Success of People Panel supporting local business

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

help People Panel Week 4 and we’re back for more!

Gosh, was it only 4 weeks ago when we set up the FREE online support group with four other local businesses, Joanne Clendinning from Twenty Twenty Consulting, Natalie McMillan from McMillan & Associates, Denise Jennings from Athena HR and Tiggy Clifford from Torque Law!

We have been absolutely blown away by the support and help that has been offered through the group. The response has been amazing, and we now have around 70 businesses registered on the calls and every day we get around 20 people dialing in. It has been such a great support for everyone with shared learning, resources, ideas, support and has even resulted in some people doing business together which we never anticipated.

On a call this week we asked people what they were finding beneficial about the People Panel. Here’s what they had to say:

  •  It’s so great to receive key information regarding HR legal guidance and the employment law aspect surrounding Covid-19
  • Getting ideas around remote working and other areas around employee engagement in our new virtual employment world – as a result, actions have been taken which include virtual coffee breaks, WhatsApp groups and the confidence to deliver my own team online sessions
  • Feeling part of a community of business owners who are also there/ living this nonsense and the support that has given me is immense
  • Sharing helpful tips and advice together from NHS resources, articles about resilience and mental wellbeing
  • Sharing business updates from various sources including HMRC, Make it York, York and North Yorkshire LEP and York City Council
  • Having discussions with other businesses who are in a similar boat, and how they deal with the challenges and what they have implemented around working practices within their environments
  • Getting comfort that you don’t feel like the only person to have an off day, and missing working with your colleagues and clients
  • Finding successes every day to share with each other and keep spirits lifted and remind ourselves of what we are all achieving in these challenging times
  • Ideas shared and encouraged for supporting not only the team’s wellbeing but also business owners too including advice mindfulness and exercise
  • Being able to listen to others, never to judge, and always to respect
  • Having a routine – the call has been a good focal point for the day
  • Being able to laugh…from happy birthdays, anniversaries, Raster fun and just generally sharing our own stories…. this has been so important
We are just thrilled that, as well as providing information and advice, we have also formed a supportive community of friends, so if this is something that you feel you and your business would benefit from, why not join us on some of our DAILY ZOOM SESSION 10.30-11.15am EVERY MORNING Monday to Friday. You would be very welcome.

You will need to register in advance for this meeting but once registered, you can dial in to them when you want or every day, whatever suits you. It might be for a quick question or you might wish to stay for the duration to discuss issues with other business owners and leaders.

Use this link to register.

Engaging and managing your virtual/remote team

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

virtualteam1 Never before have we seen such a change in the way most people work. For many years, people have worked from home on an odd occasion and some people who work virtually have done this for years. But, for the majority of people, working from home and remotely from the rest of the team is a new way of working and from conversations over the last couple of weeks, many are struggling to adjust.

Let’s not forget, this is likely because many people have been ricocheted into this and the change takes some getting used to. As a team, we have often worked from home, yet we are all feeling the “distance” and cannot wait for the day we can meet up in person again. This is what we are used to and to have this taken away so quickly, is challenging on many levels.

So, we thought it might be worth sharing some of our top tips for engaging and managing a virtual team but we cannot stress enough, that some people will still find this hard and emotional and may be struggling with the lack of human contact.

Here are some of our suggestions to help keep us all engaged in the coming weeks:-

Talk every day – keep the personal connection with your team. Whether it’s via zoom or facetime, skype or just plain old telephone, make sure you make the time to talk to the team. We have been talking twice a day on a certain time and then numerous phone calls in between along with using WhatsApp for general social chat.

Talk about wellbeing – many people are struggling at the moment. In our team alone, we have gone through lows, feeling down/fed up, angry, upset, feeling loss, insecurity and we have all said our emotions feel very much on the surface, ready to come out! For that reason, it is more important than ever to ask people how they are feeling. This is also true of furloughed workers too. There has been a lot of conversations about “am I allowed to talk to my team if they are furloughed?”. Why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you want to know they are doing OK and offer support to them if they are not?

