Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

So….what’s going right?

Now there is a question. What is going right for you now? It’s very easy to focus on all the negative things that are happening, yet we can overlook some of the positives that are happening, the things that make us flourish. So, we have thought about the positive things that have happened to Pro-Development throughout the pandemic. This can feel awkward, and it’s not to say it hasn’t been hard because of course, it has and still is….BUT some things have gone right and here are a few.

• We have had some of the best conversations as a team
• We have gained some new clients
• We have gained access to funding pots for our clients
• We have tidied the office (well, Michelle did – LOL)
• We have developed our processes
• We have developed as individuals, taking the time to learn new things
• We have developed our offerings and are now providing online services
• We have had fun with our virtual team nights in/out as opposed to out/out
• We have had a haircut (well some of us!)

Our challenge to you.

1. We challenge you to capture 3 things each day this week of things that are going right.

2. Note the difference this makes to your mood.

3. If you feel a positive difference, set the same challenge to your work colleagues.

If you feel you would benefit from some coaching and mentoring to help move from a negative to a positive mindset contact us on info@pro-development.co.uk. Click here to find out more about our coaching and we also are excited to be able to offer funded mentoring through the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges.

Fabulous and Fantastic

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

In a few weeks we will be starting a new Management Development Programme with 6 leaders/ managers who are looking to develop their skills and confidence in this area, which is fantastic.

We are really excited about this, and here’s why?

This is a clear message to us that, although many of us have been through difficult times, there are opportunities out there – how fabulous is that! We all just need to keep going and keep believing and keep working together. Together we are formidable!

Secondly, this demonstrates that some businesses are really seeing the importance of having strong leadership as we start to reintegrate and move into recovery. Leaders/managers will need to have a strong sense of self, a high degree of emotional intelligence and a skill set that can compassionately and respectfully lead and manage some new types of conversations and situations that are likely to emerge. In fact, we are already seeing challenges coming through including team conflict, working arrangements, and social distancing not being respected in the workplace.

The issue we have seen in many businesses is that the leaders/managers are often promoted into positions due to their technical excellence, sometimes we have seen it where the manager position goes to the person who has been there the longest. This is nothing new but the road to recovery is! Businesses will need talented, emotionally intelligent leaders to re-motivate and engage individuals and teams that have been impacted in recent months.

Our next programme starting in September is nearly full, and we would like to thank those businesses for supporting us. This means that in turn, we can support our local suppliers which is just fantastic. However, it’s not too late and there are still a couple of places left if you’re interested.

If you would like fabulous leaders/managers and feel your leaders/ managers would benefit from some support as we move forward, please contact us on info@pro-development.co.uk. We have lots of options ranging from on-line events to our fantastic 7 month experiential programme. Fabulous news too, 40% funding is available for eligible SMEs in the Leeds City Region through the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges. Click here to find out more.

Getting into Flow

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

We’ve been discussing focus and flow as a team the last couple of weeks and it was interesting to hear different thoughts on this.

A couple of the team have been really struggling with keeping focussed. They’ve shared how they turn on their laptop to do some work and before they know it, they are checking out the price of a new BBQ or reading up on the flowering season of a clematis!

However, working from home, some of the team are finding that they are in flow for long periods of time as they are getting no distractions. The day has gone by, work has flown out the door like there is no tomorrow. This is what we refer to as ‘in the zone’ and it is also known as the ‘flow state’.

How to get into the flow state

Find a quiet environment

Hilarious we hear you cry. Well yes, undoubtably hard if you are working from home – particularly with kids around in the school holidays, but not impossible. Just remember, the office environment is often full of hustle and bustle too, so it is difficult to find the right environment – but if you need to concentrate, you may just have to be a little creative to find it!

Avoid distractions

With teenagers at home, the number of times the Amazon delivery person has distracted us is ridiculous, so maybe we can’t avoid that one (unless they stop ordering things). However, we can turn off email alerts (annoying things that they are), hide our phone so social media doesn’t tempt us, empty our heads using a mind map so when other thoughts enter our head, we know we have it captured to deal with another time.

Do something that you are interested in and relatively good at

Lets be honest, when faced with a task that is as dull as dishwater, we are not going to be motivated, or if it’s something that isn’t our strength, well we may have to accept that getting into the flow state may not happen. Think about strengths in your team and moving tasks around accordingly so we are doing more of the things we like and are good at.

