Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries


Last week we talked about the importance of organisational culture, ‘how we do things around here’, which ultimately impacts on business performance. This week I want to share with you the importance of values to set, steer and guide the culture. Research suggests that the more people identify with your organisation’s core purpose and values, the stronger the culture tends to be (CIPD,2014). An organisations values provide a guiding light for the behaviours and standards expected in the business.

Your values will be unique for your business and can be a great way to differentiate your organisation from others in the sector. For example, a core value at Pro-Development is making a difference; ‘We do what we do because we want to make a difference. We want to see and feel a difference when we are working with our clients. We will only do work when we know that it will lead to a positive outcome.’ This provides a guiding light for us in the work we do. If employees can identify with your values and feel passionate about them, they will feel more motivated and engaged which will positively impact on business performance. This can be easy in the early days of an organisation when the people you work with are very closely aligned with your values. But as you grow, there can be a ‘tipping point’ where problems in the business increase and it doesn’t feel like it used to. This is often when the leader doesn’t have regular face to face contact with people, relying on others to keep the values alive and they can become diluted over time which may impact on the success of the business.

Do your people know what your values are and do you articulate them on a regular basis as well as role modelling them?

A powerful way to do this is through a team development event. This can be a great way to bring your people together, reinforce the values and celebrate success. If this is something that you would be interested in, please get in touch as we can build a bespoke event that can help you to develop and strengthen your values.

It is important to think about the potential impact on values and culture before implementing change. If change has been implemented, for example, to structure and processes, this can impact on engagement, and ultimately on customer experience. It can also be difficult to uphold culture and values across multiple locations. To ensure that the values that differentiate you as a business are not lost over time, you need to know what’s going on with your people. We can help you through our employee engagement survey and, of course, we’ll only do it if we know it will lead to a positive outcome.

Here are some top tips for retaining your culture, values and purpose over time:

• Look out for subtle signs that your employees are becoming less engaged with your business as you grow.

• Articulate your purpose and values in a way that reflects your founding principles but also in a way that your people can identify with.

• Tell your story to increase employee engagement and sense of ownership.

• Consider how introducing new formal processes and procedures will affect your business culture.

• Your values and purpose need to be the golden thread through all your people practices, especially your recruitment practices.

• Be a role model. Live the values.


Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

The recent news about the gorilla escaping from London Zoo reminded me of an experiment relating to culture that was carried out in the 1960s.

A researcher placed 5 monkeys into a large cage. At the top of the cage, a bunch of bananas was positioned with a ladder underneath. One monkey began to climb the ladder and as he did, the researcher sprayed all the moneys with cold water.

The monkey on the ladder scrambled off and all 5 sat for a time on the floor, wet and cold. Soon, the temptation of the bananas was too great, and another monkey began to climb the ladder. Again, the experimenter sprayed the monkeys with cold water. When a third monkey tried to climb the ladder, the other monkeys, wanting to avoid the cold spray, pulled him off the ladder and beat him.

Next one monkey was removed and a new monkey was introduced to the cage. Spotting the bananas, he began to climb the ladder. The other monkeys pulled him off and beat him.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The researcher removed a second one of the original monkeys from the cage and replaced him with a new monkey. Again, the new monkey began to climb the ladder and, again, the other monkeys pulled him off and beat him – including the monkey who had never been sprayed. Eventually all the monkeys were replaced. When a monkey tried to climb the ladder, the other monkeys pulled him off and beat him even though none of them have been sprayed with water. The monkeys have all learned never to try and go for the bananas, they have learned the behaviour that is not acceptable. This is how culture is learned; it’s about ‘how we do things around here’. If you think it doesn’t relate to humans, watch this recent experiment:

Managers and leaders may advocate the values and culture of the organization, but the culture is what happens in practice. It’s learned from what people see others doing and so is accepted as ‘how we do things around here’. Bananas can be a metaphor for other things in the workplace. If cold water is poured on people and their ideas, people learn to suppress innovation even if the values support innovation in theory. Do you know what the culture really is in your organization? Our employee engagement survey measures values and culture and helps you to understand whether the existing culture is helping your organisation to succeed. If it isn’t, we can help you to embed a new, more productive culture. A great way to start your journey is to understand your culture using our employee engagement survey. Click Here to find out more.