Get some structure and routine to your day – we all said that Monday mornings have felt the worst. We’ve never suffered with Monday morning blues, but we are all finding this our toughest day. So, help put some structure in. We’ve been starting with a bit of Joe Wicks, then a Microsoft Teams with our own team, then a Zoom with a number of clients and businesses. The afternoon then working on some of our new online learning and catching up with clients. Whatever your day looks like, create some structure and it will help.

Have a plan – so as well as some structure, have a plan too. If you want to have productive employees, you must find ways to ensure people have short term, medium term and long-term plans. Use the time in the coming weeks to review your plans and find ways to communicate these to your teams. One thing we have been doing is agreeing each day what our top 3 things to do that day will be.

Recognise achievements – sometimes it is the little things that make the big difference. And never more so have we needed people to feel valued and important. So, what have you done each day to let your team know how important they are to you and how valued their contribution is?

Have an ending to your day – we have all said it is very easy to continue working over lunch and into the early evening. This is a time for us all to get some of that precious time back that we never normally get, where we can. So, stop for lunch, go for that walk, enjoy some time with the family, and have a routine at the end of the day to signify to yourself that you are stopping.

Be a leader – there have been some great examples of this in the last few weeks and unfortunately some very bad examples too. Your test here is to make sure that you can look yourself in the mirror every night and know that you have done the right thing. It might have taken years to build trust with your team and with one bad move, you can lose it in an instant. Work hard in the coming weeks to keep your integrity and trust intact.

To help further on this topic, we thought it would be helpful to run a FREE session this week on “Engaging and leading a remote/virtual team” which has been in response to a request from a number of people who are looking for help now they are working with a remote team. Together we will discuss the key steps to leading and engaging your team and how me may need to adapt our approach to the current changing environment. There are two sessions to choose from:-

• Tuesday 7th April 2.30-3.30pm

Register using this link


• Thursday 9th April 2.30-3.30pm

Register using this link

We do hope you can join us and look forward to seeing you on one of the sessions.

If you would prefer to discuss this on a one-to-one basis, please do not hesitate to contact Michelle over the coming weeks on 07772 921460. We’re happy to help in any way we can.

Circle of control

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

concern and influence pic

Don’t sweat the…. stuff you can’t control

Recently we have been talking as a team about how we found the news to be feeding our fear and increasing our anxiety around the recent situation. What will it mean for our health, for parents, children’s education, the financial situation?

We recognised in ourselves that this was not healthy for us and impacted on our personal wellbeing. We noticed that our mood was low and we were demonstrating behaviours that we often call at Pro-Development “mood hoovers”.

Much of the news we were receiving was based on reporters’ perceptions and hypothetical situations, and a lot of the facts were from the 5pm briefings. We therefore made the decision to stop watching the constant feed of news and limit our intake to once or twice a day. We recognised that we can’t change the situation, but we could change how exposed we are to the hype and spin which was feeding our fears.

It was this reflection that reminded us of the work of Covey and his Circle of Influence; that is, instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which we have little or no control/influence, we should focus our time and energy on things we can control and influence.

Of course, we are concerned about the current health situation and yes, of course we are concerned about the impact on over 70s with isolation, and of course we are concerned about the GCSE situation. And we are concerned about the impact this will have on our economy and Pro-Development. However, we cannot do anything to change what has happened or is happening.

We can however focus on keeping our parent’s spirits high, keeping our children busy, keeping ourselves healthy by doing Joe Wicks every day (well, maybe not every day). We have taken steps at Pro-Development to protect the long term of the business and continue to support our clients as best we can. We are consciously taking a proactive approach over the things we can influence and/or control, and it feels good and positive, and right now, that’s exactly what we need.

Our challenge to you

List at least 5 things you can proactively influence/control today?

People Panel Virtual Group – Successes for week one

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

success 1 Every day this week, four local People Experts joined forces with Pro-Development to run daily interactive Zoom sessions to support businesses with the people aspects of work during this unusual time. Partnering with Twenty Twenty Consulting, Torque Law, McMillan & Associates and Athena HR , we now have 50 plus people signed up, and this number is growing on a daily basis as more people become aware.