Make sure the task has sufficient challenge for you

Do something that is achievable but challenging. If its too easy we can become bored, disinterested, resentful even. If is too hard we can become stressed, anxious and can give up. We all want to develop but only in a way that is healthy. Being pushed out of our comfort zone into the danger zone is a step too far, aim for the learning zone.

If you would like some help finding your focus or helping the team re-energise, contact us at info@pro-development.co.uk and click here to find more about how Pro-Development can help you and your team develop.

Great News – more funding announced for High Performing Workplaces

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

You may recall we were pleased to announce earlier this year, that we had been successfully awarded a contract from WYCC to deliver two ESF funded projects under their Higher Performing Workplaces Project through the Leeds City Region LEP (details later in this blog).

This provided a package of support designed for SMEs based within the Leeds City Region – Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds, Selby, Wakefield and York; and; who employ fewer than 250 full time equivalent staff with an annual turnover not exceeding €50 million.

We are pleased that we have subsequently been awarded a further opportunity and are one of 5 providers selected to offer Mentoring now.

Mentoring will be available to employed individuals in SMEs and is in response to the current climate and aims to build employees skills to cope with the volatile and complex challenges they currently face. We will be able to mentor both business and personal performance including areas such as dealing with change, communication, problem solving, managing time, improving leadership, staff motivation and teamwork.

This is a great opportunity to develop your people and with a set session rate of just £250 (with an employer contribution of £150) and an opportunity for up to 6 sessions per participant £250 X 6 = £1,500 (with an employer contribution of £900), it’s excellent value.

Empowering Leaders

Don’t forget we also still have funding to develop the skills of managers and leaders. Developing personal management capability; making effective use of information in decision-making operations and the development of the skills in managing people and driving performance through a range of bespoke programmes: –

  • Our 7-month experiential leadership programmes which utilises learning activities using the outdoors and one to one coaching sessions.
  • Our 6-month classroom based manager programme which is supported with action learning groups
  • Our 1-day People Fundamentals programme for new or emerging managers
  • A 4-month programme of coaching

Innovative Working Practices – Employee Engagement

We also still have the opportunity of developing a bespoke programme starting with the organisations business goals, vision, values and outcomes with our employee engagement programmes are developed to ensure that it best suits the business, learning outcomes and leadership needs: –

    • Assessment tool to identify business engagement levels
    • Training sessions and workshops
    • Coaching / Mentoring
    • Action Learning sets

All programmes will receive 40% funding from the European Social Fund (ESF) for businesses. Employers contribute 60% of the total cost of the business support. Funding is available throughout 2020.

If you are interested in accessing the funding, just get in touch and we will check your eligibility and help you understand what solutions will best fit your needs. Please contact us either by email using info@pro-development.co.uk or call us on 07772 921460.

Returning to work after being furloughed

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Last week we shared what it was like for one person to be furloughed, of course the experience will be different for everyone as we all have our own circumstances, thoughts, and feelings. We hope sharing it would remind us not everyone will feel the same way as we feel, and therefore the importance of having 1:1s when people return to work will be paramount to avoid us making assumptions or applying new ways of working that are based on our view of the world.

This week we thought it would be useful to share the thoughts and feelings of someone who was furloughed and then returned to work. The assumption made was that this individual would just hit the ground running and, after a couple of days, that is exactly what happened. However how the first couple of days played out, even the individual was surprised! Here’s what they had to say.

“I was looking forward to getting back to work, not least for the money, but also for the sense of purpose, so when the day came, I was very surprised to feel what I felt. I can only describe it as a momentary loss of confidence, thinking I cannot do this, then mixed with I don’t want to do this and then feeling like I wanted to ‘run away’.

The first task was to phone around a few people, but I put the calls off not really knowing why – maybe slight anxiety – who knows! I just wanted to stay in my comfort zone those first couple of days and work behind the scenes, so that’s exactly what I did, and by mid-week I was back to my old self. So, it did not take long to wind back up again, but even I was taken aback about how I felt in those first couple of days. Even more interesting, this was only after being furloughed for 3 weeks, and I had constant contact with the team whilst I was off. I can’t imagine how I would feel after 3 months, and if there has been little contact with the team, I do wonder how I would have coped”


Our challenge to you

  • Check in with your furloughed team regularly
  • Think about how you are going to get people ‘re-boarded’
  • Book 1:1s with people on their first day back and find out what they need from you in the short term

These things can cost nothing except time and will pay dividends in the longer term for your employee engagement.

