THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – What makes you happy and why?

New-Intl-Day-HappinessMarch 20th is designated as the United Nations International Day of Happiness, so lets reclaim as many happy moments as possible and discuss/share what makes us happy.  This is fundamental to both our professional success AND maintaining a healthy work/life balance and it is based on interaction and feeling. Basic and real connection. That’s magnificent engagement – a thing most organisations strive to obtain.

In fact, according to a recent survey by the charity Action for Happiness, 87% of people would pick being happy over money, and the chief reason for happiness was their relationships with their friends and family. In other words: not money or what it can buy.

The charity’s Director of Action for Happiness Mark Williamson said: “The UN Day of Happiness is about the fact that happiness really matters. It matters for us and our loved ones – and it matters for our countries and leaders too. All around the world, people are recognising that real progress is about more than just growing the economy – it’s about increasing human happiness and wellbeing”.

Join the movement raising awareness of what makes people happy, and don’t forget to SHARE the pic that makes you happy more than anything else.  So lets try and bottle it, if only for a day and say why it makes you happy. Here are the pictures that always make me smile, I shared them on Facebook and Twitter earlier this morning:

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 09.46.37


Why do they make me happy?  Its about people, time and place.  The combination of all three makes me very happy indeed.  The first pic is one of only two occasions I’ve managed to get the most special people in my life in the place that means the most to me = happiness overload!!  The second is a wonderful consequence of the first!  The next time I get to update the first picture is on 9th August this year, when we are all in this special same place yet again, at the marriage of our second son.

So, this is about right people, in the right place, at the right time.  A level of engagement organisations strive to achieve and pay many £££££ for.  If each of us was to take just ONE lesson from our happiness pictures, and translate that lesson into the workplace, it would be a much happier place for everyone.  My lesson, for many years now, involves: patience/tolerance/acceptance/making the most of our differences/enjoying what we are all striving for at the time/finding the positive excitement in our goals/building better relationships.  I’ve tried to live these values at home, and in work.  Only those I’ve lived and worked with can say if I’ve achieved it.

Someone provided me with some formal 360 feedback once that said (and I quote): “Sharon does everything possible to build happy, harmonious and productive teams”.  I guess I succeeded a bit 🙂

What would your lesson be?


THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Look up, not down!

How often do you look up to people? Do you endeavour to seek and find the good in everyone you meet, or do you make judgement calls based on first sight. What do you think of this?

Now look at yourself and answer this question honestly!

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – What is “discretionary effort?”

keep-calm-and-go-the-extra-mile-6The final aspect of enhancing staff engagement brings us to the point of extracting maximum discretionary effort out of our staff.  We might personally be of the mindset that we truly believe all employees will always give their all due to a commitment to the organisation or similar (usually we will believe this given our own motivation and values in the workplace), but the reality is often very different! So what is “discretionary effort” and how do we go about motivating it?

Discretionary effort is the level of effort people could give if they wanted to, over and above what is absolutely required.  It’s what performance appraisals are all about – identifying where more of this can be found and utilised from each and every individual.  It’s probably why performance appraisals are universally loathed by all – when it’s performed badly with those who already feel like they are giving the organisation everything they have to offer, and they are asked for more, or left feeling unappreciated or unvalued for their contributions to date.  There is definitely a knack to extracting discretionary effort!

Some organisations achieve this (thought to be approximately c30%) through headhunting and luring the best employees away with offers of a stake in the organisation.  This is typical if such employees are motivated by that very commitment mentioned earlier.  John Lewis for example gives all permanent, full time employees shares in the company so they have instant ownership over maximising sales figures and other bottom line activities.

During performance appraisals, our managers are likely to see any one (or more!) of five faces from us.  We’ve all seen these faces on others, but how many of us are aware enough to recognise when we are displaying them ourselves?  Which one are you currently wearing?