During the call we have been asking participants for their successes, the things that are working for them and their business and putting a smile on people’s faces. I think we would all agree, that’s really important right now. So, we thought we would share with you what they are currently doing to keep spirits high, support dispersed teams and to have a bit of self-care too:

• Created a team ‘what’s app’ group for more social interaction and a bit of fun

• Virtual coffee breaks, where the whole team grab a coffee and sit down and connect

• Be brave and using various connection tools for the first-time including Microsoft teams, Slack and Zoom (other brands are available!)

• Having daily team meetings, usually by video conference

• Having 2 daily team meetings, at the start and the end of the day

• Encouraging everyone to share 3 key activities you are going to achieve today with team members

• Teams committing to exercise, lifting the spirits for the day (Joe Wicks PE session at 9am is a popular choice)

• Created guidelines to help managers who are finding themselves leading remotely for the first time

• Shared helpful tips and advice from various NHS sources to help keep their people safe and protected at this time

• Team virtual running challenge, where individuals submit their daily miles/time, sharing a leader board and, when we come out of this, undertake a real team running challenge together

• Encouraged people to learn new skills either themselves or with their children if they are now working from home

• Created a team ‘what’s app’ group for new business wins

• Prepared a written document for key workers who have to travel with work to ensure they feel comfortable if they are stopped whilst traveling to and from work

It’s quite inspiring to see how much our local businesses have adapted in the first week, we hope some of these ideas inspire you, and if you are doing something that’s really working for your business, let us know and we will keep adding to the list.

Why not join us on some of our DAILY ZOOM SESSION 10.30-11.15am EVERY MORNING Monday to Friday. You would be very welcome.

You will need to register in advance for this meeting but once registered, you can dial in to them when you want or every day, whatever suits you. It might be for a quick question or you might wish to stay for the duration to discuss issues with other business owners and leaders.

Use this link to register.

Engaging your teams in challenging times

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

keep engaged 1

We were asked to speak at a CIPD event earlier this month on employee engagement, a topic very close to our hearts and something of which we are truly passionate about. With the unimaginable turn of events recently, we were reflecting on how quickly things change but that despite this, engagement of our people is still clearly an area that employers, leaders and managers are concerned about. And now, more than ever, with our world changing so quickly, we will need to be thinking about “How we keep people engaged through such uncertainty and at a time when so many are working from home or self-isolating”?

There is a danger in the coming weeks, that many of us will be feeling stressed and under pressure and may lose sight of how people in the business are feeling. We are all impacted by what is happening, and for many people it is a worrying time on many levels. Alongside this, many employees will be working from home which will mean they are out of sight so our call to action for us all is, let’s make sure that people are not out of mind!

Here are some of our suggestions to help keep us all engaged in the coming weeks:-

Maintain personal connection – encourage open and regular communication and make time each day to speak with your team, more than once a day might also be needed – ensure that remote workers are up-to-date about new projects and company news. Agree how you all want to work together over the coming days and weeks.

Focus on goal setting – if you want to have productive employees, you must find ways to ensure people have a plan. Right now this might be just a short term plan which you review on a weekly basis. However, use time in the coming weeks to review your plans and find ways to communicate these to your teams.

Have a daily plan – as we know from the above point, people work best when they have a clear plan so help your teams who are working from home have a daily plan. Encourage them to make a plan at the end of each day which reflects their successes and their plans for the following day.

Trust and respect the team– Be clear about mutual expectations and trust your team to get on without micromanaging. We are all working in challenging times and with many having children at home, be reasonable and understanding about what is possible. Focus on results rather than activity.

Recognise achievements of your teams – showing that the business cares about people makes a big difference. Make sure you make time to encourage the team to share successes. If someone shares a key success, consider sending them a gift through the post that is very personal to them.

Support employee wellbeing – we need to consider people’s mental health and wellbeing over the coming weeks. Working from home will be very different for many people so look at ways you can support. People may be fearful of the situation, so make sure people can talk if they need to. Our article last week on how to support people working from home might be helpful here.

