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MeToo and TimesUp

MeToo and TimesUp:
From social buzz to systemic change

For the past decade, #MeToo has been just one of a growing number of women’s movements that failed to gain the critical publicity it deserved. Brainchild of activist and sexual assault survivor, Tarana Burke, #MeToo gained critical mass when a significant number of high profile actresses in Hollywood came forward to accuse movie producer, Harvey Weinstein, of serious sexual harassment.

It was only a matter of time before a series of other powerful men within the industry were also being named as aggressors and flourishing careers fell to ash overnight. Soon after, #TimesUp was created as the momentum was spreading into other industries.

Stirring the waters

It’s not surprising that when we think of power, our minds interpret it negatively, as nowadays it is so commonly associated with exploitation and abuse (hello Mr Trump). While these serious allegations are not to be taken lightly, the negative media attention has opened a window into greater consideration regarding how we can tackle these difficult topics. The result of this reflection is twofold. On the one hand, more women and men feel empowered to speak out against bullying and harassment in the workplace. On the other hand, change is coming slowly and in many instances being resisted entirely.

‘‘We haven’t seen any spikes in the volume of training requests, or the volume of training we’re recommending. I don’t think [the #MeToo Campaign] has had a significant impact,” says Elaine Howell, HR manager at PlusHR.

Some men now limit their contact with female colleagues out of fear of backlash. A survey by McKinsey and the Lean In initiative, reported that the number of male managers experiencing discomfort when mentoring women has tripled since the #MeToo movement gained worldwide recognition.

While the social campaign has definitely exposed an epidemic of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace, it is clear that without us seeing substantial change in human behaviour, it will fall short of both its intention and also potential.

All talk and no action?

The way we have set up our organisations over many years means that men and women experience very different workplaces, ones in which the chances for advancement vary greatly and job opportunities come in ‘his’ and ‘hers’ versions. The first step toward any change is acknowledgement of this discrepancy between gender expectations in the workplace – and it is the leaders of organisations who need to recognise they have a problem worth engaging with. The message is not getting to them in a way that they hear it until something dramatic happens.

‘‘That’s the biggest danger in an organization—lack of candour,” Clark says. ‘‘All the great military disasters—why did they all occur? Because someone didn’t come and tell the general, ‘You’re out of your mind.’ ”

‘‘If I have a thing that I hammer away and hammer away on in every situation I’ve ever been in, it’s transparency. Bring me the bad news. I won’t yell at you. The only thing I will get upset with is if I discover you’ve been sitting on bad news.”
Ed Clark, CEO of Toronto-Dominion Bank.

A sign post for change

The task going forward is to turn this conversation into action; or at the very least, leverage the campaign to bring about more conversations than what we currently have. Therefore, we at Serenity in Leadership chose to go down the dialogue route. It is proven that change occurs through interacting with people in groups, as it fosters greater transparency and trust and makes it easier for people to work together in future. Dialogue is the most effective way for us to change the fundamental mindsets that people have developed over all these years, that influence the way they run organisations, treat people and view themselves in relation to others.

The difficulty for leaders is to address the challenge, not through problem solving but through creating spaces for people to listen to each other – not very exciting perhaps, but substantially more effective over time.

The societal shift we are going through is a necessary one for all genders. Movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp are not destinations in themselves, but signposts to help us reach a greater collective and to build safer, more inclusive organisational cultures. To stay ahead of the curve in the marketplace and attract top talent, leaders are going to have to dig deeper and create real change, a change that begins by looking in the mirror to reflect on our conditioning, biases and relationships to power. When leaders engage with a listening approach of ’inclusion’, not only do they create the conditions for equality, but they also reap the considerable benefits and rewards of equity, engagement and growth.

‘‘There’s an interplay between public consciousness, and the law and due process. And that’s exactly what I think is happening.”Karuna Nundy

Serenity in Leadership is a disruptive corporate change consultancy. We are passionate about enabling people to redefine themselves in the context of an ever-increasingly complex world. Through our work we show people ways to make more conscious choices, exploring meaning, energy and expression, enabling them to face challenges with power and serenity.

Thom Dennis – Guest Blogger
CEO, Serenity Leadership

Thom and I have known each other for over twenty years. He and his colleagues at Serenity leadership are tackling a very important issue. And he argues well we need to do more. It’s not going to be easy and I commend him for taking it head on. I do believe dialogue is the right answer and will reap sustainable change in the long run. Please do reach out to Thom and his team to have a conversation.

Adopting common language

Adopting common language, understanding and recognition to play to strengths

As a business leader, it can often be hard to maintain optimum levels of motivation with staff and especially when it comes to finding structured learning events that can add value to the business and individuals simultaneously and in equal measure.