  1. The Diva: thinks they are a world class performer and has a great deal of opinion about how others should do their jobs!  They are usually high performers in at least one aspect of their role, which has given them plenty of indication that everything they do is a right judgement.  The problem is, they have plenty of development needs in other areas of their roles but they have vastly under-developed self awareness skills and this produces real blind spots.  They are often specialists. In any self assessment exercise, they will rate themselves highly.  They can often be disruptive to any team scenario.  This face produces difficult conversations and requires strong management.  Motivation and incentivisation of this face, to produce high commitment and engagement levels is difficult but essential. Consider the questions people ask and answer during any engagement survey because if left unchecked, this face will produce disproportionate influence on the rest of the team.
  2. The Deflector: lots of excuses and explanations about why they CAN’T do something or why something CAN’T happen, in their experience. These reasons are always outside their span of control and their entire behaviour is governed by this concept of fate and luck.  They will believe you as their manager are part of the overall problem.  This is the most problematic face to motivate and incentivise to engage.  They can be decent performers but the more bureaucratic your organisation becomes, the more evidence of Deflectors you will find.  Left unchecked, discretionary effort will be extinct!
  3. The 9 to 5er: Classic face.  They have very set schedules and cut off easily at certain times.  Often a steady performer but does only that which is required and absolutely no more.  Discretionary effort can often be “bought” with this face through offering added flexibility, particularly if it is involuntary, as a result of caring needs etc.  Incentivisation and motivation is often through time segmentation so its important to understand what makes your people tick.
  4. The Upwardly Mobile: This is the fun face!  These folk seek to excel but often can’t see what their next career step might be.  This face is great to have around and incentivisation and motivation is often through giving recognition and regular feedback.  But they crave your interest in them and beware if you leave them alone for too long without stroking.  Don’t let the deflector anywhere near them!  They need intensive coaching but discretionary effort can be achieved if stroked regularly. They like to describe, in detail, how they will or are going about things and will be seeking reinforcement regularly.  However, because they are so unsure of their own abilities, they are unlikely to be seen as influencers for, or by, others. They can be engaged through involvement in activity, but are rarely leaders of others due to their insecurity in their own competence.
  5. The Star: The best face of the bunch.  They are in control of their area of responsibility and you need to keep them!  High confidence and a magnet for others to seek guidance from.  They are influential throughout the organisation, and  usually profoundly self-aware.  They are often autonomous and will act without you even having to steer. Incentivising and motivating your Stars is usually achieved from giving them room to act independently on occasions, re-engaging them with exciting initiatives etc.  Once they are excited about something, you automatically have a highly engaged individual who will engage others infectiously.

So this series has looked at producing highly engaged individuals, with the potential for high discretionary effort. If only a third of the workforce are engaged, then only a third are currently providing that vital discretionary effort all organisations are seeking for improvement and success.   And if discretionary effort can be up to 30%, then this third of the workforce are clearly carrying the rest.

Now isn’t that a profound thought for all managers wishing to improve their managerial skills!

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Blankets of positivity

how easyWhen an entire organisation is encouraged to recognise one another’s achievements, this kind of organisational atmosphere produces tremendous positivity throughout the workplace. Colleagues actively looking out for one another, and more than that, actually seeking out ways to help and give recognition to one another.

Research has shown (Grant) that where and when this does exist, there is also faster problem-solving, more efficient co-ordination and less variability in work simply because people are willing to step up and cover for one another when the need arises.   Continuity is established and purpose is preserved.  Commitment is demonstrated. 

So, according to a 2013 workforce mood tracker survey, of those who have openly and positively recognised a colleague in the last month, 62% described themselves as “highly engaged” and of those who admitted to never having done so towards any  colleague, only 27% said they would describe themselves as highly engaged.

But to find this degree of mutual support and open recognition as the norm is often thought of as the holy grail, it’s so rare!  In my whole career, I’ve only experienced it twice. So why is this?  Why don’t we go about our days anymore, seeking ways to help each other?  Why have we become so insular and self-preserving?  Only we can answer this for ourselves, and its well worth reflecting upon due to it’s propensity to spread.

