Leadership through horses

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Bringing out the best in your team

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man”. – Winston Churchill

We’ve just had an amazing day working with some brilliant team members. Let us introduce them……

horses from leadership


Why horses?

Because your ability to lead others is put to the test! A horse can weigh more than 500 kilos and speaks in a foreign tongue, and unless you can attract and hold his interest, he may not be very interested in interacting with you. Believe us, they will also provide you with immediate, honest feedback on how you are doing!

The Directors on our Management Development Programme were certainly put to the test. They found it frustrating, rewarding, surprising and thought provoking! And it paid off, as by the end of the day they all influenced and motivated a horse (team member) to follow them by choice. What an achievement!

leading a horse






So what did our Directors learn from the team?

  • Take the time to build trust and build relationships
    • How often do you take the time to connect with people?
  • Be focused and set a clear direction
    • Do you know where you are heading?
  • Be purposeful
    • Does lack of confidence, hesitancy or indecision get in your way?
  • Keep things interesting
    • How are you engaging the team?
    • If something is not working, do you try something different?
  • Different situations require different levels of energy
    • Is using too much energy startling the team or draining you?
    • Is too little energy slowing the pace?
  • Be present and observe what’s happening
    • When did you last observe the team?
  • Step back
    • When things aren’t going as planned, do you come out of the detail?
  • Give people space
    • Are you overpowering, over focusing or micro-managing them
  • Strike the right balance between task and relationships
    • Are you so focused on the task that you forget about the people?
  • Communicate
    • It’s not just what you say, its often about non-verbal communication

Partnering with horses is an effective and impacting method to develop communication skills, increase self-awareness, inspire teamwork, collaboration and trust through genuine leadership. All attributes which are readily transferable to the workplace.

Celebrate your success!

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

time to celebrate          

As the year draws to a close its time to reflect on all that you have achieved and celebrate your success, but how many times do we forget the latter?

At Pro-Development we believe one of the most important parts of goal-setting is celebrating success. Taking the time to celebrate success, no matter how big or small the achievement helps to motivate the team, builds individuals confidence in their ability, builds customer confidence in the business, encourages continuous improvement along with creativity and innovation. It also says a lot about what a great employer you are. So celebrating success is good for people and good for business too. So go celebrate in style.
  1. Write down your success and put it where it can be seen every day
  2. Reflect on the key factors that helped you to get to success
  3. Recognise all those who contributed
  4. Thank everyone involved
  5. Accept and enjoy the compliments
  6. Share the news with those close to you such as friends, family and colleagues
  7. Share the news wider via twitter, blogs, newsletters, emails. You may just inspire someone!
  8. Cross it off your list of goals
  9. Treat yourself to something lovely
  10. Have some fun!
And there’s no better time to have fun than Christmas, so happy Christmas to you all.

prodev christmas do

Christmas Advent Calendar!

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

DEC 2014 Newletter tree

Happy Christmas from Pro-Development! Its that time of year again!

This year, for a bit of fun, we have created an advent calendar with relevant hints, tips, quotes and information for each day of December!

Click on the date below for todays suprise! If its a video it will open in YouTube on our Pro-Development Channel. Click the back button on your browser to return to this page.

1st December 2nd December 3 advent 4 5 6 advent 7 advent 8 advent 9 advent 4 11 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 19 20 21 21 21 21

The true recipe of Authentic Leadership

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

mdp cookery school croppedThis dish, if served as team portions, provides the following nutrients:-
  • Meaning – to help others to make sense and connect with what is happening
  • Direction and communicating with the team
  • Information to enable the team to feel empowered and accountable
  • Establishing how the team work together and value each other
  • Trust and an atmosphere where people feel able to be open and honest
  • Structure and order in ever changing and confusing situations
  • 6 Amazing Directors
  • 1 Cordon Bleu Chef called Hilary
  • 2 Doctors
  • 3 clipboards
  • 1 Tender
  • Loads of Food
  • 1 pan full of enthusiasm
  • Herbs to garnish

To make truly authentic leaders you must thoroughly prepare and make a great plan. Investing time in planning can avoid a good roasting! All plans have key deliverables, but always keep the end game in mind and plan to achieve the whole. Make sure everyone has understood the task and its meaning, and all the connections are made so that everyone is cooking from the same cook book.


