices, and recognition for strong contribution. Often a simple thank you goes a miss. Ignore nurture and we’ll see it in low productivity, higher and more frequent disputes, increasing absence levels and more. So, it makes sense to proactively focus on the basics. And not just for today’s workforce. We’re on the receiving end of a multiplier effect, if we embrace a change now, we can create a positive multiplier for future generations. That’s the true sense of nurture for me. Imagine a generation whose internal dialogue is healthy, resilient and kind.

Dedication is a practice that breeds passion. I have often witnessed rigidity in methods and mindsets which simply stifle people and results. That’s not dedication. The highest performing teams have plenty of humour and discipline in good measure. A kind approach for individuals and teams is one that is firmly held, gently delivered, whatever the topic. Knowing what and when to invest in team resources is key to making sure they can deliver. Dedicate your leadership development to relationship building and communication skills and growth and sustainability will be a benefit, not a focus. Without dedication in human kindness, managers will quickly fall into the micromanagement trap, overly focused on tasks and will continue to be frustrated and reactive making them less likely to adopt a kind response when it’s most needed. For example, when a crisis hits, kind managers have higher emotional intelligence to gain commitment from their teams to pull through.

I must add that being dedicated doesn’t mean ‘peak productivity’ all the time and ‘perfect’ results always. I remember learning how professional athletes train at 80% so they can give 100% on race day. A kind approach i.e. if it’s inspiring, nurturing and based on kinship, will have realistic, stretching targets. And it can be measured easily with forgiveness. If you or someone else makes a mistake, do you allow the learning to emerge, the time for regrets to dissolve? Is your language helpful to yourself as well as others? For more on this see our next blog about the skills of learning through feedback! But I digress.

Whilst the increase in wellbeing programmes and workplace benefits will continue to be essential for today’s employers, I wonder, what’s the real take-up of these schemes? Are they accessed by the people who really need them? Are employers really driving the activity that will reap long term benefit? And even so, is the training investment in line managers enough to help them develop the core skills they really need to be productive business champions?

Organic P&O Solutions works with Thames Valley businesses to help people change the way they think and behave so organisations become more effective. We love creating teams who love working together through HR strategies and training programmes. If you’d like a confidential discussion about creating productive champions for your business, we’d love to hear from you.

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High Performing Teams

The 4 Phase Journey to High Performing Teams Every Leader Needs To Know

In this blog we look at one of our favourite models for understanding the phases that teams go through to achieve high performance. We believe it’s a rite of passage that will happen naturally but if managed well can really shift teams from new to high performing faster. We cover how to handle conflict in teams here. But this blog is about the phases that leaders must facilitate to build high performing teams. You’ll note the word facilitate. It’s a journey for all team members. The Tuckman model, also known as the Tuckman Stages of Group Development is widely known, yet often underutilised. Here’s our take on it:

Forming: The start of something new. A group working together towards a new common goal or with a new team member creates a new dynamic. Everyone is polite. ‘You go first, no you, really….’ A level of uncertainty about who does what, when and with whom emerges. It could be a new venture or a re-structured team, or even a new phase. It’s where the team or partnership first join, or first need to achieve something together and the theory’s clear but the implementation has yet to take shape. The leader must establish purpose, clarity and facilitate new relationships. There’s more to this than simply getting the tasks agreed and the project started.

Storming: Decisions are being made. Some popular, some not so. Team members establish themselves in their new roles and start to get in each other’s way as they attempt to deliver their goals. Opinions are forming and starting to be expressed. Interpretations are made about actions. Difficult questions begin to surface. Reality shows up the unforeseen parts of the plan. There’s no need for drama, but there is a need to discuss the conflicts arising or bubbling under the surface. Emotions are higher now as people are more invested in achieving their goals so this is the stage where the power struggles start that turn into team dysfunction (if the leader allows it). Is the leader strong enough to draw out the differences in styles, operating models and personalities, confront it and take constructive steps to find a way forward? If yes, great! The journey continues. If not, this is where the team stays until it is openly discussed, otherwise either the project fails or nothing changes until someone leaves.

Norming: As the team begin to bond, trust builds. They have disagreed before and survived it. In fact, they now have an enhanced understanding of each other, a greater appreciation of their contribution to the team as individuals and of their fellow team members and they start to use this to build on. Collaboration becomes evident, respect is present, including in disagreement. Opposing views are given credence, assessed for usefulness and roles and responsibilities are accepted. Decisions become easier and implementation smoother. They’re on their way to high performance. Complacency by any team member at this phase must be noticed and averted or addressed if the journey is to continue successfully.

Performing: Now the team are working together well. They have a shared vision, they understand their purpose and values. They don’t agree on everything and it’s ok. They’ve learned to manage conflict. The leader has little to do now to manage differences as the individuals can do that for themselves, with each other. They deliver, time and time again. At this stage, the team is mature, highly adaptive, creative and has formed strong relationships thanks to their shared journey.

The team are performing not because they averted conflict, changes of plan and uncertainty, but because they embraced it and found a way through it. Now when there is a change, transitions from forming through to high performing can happen faster with fewer bumps along the way. Important issues are faced and dealt with. The intellectual and emotional capital of that team, wherever those team members go next, goes with them. If these people stay in the organisation, the effect on the teams they go to is multiplied as they become stronger at working with different people in different ways.

There is a fifth stage that Tuckman identified. Mourning. This is where a key team member, not necessarily the leader, but it will apply here too, leaves the team. Before they are able to re-form, there is period of natural affect as the team go through experiencing the loss of this significant character. Here, the natural change process is important to acknowledge, but that’s another topic we can cover another time!