So it seems sensible, that if the leadership of any team or organisation can invest in creating an environment, climate and culture that promotes positive feedback AND reinforces the organisation’s core values, then it can only be a positive and powerful force for engagement.

All this starts with us, as individuals, each and every one of us.  No, not waiting to see it first from someone else, but taking responsibility to find ways to support and recognise colleagues in the first instance.

Have you ever experienced this before?  If so, how did it feel and what was your role in making it happen?


Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 15.59.56Henley Business School’s Professor Bones says: “The line manager is the lens through which I see the organisation, and how the organisations sees me.”  This makes interesting interrogation.  It is no secret that management is one of the most important components of any persons job satisfaction and ultimately, their engagement with their role and tasks.

Individuals don’t leave bad companies, in many an exit interview, it is clearly understood that people tend to leave bad management.  Alternatively, great managers produce high engagement levels, motivation and loyalty to the cause.

At the heart of this dimension is that staff want  managers to care about them as professionals in their role and what they have to offer.  They require a belief that their manager wants them to succeed, and appreciates all the effort they expend in attempting to do so.  This is what is commonly known as management hygiene: the ability and competence of managers to know what motivates individuals; know how to create clarity and transparency; and know how to recognise and reward a diverse range of contributions.

So there are 5 key components to good manager hygiene:

  1. a habit of amplifying accomplishments;
  2. a natural tendency to thank people for their efforts and contributions;
  3. a bias towards positive feedback;
  4. ensuring people are put in a position to succeed; and
  5. strong communication skills.

In a recent survey, the question:

“My immediate line manager recognises and appreciates good work”

33% of respondents replied that they only received weak recognition and appreciation and only half were more positive about it!

The question:

“What has a greater impact on performance – negative or positive feedback?”

was a bit of a no-brainer to OD-types like myself!  Not surprisingly 94% of respondents replied, positive feedback.

So if you would be so kind as to complete the below poll, I would like to take the temperature of what’s going on in the Aresko audience workplace.  I will keep all responses anonymous, its the results I am interested in.  If you will answer this simple question then press “VOTE”, then most importantly, if you could share this article with your respective networks for additional voting, I would be eternally grateful!


THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Do you know your management style?

If you’ve been in work for even a nanosecond, you will have noticed that there are various styles that different managers display, sometimes depending upon the situation.  Sometimes, individuals have a strong preference for one particular style, and it is when the context or the circumstance dictates that an alternative style is called for, that you being to see whether you have a strong or a weak manager in your midsts!

There are 6 commonly recognised management styles. They are: 


This is a rather coercive style which seeks instant compliance and appears quite bossy.  You will notice it from a style and tone of voice which dictates “do as I say or beware” and you hear it from those who are high on the control spectrum.  They seem to think folk are motivated by orders or even threats and their whole turn of conversation, features these sorts of overtones.

This is REALLY EFFECTIVE in time of crisis or when its very risky not to follow orders, so it definitely has its place. Unfortunately, its REALLY INEFFECTIVE when the workforce is skilled or used to acting on their own initiative, as they soon become resentful and very frustrated with what they see, as micromanagement.



This is a visionary style and usually provides more of a long-term direction for the workforce. It’s characterised by being firm but fair and provides motivation through clear standards, credibility and integrity.  These managers earn respect and apply fairness at every point.  They are highly knowledgeable and often have specialist authority in any workplace.

This is REALLY INEFFECTIVE when staff need development, or the vision is vague as people won’t follow it if they don’t believe in it, no matter how much the manager knows about it.


This manager primarily creates harmony in the workplace, horizontally and vertically.  They are very people oriented and always put people before task.  They have a tendency to avoid conflict but are excellent motivational managers and they can often pick a project up off its knees when its stalled.  This style is HIGHLY EFFECTIVE when combined with other styles and is the one most often matched with others.  They are born counsellors or mediators. LESS EFFECTIVE in times of crisis or when performance needs tackling.