One to One contact – another way to ensure you support connection and wellbeing is to continue with one-to-one meetings through online or telephone. This could provide a safe place for people to share any anxieties or concerns with you about work or in general around how they are doing. This will be so important for people.

Listen – work really hard on your listening skills as it will be just as important to hear what people are not saying and reading between the lines. Not seeing people in person will mean you lose some of your ability to pick up on how people are feeling; the conversation will be different. Ask questions and check in on what you are thinking.

Consider running a short survey – understanding how engaged people are right now is very important. And in the coming weeks, identifying what you are doing to ensure people can give their best, are as productive as possible and still committed to the business, will be very important as well as highlighting any barriers or issues that are getting in the way or any gaps or areas that could be improved.

So, through the coming weeks, an employee engagement survey or just a short survey around working from home might be the best thing you could do. Not only can we do it all remotely and through video to you, if people are not as busy and you want to understand how people are feeling and how engaged people are, you can use this time to focus on engagement.

And, great news, we can still access 40% funding from the European Social Fund (ESF) for businesses through the WYCC (West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges). Employers contribute 60% of the cost of the business support. Funding is available throughout 2020.

If you are interested in accessing the funding or would like some help on how to engage your team in the current climate, just get in touch for a chat on 01904 628838 or drop us a email and we can arrange an online video chat.

Helping local business – FREE People Panel Daily Zoom sessions

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries


As local Business Owners and Leaders, we are all finding ourselves in a situation that none of us could have imagined. From speaking with many of you and with each other this week, we understand the worries, concerns and questions that we all have. Whilst we don’t have the answer to everything, what we can do is help with any that relate to your people.

So, 4 local People Experts have joined forces with Pro-Development and together we are running an interactive Zoom call over the coming weeks to help with just that.

We are proud to be working with Twenty Twenty Consulting, Torque Law, McMillan & Associates and Athena HR to deliver this to you.

DAILY ZOOM SESSION 10.30-11.15am EVERY MORNING Monday to Friday

Staring Monday 23rd March until Easter, Thursday 9th April. (Further ones may be added)

You will need to register in advance for this meeting but once registered, you can dial in to them when you want or every day, whatever suits you. It might be for a quick question or you might wish to stay for the duration to discuss issues with other business owners and leaders.

Use this link to register.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

We want to offer you a safe place to speak to someone every day: –

– Any advice and guidance on your people questions

– What you need to know about recruitment and retention in difficult times

– Any HR issues or concerns that you want to discuss

– What support people need if they are working from home

– Ideas and suggestions to ensure you can continue being a great employer

– How you support people’s engagement and wellbeing

– What employment law is in play through these times

– Opportunity to share ideas together helping us continue to thrive in the current climate

This is a fantastic opportunity and we do hope that you will take the opportunity to join us.

How we can work from home and stay productive

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

working from home We are currently experiencing some unprecedented times now and many of us are being asked to work from home. We’ve agreed that today will be our last day together in the office for the foreseeable future and we will be working from home, perhaps with a meet up together for a walk at some point if guidelines permit!

We’ve been talking about how we can continue to work well together and thought it might be worth sharing with you some of our ideas that we will be implementing in the next few weeks.

Here are our top tips to help you stay productive and well in the coming weeks:

1. Keep in regularly contact with your team and use different technologies for keeping in touch with people. Consider using text messaging, WhatsApp and email. Use video conferencing systems such as Skype and Zoom as a means to keep some human/virtual contact – try having virtual meetings and perhaps even a virtual lunch!

2. Maintain Regular Hours. Set a schedule and stick to it…most of the time!

3. Create a morning routine which includes getting dressed – staying in your PJs all days, well be wary if someone tries to video call you

4. Take the time to create a plan for the day and share your plan with team members

5. Set Ground Rules with anyone else who is at home, so they understand what you need

6. Schedule Breaks – we often find working from home is when people can get more into flow so make sure you take a break and don’t feel guilty about doing so; you would do this as part of your normal working day – as part of your break, make the time to keep hydrated.

