I’ve got to be honest (or do I?)

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Honesty pic Time and time again the issues of having honest conversations comes up in our coaching sessions. Why is it that we find having honest conversations so hard? What are we afraid of? Is it the fact we may not be liked, or we might come across as argumentative or opinionated? Or is it the fact we find it difficult to find the inner strength and confidence to approach the individual and say the words we have said so often in our head?

No matter the reason for avoidance, honest conversations really are unavoidable.

So, what can you do to make things easier for yourself?

Think about your reason for having the conversation in the first place.

What is your intention? If you have a positive intention then having the honest conversation is probably for the best. If it is with a negative intention then, think again!

Checking out assumptions

Is there a conversation to be had? Is the evidence there or have you jumped to conclusions, made up your own version of the truth? Ask yourself… why would a perfectly reasonable person behave in this way?

Where are you having the conversation

Is the venue appropriate, it Is quiet and private? Is there a route out of the venue that doesn’t mean having to walk past the colleagues? Its these relatively simply things that can be missed or used as an excuse not to have the conversation.

We advocate going for a walk, somehow it feels easier, conversations can flow more as the boundaries of the office are removed.

Planning the conversation

Structure what you are going to say, think about the key messages you want to give. Practice saying it out loud, you don’t need to script it however there is nothing wrong with having a few bullet points to help you along. After all, this conversation is important to both parties so you need to get in right.

Be brave

Having the conversation may mean you need to let go of ‘being liked’ for a bit but if having the conversation is going to improve the situation/performance/relationship then it is highly likely that further down the line the individual with thank you for it.

Remember the good stuff

Remember honest conversations can be positive too. Catch people doing stuff right and have that honest conversation. Operate in this way and you will foster a culture of openness and honesty. So what conversations have you been putting off? Make a commitment to yourself to act, come on, you’ve got to be honest.

If you would like to know more about support in this area why not contact us or check out our coaching page

Happy 6th Birthday

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

happy birthday header Can you believe it’s our birthday this week. What a 6 years it has been too! It’s been a rollercoaster of a journey and on reflection, our success is due to 6 key elements.

Amazing team – Suzanne Courtney, Stephanie Edwards and Janette Poole – you are each fabulous and together, amazing, thank you.

Fantastic clients – too many to mention but you all know who you are. We love working with each and every one of you and being part of your journey. It’s a pleasure and a privilege!

Fabulous partners – those who help us deliver our inspiring leadership programme, support us and our clients with recruitment, HR, IT, business development, venues and many other services. You are always reliable and make us look good too 😉

Our families and friends – they support us through the good times and the challenging ones, always there and encouraging us to keep going. We love you all.

Our vision and values – we’ve never lost sight of our vision and always stay true to our passion and enthusiasm for what we do, honesty and integrity, creative approach and a sprinkling of fun in all we do. It helps us to keep focussed, be authentic and make a difference to those we work with.

Drive and determination – many of you will know running a business is not always easy and sometimes, you’ve just got to dig in, ask for help when you need it and just keep going!

I’m sure there are many other elements too but thank you to each and every one of you who has helped and supported us. Here’s to many more years of helping businesses in Yorkshire and the Humber to thrive and grow through the engagement and development of your people. We look forward to working with you all.

“Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” – Henry Thoreau

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Did you hear recently that over 6.3 million adults aged 40-60 don’t manage to achieve 10 minutes of continuous, fast-paced walking over the course of a month, Public Health England (PHE) has revealed. My goodness are you one of them?

We are massive advocates that walking helps to stimulate thinking and this is why we use walking in our Management and Leadership programme’s, coaching sessions and team events. It creates a fabulous classroom with no boundaries? Every time we do walking with an individual or a team, we see some real breakthroughs happen; there is something about being outdoors that helps to free the mind and think differently often resulting in a great resolution or solution.

When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs-including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections of brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them?