  1. Preheat the team to a good degree of engagement.
  2. Every team member brings something different to the table, be it sugar or spice. Identify your team member’s strengths and provide opportunities to use them. It might just be the secret ingredient you need.
  3. Many of us took the approach of “working together” as a team, this worked very well, but remember not to get too much into the detail, use everyone around you to make sure that where possible, you are being a sensor (This may mean not intervening directly but if you don’t take the time to stand back, you may miss subtle clues or end up with a smoking oven!).
  4. Know what works well in the team; however don’t miss opportunities to try something new and different that could create an even better recipe.
  5. Define roles and accountabilities – who is in charge of chopping, stirring, cooking, presentation, delivering the meal!
  6. Check-in with the team regularly, letting them know progress against the goal, how they are doing, and listen to and value their contributions.
  7. Ask great questions, it can cost you if you don’t!
  8. Listen to what is said (as well as what is not said), you might just learn something!
  9. Remember that positive energy is there to be harnessed; with it you can create some great things. Don’t turn off the energy because you think you’re being undermined.
  10. You don’t ‘knead’ to know it all! Be aware of your limitations and when you should bring in the expertise.
  11. Finally pour the mixture over the team and sprinkle with some magic leadership dust.

The Great Giant Sunflower grow-off 2015

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

My goodness me – what a bumper crop we have had this year! Thanks to everyone for sending in your pictures of your whoppers!

The competition has been tough; over 30 people have been competing for this esteemed title, and once again we saw the return of the scoundrel squirrel. But none of this affected the steely determination of our growers.

So we are proud to announce the winner of “The Great Giant Sunflower grow-off 2015”as OWEN TURNER from United by Design (www.unitedbydesign.co) with his amazing 9ft 8 sunflower.

.... to this!

…. to this!

From this .....

From this …..

Here’s what Owen had to say ….

“What a fun and insightful thing to do over the summer! Not only was it great to be a little green fingered and be inspired by such a wonderfully vibrant plant but doing the Grow Off allowed me to take time out, reflect and focus. Although competitive by nature doing the Grow Off became more about nurturing growth literally and metaphorically in life and at work! I shared the experience with friends and colleagues but more importantly enjoy the enriching experience at home with my wife and 2 young children. This, I think was the best part of the whole experience in all honesty. We shared, giggled, measured and discussed together from the initial planting to seeing the plants reach the heady heights they achieved. Fun, educational and of course satisfying – I recommend anyone to grow not just a sunflower but other plants too!’

Owen, we congratulate you on this life changing achievement and we look forward to you defending your title next year!

Think you’re up for the challenge?

Do you have what it takes?

Are you green fingered enough?

If so email us at info@pro-development.co.uk with the message “Bring on the seed” and we will send you your seed in the spring. In the meantime, get mulching!

First Line Manager Programme

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Through our employee engagement reviews we often uncover 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 as a result of their manager!


But save a thought for the manager!

hmmm thinking

Many of the managers we meet have never had the new expectation of the role made clear to them; in fact, sometimes the leaders themselves don’t truly know what they expect from their managers. Often the manager has been promoted because of their technical ability within the role, and not on their ability to manage and motivate a team to be their best. On top of this, there is then the delicate nature of managing changing relationships with team members. Those who were once peers are now reporting into the new manager, finding the right balance and managing this with skill and grace is not easy.

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 managers become effective in their role. The programme covers a range of topics including:

sunflower dev you
  • Understanding you and your role
  • Understanding teams
  • Honest and effective communication
  • Performance Management
  • Bringing out the best in your team
  • Dealing with difficult situations
  • Delivering through others
  • Developing you and your team

There are numerous outcomes too:

  • Describe their own management style and the impact on others
  • Explain the factors which contribute to a high performing team
  • Evaluate team behaviour, taking appropriate action
  • Develop tools and techniques to communicate more effectively
  • Describe the manager’s role in performance management
  • Construct smart objectives and monitor performance effectively
  • Conduct appraisals that add value to both individuals and the business
  • Identify ways to motivate and empower individuals
  • Apply techniques for praising and rewarding people in the appropriate way
  • Explain how to manage under performers
  • Empower the team and delegate tasks effectively
  • Explore the difference between conduct and capability
  • Explain the processes in place to manage absence
  • Recognise the importance of knowing strengths and aspirations of individuals
  • Identify development opportunities and provide opportunities for growth
  • Build personal self – belief

In addition, to help embed learning we offer support including 1:1 sessions, coaching or action learning groups where managers can focus on specific challenges and issues.