We are all naturally hungry to find out what we are not good at and divert our effort to trying to be better and improve in these areas. We often do this to the detriment of recognising, and leveraging, our strengths. When you step back and think about this it’s probably not the most sensible use of time or the best decision we can make in terms of our focus.

Recognising what we are good at, identifying key strengths and allowing ourselves to play to these has got to be a good decision. From a personal perspective, it is a good decision because we typically enjoy and are more engaged in the things we are good at. If we can ensure these things are aligned to the needs of the organisation then they move from being a hobby to activities that add demonstrable valuable to the business. A win-win all round!

None of this is rocket science but if we are honest with ourselves, common sense doesn’t always equate to common practice. This is where the Zenger Folkman Extraordinary Leader and Extraordinary Performer programmes have been invaluable for us as a business. Through our relationship with Natural Direction, a specialist leadership development consultancy and partner of Zenger Folkman, we have embedded the importance of identifying and focusing on strengths across our business.

Over the last five years we have developed three structured programmes that take the Zenger Folkman methodology and use this to create a common language, a common understanding and a collective recognition that enabling people to play to their strengths benefits everyone. This is not to say that we have a blinkered approach to ‘fatal flaws’ as these are absolutely things that we must support people to address. We encourage our people to play to their strengths and surround themselves with people who are good at doing the things that they are not so good at.

I recently attended an event hosted by Natural Direction, which attracted talent leaders from across a range of global organisations as well as some new market disrupters. During the discussion it was evident that this approach is well placed in helping organisations respond to the shifting needs in managing, developing and retaining talent. This isn’t a generational thing or a response to the many challenges facing organisations at the moment but it does highlight an opportunity for us to harness common sense and translate this in to common practice.

Igniting strengths

Igniting the strengths of your people requires more than a spark; you need to create the conditions in which they can grow

The world in which we work is changing rapidly, as is the way we go about our work. Seismic shifts in workforce demographics – coupled with new advances in technology, robotics, AI and AR – are beginning to impact every sector of the economy, and society at large.

But the more one talks to people from large organisations, the clearer it becomes that many of the structural and internal HR systems and processes in those organisations; hierarchies, learning and development, appraisals and more; are running counter to the realities of our working lives. If companies are to become more agile, they need to acknowledge the changes to the working lives of their people and offer a structure in which their workforce can thrive.

Strong leading businesses know how to work to the strengths of their people. However, before we can ignite those strengths, we first need to understand the values and drives of our workforce, and then create the perfect environment in which they can pursue their passions, and the right systems with which to support their growth.

The Generation Game

When the basic state pension was created, it was done so with the expectation that people would need it for only two years. These days, people are not only living longer, but they’re working longer too, and many companies can find up to five generations making up their workforce. Naturally, these vastly different generations think about their careers differently; someone in their early- to mid-20s are just setting out on theirs, whereas someone at 45 may be thinking about making a change to set themselves up for later life.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution to learning and development for such a diverse workforce, nor are there a set of benefits that suit every employee; but one thing that does unite workers across the age ranges is the growing desire for intangible assets; knowledge, reputation, balanced lives, relationships; as opposed to tangible assets like savings, property and pensions. For today’s workers, the highest order motivating factors aren’t higher wages or progression through large organisations; but meaningful work, flexibility, mobility, growth and learning.

Tours of duty

The age of the ’lifelong company man’ have been and gone, with more and more employees happily jumping between employers, and even vocations. Young workers in particular see their jobs less as a long-term commitment, and more as someone in the military might; as a ‘tour of duty’ lasting three to five years. Instead of asking ’How far can I go in this company?’ They’re asking ’What can this job do for me over the next few years?’

With the rise of the ‘gig economy’, more and more workers are willing to create ’portfolio careers’ for themselves, something that used to be more prevalent in people coming to the end of their working lives. There are multiple ways that employers can respond; either discover ways to hold on to the best people for longer, or make peace with the idea of being a ‘tour of duty’ and figure out how to align the organisation’s goals with the goals of a workforce that may not be there for the long run.

Lifelong learning

With so many changes to the makeup and drives of the workforce, we need to change the way we think about learning to meet an evolving set of needs. Learning is key to becoming part of an agile squad, but too often companies place people within rigid structures that stymie any sense of responsibility for their own development.

These days, when we want to learn something, we don’t go to a class or course; we look up a video on YouTube or go to an online tutorial and get stuck in. The digital age has made us all self-directed learners, driven by a desire to improve ourselves and follow our passions. ASOS clearly understand this; the online retailer is run by millennials, for millennials, and in a bid to create a learning culture befitting their employees they’ve made a drive to offer 90% ’on demand’ learning.

Organisations need to decouple and truly understand the difference between learning and development, creating an approach in which learning is defined as competencies and capabilities, and development is defined as more of a mindset, encompassing both emotional and mental maturity. Investing in both aspects is crucial to creating a passionate, enthusiastic workforce.

