Management Development – Managing others through change

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries


This month the Management Development programme took us to HowStean Gorge where our fearless delegates embarked on a journey in an ever changing environment and led a team powerfully to success.

During the day the team conquered orienteering, caving, abseiling and gorge walking and in doing so experienced denial, resistance, anger and fear. They learnt on the way the importance of creating a vision, sharing that vision and to keep communicating the vision so its fresh in everyone’s mind. They recognised the importance of listening and to keep listening all throughout the change.

The team needed to enable actions to remove obstacles in their way. Obstacles could be a number of things but presented itself to us as resistance, fear, and not listening to your own state. However the obstacles were overcome through authentic leadership, revealing vulnerabilities, being brave, trusting those around them and supporting other through the change.

The results…the team achieved things they hadn’t even thought of, and took the time to celebrate their success and to recognise everybody’s contribution. What a day! What a team.

The Great Giant Sunflower Grow Off 2014! Winners!

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Sunflower winners

Our congratulations must go to Angie Crossan and Karen Deigton from DE Ford who are joint winners of this years Sunflower Grow Off.

Both Angie and Karen managed to grow their sunflowers over 8ft. We asked this green fingered duo to share hints and tips of their success!

“Get dad to start them off” says Angie

“Don’t strap ‘em too tight or too much..let them blow in the wind” added Karen.

Inspiration to us all

Thank you to all of you who entered. As you know this years competition has had it darker moments, we’ll never forget squirrel gate! Not deterred though…the grow off will be back in 2015, we already have a list of competitors, so if you think you can follow in Karen and Angies footsetps, let us know

Sunflower Oct 2014


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

TJ awards 2014_Finalist

Everyone who knows us, understand that what makes Pro-Development different is our innovative and creative approach to all we do.

Our approach has now been recognised nationally and we have been shortlisted for a prestigious award in the Training Journal Awards 2014. Michelle was nominated by Escalla who we worked with on the project with the Cabinet Office earlier this year that saw us travelling the length and breadth of the country.

We are over the moon to get this far and are up against 5 other big contenders for the Learning & Development Professional of the Year 2014 category – see here for details of all the finalists. It just goes to show that we may be small compared to some of the other nominees that have been chosen for this amazing award but it proves that you do not have to be big to catch the eye of the judges. We are delighted to be a finalist and this is recognition of our commitment to growing and developing people and is a tremendous achievement”.

Lou Mooney from Escalla described the approach we took as a truly “game changing” learning experience. His full testimonial is available here.

The Awards ceremony will be held at the TJ Awards Gala Dinner on Wednesday 26th November at The Brewery in London and is tipped to be a sell-out. We’re already picking out our posh frocks and are getting ready for a night of champagne and glamour – we’ll keep you all posted.

Management Development – Bringing out the best in your team

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

What a team

As ever, the management development programme brought a different element to learning, and in August it was leadership though horses. Unlike people, horses will only co-operate from a place of connection and mutual respect and trust. When you can lead teams from a place of heart-felt connection and trust, rather than intimidation and fear, you form high performing teams where everyone contributes and plays an active role. We learnt so much over the day about:

• Being authentic and showing your vulnerabilities

• Trust and respect are key to bringing out the best in others

• Giving clear direction and always being purposeful

• Setting the right pace and tone and enjoying the journey

• Having honest conversations along the way

• Being prepared to step out of our comfort zone

• Thinking about how best to lead the individual and the team

• Finding ways to work in harmony with our team

• Believing in ourselves and others

• Observing what is going on (without judgement)

• Remembering that leaders don’t know everything!

It really was a fantastic experience; people were operating outside of their comfort zone and achieved more than they could have imagined. One delegate emailed us the next day:-

“My only complaint … it wasn’t long enough – I wanted more … both working with the horses but also the learning!!!! After a full on day, it was great to read that and we agreed too. There were a few people who slept well that night 🙂

Our thanks go to Julia Felton at Business Horse Power for supporting us and making it such a great day!

