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personalities

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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Gears

Every Successful Business Depends on Great Suppliers: Meet Ours!

When I started Organic P&O Solutions, I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do. It’s the same now as it was then: to use my HR skills to help organisations optimise individual and team performance, face their key challenges, support them in times of transition and provide the resilience and momentum they need to achieve their goals.

Ambitious, yes, but I stuck to my guns, and seven years later I have a great team around me and we’re working with some amazing clients.

But of course, I didn’t do it all on my own. Besides the other HR consultants who work with me, Organic P&O Solutions depends on a range of vital suppliers who get on with the essential peripheral business functions like finance, marketing, design and IT – leaving us free to do what we do best.

In one of my recent posts, I wrote about seven important lessons I’ve learnt over seven years running a small business. In retrospect, I should have added an eighth lesson: To be successful, it’s essential to build a network of great suppliers who you trust and love working with.

I’m going to put that right now, by introducing you to the suppliers who have helped me grow Organic P&O Solutions into what it is today, and by sharing some thoughts about my own experience of developing a supplier network.

 

Meet the Suppliers We Couldn’t Do Without!

 

Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping Supplier

 Mike Wallace: Rosemary Bookkeeping

One of the first things you realise when you start a business is how much paperwork you create. Managing it is a job in its own right. In the early days I had a virtual assistant to help me with my admin. When it became clear that Nat was too good for this role however, she quickly became my first trainee consultant, leaving me without anyone to do my bookkeeping.

The crunch came one Sunday morning when I found myself with three competing demands. I had to write a proposal for a big client pitch; I needed to prepare and send out my invoices which were overdue – and I wanted to spend some time with my son who had just started school. Something had to give, so I outsourced my bookkeeping to Mike, who I knew through networking.

Since then, Mike has taken care of my invoicing, making payments and looking after credit control. He takes the information from all the financial transactions we make and prepares it for our accountant without me even needing to see it.

 

Accounts

Accountant Suppliers

Ellen Lefevre: Lefevres Chartered Accountants

Of all the supplier relationships a business owner needs to develop, I’d argue that the one they have with their accountant is probably the most important. A good accountant can be integral to helping a business grow, and while it’s not impossible to change an accountant mid-relationship, it’s much better to get it right first time.

Ellen was recommended by a friend who also ran her own business. She did my very first set of accounts and we’ve worked together ever since. Highly proactive, Ellen gets financial information to me early, making sure I do what I need to on time, and keeping me updated on changes to things that impact the business like corporation tax an VAT. She adds real value, sitting down with me each year, taking me through my accounts and giving me invaluable advice.

Crucially, Ellen gets on really well and works seamlessly with Mike my bookkeeper. Together, they have put robust processes in place that mean I don’t need to get involved in the daily admin at all. This has given me space to develop my own analytical reporting information, so when I have my FD hat on, I can focus on the performance of the business – rather than worrying about paperwork and complying with statutory obligations.

 

Marketing

Marketing Suppliers

Lisa Vassallo: One To Three Marketing

Although I look after the implementation of marketing activity for my business, I’m outside of my comfort zone when it comes to marketing strategy. Thankfully though, I met Lisa through networking. I liked her approach right away, and after attending several of her social media workshops, decided she was perfect for helping me with marketing for Organic P&O Solutions.

Lisa has been advising me on my digital marketing activity for about three years now. We meet regularly to discuss my goals, and she helps me plan my social media in line with these, recommending appropriate content and style. Alongside this, she helps me interpret my analytics and refine my marketing, so I get the best results with my budget.

Lisa helps me to be braver and more creative. I have lots of ideas, but I trust her to challenge me if she doesn’t think something will work – and to help me develop the best ideas into something that will!

 

Digital Design

Design Suppliers

Karen Reynolds & Angela Pugh: Creative Associates

My relationship with Creative Associates is another one that goes back a long way. I worked with Karen and Angela when I was with Waterstones – where they were responsible for designing much of the branding and communication material. I always liked their work, so when I set up Organic P&O Solutions, and needed an online presence, I asked them to create my very first website.