How it feels to be Furloughed

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

One of our core values at Pro-development is Honesty and we would like to share an honest account of how being furloughed feels for a member of the Pro-Development Team. Our intention is to provide some insight for employers of furloughed people for consideration. Of course, everyone is different, and we have all been affected in different ways! Anyway, here goes in the spirit of openness…….

“It’s a strange feeling, I feel anger and helplessness at the situation, not at the business. I feel a bit useless to society, not being an essential/key worker, which has made me question my purpose! I am frustrated that I can’t help when ‘working’ colleagues are overloaded, and this makes me feel guilty. Going for a daytime walk during working hours makes me feel guilty, sitting in the sunshine makes me feel guilty. I am worried about how to pay the bills on reduced pay, particularly as my partner has been affected financially too! I am also a bit concerned for the future as I see my savings safety net depleted month on month (thank goodness I had it).   I feel incensed when I hear people say “they (the furloughed) are loving it, it is just a long holiday”.  Sitting with anxiety, fear, worry, guilt and frustration is certainly not my idea of a holiday. I feel selfish feeling what I am feeling when others are suffering such pain and loss.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. I feel lucky to have this time with the family, I am grateful that those who I know and care for have their health, I feel blessed with the weather. I have been blown away by acts of kindness from friends and family.  Chatting with the team daily through the ‘keeping in touch’ sessions has helped too, its always lovely to see a friendly face, have a bit of a laugh and regain a bit of perspective”.

Strange times indeed!”

We hope this provided insight, but the truth is, you will not know how your team are feeling unless you ask them. It’s so important right now to keep in touch with the team.

Here’s our challenge to you.

  • Keep in regular contact with your furloughed team members and engage in honest dialogue with them
  • Ensure your managers are doing the same – this might not come naturally to all so provide support for your managers if they need it?

If you would like any support around engaging with furloughed workers, or having quality conversations with any of the team contact us at info@pro-development.co.uk

Our thanks go to our team member for being so open at our ‘keeping in touch’ sessions and for giving their permission to share this with you.

Exciting News – Regional Ambassador for Engage for Success

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

engage for success

We are pleased to announce that our Managing Director, Michelle Mook has been appointed as the Regional Ambassador for ‘Engage for Success’ – Yorkshire and Humber Region. Engage for Success is a growing, voluntary movement promoting employee engagement as a better way to work that benefits individual employees, teams and whole organisations. Commissioned by the Government, Engage for Success is now a well-established movement that we are very proud to be a part of. Pro-Development has been actively involved with Engage for Success for several years and has represented the SME sector at their regional and national events ensuring our voice is heard. We are really proud to have been asked to take on this key role.


We are keen to find people out in our region who are leading on engagement work within their organisation and would love to hear from anyone who feels they would have something to contribute. Equally, if you would like to learn more from our group, we are looking for people who are keen to understand more. Please do get in touch with Michelle and let us know how you would like to get involved michelle.mook@pro-development.co.uk.


A focus on employee engagement has never been more crucial, at a time where businesses face the challenge of a lifetime with a slowing economy and uncertainty at a global level. Pro-Development has been at the forefront in highlighting the importance of employee engagement and supporting businesses to address the issues and challenges that lay ahead in terms of people at a local level.


Setting out a road to recovery, we have developed 4 simple steps to support businesses and work alongside them as a people partner. We are already working with local businesses on their ‘review stage’ undertaking our Covid-19 survey and on-line coaching with business owners and managers. It’s great to be part of their journey and to support their recovery. By doing this we are gaining some great insights at a local level which we will feedback nationally via Engage for Success. We will also use these insights to shape our offering to ensure it is right for you and your business.

We have been running webinars for our clients and are proving to be very popular events.  We decided to run some more and the next one will take place on 30th June.  