Week 3 in the Pro-Development House

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries


3lb – Weight loss

Energy levels – about the same at the moment but the dark mornings/nights don’t help.

Ok, ok I’ve not been sticking to it religiously, but it’s hard when you’re networking. All that lovely food, bacon butties yum yum! I also have attended a couple of events where it appeared drinking lots of wine was compulsory!!! However, in my defence, when I am good I am very good. Coming off caffeine was a nightmare, so much so I had to revert back to one normal cuppa a day…hey, I’m only human! Eating lots of fish and prawns which I’m loving.


5lb – Weight loss

Energy levels – increasing (5 out of 10)

Loving rye bread toasted and smothered in butter with fried eggs for breakfast! Soup for dinner then it gets a bit tiresome by teatime. There’s only so much salmon and cauliflower a girl can eat. Need to expand my repertoire a little. On the plus side, saw some friends at the weekend who thought I looked great. I’ll take that!


Energy Levels – increasing (6 out of 10)

How would I describe my healthy eating plan? Well, I do not frequent the crisp aisle quite so often and I try and close the fridge when a chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc is winking at me! I am partial to a little Tofu for a snack these days although I have to put plenty of spice on it and the mackerel for breakfast is actually great. The office fridge is now stocked up with soups too so all is incredibly positive – we had to take the bottles of champagne out though to fit them in!!!


Energy Levels – not noticed a remarkable difference yet.

Now Gluten and diary free and feeling much better for it. Other things are more of a challenge, in particular crisps and gin (especially on a Friday night). Any suggestions for a healthy alternative?? I wonder whether raspberry gin counts as a portion of fruit?

CIPD employee outlook spring 2016

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

The results of a recent CIPD survey on employee views about working life are concerning for UK businesses. Read on to find out more, in particular how you would answer the questions…

Results suggests that job satisfaction has decreased substantially from autumn 2015 as is at its lowest level for over two years. This figure has decreased the most in the private sector. Motivation, a key element of employee engagement is important for driving improved individual and business performance. Results indicate that employee motivation is low, with only 35 percent of employees agreeing that ‘this organisation really inspires the very best of me in the way of job performance’.

How would your employees answer that question?

Leaders are critical drivers in increasing employee engagement and research suggests that high engagement leads to increased productivity and profit. As managers, the way we consult with our people about important decisions can influence how employees feel about both you as their manager and the organisation. This survey indicates that fewer employees agree that their leaders have a clear vision of where the organisation is going compared with 2015 and very few employees believe that leaders consult them about important decisions. This underlines the importance of high quality communication and consultation with employees. Although scores were high for employee’s understanding of the organisation’s core purpose, they were very low for being motivated by the core purpose.

Do you have a clear vision and do your people understand your core purpose and are motivated by it? Confidence in senior managers’ ability has worsened, however satisfaction with line managers is up slightly. Scores were high for line managers treating people fairly and making clear what is expected of them and are supportive, however were low for coaching on the job, discussing training and development needs and providing feedback on performance. How can you help your managers to improve their coaching skills? Our Management Development Programme can provide your managers with the skills needed.

The importance of workplace health and well-being has been high on the agenda in the last few years, however the results of this survey suggest that it is not viewed as a strategic priority in spite of the benefits for employees and businesses. Scores for employees’ ability to achieve work life balance are stable. However, a third of employees say that they come home from work often or always exhausted. Good news is that people are most likely to say that work makes them feel cheerful, based on a range of emotions. We are passionate about having fun in the workplace, and believe it helps us to be more creative and engaged. Scores were equally low for the job making people feel both excited and miserable.

Would your people say that they feel more excited or miserable about their job?