The site’s been through several iterations over the years (in fact, I’m about to reveal another one in the very near future, so watch this space!), and Creative Associates are now firmly established as my brand guardians – my go to supplier for all my digital design requirements.

 

Print & Design

Design Suppliers

Tara Morris: Abstract Print & Design

We might live in a digital age, but print still has the power to stand out, impress and be remembered. I certainly use print – in marketing campaigns for postcards and bookmarks, as well as for client training materials – and when I do, I go straight to Tara!

IT Support

IT Fibrefly

Rob Nossiter. Fibrefly

Like most businesses, at Organic P&O Solutions we depend on the functionality of our IT equipment, a secure network and reliable, 24/7 connectivity. Our remote working model makes us especially reliant on the ability to communicate with each other, and with our clients from anywhere – something that’s become even more critical in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

Rob makes it all happen (we have no idea how), looking after all our tech, making sure our software and apps are all up to date and ensuring we stay safe from any viruses and other online threats. Given that IT is so fundamental (and mysterious), it’s reassuring to know that Rob has our back and that if we do have any kind of issue, he’s only a phone call away.

4 Things I Learnt Building My Supplier Network

Nobody works in isolation. Behind every brand and every entrepreneur are a host of suppliers helping them to realise their full potential. Having gone through the process of building my own supplier network, here are my four top pieces of advice:

 

Take time to find the perfect match

When you’re a small business, your suppliers are your team, so it’s essential you find people who share your values, you trust implicitly, and who you genuinely enjoy working with. While there will be plenty of people out there with the technical skills you need, finding those that are right for you and your business is likely to take time.

 

Make the right connections

I relied on a combination of networking, word-of-mouth recommendations and contacts from my previous life in the corporate world. Referrals are great because they come pre-validated, while connections made through a networking group you consistently attend allow time for relationships to develop before you make any commitments.

A word of caution about using contacts you may have made from working in the corporate sector. While some of my strongest supplier relationships date back to my corporate days, I found out early on that not all suppliers are suited to supporting smaller businesses with their very different dynamics.

 

Think about how suppliers will work together

As you grow your supplier network, it will be important to keep in mind that some suppliers may need to work closely together – your bookkeeper and accountant for example, or suppliers of different aspects of marketing. This is where a recommendation or getting to know someone over a period of time through networking can be useful, but in the end, you’ll have to trust your own judgement

 

Learn to let go – outsourcing works!

If you’re not great at ‘letting go’ of things, engaging others to do work for you might take some getting used to. However, when you do start to outsource those tasks that you can’t do, you aren’t good at, you don’t like doing, or that aren’t financially worth you taking on yourself, you’ll quickly see how it adds value to your organisation.

 

Why Not Give Your Suppliers a Shout Out?

It’s easy to take your suppliers for granted but remember that most of us are running businesses that are both clients and suppliers. If you’ve found someone who’s great at what they do, why not do them a favour and share their details with your clients?

 

And if you know any organisation that is looking for help with their HR, please do pass on our details and tell them to get in touch for a chat!

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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 Monday.com 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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disruption

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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HR Professionals

4 Things Leaders Don’t Need to Hear from HR Professionals

Strong business leaders know how to make the most of their HR resource, are more likely to train their line management teams well to implement people processes and focus on what will motivate and engage their people. Sometimes, employment regulations can seem overly arduous, even to the most amenable leaders. At these times I have often heard HR professionals, often well intentioned, sound unhelpful. Their conscientious attention to the rules risks missing the mark in getting a good result for the business. Based on what I’ve heard and learned over my career, as an HR professional, facilitator, coach and business owner, I’ve shared the top four things, that if avoided, can change the way HR professionals can support business leaders through employment disputes, more effectively.

  • It’s the law!

There are statutory regulations, it’s true. The implications of not following the ACAS code or the business policies outlined to employees could land a company in an Employment Tribunal. However, if the employer has never experienced the downside of a poor decision in this way, this is not a helpful message.