Rapid technological and marketplace change is shrinking the useful lifespan of any given skillset. Software moves on, best practice changes, automation replaces certain roles or tasks. These days, the estimated half life of a skill is now around five years. To combat this, workers will need to shift from acquiring skills and credentials, to pursuing the essential skills for lifelong learning. The challenge for employers is to create a culture for self-driven learning, aligned with the goals of the wider organisation. It’s up to the organisation’s leaders to inspire that curiosity to learn and grow.

Don’t just feed back, feed forward

Feedback is critical for the growth of an organisation’s people, but many companies are set in their ways with biannual or quarterly reviews and numbered ratings. While appraisal programmes have become something of a cottage industry, there’s been little qualitative work done around it. Employees can often spend more time arguing over decimal points than taking comments on board, and many believe the rating system discourages high performers instead of inspiring them.

Companies need to change their culture surrounding feedback, switching from cumbersome review sessions to quick, regular hits. Thanks to the hyper-connected age in which we live, we have the tools at our fingertips to turn the process into something as quick and intuitive as sending a text message or posting a status update. Feedback can become a habit, not a chore.

It may also help to stop ‘feeding back’, and start ‘feeding forwards’. We often place too much importance on how an employee performed in one specific situation. Instead we could focus on how a person might work in the future; how could the orgainsation make better use of their skills? What strengths if developed would make them more productive? What would make them an invaluable team member on other projects?

Courageous conversations

In work, people need some degree of hierarchy in order to do their jobs, but rigid hierarchies can often be constraining when it comes to discovering new ideas and ways of thinking. Despite the best of intentions, organisations and hierarchies can often suppress courage in individuals. But courage is such a vital element in any successful business; having the courage to challenge conventions and force through opinions is the first step to bringing around disruptive new ideas, and disruption brings around change in the market.

Business leaders and their employees need to be willing and able to have ’courageous conversations’; to acknowledge failures without dwelling on them, to make bold choices and back them up with confidence, to face off against investors who may only be interested in short term results.

What role can business leaders play?

People can only succeed and flourish to the extent that the systems around them allow them to do so, and those systems are decided by a business’s leaders. The systems that those leaders choose have to be based on the core philosophy of the business and a true value needs to be placed on them in order to succeed.

Natural Direction’s ethos is all about finding out what people are good at, and then letting that guide what they do in their work. This focus on strengths can be a real accelerator for ambitious businesses looking to find an edge on the competition. We believe that the biggest differentiator for strong businesses will always be leadership; the right leaders can make or break an organisation, and strong leadership is crucial to fuelling learning and igniting the desire to grow.

Martin Coburn, Founder and MD
of Natural Direction
Mental resilience

Mental resilience

Wonder Woman has her Lasso of Truth. James Bond has his Golden Gun. You might not know it, but you’ve got a secret weapon too. It’s called Mental Resilience. And it may be key to your professional success.

Mental resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity or significant sources of stress – it’s the ability to bounce back from difficult experiences. I have read several articles about how to bolster your mental resilience but I am particularly interested in the end game: what can you achieve by cultivating a resilient mindset?

To explore that idea, I sat down with Martin Coburn, Founding Director of Natural Direction, a London-based performance improvement consultancy that helps people build resilience. “Mental resilience is not just a coping mechanism,” Martin explained. “It’s a proactive technique — a game changer that can help you take on bigger opportunities and get better results.”

What kind of results can mental resilience help you achieve?

Looking at change and seeing opportunity

There’s no newsflash here — we work in incredibly uncertain, disruptive times. Seeing this as the norm, and not something you must overcome, is the hallmark of mental resiliency. As Martin explains, “Too many people focus on how to weather the storm. Mentally resilient people see change as the prevailing climate and embrace the opportunities it affords.”

So next time you’re faced with a major shake-up at work instead of asking, “How is this going to impact my current job?” ask, “What new roles might this open up for me?” With this outlook, you may even become an instigator for change!

Making small tweaks that lead to big results

Mentally resilient people are constantly looking for new or better ways to do things. I’m not saying you should strive to invent the next iPhone. I’m taking about making modifications that lead to better outcomes — that’s how innovation happens. Let’s say you’ve got great ideas, but the thought of public speaking has you cowering in the ladies room. Start small, focusing on one change you can easily implement each week. At the end of three months, you may be surprised by how comfortable you are presenting at your end-of-quarter team meeting.

Boosting your confidence to tackle new challenges

Women, in particular, are bad at recognising their strengths and often underplay their abilities in a professional setting. Mentally resilient people are confident in their abilities but realistic about the challenges they face — they know they can look at a problem and find a way to work it out. A “can do” mindset combined with a belief in your expertise can help you overcome anxiety and focus on success. As William James, psychologist and philosopher, once said: “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

Becoming a better salesperson

We’re all in sales, whether we have that title on our business card or not — we constantly have to sell ourselves, our abilities, our opinions. But we can get stuck at a certain level of performance. As Martin explains, “We tend to set our mental thermostats at a fixed temperature – but we’ve all got an internal boiler that is capable of generating massive heat.”