Sounds to me that it’s time to get our walking boots on so if you would like to know more or would like to work with a company who will help to stimulate your thinking and health, have a look at our management development programme or team building page or coaching page.

What part can we all play to increase productivity?

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries


A recent report by the BBC noted that the productivity of UK workers has dropped back to pre-financial crisis levels. The Office for National Statistics stated that hourly output fell 0.5% in the first three months of the year, and Economists have warned that the UK’s productivity continues to lag behind its major trading partners such as the US, France and Germany.

Ian Brinkley, acting chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development stated that “Unless more is done to tackle the nation’s low productivity, people’s wages and living standards will continue to fall and the UK will be ill-equipped to compete once we do leave the EU.” Other economists, however, have said productivity – which is output divided by hours spent producing it – has partly fallen because there are record numbers of people in work.

Whatever the reason, we need to think about what part we can all play in increasing productivity and we strongly believe that having an engaged workforce is a crucial factor to business success. Just imagine if people in your business wanted to and could give their best each day. What difference would that make to the energy, the enthusiasm, the creativity, the effort they each put in? What difference would that make to you?

The good news is, you don’t just have to imagine as we have seen many of our clients take positive steps which have made a difference for their and people and their business. “With Pro-Development, our business has seen and experienced a totally different approach and a very positive level of results, both financially and in the progress of the business. Pro-Development have worked with our teams in their unique way with a programme of activity to support our employee engagement. Pro-Development’s programmes and continuing developments at all levels of the business, including directors, has given a new perspective to people’s approach to business life within our group of companies. Without doubt, any business wanting to grow and develop should have no reservation in working with Pro-Development, and I would strongly encourage you to at least have a look at how they can help you”. Roger Bodill | Chairman, RB Associates

We believe a good starting point is to give employees a voice, to listen to them, to understand what’s working for them and what’s getting in their way. However, this is only valuable if people are open and honest, and leaders are brave enough to listen (and we mean really listen) to what people have to say. This is where we can help, our employee engagement surveys provide a means for confidential and anonymous feedback, and our analysis of the results are presented back in an honest and balanced manner, providing real insight.

However, there is little point on gathering insight if you don’t take action on the results, and this is where, in our experience, many companies fall down. At Pro-Development, we work closely with businesses to identify actions and act as a conscience to ensure key actions are delivered to drive up employee engagement.

Ultimately, the research is out there, it’s a fact that an engaged workforce can drive up productivity on average by 5% and profit on average by 12%. And, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to see an increase like that on their bottom line? We are here to help you and love making a difference so if you would like to increase your productivity and have a highly engaged workforce, why not come along to our next workshop.

If you would like to join us at our next workshop to find out what you can do to bring the best out in your teams, increase productivity and sales which links directly to your bottom line then choose a date below and book a place. We have had such great feedback about our workshops that we know that it will be a great few hours invested!

The next available workshop dates are 13th September and 11th October 2017 from 10am-12noon followed by a light lunch with the chance to network and it will be held at our offices at Forest Farm Business Park, Fulford, YORK, YO19 4RH. All just for £25 + VAT to cover room hire and lunch. See you there!


Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

engaged faces pic We are currently undertaking many employee engagement surveys around Yorkshire identifying what’s working for companies and what might be getting in their way. It is by understanding this kind of information that you can truly make a difference as your efforts and actions are focused on doing the right thing, not doing what you ‘think’ is right.

Companies take the time to understand engagement levels as this is so important to continued success and can springboard companies to the next level. Research shows that organisation’s with high levels of employee engagement are more efficient and effective, and that highly engaged employees:

• are more productive, find they are more creative and innovative at work, and take less time off sick;

• are more customer focussed, care about the future of their organisation and put in greater effort to help it meet its objectives and keep customers satisfied;

• feel proud of the organisation they work for and are inspired to do their best and will be huge advocates of the business and it’s products and services.

• are more likely to stay and with the cost of losing a good person now being equated to 12-18 months of their salary, that in itself is a great reason to focus on employee engagement.