PARTICIPATIVE participative

The Democrat builds commitment and consensus with the workforce.  They are the manager that most seeks out and uses diversity in the team and always values everyone’s voice and input. They are very good indeed at motivating by rewarding individual and team efforts.  They are great team builders and VERY EFFECTIVE in steady work environments. If close supervision is required, or a crisis appears, these make for pretty poor leaders in these circumstances.

Screenshot 2013-11-14 17.14.57PACE SETTERS

Got to love these ones! They are profoundly driven, wanting to be first, fastest, highest, best achievers.  Exhausting usually! They very often resort to doing things themselves, in the vein hope that others will follow.  Highly motivated themselves, expects very high standards of everyone around them. Great when they are managing experts or highly competent teams who desire and require very little direction indeed.  HOPELESS when the goal or workload is dependent on the efforts of others who require direction, coercion, or explanation.


This manager loves long-term development of others. They  make it their mission in life! A very developmental manager, they help and encourage others to develop their strengths and weaknesses in order to reach personal potential.  Always seeking and providing developmental opportunities and recognises when others are motivated by improvement and recognition of all kinds.  They are less effective if the manager themselves are inexperienced and this type of manager grows from experience and self development.  They love translating their experience into the benefit of others.

Of course, you can now see how circumstances and/or context will best require different styles in any one manager.  The best managers can see what is required of any situation and adapt accordingly.  Sounds simple, but it takes years of practice to flip between styles and deliver it effectively.

Have you seen style-flipping or have you seen when others have struggled to suit the style to the situation?  How has these styles made you feel when you’ve been in particular team situations?  Please do let me know.

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – We’ve all been there … haven’t we?


Barry Oshry has spent many years theorising, analysing, describing and helping those who find themselves “managing from the middle”.  He says that the same scenarios exist in every organisation in all contexts; that those at the top of the office are at odds with those who do the work; and those in the middle are torn in two because of this and suffer stress as they perpetually spiral downwards trying to please everyone, taking ownership of   everyone else’s problems.

This is a scenario I have observed in every organisation I’ve ever worked for, and in some, I’ve been that “Middling” person sinking under the weight of being Mrs Fix-It for all and sundry.  It’s not a great place to be, physically, mentally or emotionally.

So what is this middling thing?  At it’s worst, it can be crippling to the individual concerned. I know because I’ve been there – thinking I was completely losing my mind and drowning under the never-ending receipt of actions which always came my way.  Some of the warning signals are as follows:

  • I’m a mess, weak, and nothing I do is ever good enough!
  • I’m letting everyone down
  • I can’t cope anymore
  • I’ll see what I can do (in response on the phone more than 3 times a day)
  • I’m running from one to the other all the time
  • I seem to have to make more and more excuses for everyone around me
  • I fee burnt out
  • I can’t work any harder, but it’s not enough
  • I never have the time to switch off
  • I’ve lost my voice, my independence – I used to have a mind of my own

Would you recognise what Oshry calls “the middle slide” if you saw it?  Do you even know you are doing it yourself?  Did you know that “middles” are absolutely critical in assuring that the goals of the organisation are realised.  So they are worth looking after and allowing them to rediscover their own independent judgement and voice again.

Watch Barry Oshry himself explain his theory and analysis here:

The way of addressing this involves all levels of management, not just the Middling.  It’s everyone’s responsibility to create a more  healthy leadership environment.  It’s an interesting theory and one that should be aired and tackled more overtly than I currently see it being.

If you believe you are a Middling – you are not alone – and ITS NOT YOUR FAULT!

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Do you value Monitor Evaluators appropriately?