Mental resilience lets you crank up that thermostat so you can have more fruitful conversations and capitalise on more impactful opportunities.

If you’re actually in sales, that process can help you increase your win rate. If not, it may help you sell yourself into a promotion or take the lead on an important initiative.

Building stronger connections

At work, the best performers are not necessarily the ones with the best job skills — they’re the ones who forge and manage relationships. This phenomenon is underscored by Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy in her book “Presence,” in which she explains that warmth, or trustworthiness, is more important than competence.

Mentally resilient people kindle their warmth by connecting and collaborating – attending social events, assisting others, and even asking for help. Using this approach delivers a double benefit — it promotes trust with others while building a social network that can reduce stress and provide emotional support.

Clearly, mental resilience is a secret weapon that you can hone to become a stronger individual, a more valuable employee, and a more successful leader. Best of all, it’s not something you’re born with – it’s a skill that you can learn and develop, whatever your personality type. En garde!

Please watch our recent talk about Emotional Resilience that Martin Coburn gave at London Olympia.

Martin Coburn and Dr. Christine Bailey
The Diving Board: A Silo-Management Tragedy

The Diving Board: A Silo-Management Tragedy

The Board is a team of ten hard-working divers running their business in the beautiful waters of a tropical cove.

Nine of them are best described as a non-synchronised team, all busy looking after their own area of the seabed, bobbing up and down whenever they need air, but rarely at the same time. Their job is to rake the underwater sand into intricate patterns in order to attract and please an elusive shoal of fish. Nobody has ever asked why.

The diving Board work over a circular area only a couple of hundred metres across but never realise how near they are to each other, because their diving and raking keeps churning up the water – which never stops for long enough to let the water clear.

When they come up for air they usually see nobody else, so they just take a deep breath and dive back to the seabed thinking, “Where is everyone…?”, or “If it wasn’t for me this business would fall apart!”

The tenth member of the Board is the CEO. He stays on the surface. Every time one of the others comes up for air he swims towards them as fast as he can. He wants to find out what they're doing and how they are getting on. Sometimes he catches them in time for a short conversation, but usually he's too late and they have already dived. He spends a lot of time on his own, but he enjoys swimming, and it gives him time to think (“Where is everyone?” … “If it wasn’t for me this business would fall apart!” etc.)

Meanwhile down below his divers carry on raking their piece of sand – trying to keep their shoal of fish happy. It’s hard work as the fish never do what they’re told and keep disappearing. In theory, each of the divers also has a trained crab to help with the raking, but in practice he is a difficult character who keeps swimming into the murky waters.

It’s not easy.

Sometimes when divers surface they see other heads bobbing in the distance. They just wave to each other and dive (“Work to do!”).

Every four weeks, following some kind of internal clock, they all surface at the same time.

This is the Board Meeting. A large circle of bobbing heads about 50 metres apart, with the CEO in the middle. Shouting distance.

Board meetings don't last long. It’s hard to hear what anyone else is saying, particularly when they all shout at the same time.

In any case, what’s the point? There is so much to be done below.

One by one the heads disappear and the Diving Board gets back to work.

One day the tide goes out and doesn’t come back. Ten divers are left standing on the seabed in a big circle, looking round at each other, the CEO in the middle.

This is the first time they have seen each other completely, not just as bobbing heads. They had no idea what their colleagues actually looked like. It’s like they had never really met.

They also see, at last, that the sand they had been working on, is just one large strip which they were raking in different directions.

It doesn’t matter any more because now the tide has gone out and all the rake marks have disappeared.

In silent dismay they walk slowly towards each other, trying to make sense of it all.

It doesn’t take long to work out that there was only one shoal of fish, and they’ve gone.

Also, there was only one crab, no wonder he was so hard to pin down.

No sign of him either.

Having a silo mentality reduces efficiency in the workplace, and is likely to be a contributing factor to an ineffective corporate culture.

Our communication programs will assist in combating this business mindset.

For further information, please contact us.

Peter Nowlan – Natural Direction Associate
Resilience Mastery

Above: Foxy briefs some corporate recruits. Photo: @Red5Fotos

Resilience Mastery: We’re teaming up with Channel 4’s SAS stars

Find out how military skills and psychological strategy can make you a warrior in the workplace.

You may have seen our latest training partners tramping through swamps and jungles on Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins. They are Matthew ‘Ollie’ Ollerton and Jason ‘Foxy’ Fox, ex Elite Special Forces soldiers and expert performance trainers.