There’s plenty of evidence out there to support the facts above and we have certainly seen this ourselves through the work that we do around the region. As part of our role in the Engage for Success movement looking at how to raise engagement levels across Yorkshire, Pro-Development run interactive 2-hour workshops “How important is Employee Engagement to your business success?” They are aimed at business owners, HR professionals, leaders and managers to help understand what they can do to help increase morale, motivation, engagement, growth and productivity of their teams.

If you would like to join us at our next workshop to find out what you can do to bring the best out in your teams, increase productivity and sales which links directly to your bottom line then choose a date below and book a place. We have had such great feedback about our workshops that we know that it will be a great few hours invested!

The next available workshop dates are 13th September and 11th October 2017 from 10am-12 noon followed by a light lunch with the chance to network and it be held at our offices at Forest Farm Business Park, Fulford, YORK, YO19 4RH. All just for £25 + VAT to cover room hire and lunch. See you there!

How well do you listen?

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Listening We were really excited to hold another of our Employee Engagement workshops yesterday. People often ask us what we mean by Employee Engagement. The definition we like to use is “a workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their company’s goals and values, motivated to contributing to success and able at the same time to enhance their own sense of wellbeing”. This can be simplified to setting the right workplace conditions to help people to ‘be their best’. One of the most important things we can do is to really listen to people. Feeling that you are listened to is important, but to really engage people we need to go even deeper, do we really listen to understand people?

How do we demonstrate that we really understand people? Not through an annual appraisal according to recent CIPD research. Many companies are moving away from the traditional appraisal to an emphasis on a continuous development dialogue and high-quality conversations and feedback. Managers need to be supported in how to have rich conversations, including giving and receiving honest feedback. One of the greatest gifts you can give your people is time for them to talk and for you to listen to them, to understand them and to find out what really motivates them and how they like to feel valued and recognised. We often practice selective listening, or we listen to respond, to move our own agenda forward. Listening to understand is completely different. We listen with our eyes as well as our ears, and by really listening, we give the other person time to think. Stephen Covey calls this giving people ‘psychological air’. It’s rare but powerful and can make a real difference to engagement not just in the workplace but with friends and family too. We often find when we run employee engagement projects, that when we interview people and ask questions of how engaged they are at work and really truly listen to them, people will often tell us that it is the first time they have felt anyone has really “heard them” and will tell us that they have found it really helpful just being able to talk. Next time you sit down for a chat, think about the quality of your own listening, and take time to listen to understand – it can be very engaging! We’d love to know what difference it makes.

To find out more about our Employee Engagement projects including surveys and interviews click here. To find out how to support your managers to have honest conversations and to give and receive feedback, click here.

Listening 2

Combatting Monday morning blues

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

mondayWe have just had another bank holiday and many people we spoke to couldn’t wait for another Monday off work – but why do we find Mondays such a drag?

Is it the sense of loss of freedom or the mundane routine of it all, the treadmill of life! Or maybe it’s the people you work with dragging you down or the overwhelming sense of inability to make a difference. How can you combat the Monday morning blues?

Do something different before you go to work

First thing Monday morning get outside, have a coffee in your garden or go for a walk. Listen to the birds singing, feel the sunshine (or wind) on your face.

Stop telling yourself you dread Monday mornings

Ever heard of self-fullfilling prophecy? The prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true! Fill your head with more positive thoughts about the great things you achieved last week and the brilliant things you can achieve this week!

Plan your diary wisely

Keep Monday mornings (or at least part of them) free to plan your week, get organised and maybe have a little sort out so you are in a great position for the week ahead.

Make someone smile…it will make you smile too

Undertake an act of kindness to make someone smile. Recognise a colleague’s efforts, tell someone what you value about them, compliment somebody, make a cuppa for the team. It costs nothing but a smile is priceless.

Have something to look forward to on Monday evening

Treat yourself to your favorite meal at teatime, or go to the gym or watch that programme you missed on catch up TV.