7. Create and keep a dedicated office space that works for you – find where works best for you and stick to it. Check your seating and positioning to make sure you are looking after your posture.

8. Remain positive and look after your own health and wellbeing through this time. Do what you need to ensure that you keep a good outlook, talk to people if you need and try some mindfulness – click here to read a previous blog about being happy, present and mindful.

9. Get outdoors – make some time to get some fresh air and exercise. Even if it’s a trot around the garden or a walk around the block.

10. Have an end of day routine which includes making a note of your key successes and creating a plan of clear outcomes for the next day

11. Leave work! One of the downsides to working from home is that you can feel that you don’t leave work. Use your end of day routine as part of this but make sure you finish at a reasonable hour and shut everything down.

12. Use some of the time ahead to think about your own development too. What will you focus on in the coming weeks to support your personal development?

13. Our top, top tip coming in at number 13 … walk away from the biscuit barrel … Sue!

If you want to use the coming time to get some support, we are running all our coaching as usual using Zoom or Skype or for those who want to, walking coaching. The great news is that we can access 40% funding from the European Social Fund (ESF) for businesses through the WYCC (West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges). Employers contribute 60% of the total cost of the business support. Funding is available throughout 2020.

If you are interested in accessing the funding, just get in touch and we will check your eligibility and help you understand what solution will best fit your needs. Call us on 01904 628838

How to say no when the work needs to be done

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

workload Oh my goodness, how often do we hear this! Sometimes at work we feel overloaded. You may have the best time management system and organisational skills and then someone asks something of you left field and you stop what you’re doing and focus on the new task, to the detriment of your own work and your own wellbeing. Stress levels rise, resentment can set in and an immense feeling of people not appreciating you and what you are contributing.

So what can you do about it?

Let’s be honest, things coming in left field are not going to stop. That’s life so we must accept that, however, we can make things easier for ourselves.

1. Try not to have too much work you would class as both urgent and important. Although some people work best with tight deadlines, it leaves no space for the left field items. So, try to focus on the stuff that is important but not necessarily urgent…. yet. This releases the pressure should something come in last minute which means, you don’t have to say no because with a slight re-plan, there is time and space to complete the new task. Sounds simple and we may all know the theory, but to practice this takes discipline and motivation.

2. Be assertive and learn how to say ‘No’ or at least ‘not yet’. Communicate your workload. Once people are aware of your workload there is more chance of them understanding the pressure you are under. It might be they could approach someone else to help or renegotiate one of your other deadlines if their task is a priority. One thing is for sure, they are not a mind reader. If you don’t communicate how busy you are, they won’t necessarily know.

3. Delegate where possible. When we are busy, we can go into a tailspin and can’t see what work we could pass on to others. You may not feel you have time to delegate, it’s just easier and quicker to do it yourself. That may well be true, however in the longer term delegating will pay dividends, building the capability of other team members and delegating some of your tasks, creates the time and space for you to do some of the left field tasks which may in turn develop your capability – it’s a win/win.

These are just a few things you can try, If you would like to know more, contact us at or click here to see how coaching may help you to work through areas that might be getting in the way of you being our best.

Have you got a high performing workplace?

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

High Performing teams slide We all want to work in a high performing workplace don’t we, but what does that mean? And as a business owner/ manager what can we do to ensure that our workplace is indeed high performing?

It all starts with the most valuable asset any company has, which of course, is its people and enabling them to feel engaged. But what does employee engagement really mean?

There are many definitions, but we define it as: A workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their company’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to success and able at the same time to enhance their own sense of wellbeing.

It’s about establishing mutual respect in the workplace for what people can do and be, unlocking people’s potential at work and understanding the measurable benefits of doing so for the individual and for the organisation. This of course will only happen if organisations have strong and authentic values and their people genuinely feel respected, involved, heard, well led and valued by those they work for and with.

Get it right and outcomes include lower accident rates, higher productivity, fewer conflicts, lower numbers leaving and reduced sickness rates. There are also indications that higher levels of engagement are strongly related to higher levels of innovation and advocacy of your products, services and business.

Sounds good in theory but how can we put it into practice?

