What did you do yesterday?

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

relax frog may blog 17 In coaching conversations, a common topic is how busy our lives are. With so much to process at work it’s almost impossible to deal with everything. Evenings and weekends are spent working and catching up on household chores and there is precious little time with our families and even less ‘me’ time. Sound familiar? So, with Easter only a few weeks ago and another bank holiday in May still to come, we were thinking about the value of bank holidays. A bank holiday can give welcome relief from the daily grind and an opportunity to truly relax. But what about the impact on productivity of all these bank holidays I hear you cry! It may be counter intuitive but holidays can make us more productive.

We talked last week about the value of a short walk at lunchtime for the brain. Studies have shown that when we’re relaxing and daydreaming, the brain does not slow down or stop working, in fact that’s the time the mind can obliquely solve tough problems; the epiphany moments we sometimes have in the shower! It’s during downtime that our minds mull over all those unfinished projects, searching for solutions. Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to achieve our highest levels of performance. Downtime also replenishes our energy, essential when time is such a limited resource. So bring on the next bank holiday!

To celebrate learning at work week, 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 and it’s a great opportunity to 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.

Email steph.edwards@pro-development.co.uk to reserve a place and to find out more about our amazing coaching click here

Don’t sit still!

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

walking pic 2017 Have you seen the latest research from Australia which demonstrates that moderate exercise several times a week is the best way to keep the mind sharp if you’re over 50? Thinking and memory skills were most improved when people exercised the heart and muscles on a regular basis. Evidence of the link between exercise and brain function has been increasing. Those of you with children approaching exams may be interested in research from Germany showing that walking or cycling whilst learning helped new foreign language vocabulary to stick. So, encourage your kids to exercise while they revise! Don’t push it too hard, though, vigorous workouts can raise stress levels, which can damage memory circuits.

Recent research from Stanford University demonstrated that walking either on a treadmill or outside helps with creative thinking and idea generation. We’re using this finding in our coaching and agree; we’re most creative when we walk at 1.8 miles an hour. We all know that a walk a lunchtime makes us more productive in the afternoon which may be due to increased blood flow to the brain. It’s also possible that exercise stimulates the birth of new neurons. Until recently, few believed this could happen in adult human brains. Just putting my walking shoes on….

To celebrate learning at work week, 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 and it’s a great opportunity to 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.

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

Experiential learning – why is it so powerful?

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

People often ask us why our management and leadership development programmes are experiential and what difference this type of learning makes. Through our combined 60 years plus experience of learning and development, we’ve realised that discussing management theory in the classroom and even writing about the application of theory, no matter how engaging at the time, doesn’t necessarily result in a change in underlying behaviours. This is because the learner plays a relatively passive role, and research suggests that after 3 months, only 10% of what is learned is remembered, a depressing statistic for any trainers out there (Whitmore, 2008). Following classroom based training, managers may tell you what they would do in a given situation (espoused theory, Argyris & Schön, 1974). However, what they say they will do may be very different to what they actually do in practice, when faced with a challenging situation in the workplace.

So … what difference does experiential learning make? Experiential learning is defined as ‘learning through reflection on doing’ (Felicia, 2011). In each of our workshops, people take part in ‘here and now’ experiences which may be outside their comfort zone, and we observe how their behaviour in practice differs from what they say they do, their espoused theory. Feedback in the moment is very powerful and we encourage the whole group to take part in giving and receiving feedback. Alongside this, the one to one coaching we offer between each workshop supports attendees to reflect on the impact of their behaviours and the need for change, and to really embed their learning in the workplace. Where people are told, shown and experience learning, research shows that their recall is 65%. With our programmes, attendees also reflect and have an opportunity to put learning into practice in different situations, and so get the opportunity to experience the entire learning cycle several times. This makes the return on investment of the training much greater and is the very reason why we build experiential learning into our programmes.

Our aim is to help people become authentic and inspiring leaders where what they say they do mirrors what they do in practice. Are people in your organisation authentic and inspiring leaders? Do they do what they say they will do?

If you want to ensure a return on investment for the training people attend, then click here to find out more about our leadership and management development programmes, the next one with places available starts in September 2017.