Our approach is always ‘yes you can’ followed by silence. It gives our clients the opportunity to ‘sit’ with their current thinking and then explore the potential consequences with us. We know our knowledge and experience isn’t important just yet. Once we’ve explored the potential implications and along the way, shared some information and experience that is directly relevant, we find business owners and leaders start to find alternatives, naturally, and we build from there. Appealing to the strength in their ability to make decisions and being clear, without being dramatic, about potential outcomes, makes it easier to weigh up alternatives all round.

  • You need to follow the process

Following a rigid process can be tricky for some. Personality types vary and so do ability levels and appetites for it. I find, quite often, it’s not identifying and explaining the steps in the process that present the difficulty. Rather, it’s the ability to navigate the conversation once it’s underway. Over time, HR professionals build up a catalogue of knowledge and experience that line managers may not, because they don’t specialise in it. This is particularly true for difficult issues. So, we tend to focus on supporting the words, language, sequencing and styles that are important to the people both managing, and on the receiving end of a process. Focusing the leaders on listening and clarity also gives them the time to notice and respond well, which makes it easier for them to take the right steps, at the right time.

  • You’ll end up in an Employment Tribunal

I’ve met many HR professionals who believe that going to Employment Tribunal means the business has failed. In some cases, this may be true. Not always though. For example, I’ve supported businesses through employment tribunal proceedings when they’ve had good conscience that they had done everything they could. And they’ve had successful outcomes. At Organic P&O Solutions, our focus is to come out of any difficult situation with learning. Sometimes this on its own can be the very boost a business leader needs to take their people strategy to a new level.

As an aside, I also advise HR teams to manage complex cases as if they were going to end up in tribunal. It helps on a few levels. The first, the case documents are ready when needed, should it need go to an employment solicitor. The last thing you need to be doing when that time-sensitive tribunal notification hits is waste time collating information. You’ll need to focus all your efforts on a quality response. Second, it keeps focus at every stage, on consistency of decisions and exercising due diligence. I often help businesses think about how a tribunal panel might weigh up their decision. It helps with perspective. Third, because it has been managed so closely, the likelihood of ending up in Tribunal is reduced.

  • If you do it for one, you’ll have to do it for everyone

Consistency and fairness are important. They are also barriers to responding to individual needs and being able to respond well, on an individual level, is at the heart of good leadership. So, striking the chord to achieve what’s ‘fair and reasonable’ (required in our employment regulations) versus ‘what’s really needed here?’ (addressing human needs) is of pivotal importance. HR professionals have a duty to support business owners run their businesses well, which means policies need to be applied in the way that suits the business and its customers. The direct conduit between those two is how employees are treated. So, we advise against blanket approaches and overly standard correspondence. The human element doesn’t automatically show up as favouritism and it could be the one thing that really turns a dispute into a workable solution.

We really enjoy working with businesses to facilitate the dialogue that leads to quality people practices. The themes are often similar, yet the solutions can differ considerably. So, if you could use a discussion about what kind of HR support you might need for your team, we’d love to see how we can help. Get in touch with us today.

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kindness

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:

Kinship

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.

Inspiration

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.

Nurture

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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Family Friendly

5 Ways To Make Sure You’re A Truly Family Friendly Employer

During the school holidays I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a great blend of time with my son, time working with clients, time working on the business and some time to use as I chose, for myself. All in varying proportions. My son equally had time with his father, time with his friends, time with his grandparents and time for himself to explore pursuits of his own. It took planning, co-ordination and some juggling. It all worked out well. But there have been times when it wasn’t so seamless and there are likely to be times when I’ll need to think differently again about how I plan for and accomplish meeting differing needs. It got me thinking about the options available for juggling work and family life for employers and employees.

I Googled the definitions of ‘family friendly working’ and was directed to research from Working Families and DirectGov.UK. In the 2019 Modern Families Index they quote that there are 6.2 million couple households with dependent children in the UK and 1.7 lone-parent families. Employment rates for mothers was a staggering 74%, which has only increased 5.1% over the last 5 years. And, employment rates for both women and men with dependent children were higher than for those without. So that’s 13 million working parents (employed and self-employed). For more information about how those statistics play out in other areas I’d urge you to take a look at the report. It’s an interesting read.