Now is a great time to reflect and take stock on what you will need to think about as we move into the next phase of recovery.  You may already have started this process but we hope you will find our 4 stage approach provides a good framework to help with this. 

To book your place, please use the link below.



If you would like to discuss your team’s road to recovery, get in touch for an informal chat.

covid 19 recovery map

The ABC’s of keeping our people and teams engaged – Embrace health and wellbeing

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

health and wellbeing This is the final blog on our series where we have been sharing our ABC’s of keeping people and teams engaged. Remember, whether people are working from home or furloughed, they are still part of your team and it is key to continue to support them. We know from research, being part of a team is a key element to feeling engaged and motivated at work.

Authentic and Inspiring leadership

Be prepared – have a plan

Communicate and keep connected

Develop a strong and valued team

Embrace health and wellbeing

This week we are finishing with E – embrace health and wellbeing. Now we know that health and wellbeing is embraced by some and knocked by others, however we believe taking care of yourselves and others must be a good thing. In fact we have been hearing about how people are reflecting that slowing down, going for walks, noticing things like the blossom tress and bird song has been a bit of a wake up call and that they simply don’t want to return to the same level of busyness of life before lockdown. Now, that is food for thought!

Embrace health and wellbeing

We know that isolation and loneliness can bring with it a number of health and wellbeing issues – another reason why it is so important to keep communication going with your team

• It’s good to talk – ask people “how are you doing?” and if they say OK, ask “how are you really doing?” – this will often create a conversation that might not have been had

• Encourage your team to look after themselves – whether it’s doing the Joe Wicks morning workout or just ensuring everyone gets that daily exercise.

• Have some fun – we know that laughter and fun are good for our wellbeing. So, find some ways to have fun together and laugh together. One team we know are together, combining their walking steps to see how far they get!

Our challenge to you….

• Ring 3 people to ask “how are you doing” and take the time to chat

• Reflect on what have been the positive actions you have taken to support your own health and wellbeing?

• Pick one of these actions that you can commit to on the other side of lockdown


Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

start of a new jouney

It has been quite a journey! Everything we know has been tested; our relationships, our resolve, our resilience to name but a few. We had to quickly transition, from crisis management to establish stability and are now starting to move into recovery where we will all be looking to find our new “normal”.

Through conversations and through our own experiences, we have been hearing how people have been affected and how they are dealing differently with the situation. As we start to move into recovery, all these different emotions and experiences will be back together again in the workplace, a potentially dangerous cocktail if not supported and managed sensitively.

It would be naive to believe that everyone is content with the measures currently in place now without checking it out. People who are still working may be feeling resentment about their workloads when some of their colleagues are furloughed. In some instance’s subgroups are starting to form, developing a them and us culture. Furloughed workers may feel under-valued, they may be worried about what this means for their future at work, feeling cut off from the workplace and isolated from team members. Many, we know through our Covid-19 engagement tool are looking for other roles now.

So, we’re starting on a new journey together and to get this right, we will need to review where we are right now before we set off. We’ll need to regroup and carefully plan our route and understand what measures are needed to support people now and in the coming weeks. When we’re ready to go, we’ll need to get everyone set up for success and will be looking to reintegrate our teams, so we are ready for the journey and to rebuild our future together. Here’s our 4 R’s and some thoughts on what you’ll need to consider:-

retaining people covid 19 slide

Review – What is your starting point?

• How are your people and teams doing right now and are there any risks to the business? With concerns over mental health and wellbeing, it is critical to really understand this.

• What needs will people have – as well as considering safety and PPE, there will also be physical needs (around the office or if people continue to work from home) and, just as important will be emotional wellbeing to consider and how people are feeling about coming back

• What changes have been made to people’s employment/contracts and how has that impacted people?

• What communications have you done so far and are planning?

• What help will you need and from whom to support recovery? Will you need a project team and what role with your managers play?

• Have you got the right mindset as a business leader? It is easy to forget your own wellbeing and is important for you to be in the right place too

Regroup – Planning your route

• What have you learnt from your review? What is working and should continue and what might you need to start doing? What have been the challenges that now need addressing?

• What working practices have been successful that you want to embed that will continue to support people’s mental health and wellbeing?

• Will there be further changes or implications to employment/HR that will impact on people? How will you engage and communicate with your team?