Confirmation bias in the workplace

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Last week, our leadership development programme cohort experienced a fantastic day bringing out the best in their new team, Toby, Bracken, Charlie, and Thistle. Horses are incredibly intuitive and respond to exactly what they see in the moment. However, our minds can play tricks, highlighting evidence which confirms what we already believe. One of our lovely team members pricked his ears up and put his head down when a delegate approached him. The group saw the ears prick up and interpreted this as the horse being interested. The delegate saw the head go down and thought the horse didn’t want to work with him. Once formed, observations about others can be difficult to shift. Research suggests that people tend to accept information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them; this is confirmation bias. Experiments demonstrate that we experience a rush of dopamine when we find evidence to support our beliefs, so we look for evidence to support what we believe because it makes us feel good

What does this mean for the workplace? Although we may want to be fair and objective, at times this may not be enough. Confirmation bias can prevent us from gathering information that provides a balanced view and stops us from being objective. There are actions we can take to help reduce the likelihood of this happening. Once we are aware of confirmation bias we can learn to ask questions to challenge our objectivity or limited reasoning. It can help to have people around us who are prepared to question and put forward an alternative viewpoint, however we need to be open to disagreement. A great strategy to help overcome the natural inclination to look for evidence that supports our beliefs is to ‘consider the opposite’. This may sound simple but is an effective method of overcoming our limited reasoning. So the next time you find evidence to support your beliefs, find someone who is willing to point out the alternatives, or ask yourself to ‘consider the opposite’. And be prepared to listen!

The days we spend with the horses always gives us great insights into our own behaviour. To find out more about our management and leadership development programme, click here.

2017-03-29 15.19.15

Developing managers to manage sustainable employee engagement, health and wellbeing

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

DevelopinG PIC In February 2017, CIPD in partnership with IOSH, published a report ‘Developing managers to manage sustainable employee engagement, health and wellbeing’.

It summarised that both academics and practitioner’s literature are clear on two points:

1. Employee engagement, health and well-being are key for the productivity, performance and success of organisations.

2. The way that employees are managed does have a significant impact on their engagement, health and wellbeing.

Managers therefore play a key role and need the competencies and behaviours to be able to engage and protect the health and well-being of their team.

The competencies and behaviours identified:

Lewis et al (2012) combined existing competency frameworks to develop a manager behaviour framework that identifies how managers can manage engagement, health and wellbeing.

1. Open, fair and consistent

We like to know where we are with people, what to expect. I’m sure we’ve all heard people say “what type of mood is he/she in today?” Or one day you feel like you can do no wrong, then the next you feel like you can do no right! It’s frustrating and damages relationships, trust and honesty.

Being open, fair and consistent means – Managers need to manage with integrity and consistency. Manage emotions and personal issues and take a positive approach in interpersonal conflict.

2. Handling conflicts and problems

We often hear about managers who are not dealing with issues and see first-hand the fall out this creates in the team. It’s not a great place to be! Managers can make excuses for not dealing with people for example “Oh that’s just the way he/she is, they’ve always been like that. Just ignore them.” Sound familiar?

Handling conflicts and problems means – Managers deal with employee conflict (including bullying and abuse) and use appropriate organisational resources.

3. Knowledge, clarity and guidance

Have you ever been in a position where you have not been 100 % sure of what you’re doing or why you’re doing it? Your objectives have been a bit flaky or decisions made seem uninformed. In such cases, managers can lose the respect of their team members and team members can lose confidence in their own ability as self-doubt kicks in, “I should know what to do, but I’m not clear and don’t feel like I can ask again…it’s me, I just don’t get it”

Knowledge, clarity and guidance means – clear communication, advice and guidance, demonstrates understanding of role and responsible decision making.

4. Building and sustaining relationships

“I can’t remember the last time my manager asked me how I was”. It’s scary how many times we hear this. All it takes is a simple conversation to build a connection with someone, but so often managers say to us “I wouldn’t know what to say” or “why would they want to talk to me?”

Building and sustaining relationships means – personal interaction with employees involving empathy and consideration.

5. Supporting development

Career progression is such a contentious issue in many SMEs we talk to. The common issues tend to be that employees cannot see a career path and employers don’t talk about progression or ask people about their aspirations. Employees then jump to a conclusion that, to progress, they will need to leave the company…. And whoosh they’re gone!

Supporting development means – supporting and arranging employee career progression and development.

Our Leadership & Management Development Programme covers the competencies and behaviours required for sustainable employee engagement, health and wellbeing. Through coaching and setting appropriate challenges we help managers to apply and embed the competencies in the workplace.

If you would like to know more about our Leadership & Management Development Programme Click here.

Being Happy – Being Present – Being Mindful

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Since the 1970s surveys have consistently shown that Danish people are among the happiest in the world. Incidentally the UK is 19th! Some say Danish happiness could be party attributed to appreciating the simple things in life. To appreciate things, we really need to be present and notice what’s around you.