From this research, I learned parents working in SME’s were slightly more likely than those in larger organisations, to work flexibly. I found myself asking again, whether the statutory requirements truly facilitate and create family friendly working practices that reflect the real underlying needs of employer/employee responsibilities? The advice I found at DirectGov.UK seems largely to reflect changing working patterns, childcare and supporting ideas for time off. It seems primarily targeted at supporting women into work and motivated by reducing the Gender Pay gap. All good stuff. But it doesn’t go far enough for me. So, here are some thoughts and ideas for striking a ‘give and take’ balance that create a stronger platform for harmonising work and home in our ever-changing, seemingly overly busy lives.

1.      Set clear expectations and boundaries.

There are balances to be struck. As an HR consultant I see employers start off very generously and then perhaps one employee took a little too much for granted or let the team down due to some bad planning, resulting in the removal of generosity for all. With clear boundaries and a direct, constructive dialogue, you can limit the impact on the business and other team members, when things don’t go according plan, without being punitive.

2.      Support employees to plan for what they need

From my own experience I can remember missing a sports day early on in my son’s school career. It wasn’t a big deal at the time, but I learned very quickly that my back-up plan, needed a back-up plan! I learned from it and I schedule commitments differently now. So, help people to plan what they need in their personal lives, for themselves, as well as their work schedule or shift patterns, and you’ll be giving them prioritisation and planning skills they can also apply in your business. You’ll also gain some very loyal employees.

3.      Observe the statutory obligations as a minimum standard

If you Google’ family friendly’ you’ll find around 2, 620 000 000 results and they’re mainly products and services to entice people into something leisurely with their families. Restaurants, theme parks, holiday resorts, experiences, I could go on! Yet when we think family friendly at work, we don’t think about how to enhance their work experience, we think about how to limit disruption. I wonder why employees might think we’re no fun?!

So, when you’re building your Family Friendly suite, don’t focus on limits, think about needs of the customer and the needs of the employees who serve those customers. People who feel valued and appreciated, working in ways that support them, will create valued and appreciated customers. Those customers create a stronger business which means a more certain employment future and that cycle continues. It’s a no brainer then, to help the people who are serving your customers feel like they are encouraged to enjoy their personal lives, as those are the people you’ll retain, content to give their best to your customers.

4.      Include well-being in your Family Friendly thinking

Caring for an elderly relative, supporting a sick spouse, becoming a new parent, adjusting to new school arrangements, researching Universities, responding to special care needs, going through divorce, among many other needs, all evoke emotional stress over and above practical, logistical demands. This eats personal energy, not just time. So, when you’re thinking Family Friendly, think about supporting transitions, think family life as a whole, and therefore what support you can help signpost people to, dependent on their circumstances, that also encourages self-care. A change in work patterns/flexible working may well help, but it may not be enough on its own.

5.      Train your line managers to be open-minded and supportive

So many times, I have witnessed an escalation that could have been prevented with some education for, and empathy from, the first line manager. Think about this example. A young ambitious, keen, productive, supervisor welcoming a maternity returner back to work. They worked well together before she went off on maternity leave. Her needs and perspectives are likely to be different now versus then. Alternatively, the grieving widow who returns to work and just isn’t quite themselves anymore, perhaps they’ve been a little late a few times or they’ve struggled to focus recently and made some mistakes. A little guidance, some simple processes, empathy and awareness training that creates perspective sharing, can ensure all strong performers, stay productive team members in the long run.

We know there are some fabulous employers out there who are really innovative and caring and as a result, create great workplaces. Some of them are our much-loved clients that we support with ideas based on their business requirements and people needs.

We’d love to hear about your experiences of creating workplaces that deliver great results by balancing employee and employer needs and if you could use some ideas, we’d love to see how we can help. Contact us to find out more here or to arrange a no-obligation, free initial consultation.

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