Engage for Success Event – July 2014

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

engage for success

From the future of engagement, to engagement in the future

7th July, Aston University, Birmingham

As many of you know, Michelle Mook is part of the Engage for Success Group, a movement committed to the idea that there is a better way to work; a better way to enable personal growth, organisational growth and ultimately growth for the UK by releasing more of the capability and potential of people at work.

Over the last few years the Engage for Success Movement has brought together the experience of leading practitioners, the ideas and research of leading academics, and the findings of think tanks, to share learning and practical guidance on “the what, the why and the how” of employee engagement.

Michelle participated in their July event which took a look at how employee engagement has developed. Having been around for ten years now, it has developed beyond a fad to become embedded in many organisations. The day looked at where we have got to with employee engagement and more importantly, where we will take it in the future, both as a concept and area of practice.

This special event focussed on the recently published thought leadership pieces written by a selection of leading academics and business leaders, all experts in their field, which offer different perspectives based on their area of activity: practice, consultancy and research. Their varied contributions reflect a number of current discussions that take place in relation to employee engagement, including some of the more challenging perspectives that can easily be overlooked, and give strong pointers on what needs to happen next for the area to maintain relevance.

One of the speakers that really struck a chord for Pro-Development, was Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of CIPD who talked to us about how employee engagement is changing and what drives it. He highlighted that one of the critical enables of engagement is the ability to build trust and factors that help to drive trust are integrity, benevolence and competence. As we’ve highlighted to you before, trust is a real issue in many organisations with research suggesting that only 36% of employees trust senior leaders.

Peter pointed out that we have known for a long time what really motivates or demotivates people and that the main drivers are:-

Purpose – providing employees with direction and focus

Autonomy – giving employees the space to act (letting go and empowering your teams)

Mastery – everyone wants to improve and our job as managers or organisations is to help our employees improve.

He shared the work of Engage for Success in identifying the Four Enablers for engagement and how it can be useful to assess effectiveness through these lenses:-

1. Visible, empowering leadership providing a strong strategic narrative about the organisation, where it’s come from and where it’s going.

2. Engaging managers who focus their people and give them scope, treat their people as individuals and coach and stretch their people.

3. There is employee voice throughout the organisation, for reinforcing and challenging views, between functions and externally, employees are seen as central to the solution.

4. There is organisational integrity – the values on the wall are reflected in day to day behaviours. There is no ‘say –do’ gap.

He also reminded us that what gets measured, gets done! It is important to ensure you are measuring the right things at the right time and tracking your success.

In summary, his key points were:- • Engagement is a strategic issue • Start from the top • You need measures • Develop and train managers • Provide channels for employee voice and feedback.

Thank you again to Engage for Success and Aston University for another successful event and an opportunity for us to share what the challenges are for SMEs in our area in helping raise employee engagement. For more information relating to this story and Engage for Success, click here

Yet again, we came away from the event with a spring in our step ready to help get our SMEs in Yorkshire thinking about what they are doing to “get engaged” – and if you don’t know where to start or how to measure it, just give us a call and we will work with you to design an approach that will work for you and your business.

FREE Employee Engagement Workshop

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

In February 2012, the findings of a report “Unlocking Britain’s Potential” were published. Commissioned by the Government to understand what actions UK business might take to unlock the potential of its workforce, the report highlighted that the engagement and development of employees will be a key factor in supporting UK economic growth. The research identified that:
  • 1 in 4 employers see engaging/motivating staff as a key business challenge
  • Just 10% of employers rated themselves as “excellent” at bringing out the best in their people
Do you need some help to understand a bit more about employee engagement and what it is? We can help. sunflower_field_in distance

Come along to our FREE workshop and find out more

We are part of the Engage for Success movement, and to help raise awareness of this important issue, Pro-Development run a FREE WORKSHOP to support you and your business. We will share tools and techniques to help you bring your people with you, grow your business and impact your bottom line. It will also give you the opportunity to talk to other business owners, leaders and managers and share your successes, challenges and ideas. The next workshop is being held on:-

Wednesday 24th September 2014

10.00am – 12 noon

followed by a buffet lunch and the opportunity to network

at the Innovation Centre, York Science Park

To find out more or book a place, email or call us on 07772 921460.