Just a few days ago, leaders on our Management Development Programme missed some subtle messages which would have made a difference on their actions and choices made. So why did they miss the messages? It was because they didn’t give their full attention. We often talk about one of the key factors of being an Authentic Leader is to become a sensor. The ability of managers to consider what they hear, see and feel?

To do this, you need to hone your ability to be present, but that is easily said. How do you do this in practice? Learning to live in the present is one of the key elements of positive mindfulness.

Just stop for a moment and give your full attention to what is happening in the present moment.

A Challenge for you – do it right now, right this minute. What do you notice? How do you feel? What can you see?

Tips to be more present

• Consider what’s happening in your body – are you hunched up? Do you feel achy? Are you tired or full of energy?

• Consider your breathing – are you having short shallow breaths or full and deep breathing?

• What is your current state of mind, positive or negative? If it is negative, try and turn those negative thoughts into positive ones.

• Spend time in the outdoors, it’s good for your state of mind!

• Listen, really listen and do this without making judgments.

• Recognise your thoughts but don’t react to them immediately, contemplate them first.

• Take some time out and simply be (don’t worry, the report that needs writing or the washing up will wait for you!)

• Turn off that mobile phone, switch off any devices and live outside of the social media world, just for a short while at least!

Being an Authentic Leader

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Our Leadership/Management Development Programme encourages managers and leaders to reflect on what it’s like to be led by them. Are they being true to themselves or trying to be something they are not? Will people be prepared to follow their leadership or rebel against it? Leaders can provide the vision, energy and strategic direction of the business, but without winning the hearts and minds of the people it will be far more challenging to excel and deliver business results.

Goffee and Jones present four additional qualities, in addition to vision, energy, authority and strategic direction, to become more authentic in leadership, engaging and inspiring the team by winning hearts and minds. Let’s look at each one in turn.

Selectively show your weaknesses

Nobody wants a perfect leader, they don’t appear to need help. Besides…who’s perfect?

We often hear leaders saying “one day I’m going to get rumbled”! What is wrong with showing you’re human?

Challenge – What weakness would you be comfortable sharing?

Become a sensor

What do you hear, see, feel? What is this information telling you? Use your intuition and trust your instincts. To do this, you need to hone your ability to be present, listen and understand what is happening, what is being said but also what is not being said. It’s about collecting and interpreting subtle clues, detecting what’s going on without others spelling it out.

Challenge – How often do you take the time out to pick up on this rich information?

Practice tough empathy

This is about respecting the individual whilst balancing respect for the task at hand. Leaders empathize fiercely with their followers and care intensely, even passionately about their peoples’ work. They’re also empathetically tough. This means giving people not necessarily what they want, but what they need to achieve their best. This could include giving feedback and making tough calls.

Challenge – Are you having honest conversations?

Dare to be different

Capitalizing on what’s unique about YOU. Doing this lets you signal your separateness as a leader but also motivates others to perform better, encouraging people to take risks and be different. There are ways you can display uniqueness, through qualities like imagination, expertise and adventure.

Challenge – what’s unique about YOU?

Remember, Goffee and Jones still believe leaders need vision, energy, authority and strategic direction, but to be a truly inspirational leader you should – Be yourself – more – with skill.

Our Leadership/Management Development Programme focusses on being authentic, so if you want to be yourself, more, with skill why not book on the programme today. It could be your game changer!

Conversion to manager

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Making the conversion to the position of manager can bring its challenges. One minute you are a team member working alongside your peers, the next you find yourself approving their holidays, delegating work and managing performance. Some of your ‘then’ peer group may have applied for the promotion and feel unjustly pipped at the post by you! This can sometimes display itself as resentment, lack of respect or passive aggressive behaviour.

Most managers find themselves in their first management position because they are technically good at their job, they stand out, they get results. However, the skills that get people noticed aren’t necessarily the skills needed to manage and this can impact on individual’s ability to lead, develop and motivate the team.

How can managers make the transition without losing friendships, respect and trust?

Clarify expectations of managers

Newly promoted managers are not mind readers, you need to be clear on what is expected of you in your role. What are the role model behaviours required? Where are the lines of accountability and responsibility drawn? What authority levels do you have?

Consider the skills needed

Review the skills needed to perform well in a manager role, for example, delegation skills, honest conversations, communication, developing the team and so on. In your 1:1 with your line manager, discuss and identify areas for your development.

Build a development plan

Next build a realistic development plan. Prioritise the plan and seek support and guidance from others. Keep two-way communication open, seek honest feedback and review your development plan at regular interviews.


Consider engaging with a mentor who can provide guidance and act as a sounding board for you to test your thinking. This way you can develop confidence in your decision making and approach to managing.