• How will you implement any requirements identified and who will be involved and responsible? Are there people in the business that can help with emotional support and wellbeing around this?

• Have you got a plan for re-integration of the team? Are you planning phased or staggered returns and what considerations are you giving to enable people time to readjust?

• How will you prepare people ready for returning? Consider how you can help inspire and motivate people and address any concerns that might impact on wellbeing. Think about what you can do to reassure people and understand their individual concerns. Does your communication plan take this into consideration and help to manage expectations around new ways of working?

Reintegrate – Starting your new journey

• How will you get everyone re-boarding? Wellbeing through this period will be key. You will need to consider re-orientation for those returning to work and re-induction for furloughed workers to share new working practices and help people to feel safe

• What is the new vision for the future? Are your people returning to a caring and supportive environment?

• How are your managers feeling? The cocktail of emotions that will be present will be challenging to manage in this period. Managers will need to be prepared and ready themselves, and be able to support the engagement and wellbeing of their team.

• Is everyone ready to implement your communication plan? Managers will need to have regular 1:1s and team sessions in place to check in with people and continue to reassure people in the coming weeks.

• How will you monitor safety, physical and emotional needs? What support is available to people?

• What will you have in place to manage difficult situations (e.g. breach of social distancing rules/lack of cohesiveness in teams). It will be important that people feel safe to raise concerns and talk honestly and openly about potential issues. Do you have the trust and healthy conflict needed to support this?

Rebuild – Your journey together

• How will you keep everyone on board? You will need to consider opportunities to re-build and develop the team. Use the long-term vision to re-engage people and help them to be inspired by the future. Retention of your people to provide stability will be key here and with the cost of losing talent equating to 12-18 month’s salary, you cannot afford to lose them.

• Is it time to review again? This is the time to ensure that all safety, physical and emotional needs are now being met and that new working practices are being embedded. During the last few months, you will have learnt so much and it is important to capture this and continue to build on it.

• What is engagement like now? This will be a good time to measure engagement levels and identify what is and has been working and what might be missing. The only way to truly know this is to run a confidential engagement survey where people can be honest and open about their experience in the last few months.

• Have you made time to reflect on what you have achieved? You will have all been through so much together and making sure your people know how valued they are will be key to their wellbeing and engagement along with making time to celebrate success together

We’re here to help if you need it

Remember, as always, we are here to help with several solutions which we can bespoke for your needs.

covid 19 recovery slide FREE WEBINAR

We will also be running a FREE one-hour webinar on this on the 1st June at 3.30pm. To book your place, please click here and we’ll look forward to seeing you then.

The ABC’s of keeping our people and teams engaged – Develop a strong and valued team

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

strong teams Authentic and Inspiring leadership

Be prepared – have a plan

Communicate and keep connected

Develop a strong and valued team

Embrace health and wellbeing

This week we are looking at developing a strong and valued team. Solid teams have been fragmented through this situation. We are finding that resentment is building in some teams as those who are working are forming strong sub teams which is great, but unfortunately to the detriment of others who are feeling vulnerable and excluded. People still working can feel a sense of unfairness as they see furloughed worker being paid for not contributing. The list of scenarios and emotions are many, on the other side of this current situation however, you do need your strong team to pull together. So with that in mind, lets look at what you can do now to strengthen your position.

Develop a strong and valued team

Keep the sense of team going – working from home or being furloughed does not mean that you can’t still feel part of a team

Hints and tips

• Virtual coffee and lunch breaks – encourage people to take time out together.

• Recognise achievements through these times – we are in such a unique situation, anything that people achieve should be celebrated. More than ever people need to feel valued.

• Capture and encourage learning – everyone is learning new skills every day at the moment so make sure people record these against their personal learning or development plans.

• Those who are furloughed can still be learning and developing themselves (as long as it is not generating income) and it can be a great time to do this.

• Celebrate success, share successes every day with people and celebrate the small things.

Our challenge to you…

• Reflect on your own feeling on ‘sense of team’ right now – what would make it better for you?

• Ask your team members what’s working for them and what isn’t. Our Covid-19 survey could help you to do this.

• Hold a team virtual coffee break or fun quiz

If you would like to understand how your team are feeling now to help you in the recovery stage, why not complete our Covid-10 survey. To find out more click here.