Well this is where we come in and we are delighted to announce that we have been successfully awarded a contract from WYCC to deliver under their ESF funded Higher Performing Workplaces Project This will be a package of support designed for SMEs based within the Leeds City Region; who employ fewer than 250 full time equivalent staff with an annual turnover not exceeding €50 million.

Empowering Leaders

This looks at developing the skills of managers and leaders. Developing personal management capability; making effective use of information in decision-making operations and the development of the skills in managing people and driving performance through a range of bespoke programmes: –

• Our 7-month experiential leadership programmes which utilises learning activities using the outdoors and one to one coaching sessions.

• Our 6-month classroom based manager programme which is supported with action learning groups

• Our 1-day People Fundamentals programme for new or emerging managers

• A 4-month programme of coaching

Innovative Working Practices

A bespoke programme starting with the organisations business goals, vision, values and outcomes. Our employee engagement programmes are developed to ensure that it best suits the business, learning outcomes and leadership needs: –

• Assessment tool to identify business engagement levels

• Training sessions and workshops

• Coaching / Mentoring

• Action Learning sets

All programmes will receive 40% funding from the European Social Fund (ESF) for businesses. Employers contribute 60% of the total cost of the business support. Funding is available throughout 2020.

If you are interested in accessing the funding, just get in touch and we will check your eligibility and help you understand what solutions will best fit your needs. Call us on 01904 628838

Get the right people and then let them know you care

Written by Michelle Mook on . Posted in Sunflower Diaries

welcome17 It’s always a little daunting and stressful starting a new job no matter how excited and confident you are. There are always those feelings of doubt … will I be good enough? Can I do the job? Will they like me? Will I like them? And we were very conscious of this when the week before Christmas, we welcomed Helen at Pro- Development. And although we are sure she still had all those feelings, we worked to make sure she was made to feel welcome from the start and she tells us that she did!

It’s the little things that make the difference and prevent some of those fears in the initial stages. Even before she started, we invited Helen to join us at our staff Christmas party which was a great way to get to know our small but perfectly formed team, in a social environment without the pressures of work. And now 8 weeks on it feels like she has been with us forever.

It wasn’t just luck that we found someone who was a good match for our team with the skills and knowledge we required as we do put a lot of time and effort into the recruitment process, starting with the well written advert, then onto the interview process in which Pro–Development’s vision and values where at the forefront as well as our client’s needs and requirements and we recruited with these in mind.

We always run an assessment event as part of our process which involved all the candidates working together and delivering a mock action plan for a business that had got issues keeping their best employees and asking each candidate to design an event to support employee development.

Helen is currently going through our comprehensive induction and learning the established processes and systems and we know she is really enjoying meeting new companies and getting “stuck in” to our experimental learning programmes, (axe throwing and fire walking last week at that was just in the office!).

As managers it’s important that from the off we make people feel welcome, valued and part of the team and a good induction process really helps with this. We know, from experience of working with our clients, that they can often lose their talent in the first few weeks due to a poor start or lack of induction.

Here’s some other ideas to include in an induction programme:

• Have plenty of communication before the person starts – send them a welcome gift or a picture of their desk showing you are ready for them

• Then, from day one, make sure their desk, computer and facilities are all ready

• Create an induction plan that includes Day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Week 2, 3, 4, Month 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 (remember it usually takes at least 6 months for someone to be fully productive)

• Introduce key members of staff

• Make time to explain the organisations culture, way of working hours, lunch breaks etc

• Cover any legal requirements (Health and Safety)

• Introduction to terms and conditions (for example, holiday entitlement, how to make expense claims, etc.)

• Make plans to shadow established employees

• Provide a guided tour of the building

• Set-up of payroll details and any other requirements (for example P45 or P60)

• Plan in specific job-role training

• If possible, assign a buddy to every new starter

• Keep checking in with them regularly in the first few months

If you would like help with your employee engagement to ensure that both new starters and your existing team know you care and that they are happy, productive and engaged, please do get in touch. We can also help you design and run an assessment centre too to ensure you get the right person for the role and your company. To find out more call us on 01904 628838.