MEBelbin Team Roles are based on observed behaviour and interpersonal styles and this is somewhat dependent upon the situation you are in.  It relates not only to your own natural working style, but also to your interrelationships with others, and the work being done.  This is why the Observer Assessments should be situation specific.  So if you are completing a profile analysis for work, you should ask work colleagues to be your observers.  It just makes sense because you, and the people you work with, may well behave and interact quite differently in different teams or when the membership or work of the team changes. It is about contributing to an effective team rather than a non-proctive one after all.

So Dr Meredith Belbin identified 9 team roles and each one is associated with a typical behavioural and interpersonal strength. Each role will also have a “weakness” so there is no right or wrong in this context.

Monitor Evaluators are those amongst us who are most logical, discriminating and always make the right, very considered decisions!  When presented with 2 options, they are the ones who will weigh up all the pros and cons, apply analytical thinking to their conclusions, and they are usually high performers on the Watson-Galsner Critical Thinking Appraisal.  These folk will take all the actions and details from a Shaper and subject them to the most intense scrutiny in a very unemotional manner.  They are one of the “Thought Oriented” roles, so if you find yourself to be one of the “Action Oriented” roles, like a Shaper/Implementer/Completer-Finisher, then you will find yourself having to deal with one very shrewd cookie!

A good Monitor Evaluator knows when criticism is appropriate and a Plant will welcome this criticism in order to modify or rein in their most ridiculous ideas.  But they can clash too – sparks are inevitable when the Plant’s unique originality meets what they perceive as the inalienable logic of the Monitor Evaluator.  Then mediation is highly likely (call on one of your “People Oriented” roles – probably a Co-ordinator or Teamworker). In fact, the Plant, Monitor Evaluator and Co-ordinator could happily work together in harmony as a small, constructive and co-operative unit – but beware if they need to be productive as they are missing an Implementer to actually do anything.

Famous Monitor Evaluators include:

  • Margaret Thatcher (secondary role – in her desire for hearty debates); and
  • Gordon Brown.

Do you know your own team behaviour strength?  If not, give us a call (01550 720902 / 07932 641313) or contact me via to find out more.


THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Love or loathe Resource Investigators?

RIWith the opening of the Llandovery Hub (see last blog post), brings a great opportunity to get together with other small local business folk.  It provides a place to meet and mingle and secure a professional working environment with all modern office conveniences.  This pitches very well to the Belbin Team Role called Resource Investigator, of which I am one 🙂  So when I was contacted about it, it immediately sparked my imagination as to what was possible and I’m all over it like a rash!

So what are my RESOURCE INVESTIGATOR characteristics then?  We are relaxed, sociable and gregarious, with an interest that is easily aroused (one phone call got me hooked on the concept). We are good at communicating with people both inside and outside the organisation. We are natural negotiators and are adept at exploring new opportunities and developing contacts. Our responses tend to be positive and enthusiastic, though we are prone to put things down as quickly as we pick them up.

The RESOURCE INVESTIGATORS are usually the team members who go out of the group and bring ideas, information and developments back to it from all over the place. We have an ability to think on our feet and to probe others for information. We make friends easily because of our own outgoing and very amiable nature. We are rarely in our offices, and when we are we are probably on the telephone. I have numerous examples of this when I was corporate office bound!  Always popping to see someone and check something out.  In fact, the receptionist once made me a sign for my door for when I was on the phone which said: “don’t even think about knocking” which was a joke, as my door was always open and I would often flag folk to come in whilst talking to someone else!  We are the teams’ salesmen, diplomats and liaison-officers; always exploring new possibilities in the wider world outside. Our ability to stimulate ideas and encourage innovation by this activity would lead most people to mistake us for ideas people, but we rarely have the radical originality that distinguishes the PLANT. Interestingly, my other team role is indeed Plant, so I often have whacky ideas too.  Just how difficult could I have seemed so some others in the office who craved peace and quiet?