If you feel fed up and need to inject a bit of enthusiasm back into you life and work, why not contact us, we can help.

A curious week

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Curious and creative coaching Last week was Learning at Work week, with the theme, ‘Curious and Creative’, and was also International Coaching Week. Coaching York, an organisation with the aim of making York the coaching capital of the UK, promoted running coaching sessions to businesses in York, and to celebrate both initiatives, we ran a ‘Curious and Creative Coaching’ session here at Forest Farm Business Park. We were delighted that some of our lovely fellow resident businesses joined us for the session in the fabulous facilities provided by Tailormade Conferences.

Most of the people who attended the session had little or no experience of coaching, and coaching is very different to training. In non-directive coaching, we need to think for ourselves, which can feel very different. Using creativity increases insight, and develops innovative thinking. It gives the coachee time and space to explore different perspectives and provides a safe vehicle to describe our goals and what might be stopping us achieving them.

You might be wondering how we made the session creative. A range of materials was used including photographs, coloured paper and pens, pipe-cleaners, and magazines to cut up, and linked to our value of having fun while we’re learning. Most of those attending created a collage to represent their goals and their current state in relation to the goals. We then asked curious questions to explore creative ways of achieving the goal. All of those who attended achieved insight into their goals and new ways of how to go about achieving them.

And the real power of coaching? Traditionally we’ve thought of people as little empty vessels in which everything has to be poured. In coaching we think of people as little seeds who have the potential within them to be magnificent plants and trees. We need nourishment, encouragement, and the light to grow and develop, and this is what is provided in coaching. To find out more about our creative approach to coaching click here.

As you watch your sunflowers grow, consider this; are you and your people being nourished and encouraged to grow and develop or do you just pour learning into them? If it’s the latter, you might want to talk to us.

The Colour Purple

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Bluebells 2 Have you seen the amazing displays of bluebells this year? As we were wandering through the woods at Hazelwood Castle last week, observing our amazing management development programme delegates performance managing their colleagues through a variety of challenges, we came across a swathe of bluebells. It was truly beautiful and stopped us in our tracks. We felt a sense of tranquillity and calm and wondered whether it was the bluebells or the expanse of purple that had such a profound effect on us.

England’s native bluebell is a deep violet colour and a mass of bluebells looks like a purple carpet. An expanse of purple in nature is rare and this may be why purple is often associated with having sacred meaning, and is traditionally the colour of nobility and of course, Pro-Development! Purple is made from a combination of red and blue and so embodies the balance of red’s stimulation with blue’s calm. The colour purple has been shown to affect us physically, lifting our mood, calming us, and boosting our creativity and imagination.

Challenge yourself, go outside and see a display of bluebells while they last, or better still, join us on our next Management Development Programme and you can enjoy the beauty of the outdoors whilst developing your skills as a manager. Click here to find out more.

Learning at Work Week

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

CuriousCreativeLearning at Work Week takes place 15th – 19th May 2017.

This coincides with International Coaching Week which is supported by Coaching York, an organisation committed to York becoming recognised as the coaching capital of the UK.

To celebrate both events, Pro-Development are running a free group coaching session on Monday 15th May with the theme ‘Curious and Creative Coaching’. This is being held in the lovely Tailormade Conference rooms here at Forest Farm Business Park, so it’s a great opportunity to see their facilities as well as experience some group coaching. If the weather’s nice we might go for a walk as well, we do our best thinking at 1.8 mph.

Where: Tailormade Conference Rooms, Forest Farm Business Park, YO19 4RH.

When: 12-2pm Monday 15th May. Tea and coffee provided.

Who should attend: Anyone interested in finding out more about coaching and taking part in a free ‘curious and creative’ group coaching session.

Why should you attend: You’ll experience an innovative group coaching session that will help you to explore your goals and how you might achieve them.

How to book: Email steph.edwards@pro-development.co.uk to reserve a place.