Do you have a performance management system and if so, do people consider that it’s fair? 57 percent of those questioned had a process and of those almost a quarter considered that it’s unfair. Although reward based performance management systems are often designed to motivate people the reality is that they often demotivate. An effective non-financial reward is learning and development. About 42 percent of employees are satisfied with the opportunity to develop their skills. Although only 9 percent of people had received coaching, 90 percent of them rated it as useful or very useful, again reinforcing the value of coaching.

The survey suggests that almost a quarter of people are currently looking for a new job, up from a fifth in 2015. Combined with a slump in job satisfaction and low motivation, this is a worrying trend.

Do you need help in understanding how engaged your people are?

We can work with you to help you to unlock the potential of your business and workforce. Click here for more information.

Healthy Life

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Day 1 In The Pro-Development House

So, here we are 12 weeks from Christmas and still carrying a few pounds from the summer holiday. Well, out are the fad diets this year as we embark on a 12-week nutrition programme with the Rebalance Foundation. This is a brand new charity dedicated to making a difference for anyone affected by a diet-related disease. Diabetes, obesity, heart disease, strokes, some cancers or even those who want to adopt a healthier lifestyle. The Rebalance Foundation are specialists in nutrition and lifestyle advice so follow us as we work with Elaine Wilson and get into a better shape – not just for Christmas…For life!

Day 1 Michelle

Feeling excited, waiting for my personalised eating plan. Hoping not too many mung beans feature in this healthy eating plan. Aiming for increased energy, weight loss and more va va voom (God help us!)

Day 1 – Sue

I have spent the last week eating a very strange combination of foods as I clear out the cupboards in readiness for my new eating plan. Kids not too impressed by what may or may not be happening and Husband doing as he is told! Like Michelle aiming for increased energy, weight loss and to look 10 years younger!

Day 1 – Steph

I can’t wait to feel the benefits from my new eating plan and I am looking forward to getting my family on-board too. Already, I am drinking more water so brownie points there! Like Sue, I have had a good sort out in the kitchen ready for them to be filled with magic ingredients that will make me feel a million dollars! I wonder if the Pro-Development team have thrown out their wine?

Day 1 – Janette

Looking forward to bringing down my biological age down to 21 and losing half a stone (one of these maybe an unrealistic expectation…?) Having already given up gluten, dairy and egg yolk I’m wondering what there will be left to eat? Recent research from Public Health England suggests that 40% of us don’t exercise enough, so I am hoping to inspire the team to walk every lunchtime we are in the office.


Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Have a communication plan

communication-funny • Think about the year ahead and the events and activities to come. It could be the Christmas party or the launch of a new product or service.

• Next think about who needs to be informed about this. Is it the management team for example, or should everyone be informed?

• Next think about what they need to know. For example, is it the bigger picture, or the detail.

• Now think about when should they be informed. How far in advance should communication start? A month before the event, two months before? And how often should they be reminded? Weekly, monthly?

• How are you going to communicate? Face to Face or email? Team meeting or 1:1s? Maybe a whole office meeting? Think about which method will work for you.

• Put a plan together and follow it. Don’t forget to review it though to check key messages are getting through. Here are some of our ideas of different ways to communicate.

Quarterly/Half year events

Take the whole company out for a day/half day to share the company vision, update the team on business performance, and give the team chance to network with each other. This doesn’t have to be boring, inject some fun into the event, people will be far more likely to be engaged with the key messages. Recent research suggests that about 50 percent of employees don’t have sufficient information about the organisation’s strategy.

Company Newsletter

The trick to a company newsletter it getting people to actually read it! Ask the team what they would like to see as content and listen to and act upon their feedback.

Team meetings

Hold regular team meetings to share information between the teams.


A quick 5 minutes team get together to establish what each person has on that day and what could get in the way is a great way to remove any barriers and improve productivity. Try this standing up so they don’t go on for too long.