Here’s what previous delegates on an in-house programme had to say:

“Overall I have enjoyed the whole experience; it has certainly been an eye opener! I did not realise there was so much to it” (Lauren – DriveSpeed)

“At times a challenging experience but unbelievably beneficial for management teams to work together” (Sabrina – DriveSpeed)

“An amazing programme. Sue and Michelle are thorough and tough when they need to be, but it’s only because they want to help you to be the best leader you can be!” (Kirsty – DriveSpeed)


This programme has a flexible approach and can be adapted to suit business need, so if you think this programme might be part of your solution to having inspiring managers why not get in touch and we can tailor a solution that’s right for you. Don’t forget – you may qualify for match funding for this programme. Click here to find out more

Can you afford to lose your good people?

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Can you afford to lose your good people?

We’ve been working with some amazing companies recently who have all engaged with us because they are worried about losing some of their best people – and with recruiting the right people with the right attitude, values and skills becoming increasingly difficult, they can see that now is the time to understand how they can retain their most talented people. What’s really concerning businesses though is the costs associated with replacing people. HayGroup estimated it can cost between 12-18 months’ salary to replace an employee!

cost of losing staff
  • Do you know if one of your best people is considering leaving?
  • Are you doing everything to ensure that people want to stay in your business?
  • Do you know what is motivating and engaging your teams to ensure they are giving their best?

These are difficult questions to answer, and the holy grail of employee engagement and morale can feel a mystery at times! Employee engagement is not about specific skills or individual talents. It is more than mere job satisfaction, and greater than simple motivation. Engagement is not something you can demand; it is rather something both you and your employee must contribute to. Managers have a key role to play here and yet worryingly, 62% of employee’s leave their job as a result of their manager.

Yet the real, tangible economic benefits are all too clear: increased retention being a key one. And there are others including reduced sickness, greater customer satisfaction, improved productivity, optimum business performance; the list goes on. So, clearly, in a recovering economic climate and an increasingly buoyant job market, the need to have an engaged workforce has never been greater.

So if you can’t afford to lose good people why not come along to our workshop on 4th November from 10.00-12noon (only £10) where we will share tools, techniques and ideas for helping to engage and connect with your teams. Click here to book a place

The skills to grow your business, the funding to make it happen!

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

We wanted to remind you that Pro-Development are a registered provider with Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Skills Service.

What this means

This is exciting news for SMEs as it means if you work within the Leeds region 50% match funding is available for training and development provided that the eligibility criteria is met. You’ll also be pleased to learn that the Leeds Region incorporates SMEs that are based in York, Harrogate, Craven, Selby, Barnsley and all of West Yorkshire.

More about the LEP

The LEP promotes the Leeds City Region’s interests on a national and international scale, helping business and enterprise to thrive by unlocking potential through partnership. The LEP’s vision is to unlock the potential of the City Region, developing an economic powerhouse that will create jobs and prosperity. They aim to do this by being a relevant, essential and enabling partner to growing businesses within the City Region, and by opening the door to a new relationship with government. The LEP also have a skills service which you can access, if eligible, for the match funding. This means if you have a budget to put towards training, you could also be eligible for funding of between £500 and £50,000.

Is your business eligible?

To be eligible for skills funding your business must:

• be based in the Leeds City Region (which includes York, Harrogate, Craven, Selby, Barnsley and all of West Yorkshire.)

• employ fewer than 250 people and have an annual turnover of less than £40million

• be able to provide a contribution to the cost of training, as a minimum 50%

• be in one of our priority sector, which are:

  • Creative and digital
  • Finance and Business
  • Medical Technology
  • Hospitality and tourism
  • Low Carbon
  • Manufacturing and engineering
  • Transport and logistics
Map Eligible and want to access the funding?

1. Go to the LEP site, skills page

2. Complete the on-line form and answer some questions about you and your business, and the required skills development including:

a. What training is required and for how many people?

b. What will the added value be to your business by undertaking this training?

c. What are the objectives for undertaking the training?

3. You will then be asked ‘do you require further support in identifying a training provided’ –at this point you can select ‘No’ and enter Pro-Development as your registered training provider.