Without the stimulus of others, for example in solitary jobs, RESOURCE INVESTIGATORS can become easily bored, demoralised and ineffective.  This is precisely why the Llandovery Hub is, in my mind, a fine asset to our community.  But I would say that wouldn’t I, being a resource investigator! So I love the idea and will definitely use the facility as I need to be around others and others instil the necessary discipline in me to focus and produce, otherwise I will float all over the place having a lovely time talking to loads of folk, but I will lack productivity.

Conversely, I’m hearing that the organiser of this fine facility is experiencing some criticism from others in the local community (are they Monitor Evaluators who can be characterised as overly critical and slow moving?) who merely see this as another office and are asking why people need an office if they have one at home etc?

I suspect a local initiative has suffered from a little lack of concept selling as its much, much more than merely “another office”. Have you come across an annoying resource investigator in your time and which characteristics have particularly challenged you in your day-to-day work? Could your team have succeeded (in your view) without one and if so, why do you think this?

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Is it the era of the “Teamworker”?

abdicationAbdication is currently fashionable – so it seems.  In Belbin terms, is it the era of Teamworkers?  Lets look at each Belbin role, one a week for the time being, and interpret it in the context of whatever is happening this week.

There have been some notable abdicators in the past.  But they aren’t all Teamworkers! Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has done it; the Pope did it for the first time in Vatican history; even Alex Ferguson recently handed over his long-held crown.  Last night The Apprentice adopted the trait, and we saw the sacking of Jason Leech who abdicated his Project Manager role for the “good of the team’s success” but in the face of a clear case of extreme-Shaper-bullying.  Teamworkers are diplomatic, popular and routinely avert friction. They are sensers and always try to please other people’s needs. That was certainly Jason’s motivation for his abdication last night.

Teamworkers will make other colleagues feel better about being dumped on or being hurt by something another has said.  We saw this in action last night as Jason articulated why he was buckling to Luisa’s (Shaper?) techniques.  Every team needs a Teamworker, but are they exploited and can they reach the leadership heights of being the Number One?

Do you see abdication as a noble gesture in certain circumstances, or do you see it as the easy way out of an uncomfortable scenario?  However you see it, will say something about your preferred Belbin Team Role, how you fit into any team and what your preference for the role you play within it, is.

In a professional world, this is closely related in my view, to how people are valued for what they are doing.  I’ve seen it many times: extroverts who require fast and timely feedback as to how they are doing will, under severe stress, pick up their teddies and walk if they feel unrecognised and undervalued for their personal contributions.  Feeling valued is a KEY INDICATOR of job performance after all.

Teamworkers are people oriented, so they feel valued when they receive recognition for looking after things: feelings; people; tasks etc. They are popular folk, very capable in their own right but tend to prioritise team cohesion and helping people get along over anything else.  They have tendencies of being indecisive, and are often uncommitted during discussions and decision making.  Sounds like a Jason description doesn’t it?  They are NOT weak people, never make that misinterpretation.

Shapers are action oriented people who feel frustrated in the absence of action.  They are hugely challenging individuals, extroverted, and constantly question the norm, often highly argumentative and they see themselves as courageous in pushing forward in circumstances where others feel like stopping – we certainly saw this last night.  They often offend others feelings yet fail to see it happening in a haze of their own red mist.  Very much Luisa – professional maturity and lifelong learning can (and will) temper this.  It’s usually called “experience”.

Upon his sacking, Jason quoted Nietzsche by saying: “when you’re battling with monsters, be sure you don’t become a monster yourself.”  I loved this because it says much for his Teamworker traits in how he sees Shapers.  There is no room for monsters in the workplace – Shapers need to learn self awareness and more than anything else, value team diversity and what others bring, but most of all be able to be adaptive to situations in order to bring the best out in others, not to walk all over them.

If you want to learn how to construct  and then manage a high performing team, recognising all the value the core but different role traits play in producing high performing teams, give us a call for a full Belbin analysis of your current team – and lets start turning that into a high performing team sooner rather than later: 01550 720902 / 07932 641313 will start that process today.

%d bloggers like this: