Author Archive

What we can learn about leadership from Santa!

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

santa and elves 2018 It’s a busy time of year for the big man, but we caught up with him recently to find out how he motivates the team to deliver, year on year on year. Here is a selection box of top tips…

Set a clear and understandable vision

“Our vision was revised about 2 years ago and now embraces the digital age, however it’s important to me that everybody is on board and understands the vision and how we can translate it into action. We had a launch of the revised vision back in 2016, however we ensure we bring the vision to life at every opportunity. I strongly believe every Elf could tell you how they contribute to the vision and why it’s important.”

Communicate regularly

“Communication has been so important for us and we don’t always get it right! In 2017 we had some Elf and safety issues with the hover boards, and this wasn’t communicated to the workshop and some faulty goods went out. I now communicate through regular team meetings and ensure everyone receives the message. Through regular 1:1s with the Elves, myself and the head Elves we check that the message has been received as intended, and there is an opportunity for the elves to ask questions to further their understanding”.

Always be honest

“I am always honest with the Elves” states Father Christmas. “I give regular feedback on performance and behaviours. What’s most important, I believe, is catching people doing things right and recognise those behaviours, so often this can be missed”

Trust your team

“You need to be able to trust your team. In 2017 I caught the terrible bug that was going around. I really had to put my trust in the team that they would have everything ready and they did (of course). I never doubted it, I think sometimes I need to let go a bit more and just leave them to get on with it!”

Be authentic

“Finally, be yourself”, says Father Christmas. “I always make sure I am myself, so people know that when I give my hearty laugh its genuine, and that’s important because it builds trust. I am also not afraid to celebrate what is unique about me and I dare to be different. Let’s be honest, there are not many men of my stature that would wear a red coat but that’s me, it reflects who I am and its authentic!

If you would like to spend 2019 working on being an authentic and inspiring leader why not treat yourself to our Leadership Programme. Click here to check out our video of previous delegates and their experience.

Michelle’s a winner at the York Press Awards

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

The Press Business Awards 2018. Picture by David Harrison. What a night! We are so proud that our Michelle scooped a key award last week at the Press Awards winning “Business Personality of the Year”.

The award was in recognition of the journey Michelle has been on since setting up the business in 2011.

And what a journey it has been too. In early 2011, Michelle was working in a large corporate and after some soul searching, realised that two of her core values, “Making a Difference” and “Having Fun” were not being realised and she needed to do something quite different to achieve this. So, in the summer of 2011, after spending a leadership day with horses (there’s another story!) she created a vision and took her passion and set up Pro-Development. From working in the back of her garage in Wilberfoss, Michelle is now running a successful business with a team of 5 supporting the growth of over 60 SMEs in Yorkshire and the Humber.

The judges said “It was a really tough category this year as all the finalists had different personalities and all inspiring in their own right. They said awarding the title to Michelle is a testament to the true grit and determination she has shown to start a business from scratch and her passion has been a driving force”.

The presenter of the award shared “The judges felt Michelle has an infection personality and we can all clearly see that and the award is also in recognition for the work she does more widely outside of the business to support the local community including recently becoming the new Chair of York Professionals.

Collecting the award, Michelle had a standing ovation and the presenter said “We’ve had some responses in this room over the years but never one quite like that”! He then went onto to ask Michelle about why she felt she was such a popular choice. She said: “Well it has certainly been a journey but one of the things I have loved about setting up and building the business is all the amazing people I have met along the way. My team are incredible and a lot of the people in the room today have supported me on the journey, clients who are in the room who have also won awards and many people who have become good friends. I am very lucky”.

Congratulations Michelle

Experience is the best teacher

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

learn I must Ever wondered about the best learning experience you ever had? I’ve been chatting with Vicky Deighton this week about this and she shared her best learning experience.

“I remember the first time I got into a light aircraft, it was a sunny day in August and I had decided to try and overcome my fear of flying. I was driving past an airfield and heard the buzz of the light aircraft, I pulled over and thought ‘I’m going to give it a go’.

I clearly remember the feeling as I got into the aircraft, it was a 2 seater little iddy biddy thing and this young chap sat next to me, the instructor, exuded confidence as we taxied out. We got airborne and I recall just looking around me thinking ‘I want to get out’. Two weeks later and I am back and this time I decided to try another flying school and a different instructor. This guy gave me control and told me I was ‘going to do the take-off’. As soon as we were airborne, he gave me control again and I just remember thinking ‘I love this’. What was the difference between the two experiences? Well there was nothing technically wrong with the first one, apart from I didn’t get a chance to try it. The second experience was completely hands on, I got a chance to try nearly all of the techniques, I was completely stretched outside of my comfort zone and when I landed I was exhilarated.

This learning experience that I had was completely experiential – that is I got to physically try out some of the techniques in a real-life situation. You may have heard of experiential learning before, according to Kolb we learn through experiencing, reflecting, analysing and testing and it’s this kind of learning that is likely to stick.”

Vicky’s conversation got me thinking more about our approach to experiential learning. At Pro-Development our Management Development Programme takes experiential learning to the next stage. Not only do our participants get to experience really life changing practical exercises that are completely unique, they then get to explore how these unique experiences apply to their leadership style and how they show up in their behaviours.

Imagine spending a day with Horses – these beautiful animals have a unique way of reading us and our intentions and they respond accordingly. Or perhaps you have spent the day with like minded people in the cookery school, preparing a menu with other team members. What does this have to do with leadership you might ask? This is where the experiential learning comes in, because as we raise our self-awareness, we observe how our behaviour unfolds, and this helps us to connect with how our thoughts, emotions and behaviours show up at work.

As for the comfort zone thing, it is these experiences that take us into a situation and or environment that stretches us outside our comfort zone. This is such a gift because it is when we are stretched a little, that our comfort zone expands.

At Pro-Development we feel very blessed to be able to offer this programme to our clients, and we know they are having some life changing experiences. If you are interested in finding out about how this amazing programme may be able to support you or someone you know, get in touch we would love to talk to you about it. Our video also gives a good overview of what to expect.

Values and a horse called Opus changed my life

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Michelle & Opus nuzzling This was the statement that headed up the entry for York Press Business Awards “Business Personality of the Year” and which resulted in me being shortlisted down to 3! I’ve been overwhelmed by the messages I have received in the last few days since the award was announced and just wanted to put together a few words about my journey that has led me to be writing this blog tonight!

About 8 years ago, I found myself disengaged from the organisation I worked for and was unhappy both in my work life and my home life. A dear friend gave me the opportunity to spend a leadership day working with horses in Warwick. I was intrigued. I went. The learnings from that day changed my life forever!

I made a bold decision which had some significant consequences. I had always wanted to set up my own business but felt trapped and needed to do something about it. So, I decided my passion and determination would be enough to make it work, and in 2011, I did it!

Pro-Development saved my life

Again, another bold statement, but setting up Pro-Development was the scariest but most thrilling step I’d made in my career. I felt more alive than I had in many years. I spent time creating a vision and purpose and quickly established that I wanted to work with SMEs in Yorkshire, helping to support their growth through focusing on the engagement and development of their people. I was excited! Six months in, I became a single mum! Not part of the plan, but my husband no longer wanted to be part of the journey I was taking and it was clear our values were not aligned. A very tough time but it certainly gave me a renewed focus on making the business work! I networked! And networked some more! I love Yorkshire and quickly made some amazing connections and friends along the way. I have been inspired by the generosity of time and kindness from others who have been a part of my journey. Within a year, I had grown the business enough to ensure that Pro-Development could bring on board a wonderful colleague I had worked with previously. Sue was very keen to get involved, and so Pro-Development became the dynamic duo.

The power of Networking

Networking was one of the things that kept me sane in the early days. Meeting other like-minded people, the help and advice, the connections, the partnerships and friends I made. The benefits for me were endless. And, guess what, it did win me business! Apart from the client we won through our kids at school (yes, honestly, our biggest client came about through the children asking for and swapping business cards in the playground), we have secured some of our best clients through people we have met at networking. And, best of all, I get the opportunity to give back to others and spend time with them, understanding and helping them to achieve their goals and make the connections they need. The icing on the cake? Being approached by York Professionals to join their Board of Directors earlier this year and then last month being asked to take on the Chair. What an honour and privilege to be part of such a fantastic team of people who work so hard to raise the profile of professionals in and around York. Love it!

Employee Engagement is the key

Whilst working in a previous organisation I had become interested in employee engagement and also became involved in the work of Engage for Success. So, for the last few years, I have run workshops, volunteering my time to help raise this important issue and bring it to the attention of local business owners. Last year alone, over 150 businesses attended our workshops and left with action plans for how they were going to make their business a great place to work. This year, the team challenged me to reach over 200 businesses and to speak at 20 different events. Becoming a speaker was certainly never part of my plan and was something I felt very uncomfortable doing, but the challenge was set. I overcame my demons, and now have done over 20 speaking events this year. I am even starting to love doing them!

How have I achieved this?

Since I’ve started speaking at events, a number of people have come up to me afterwards saying they have been inspired to do something different and asked what inspired me. People inspire me. Since setting up the business I have been delighted at the amazing people who have come into both my personal and work life. I know that I am at my best when I am surrounded with inspiring people. My team inspire me, with their ideas, their work ethic, their honesty and commitment. My children inspire me, every day and keep me grounded. A boss I worked for in my 20s inspired me, he saw potential in me and encouraged me to undertake my degree despite leaving school after my GCSEs with the no big aspirations or career plans. People are where I get my energy for life and the determination to make a difference to other people and businesses.

The future

Is exciting! Pro-Development continues to grow; moving from the back of the garage to our lovely office near Fulford; tripling our amazing team; adding new systems and processes; creating new products and services; working with more fantastic clients; and lots of inspiring partners. My life has changed beyond all recognition over the last 7 years: long may it continue!

Lack of investment in developing managers and leaders

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

leadership oct 18 We are rapidly approaching the end of another year and yet we are still seeing a lack of investment in management and leadership skills in many SMEs. We often hear managers and leaders say they have had no formal development in this area and many just assumed the role because they were good at their job, however they are unsure of what expectations are placed upon them in a leadership role.

The Employer skills survey 2017 found that in terms of people or personal skill found to be lacking, management and leadership skills contributed to more than half of all skills gaps (53%).

Evidence suggests that best-practice management development can result in a 23% increase in organisational performance and significantly improve levels of employee engagement (source Dept BIS). Investing in your leaders and manager then would seem to have some very tangible business benefits.

Are you considering investing in your leadership and management capability? If so, we would encourage you talk to us about our experiential approach to learning that is creating transformational and embedded change in the businesses we work with. We don’t just talk about the leadership theory, we step into it and experience it. Click here to view our video of delegates who have experienced our Management Development Programme and if you would like to know more, email us at info@pro-development.co.uk

Deadening and Demoralising?

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

demotivated person at desk oct newsletter “People are reporting that they find work a mixture of crushing, deadening and/or demoralising. Their workload is often heavy and relentless and there is little or no support.” – Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Is this you?

What is interesting is that we can be the cause of this, for example, we place unrealistic expectations on ourselves, we over promise or manage others in a way that is demotivating i.e. not giving recognition, going through the motions at appraisal, not listening (need we go on!). What then happens if that these behaviours become our new norm. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, these new norms that we create consequences on employee engagement levels and worryingly, in 2018 UK engagement levels are in decline! That’s not good for the you, your business and the UK economy.

So, what can you do?

• Start to notice your habits and norms that have been formed.

• Do your habits and norms need challenging?

• Challenge others in their daily practices.

• What new norms have they developed that are having a detrimental impact?

• Take time out to listen to people – really listen!

• Have more honest conversations.

• Be brave and call it when it’s all too much.

• Be present and notice the signs of deadening and demoralising actions in others and take positive action.

If you are interested in finding out the levels of employee engagement in your business, why not contact us for a conversation about how we can work with you to take positive action, injecting new life and increasing the va va voom!

A new job…frightening and scary or spookily good?

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

woman scared 0ct 18 If you would have asked me last year where I would see myself in a year’s time, my answer would certainly not have been ‘employed’.

As a business owner of 8.5 years, I considered myself ‘unemployable’ and thought that my attitudes and values would only really fit with working for myself. Fast forward a year and I can now tell you I have just completed my first month working for Pro-Development and find I am employed and enjoying it.

If I am honest, it was more that 1 year ago that I realised something was missing from my working life. It wasn’t the work as I had the pleasure to work with many fantastic clients. Nor was it the business associates, again I have worked with a number of people who have made a big impact in my life. No, it was this feeling of being part of something bigger… it was something I couldn’t put my finger on, but later I worked out that it was being part of a team. I hadn’t realised just how much missing this could impact on my work and more importantly my motivation, I am sure many business owners out their can resonate with this.

So I decided to put explore my options and through some great connections found the opportunity. After an assessment centre and a number of meetings I was offered the position and was so delighted… and scared too. The emotions I experienced before I started were a real mix, excitement, anticipation and happiness that I would be in a team again and working on some exciting projects. Also worry and concern that I had done the right thing in closing my business. A hotch potch of emotions which felt like they were a contradiction and I am still processing some of them 3 weeks later.

When I now reflect on my decision and it feels like a good one and here’s why:

1. Effective Team Relationships

I mentioned before that when I worked for myself something was missing. It wasn’t always like that, but I noticed that when I was no longer in any kind of partnership, it really hit home. Let’s be honest, it can be a bit lonely working on your own, and for me that was definitely the case. I get energised by mixing with and working with others, in fact I get some of my best ideas by talking out thoughts with someone else. Already I have noticed the benefits of being part of the Pro-Development team and feel like I am building some great relationships.

2. Learning New Things

As a facilitator and coach, I always want to make sure I am working with the right tools and techniques to ensure that my client gets the best outcomes. I think it has been easy to just work with the tools and methodologies I know, rather than trying something new. Since I have been working with Michelle, Sue, Kath and Steph I am already learning new things and this is exciting me, it means I get to try this out with my clients and get a little stretched out of my comfort zone.

3. Further Reach

Whilst I have worked with a number of wonderful clients, there is no doubt that Pro-Development have some amazing clients and have a great reach. I often reflected that I wanted to reach further and help more fabulous people have their light bulb moment. I realise now that I can definitely do that in this team and again this is very motivating for me.

4. More Structure

I am really pleased to have a little more structure in my working life now. Whilst I don’t want the regiment of a strict 9 – 5 that I had in my corporate life, when I worked on my own I found that I wasn’t always as structured as I needed. Don’t get me wrong, one of the reasons that I liked the idea of Pro-Development was their flexible working approach and I now fell like I have a good balance.

5. Motivation

I have noticed that my motivations levels are up, and it feels nice to be part of something bigger than myself. The last 4 weeks has gone so quickly, and I am looking forward to what is to come. I also find that I have more space to think about this, rather than worrying about other business-related stuff. So you might ask – has it been a bit scary getting a new job with the awesome Pro-Development team? Yes, I think it has, but scary isn’t always a bad thing is it? Scary means taking a chance, making a change, being accountable and ultimately trying something new. As Eleanor Roosevelt said ‘Do one thing that scares you every day, those small things that make us uncomfortable help us build courage’. Life means change and this is one change that I am so glad I made.

Is a lack of focus on employee engagement impacting on increased mental ill health?

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

engaged-workplace I was talking with a prospective client this week who are concerned at the increase they are seeing in sickness due to Mental ill health. It was interesting as they had mixed thoughts as they wondered whether it was good that people were now feeling able to say that their sickness is due to mental ill health. Regardless, it was a big concern to them! And quite right too. With Mental Health Awareness day yesterday, it highlighted again the importance of this to our businesses. We’ve been discussing this quite a bit at work here and with our existing clients.

The Mental Health foundation share “For many of us, work is a major part of our lives. It is where we spend much of our time, where we get our income and often where we make our friends. Having a fulfilling job can be good for your mental health and general wellbeing.” A recent article in the guardian shared research that showed that of the people they were working with who were suffering from mental ill health, around 87% of them were not happy at work!

At Pro-Development we’re working really hard to help local businesses with this issue through our employee engagement work. We know that in the businesses that we work with who are actively working on their employee engagement and looking at ways to engage and develop their people, they have a happy and healthy workforce.

So what are you doing?

Do you know how engaged people are in your business and if people have a good sense of wellbeing at your workplace?

Are you doing enough to engage your people and in the right areas?

To find out more about our approach to employee engagement, click here. Or, why not come along to our next workshop on the morning of the 17th October, by clicking here to book your place. Just £30 + VAT + booking fee for the morning including refreshments followed by a light lunch.or more information and to book your place.

One of our clients who we have worked with now for 5 years has recently achieved a whopping 96% engagement score in their business and their team LOVE working for them. What difference would it make to your workplace if you could improve your employee engagement?

Being authentic at work

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

authentic pic 2018 Here’s a question we get asked a lot – How can you remain authentic when you act differently at work than at home?

We call this difference between home and work as being your “professional self”. By this we mean staying true to your values and what is important to you at work, however, how you communicate and interact with people is slightly different than you would in your personal life, less familiar maybe. For example, at work how you make your decisions, prioritise work and rationalise things remain true to your values. You then pay more consideration in how to communicate this is a way that will help to influence the outcome, by adapting your style to suit the audience. At home, we perhaps wouldn’t consider how we communicated our message quite so much (or maybe we should!)

We see this as very different to people who put on a façade, a mask, some people even say they put on armour to become the person they need to be at work. Quite often in these situations people are not living to their values, having to make decisions and take actions or behave in ways that are not aligned to self and perhaps more aligned to the culture and the values of the organisation, this then impacts on authenticity.

Our challenge to you:

• Are you being true to your values at work?

• How does your professional self show?

• If you put on a façade or wear amour at work, consider what you can do to bring more of your professional self?

Our Management Development Programme helps leaders and managers become truly inspirational and authentic leaders. Our next programme starts in the Autumn so if you think this is something that would benefits you, your managers and your business, click here for further details or contact us at info@pro-development.co.uk

Being vulnerable

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

vulnerability 2018 Have you ever shown your vulnerability at work? Yikes it’s a scary thought! However, when people share their vulnerability, it tends to break down barriers, shows a more human side and people are more likely to trust you and connect with you.

Showing a vulnerability demonstrates honesty and openness and displays trust in one another. Now let’s put a little bit of context around this. We are not talking about you declaring to the world you can’t do your job, that is perhaps making you a little too vulnerable! We are talking about a level of vulnerability that says, “do you know what, I am aware that XYZ isn’t my strong point, but I am working on it”. Your reaction to this is likely be one of support or encouragement (one would imagine).

We have personal experience of working with someone who showed not one inch of vulnerability. It was fascinating to watch the group interact with this infallible person. They actively started to sabotage him to affect his performance! Why? Because they could not connect with him and he became an outsider to the group and the groups goals.

If you show some vulnerability, particularly as a leader, it is highly likely that you will encourage others to do the same (provided there are no detrimental consequences to doing so). When the whole team can operate in this manner then the trust you have within the team will be a real strength for you to draw upon to and help your team become a high performing one.

Questions for you…

• Are you aware of your strengths and your areas of development?

• Have you shared these with others and shown your vulnerabilities?

• Is a lack of trust affecting your team’s performance?

We have a range of tools that can help you develop in this area from Disc 363 which provides you with feedback on your strengths and development areas through to employee engagement surveys that can identify trust levels in your organisation. If you would like to explore this area further why not call us on 01904 628838 for a chat.