“I recently attended the Pro-Development employee engagement workshop which gave me food for thought, as well as plenty of opportunities to get involved and bounce ideas around with the rest of the group. Michelle has a warm and engaging style, and clearly knows her stuff. Time well spent”

Karen Nixon, Director, The Partners Group, September 2012

Feedback, a gift to us!

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

vase of sunflowers

We were blown away with our feedback from Lou Mooney, Director of Escalla. It absolutely made our day. Feedback is such a gift. Here’s what Lou had to say…

“Michelle and Sue at Pro-Development worked in partnership with Escalla on a recent high profile government training programme. From the outset, their approach and diligence in making this project work was incredible. In 20 years of training, I’ve never worked with two more committed training professionals who provided me and our client with a truly “game changing” learning experience. They are THE experts in ensuring their learners feel enthused, motivated and prepared for change. Their engagement with stakeholders was first class and they fully understand how to manage expectations of both learners’ and organisations. The feedback from both learners and client was exceptional and I hope we continue to work together to provide first class learning for many years”.

The Gift of a Walk

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

P1020831Have you ever spent the day discussing various issues and thoughts, gaining a better understanding of yourself whilst, exploring the beautiful countryside. Well, if not we would recommend you give it a try. Standing on top of some stunning hills certainly gives you plenty of time to think and reflect!

Delivering one of the workshops for our Management Development Programme through a walk really did make a difference and we all got so much from it.

Here’s what one of our delegates had to say. “The second event which involved a walk in Hawnby, a beautiful part of the world, was much more than a walk. We discussed some subjects that in other circumstances you would not as a rule share with people you have only just met, but the conversations flowed, it was easy and we were all made to feel comfortable – what a great day thank you.”

We truly believe to be a great leader you need to know yourself first. Are you brave enough to understand yourself better? Why not come on a walk with us!

Top Tips for Offering Feedback

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

Pro Development York

Be timely – The longer you leave it, the less useful it becomes.

Be specific – Highlight the specific piece of behaviour and the actual words the person used.

Be clear – Particularly in cases of giving negative feedback, where there may be a tendency to waffle.

Be factual – Base your comments on directly observable behaviour, not on your perception of them as an individual.

Be sincere – If you’re not it strips the value from the feedback.

Own it – Use “I” to reinforce that the perceptions are yours.

Check it – Always make sure you know that the other person has actually understood what you have said – not what they think you’ve said.

Leave it with them – Feedback is a gift, it’s up to them to accept it!

Living the high life :-)

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


Sue and I have been living the highlife.  Following completion of the Cabinet Office change programme, the lovely people at Training Synergy treated us to a wonderful evening in London at Jamie Oliver’s no less.  The evening started with ‘Porn Star’ Martinis overlooking St Paul’s cathedral (wow!) and considering some of the dodgy hotels we’ve been staying in, we couldn’t think of a more appropriate end to a project!

We are so proud of what we’ve achieved on this programme and what our client had to say about it:-

“Michelle and Sue at Pro-Development worked in partnership with Training Synergy on a recent high profile government training programme.  From the outset, their approach and diligence in making this ve never worked with two more committed training professionals who provided learning experience.  They are THE experts in ensuring their learners feel enthused, motivated and prepared for change.   Their engagement with stakeholders was first class and they fully understand and organisations.  The feedback from both learners and client was exceptional and I hope we continue to work together to provide first class learning for many years”  Lou Mooney, Director, Training Synergy, May 2014