Military mindset

The pair of veterans are teaming up with Natural Direction to help us run a training programme with real fighting spirit. Their company Break-Point challenges corporate clients to test their limits in “Go Live” experiences involving military Special Forces techniques, as well as strategic training and business performance.

We’re combining their skills with our emotional resilience training in Resilience MasteryTM, a corporate training experience that will strengthen teams, build personal skills and strengths, and above all, help develop the mindset required to beat the most challenging conditions.

Not just mud and press-ups

If you’ve seen SAS: Who Dares Wins you’ll know that a lot of Ollie and Foxy’s training expertise is psychological. Building mental fitness is a huge part of the SAS selection and training process, with recruits facing interrogation situations, challenges to their team members’ loyalty, and tests that demand leadership and decision-making under pressure.

From battlefield to boardroom

While most of us have never served a tour of duty, we know what it’s like when things blow up in our faces. Whether it’s a client catastrophe, an IT meltdown or a regulatory shake-up, crisis hits hard, and leadership teams need to keep their heads and point the way forward for their organisations.

Fighting spirit

When it comes to leadership skills, there’s nothing like mental resilience. It’s what makes the difference between calm coping and dysfunctional panic when crisis strikes. If you’re out of your comfort zone, facing a challenge that seems beyond your abilities, staring down the barrel of a deadline or facing a major set-back at the 11th hour, mental resilience is what gets you through.

Mentally resilient people can bounce back and adapt when things change, overcome adversity, and endure under pressure over longer periods of time than their less skilled peers.

Isn’t it just about personality?

No. Crucially, mental resilience is a skill you can learn and develop, whatever your personality type.

Building mental resilience is like conditioning a muscle. You’ll be making lots of small wins, slowly strengthening your mindset through consistency, discipline and focus. You can’t think your way into it – it’s got to be earned through hard work, just like powerful limbs or strong core muscles.

Think you’re pretty stress-resistant already?

We all vary in our responses to everyday stresses. You might handle a teeming inbox or a tough target without raising an eyebrow. But when something really shakes the business, those who have honed their mental fitness are the ones who really shine.

Strength when it really matters

There are moments in everyone’s career where success or failure rests on a single decision. Like the football player who needs to score a penalty kick, or the tennis star who needs that killer serve to make the grand slam final, you’ve got to get it right first time. Mental resilience gives you the edge to handle the pressure and perform at your best at crucial moments like pitches, job interviews and conference speeches.

Below: Simulated conflict tests the teams. Photo: @Red5Fotos

Resilience Mastery

Business benefits

Mental resilience training has measurable benefits for organisations. Did you know that 30% of what you achieve is down to skills and intelligence? The rest is all about mindset.

A negative mindset can block access to skills and abilities people already possess, and promising candidates can be overlooked at interview because they lack the personal qualities like resilience and emotional intelligence (EQ) that are needed for their dream role.

As the recruits in SAS: Who Dares Wins learned, mental resilience allows teams to rise beyond what they thought was possible, despite varying skills and fitness levels. Playing to your strengths as a team means understanding your collective resources and deploying them in the most effective way possible.

Tips from the pros

Want to get started on training your brain to military standards?

Define your goals – focus on what you want to achieve

Practice daily – make an effort to resist distractions and habits

Play the long game – it takes repetition to see results

Learning that lasts

Don’t just book another away-day. Give your team an event to remember and learning that lasts a lifetime. We’ll equip them with the tools and strategies for emotional resilience, then test their mettle with exciting practical challenges that will embed their learning in an unforgettable team experience.

To find out more about how we can build resilience in your organisation, Call 020 3303 0415 or email through our contact page below.

Click to find out more about Break-Point

Martin Coburn
Where has half the room gone?

Where has half the room gone?

Find out how military skills and psychological strategy can make you a warrior in the workplace.

How many times have you been in a meeting or presentation, and you’ve sensed that whilst 10 people may be present, their presence may not be?

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been in presentations and wondered, “where has half the room gone”? Only last week, I was at a team meeting and – at best – half the room had “disappeared”. A mixture of boredom, tech-fingering, (my personal perennial bete noire), window-gazing, or – even worse still – side conversations; all of which while the presenter, also seemingly in his own world, carried on regardless.

Worst of all, it seems to be accepted. These were all well paid, client facing, “professionals”, who’s raison d’etre every day is to convince people to invest time, money, and effort with them.

Have you ever seen an actor read you the script whilst on stage?

No, me neither. In my first term of drama school, one of the rebukes from our Director was, “I know what the words are; I’ve got them written down in the book. Can I have some acting please?”

Stand-out presentation performance can make a massive difference; when I started out, someone educated me that “buying is emotion justified by fact”. Yet how many presentations have you attended where the emotional connection is not only absent, but actively negative? On this particular occasion I concluded the following three reasons why half the room “left”. What’s your experience?

  1. Tech on the table:
    Whilst I know that for generation X this appears to be acceptable behaviour, (apparently even on dates), it’s not for the meeting room. Ban all tech other than that which is really needed. No individual tech, or surreptitious texting under the table.

  2. Meeting etiquette:
    No chit-chat! OK, so the odd comment to your neighbour at a light bulb moment is fine but anything over five seconds and I would recommend a distraction fund. A crisp £20 note for the Secret Santa fun perhaps? (In the meeting I am referencing, there were three people behind me who talked for nearly twenty minutes – and they were our hosts!)

  3. Twenty First Century Presenting:
    This is the big one. Why has the art of presenting moved at such a relative glacial pace? It is the one major reason the audience – the people you want to influence – “zone out”. How many deals have been lost through poor communication and presenting, despite your excellent win plan, customer relationships, and superior offering?

A few top tips to consider when you are next presenting, meeting someone, or wanting to influence:

  • A good place to start is to think about the state you want your audience to leave in – sounds obvious, but how many times have you thought about that? And do you know how to achieve it?
  • Enjoy it – what are you normally thinking and more importantly feeling before you present? Going to nail this? Did I leave the iron on? Can’t wait till this is over?
  • Capture and reflect your audience’s “model of the world” – big picture or specific? Visual or auditory? Reflective or decisive?

To communicate effectively – to one or many – requires the right skills and beliefs; it can be absence or presence of the appropriate skills and beliefs that hinder or empower you. One thing is for sure – they are within you, whether you realise it or not.

If you'd like to know more, get in touch with us today!

Stephen Blakely – Natural Direction Facilitator
Resilience Mastery

Are We Ready For The Future?

I recently facilitated at an event entitled ‘Thinking The Unthinkable’, where an elite group of luminaries were invited to discuss if, and how, corporate leadership needs to change in the face of hitherto unforeseen happenings that are disrupting not only the world in which we live, but also the world in which we work.

Speaking at the event were the authors of a report on this topic Nik Gowing and Chris Langdon, who’s research to date has concluded that, amongst other findings, “Unthinkable” events since 2014 have revealed a new leadership fragility at the highest levels and the pace of change in 2016 shows that the uncertainties are greater than ever. Is this the “new normal?”

The discussion aimed to explore whether the ‘luminaries’ (leaders from business and the armed forces) feel that businesses and leaders are adequately prepared for events that are unforeseen, unthinkable or even unpalatable!

Views were varied and spanned a spectrum from, "Unforeseen events have been happening from the beginning of time and we wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t coped", to a sense that the overwhelming knock on geopolitical effect caused by conflict in the Middle East and mass migration had left the business world searching for answers!

One of the most interesting points made was about how Risk Functions in the majority of organisations are focused on risks associated with the 2008 global financial crisis e.g. financial risk, regulatory risk and reputational risk.

Research indicates that 80% of organisations place little or no focus on strategic risk. i.e. Risks associated with their current products, strategy and market position.

Whilst unthinkable events inevitably affect strategy, it’s the inability of organisations and leaders to disrupt themselves that is a potential show stopper in the digital age.

US headquartered giants such as Blackberry and Blockbuster were cited as examples of companies who patently failed to manage strategic risk. They held on to a belief, until it was too late, that their products and services would be valued in the long term. The stark reality is that Blockbuster were valued at $4.8 billion in 2000 and filed for bankruptcy in 2010!

Disrupting their business model would have meant purchasing Netflix which they were offered for $50 million in 2000.

Blockbuster is a prime example of how human beings and organisations are prone to cognitive dissonance or the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change when facing up to outcomes they would rather ignore.

In short – leaders and organisations need to urgently develop new mindsets, cultures and behaviours or the unthinkable may just happen to them.

If you would like to know more, get in touch with us for a free consultation on how we can help your business performance and strategy.

Darrell Burberry – Natural Direction Facilitator
The EU Referendum

The EU Referendum; 3 lessons in how NOT to pitch

Securing new business pitches and winning bids is essential to the success of most organisations. All too often the process is rushed and messages are unclear, leading to underwhelming pitches and loss of much needed revenue.

1. Make it easy for people to say yes

The pitches used by both the Remain and Leave camps left voters unclear and confused. I am not even sure people knew why they were voting the way they were!

On large volume contracts, the difference between winning and losing is often marginal. The referendum was no different. With hours of time invested and large amounts of money at risk, you need to demonstrate clearly and persuasively why prospective buyers should choose you. It’s not the best companies that are always successful, it’s the best sold.

Our task as a pitching team is to make it easy for people to say yes and hard to say no to your ideas. People are essentially lazy and won’t try that hard to work out the difference, that’s the task of the pitch team.

To do this, your messages should be clear and succinct, and supported by clear benefits for your buyers that speak directly to their needs. Talk about the positive impact your offer will provide or the negative impact it will prevent.