Interested and would like to find out more?

Why not have a look at the LEP site. The site is packed full of information, go to the skills page for specific information about the funding for development which we are accredited to deliver for you. This really is a fantastic opportunity for businesses in the region, we look forward to working together to help your business flourish and grow.

3 Peaks Challenge – Final Update – WE DID IT!

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries, Uncategorized

Well, its with great relief that we are writing this blog! Yes we did it and we survived in one piece – sort of!! Can we start off by saying a massive thank you to all of you that supported us with messages and sponsor money – we are all very grateful.

We had fabulous weather and couldn’t have asked for a better day for the walk. We drove to Ingleton in the Dales on Saturday night and ate a very adequate meal of pie and chips (plus glass of red wine) to “carb up” – not quite the healthy carbing up that we’d been advised to do but hey ho!

We stayed in a nice guest house and attempted to get a good nights sleep before our alarm went off at 5.45am! We arrived at the starting point, Ribblehead Viaduct at 6.45 and the sun was just making an attempt to come out. After an inspirational pep talk, our leader, Mark Reid, led us up towards the first peak Whernside. Michelle and Sue were surprisingly perky and had slept well. Liz didn’t feel quite so good and took a while to wake up due to lack of an early injection of coffee (it took about 5 miles to be precise!).

Before the walk at 7am!

Before the walk at 7am!


We got up Whernside without much bother and as it was the first peak it’s a blooming good job we did, as at that point, we didn’t really have a clue what pain was in store!! Here is a photo of us at the top!

The second Peak was Ingleborough, this was a very long climb with an extremely steep asent towards the end which involved what we like to refer to as “scrambling and rock climbing”. It was that steep it really did feel like we needed ropes and harnesses – but alas none were offered!! Woman and the elements!!

3 or us

The view at the top of Ingleborough and a 15 minute lunch break were our reward. Here we are at the top of number 2!

The desent down Ingleborough was very tough on Liz and her knees took a battering! It was a long walk to Horton in Ribblesdale where we had a short break for toilets and refuelling at a café! Then onward for the third and final peak, Pen y Gent. This was challenging as it’s a long and fairly steep asent with the good old rock climbing scrambling bit at the top. It was still very clear so great views at the top once again.

On the desent down Pen y Gent we discovered that we still had 10 miles to walk back to the start/finish line! A few choice swear words could be heard along the way I can tell you! It was very hard by this point and we were very tired. Everything was hurting, particularly feet and knees! It was knowing that we had to write this blog and report back to people, that kept us going, plus the very important matter of sponsor money, of course we couldn’t’ even have thought of letting the charities down, so on we plodded!

We finished in 12 hours and the relief was amazing! We had a Pale Ale at the pub at the end which was a very welcome sight, followed by champagne once we were back to our guest house!

A glass of champagne after the walk!

A glass of champagne after the walk!

3 Peaks Challenge – 4th update

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

As this is written there are less than 2 weeks to go until our Marathon in the Mountains!! Here is the next episode:

Sue – decided to embark on a practice walk with the family…5.5 miles, she was looking forward to some quality family time! It unfortunately didn’t quite go to plan. First a pre walk shouting match with her teenage son resulting in his steely eyes boring in to the back of her head for the whole walk. Secondly, her husband got them lost 6 miles in (they were only meant to do 5.5 miles!) followed swiftly by her daughter refusing to engage with her in any way, so, 9 miles of miserable and painful walking, according to Sue! Sue’s final comments after I asked if her new walking boots were doing well … “Boots OK, family in rehab”!! She has since done another walk, no children but constant rain for 10 miles, nice!

Michelle and Liz – did a pleasant sunny walk up Ingleborough in the Dales (one of the Peaks), no whining children, no husbands to get them lost. Just lots of chat, appreciating views, talking to sheep, looking at maps a few too many times and to finish it all off nicely, a half of lager at the pub at the end as a reward! Sue, you need to come training with us, leave the family at home!!

A few extra points:-

Liz has discovered walking poles and a camel pack water carrying pouch thingy that fits in her rucksack! “All the gear, no idea” springs to mind!

We have had a “photo shoot” and a press release is to be sent to the local press – watch this space!

If you would like to sponsor us, we would really appreciate the support. Please go to our Just Giving team page and donate whatever you can to the charity closest to your heart.