The Leadership Role

Ultimately, how the leader in a team facilitates the journey from forming to high performing is instrumental in their success. If the leader can detach enough to manage the conflict issues and engage enough with their people to guide the team through each phase fully and be aware enough to notice and adjust as they need to about their own impact during the journey, they can reach the ‘performing’ stage and become a productive and effective team much quicker. And while this cycle might be repeated when someone new joins the team or someone leaves, a good leader will be able to navigate their team through each phase and make them stronger for it.

If you could use some support to find out what works for your team, we’d love to hear from you. For a no obligation discussion, get in touch, and we can arrange an initial discussion to start exploring which blend of traditional and bespoke models might work for you.

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4 Insights That Will Boost Your Learning Power

I had a brilliant experience when I recently learned to ski for the first time. I love a challenge, especially if it involves overcoming some fear. But that isn’t true for everyone. Over the course of the week I was reminded how important it is that we understand different people learn in different ways. That goals are important but even if you’re learning the same thing, they won’t be the same and that well-intentioned support for people learning something new needs to be supportive to the learner if it’s to have a positive impact.

I looked up the dictionary definition (Oxford English) which describes learning as “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught” but what is the best way to approach learning something new? Is it limited to study, experience and being taught? What hinders and what helps?” I’ve shared some reflections here.

  • Nurture is needed

Learning is a natural, evolutionary process. It happens both on purpose and by accident, in different ways, for different people. It cannot be forced, and it is particularly disabled by fear. For example, anything I had learned vanished from mind and body when I looked at a downhill slope I wasn’t sure about. A few deep breaths and some calm thoughts and I was able to focus and deploy the new techniques I learned. So, if fear of what might go wrong prevents learning, it reminded me how futile it is to expect employees to learn and apply new skills when they are fearful of the consequences of making mistakes. We had a masterful ski instructor who knew how to deal with the fearful and the fearless so we were all in a safe psychological space to attempt anything new. He then imparted his wisdom with authority, respect and kindness. He never belittled us with his vast expertise or ridiculed our efforts which in comparison to his expertise, mine were beyond minimal. So, if learning is to really take shape, mistakes must be expected, allowed and made. Discussion and instruction are not enough. Immersion and experience are a must so attention can be given to the corrective measures that are needed for that learner, at that time, to succeed.

  • Own your journey

Get clear about what you want to achieve, understand how you learn best and then choose the activities that will help you achieve it. In that order. Whatever it is. This is especially important when you’re a beginner. I would have liked nothing better than to feel completely comfortable down steep cross-country slopes in a week. How exciting?! If I’d set out to try that, I’d have left disappointed at best. I was a beginner and not a young one! Every day I set small goals, and every day I felt a sense of achievement. This was particularly helpful on the days when I fell over a lot. One day was simply to be upright for longer! So, set goals based on your actual achievement levels, be aspirational, but be realistic too. Don’t let other people’s judgments limit your desire and will, but equally, don’t accept challenges you don’t feel ready to take on. I witnessed some keen supporters, who thought they were encouraging, knock the confidence in a fellow beginner. “Go for it!” “Push yourself!” attitudes don’t work for everyone. If it doesn’t work for you, politely decline.

  • Understand your style

Learning happens through a combination of thought, word and deed. The ratios of each will vary from person to person. For example, some people learn best by getting started (deed) and finding out what works and what doesn’t along the way, while others prefer to research (word) and absorb information (thought) before getting started. All are essential, but the order and combination are personal. I ran an anecdotal social media poll and the differences were across the board. So, it’s not up to someone else to dictate how you should or shouldn’t approach your learning. For example, if you learn well by experience, find safe and contained ways to experiment that work for you. If that isn’t you, find ways to gain the information you need, the instruction or materials that will be useful to you, the guide / teacher with the approach that you find helpful, the person with the competence to observe at the right level and so on. Whatever your preferences, accept you’ll need practise and reflection as part of your learning journey in good measure if you want to see improvements in your results. Then celebrate the successes that are significant for you along the way.

  • Focus on what’s helpful to the learner

I witnessed some amazing attitudes on those slopes. The full range from helpful and forgiving, to intolerance and yelling. I also heard a lot of information being given that didn’t land with the person it was aimed at. One day, when I fell over on my way down a slope that I had navigated just fine earlier, I knew as I landed, in a heap, what I needed to do differently. A kind soul stopped to help me up. Once I was up, I also knew it was time for me to stop for the day. I had enough knowledge, I didn’t have enough energy left in my legs to apply it. The kind stranger gave me a long explanation about how to stay upright. It took about 10 minutes. It felt like half an hour. It was not long after my 2-hour ski lesson, which let’s face it, as a beginner, was all about how to stay upright! It was well-intentioned, but it was not helpful to me at that time. On this occasion, I simply said “Thank you” and went on my way. But it reminded me of the many times I have enthusiastically imparted a pearl of wisdom and wondered why someone seemed perplexed and a little ungrateful, when a simple enquiry would have been more useful. It’s an important point for anyone who has the supporting role in someone else’s learning and if it’s a repeated pattern of behaviour you’re on the receiving end of, find a way to express it so the helpful soul can support you in a way that works better for you. If they really are intending to be helpful, they’ll be grateful to know so they can support you better going forward.

What are your ideas and experiences about learning something new? Does anything here resonate for you. I’d love to know.

We love working with leaders and their teams with a range of learning and development programmes at all levels of the organisation. Always targeted at helping people achieve their goals. If you’d like to discuss how we might help, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us today for a no obligation consultation.

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