The Remain camp majored on the fear of the unknown rather than positive impact of Remaining as part of the EU, failing to appeal and convince many parts of the country, where personal economics rather than business, played a greater part in decision making.

2. Know your Audience!

We have heard this a thousand times and I am saying it again. Why; because although we know we should understand our buyer – there is part of us that is reluctant. I see this over and over again working with bid teams.

Pitch teams dutifully ask questions to seek to understand their buyers, but can they get past what they don’t want to hear? Are they really facing up to the fact that their arguments are potentially flawed?

We find ourselves arguing against what we are hearing, bias kicks in and we start to become blind to what our buyer is telling us. Are we really listening for the truth? Are we facing up to the weaknesses in our pitch? It’s hard.

We don’t want to hear it. It feels negative. The pitch team has the challenge of on one hand being positive and believing they can win, but at the same time being realistic about their chances of winning against their competitors.

You have to do both.

As a pitch coach it’s my job to make sure they do. I use this technique. So the decision has gone against you and sadly you have lost. All the hard work and investment has come to nothing. Tell me what was the reason you lost. What went wrong? What are they likely to say if the outcome was sorry but NO!

By the way, at this point, in reality, it’s amazing how our willingness to listen improves!

So go there now. Feel what it feels like. Stand in your audience’s shoes and ask the difficult questions now.

In my experience people start being more honest with themselves. With the answers to these questions you can revisit your pitch and make sure you are really speaking to peoples’ concerns and needs.

Did the Remain camp do this? Definitely not! They became too arrogant and blind to the truth of how people were feeling on important issues.

3. Don’t ignore the emotional

We would like to think people make decisions logically and that if we present the facts then people will be clear as to why they should choose you over your competition. The reality is it plays a part and you do need to present a clear logical argument supported by facts, but if that is all you do you will be missing a much greater driver behind decision making; the way people feel. When asked what’s important to you, prospective buyers are more likely to list rational reasons but in reality they get trumped when there is an unmet emotional need. The skill is in uncovering these emotional needs through listening in between the lines. What are you hearing versus what are they really saying? British people by and large prefer to be polite and avoid confrontation. They are unlikely to say; the truth is we don’t like you! We just don’t feel comfortable. I am fearful of making the wrong decision. I have to keep my boss happy. I prefer to play it safe. Etc. etc.

Why? It sounds weak and flimsy. It’s not intelligent, logical thinking. So what do we do? We use logical arguments to justify emotional decisions.

This was the biggest failing of the Remain campaign. To recognize the feeling of unease that people are experiencing from the rate of change the EU has brought to Britain. It’s not that it’s a wrong course of action, it’s more about the need for control and the people of Britain feeling we were lacking control. This is a very strong emotion and one that was grossly underestimated. Sure there are other reasons but most I would propose are emotionally fuelled reasons for voting Leave.

I have only touched on three lessons, there are many more from this Referendum campaign that highlight once again how important both the art and science of pitching is to convincing and persuading an audience, and in this case 30 million people.

We have developed 10 Disciplines of pitching that when followed and executed to a high standard have proven to consistently increase win rates.

Call us to find out more how we can help you dramatically increase your conversion rates and win more clients.

Darrell Burberry – Natural Direction Facilitator
High Performing Teams Review

High Performing Teams Review

Team work is not a virtue; it simply doesn’t just happen by accident.

Joe Folkman, in his latest Forbes article, talks about 5 dimensions demonstrated by team leaders that contribute significantly to high performance team behaviour.

In my own experience, conducting 100’s of workshops with intact teams, many of the dimensions that Joe highlights feature amongst the behaviours I see the leaders of high performing teams consistently demonstrating.

I have always believed it all starts with the leader, in fact when I have not been able to get the results I felt were possible, it rarely was to do with the capability and even the desire within the team, but most often it was the failing of the leader to perform their role.

  • Do you provide inspiration to those around you?
  • Do you act as a catalyst and resolve conflict so the team can perform?
  • Do you set stretch goals for the team, do they know how high the bar has been set?
  • How well and often do you communicate the vision and direction of the business?

I tell my clients to try and get feedback that you over communicate, and then you will just about be hitting the target.

And finally and arguably the bedrock of all peak performing teams – trust.

Trusting others so they feel confident in their own ability. Building trust between team members such that little time is wasted on unproductive behaviours.

Enjoy the read and think about how they apply to your leadership.

Click here to read Joe's full article.

Martin Coburn
Does Coaching Pay Dividends?

Does Coaching Pay Dividends?

In recent years there has been an enormous surge in the use of coaching as a tool for leadership development.

Most leaders will have either experienced the support of an executive coach or attended a programme to equip themselves with the tools and skills to be a better coach for their own teams. The question is, what impact can a coaching culture really have on the success of organisation?