Regular 1:1s between manager and team member will help with staff growth and development. This will enable a discussion to place around what’s going well, what’s challenging and where the individuals would like support and development and opportunities. Recent research from the CIPD suggests that there has been an increase in the number of employees who consider that the performance management processes in their organisation are somewhat or not at all fair, which highlights the importance of regular informal 1:1s.

Staff suggestion scheme

This is a great way to get the team to put forward their ideas for improvement. Some people may put their name against the ideas, others won’t. Demonstrate you have read and considered the ideas in team meetings, newsletters etc.

Employee Engagement Survey

An employee Survey is a great way to get people talking about the business and what’s getting in their way. Completed anonymously, people may be more honest about how they’re feeling. If you’d like to know more about employee engagement surveys – Click here

Acts of kindness

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

It always astounds us how many acts of kindness we see. Whether it’s a car flashing us out in busy traffic, someone giving up their time for a community activity or taking the time to really listen to someone.

However, sometimes with the pace of life and the stresses we face we can have moments of lapse. You know, those times we give a ‘look’ to a driver who is going too slow or don’t take the time to listen to our children as they share what’s happened during their day.

However, acts of kindness, no matter how big or small can make a big difference not just to the receiver but also to the giver. Scientific studies have shown that random acts of kindness are good for you! They improve your life satisfaction by increasing your sense of belonging and self- worth, and they improve your health by decreasing your anxiety, depression and blood pressure. These benefits apply to the giver of kindness, the recipient of kindness, and anyone who witnesses the act! Every act improves the lives of at least three people!

lesley Binns June

Well, we have been inspired into action by Leslie Binns, the British climber who gave up his opportunity to reach the top of Mount Everest to save the life of a fellow climber. Less than 500 metres (and 12 hours) from the summit, he turned around to save Indian climber Sunita Hazra on 21 May 2016.

This selfless and kind act has captured the hearts of many and a host of people have praised his actions on Facebook. One user wrote “If there is only one prize for mountaineering in the whole world, it should be awarded to Leslie. By choosing not to scale the highest peak even after reaching very close to it, he has actually scaled the peak of real heroism and would remain an example of the mountaineering community. No word is enough to describe his brave and unselfish act.”

Challenge time…

We can all make an act of kindness, and they don’t need to be of huge scales. Think about what you can do to help a colleague, when did you last offer them some feedback, or tell them how much you appreciate them. And what about the kids? Why don’t you read them a bedtime story tonight and give them your time?.

Go for it, you and those around you will feel great…We will leave this with you.

Feeling valued and recognised

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

There’s no denying that positive reinforcement shapes behaviour at work and we respond well to both encouragement and the belief that we are doing a good job.

In research conducted by Monster (2014) 54% said that lack of thanks made them feel underappreciated whilst 41% also felt it demotivating, making them less likely to give 100% effort. As respondents were able to select more than one description it was interesting to see that 12% also said it made them feel sad, and for another 12% it led to feelings of anger. Clearly there is a huge impact on staff loyalty and retention.

Questions for you…

• Do you feel valued?

• What do you think your company value about you?

people clapping • How do you like to be recognised?

• When did you last receive praise?

A Challenge for you…

Now let’s turn this around!

How would your team members answer these questions?

Any actions you need to take? Why not do them today?

Here are just a few ways you can help your team feel valued and recognised…

Time – Take the time to connect with individuals. Find out how they like to be recognized

Honesty – Always be honesty, this will build mutual trust and respect

Appreciate – individually recognise your employees for their specific achievements

Notes and gifts – It doesn’t have to be much. A simple note, a bottle of wine or a gift voucher perhaps?

Keep doing it – re-enforce the message

You – You share with the individual the good stuff you are hearing and the impact they are making

Opportunities – Create opportunities for new experiences

Uniqueness – celebrate their uniqueness and the opportunities and richness this brings

What is getting in the way – identify ways of making a difference for you and your business and remember, if you or your team are feeling undervalued and unrecognized, we can help.

The Benefits of Team Working

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

people in a circle The Benefits of Team Working

It’s no surprise that working in a supportive team contributes to employee engagement levels, yet time after time we uncover teams where a ‘them and us’ attitude prevails and gets in the way of growth. Teamwork brings about lots of benefits so it’s worth investing time in the team so they can connect and work collaboratively towards a collective goal. Lets look at some of the benefits team working can bring.

A sense of belonging

A sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter. A sense of belonging to a group improves motivation, health, and happiness.  Many find belonging to a team provides a purpose, and a heightened sense of feeling valued.

Ability to play to strengths

A team is made up from people with various strengths. A lot of energy can be spent working on things that individuals find hard to do or draining. Working in a team enables tasks to be aligned to individual’s strengths which could bring faster output, higher performance, more energy and increased job satisfaction.

Having a network of people for support

There are times when indiviudals are not sure of the next steps, times when workloads are overbearing and maybe times when we just need to talk things through. Working in a team provides the opportunity to share what is on our mind, check out our thoughts, motivate each other, and build our confidence and self-belief.

It is amazing the amount of camaraderie that is created in teams, especially when the going gets tough. When you know you have the support and encouragement of a team behind you, you are highly likely to be braver and push yourself harder.

More creative thinking

We all have different skills, knowledge and personal attributes. By using all of these different aspects in a team, more ideas can be produced. As more ideas are generated, more creative solutions are promoted, leading to better results.

The opportunity to develop and acquire new skills

Working in a team exposes individuals to a whole range of skills and opportunities from which they can to learn from others. In addition, when new people join the team they bring a vast array of previous experience and associated skills and abilities and this can further broaden our own skills set.

Having fun!

Working in a team that has fun together not only makes work a pleasant environment to be in, but it can also act as stress relief too! So go on and have some fun today!

If your team needs to connect and have some fun, why not get in touch and we can design a bespoke team event for you.

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT – we are running an Employee Engagement Workshop on Wednesday 29th June or Tuesday 27th September at the York Science Park, to book a place click here.

Learning at work week – what did we do?

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

We got involved in some great activities during Learning at Work Week, here are just a few……

Learning at work poster 2016 At the start of the week we worked with a company exploring the skills and capabilities required for the future. We looked at succession planning and how managers could develop and grow their people in line with business growth. This was a great opportunity for the managers to reflect on the skills they had in the business and the skills they need. Have you taken the time to consider the future skills you require?

On Tuesday Michelle attended the annual TAB conference. There were lots of different sessions and she particularly enjoyed “Timeless Principles of Exceptional Business” hosted by Ed Reid which provided food for thought on differentiating your business offering.

Mid-week we spent a day working with a group of middle managers, focusing on the skills required to delegate, empower and motivate a team to high performance. Learning to let go can be one of the hardest challenges. What can get in the way of you letting go?

On Wednesday we attended a learning session on mind mapping, which was a fantastic refresher on the benefits of the tool. The whole team attended a session entitled “The Money Effect” which was all about personal finances and thinking about our financial future.

Thursday we attended a ‘lunch and learn’ session on Customer Relationship Management systems. We went along open minded not sure of what we would learn. We can report back that the session was very informative and insightful, not only by hearing from the speaker, but also learning from the experience of others. Sometimes you just never know when you will learn something new! When did you last take time out in the working day to broaden your horizons and learn something new?

The close of the week saw Michelle develop her skill in public speaking, being a guest on Vale Radio, speaking on the subject of Employee Engagement. Speaking on the radio is totally out of Michelle’s comfort zone but well done to Michelle, she was fantastic! When did you last step out of your comfort zone and into your learning zone?

Learning in your workplace

Why not look at this great guide on ‘leading and learning’ which shows managers and team leaders how to build a learning culture without the need for a huge investment in money and time.

The guide offers practical suggestions for planning, evaluating, promotion, supporting essential skills and overcoming obstacles for learning. And remember…..If you need help with learning in your workplace, Pro-Development can help.