Take time to connect with team members

Take the time to connect with team members on an individual basis. Have regular 1:1s and honest conversations to understand what’s working for your team members and what’s getting in their way.

Did you know, 62% of people leave their job because of their manager!

Through our employee engagement reviews we often find that line managers are a contributing factor for people feeling less engaged in their work. Research supports this, reporting that 62% of people leave their job because of their manager! Don’t let that be you.

A solution for you – First Line Manager Programme

In response to the issues we are finding, we have developed a First Line Manager Programme which explores essential elements of management and leadership to help new and aspiring managers become more effective in your role. If you would like to know more, then click here for more information.

Employee Engagement

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

We’ve started this year in full throttle with Employee Engagement surveys currently being undertaking in a few local companies as we speak. What a great way to start the year, identifying all the factors that are working for you and those that aren’t.

So, why is it important to consider how engaged your employees actually are?

If your employees are engaged they’ll be happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Equally great, you could also see a 12% increase in profit alone not to mention 5% increase in productivity and the increase in staff retention. That’s sweet in our book!

Did you know? It can cost 12-18 months’ salary to replace an employee…now that’s food for thought (Source: Hay Group, How to stop your talent taking flight, September 2013)

So what do you do if you want to keep your business sweet and your employees engaged?

Here are some hints and tips to get you started…

Start with engaged people, invest time in your selection and recruit well.

Set clear expectations, and provide regular honest feedback.

Developing your managers to bring out the best in their teams.

Rewards and Recognition, make the time to recognise what your staff are doing and remember to say thanks!

Be Trustworthy, honour your commitments and trust others.

Work/Life Balance, understand different needs of your people and try to be flexible.

Do you want to know a bit more?

Come along to one of our 2hr workshops where Michelle will share more about the important topic of employee engagement and help you to consider what your next steps are:-

We are running our next Employee Engagement Workshop on Wednesday 8th march. Click here for more information.

How Investing in your people and teams benefits your business

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

I had the privilege of seeing entrepreneur, author and inspirational speaker, Brad Sugars presenting at a conference earlier this month. What was interesting for me, was his key message to the 300 business owners who attended … to achieve success, you need to focus on and develop your people!

We hear so often business leaders saying that people are their biggest asset yet so many are not investing. Companies that fail to invest in employees jeopardize their own success and even survival. In his words, “you’d be mad not to”! Investing in your people impacts directly on productivity and will increase your profit.

Build people

Here are some of the key learnings I wanted to share with you and how we can help you:-

Develop your People and they will grow your business

People need to be developed to help support their growth. Individual’s should be getting at least 6 days a year training to really help bring out their very best and improve productivity. Are you adequately investing in your people to build your business?

We have a range of training workshops to help improve productivity and provide you with the opportunity to develop your people. Click here to find out more…

Team building is a great investment

When teams work well together, they are at their most productive. Companies that focus on team development know that doing so will bring more assurance, creativity, drive and commitment to tasks. It is critical to empower teams through developing, encouraging them to play to their strengths and working as a team. This approach is the proven road to success and companies that do so, rise above their competition – in reputation and in profits. When did you last give your team time to re-group and focus on how they can play to their strengths?

Our team building events are getting rave reviews from our clients. Click here to read some testimonials from our clients…

Management is a skill that needs to be developed

The lack of management and leadership skills in many businesses is significantly impacting on the success of many SMEs. Unless managers and leaders can really learn to inspire their teams to be their very best, help them to shine and learn to let go, they will never achieve their full potential. How many of your people have been promoted and never had any management development?

Our 7-month Management Development programme aims to help managers to become inspiring, authentic leaders using our unique experiential approach. Why not join our next programme. Click here to learn more.

Leadership and communication are key to engagement

People need to know the vision and what the business is looking to achieve but also where you came from … your story. You cannot hope to have an engaged workforce if they are not clear on what they are working towards and have a shared/common goal. Businesses need to be clear on their values and culture and encourage and support people to be aligned to these. The key to all this …. communication!

Do you know how engaged your teams are with you and your business?

Our bespoke staff survey can help you to understand how engaged your people are, what is bringing out their best and what might be getting in their way. Click here to find out more.

Celebrate success together

Make the time to celebrate success. When we say “can I have a word” most people will think “what have I done wrong”. Create a culture where people think “great, what have I done right today”! Are you celebrating enough with your team? Do you think they feel valued and recognised for what they do?

We can find lots of ways to help you celebrate and learn together. Just give us a call and we’d love to have a chat about how we can help you invest and make more profit in your business.