Zenger Folkman’s research into the competencies that differentiate good from extraordinary leaders has found that effective coaching has a greater effect on culture change than any other skill or management technique commonly taught in leadership development programmes.

  • Leaders that are most effective at coaching will have three times more employees willing “go the extra mile”
  • When your leaders add coaching to their existing strengths they are ten times more likely to become a top tier leader.

A recent white paper article by Dr Jack Zenger and Dr Joe Folkman outlines the steps for creating a coaching culture and the impact this can have on 5 important organisational outcomes:

  • Improved productivity
    Coaching has a great impact on employee productivity and their willingness to exert maximum effort

  • Greater employee engagement

    Employees who are coached regularly feel a greater level of engagement and commitment

  • Improved retention
    Leaders who are good coaches have fewer employees who think about quitting

  • Employee development
    Employees who receive coaching and feedback, and are given the opportunity to improve their skills are less likely to leave, and are more committed to the organisation

  • Perceived supervisor effectiveness
    Coaching impacts the overall opinions that employees have about their boss.

The research is clear, leadership coaching can make the difference between success and failure, and leaders that can coach and inspire purposeful and positive action, are more valuable than ever before.

We are delighted that Jack Zenger will be speaking at our forthcoming Breakfast Workshop on 29 April. To sign up for your complimentary place please contact The full Zenger Folkman article can be accessed here.

Martin Coburn
Put To The Test

Put To The Test

Matt King’s, first ever paid rugby game, was a moment that would change his life – but not the way he thought it would.

The pinnacle moment of an up-and-comer’s career after an arduous training schedule was to become a professional player. He’d made it. Just 20 seconds into the game and Matt was tackled to the ground. In that moment his life was re-tracked. His neck had been broken and he was paralysed. His rugby career was over just as it had begun. What is a 17 year old to think when he’s being told the harsh reality that this accident would result in his future confined to a wheelchair?

Matt was faced with a choice: to wish his life away or build a new life and vision. "Everything changed in that split second on the pitch and my goals and aspirations altered along with it. But it didn’t change the person I am or the fact I want to make the most of my life.”

After 9 months in 3 hospitals and a long, tough journey through rehabilitation, he went back to school. He studied for his A-Levels, pushed through for a law degree, attended law school and became a solicitor. Undertaking mouth-painting and completing the New York marathon carrying the Olympic torch in 2012, Matt also received an OBE for charitable work and has written one of the most inspiring books I’ve read, detailing his experience.

His ethos was simple ‘failure was not an option’.

Tony Rae introduced me to Matt King and I see him as an embodiment of what emotional resilience looks like. Overcoming the severe mental and physical trauma that had been inflicted upon him, he has achieved more than what many will do despite the setbacks.

I am delighted Matt will be joining me on Wednesday at our talk on Emotional Resilience and our life enhancing programme ‘Power Up Your Performance’ where we will talk through the 7 Natural Powers we all have access to, demonstrated to their highest level by Matt himself.

Join us on the 3rd February at 3pm in Olympia, Theatre 10.

Martin Coburn
Emotional Resilience

You Want Them to Change? Strengthening your Emotional Resilience

‘It’s all good and well you telling me that I can choose my emotions, but you should meet my boss – the guy’s a self-serving ego-centred prize jerk and he drives me nuts!’ one of my delegates recently told me.

Don’t we all know someone that pushes our buttons like that? The question is not if they are out there but how do we deal with them? How often do you get wound up and react to the way other people behave? I get a lot of my clients saying ‘he or she shouldn’t say that or act or behave that way, It’s not right and they should know better or whatever. They want me to agree with how wrong the others are in an attempt to get some temporary relief from the anger they are experiencing. Does it help?

Whilst I might agree that the behaviour they experience is not right, my concern is that their whole recipe for feeling better is predicated on another person changing their behaviour. Not a very reliable strategy! Change takes time and that’s assuming somebody wants to. People have their issues, and often, when under pressure those issues cause people to act in very unresourceful ways. It’s not about you, you just happen to be on the receiving end of their inability to self-regulate their emotions. The person inflicting the upset is probably blissfully unaware or simply chooses to act in a way that supports their own survival or coping mechanism. For example they may shout you down or become aggressive and controlling because they have learned this as a way of coping in stressful high-pressure situations. You simply cannot change this behaviour pattern overnight. You will only become more frustrated if you try.

Whilst I am not saying we should accept inappropriate behaviour from others, we can relieve ourselves of some stress by letting go of the demand that they should act differently or change. Put your focus instead on letting go of the need to correct, that's their problem to fix! Practice the choice to choose and not let others control how you feel. You can choose whether you allow their behaviour to ruin your day. You choose if you are going to be angry or frustrated or upset. You choose if you want to remain in control of your day, your work and your mood. The real power over how you feel is in you. Own your personal power. It’s the greatest gift we have as humans. Use it.

Martin Coburn

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