THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Is it time for an intervention with your team?

Teamwork-quotes-1A Training and Development Society survey received responses from 230 HRD executives about the results of teamwork. The survey found that as a result of introducing team working:

  • Productivity improved in 77% of organisations
  • Quality improvements due to teamwork were reported in 72%
  • Waste was reduced in 55%
  • Job satisfaction improved in 65%
  • Customer satisfaction improved in 55%

Tom Peters, in one of my favourite books, “Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for a Management Revolution” said:

“I observe the power of the team is so great that it is often wise to violate common sense and force a team structure on almost anything.”

However, if we look at the reverse side of the research findings quoted:

  • 23% of organisations saw no increase in productivity
  • 28% did not enjoy quality improvements
  • 45% did not reduce waste
  • 35% did not experience improved job satisfaction
  • 45% saw no increase in customer satisfaction
The more that teams remain immature groups, the less the benefit 
derived from a team approach.

So what are they NOT doing which the others are?  What this says to me is that simply putting groups of individuals together does not guarantee that they will work as a team, it is merely the start of something!  Meredith Belbin, the great master of analysing the elements necessary for great teams, said:

“A team is not a bunch of people with job titles, but a congregation of individuals, each of whom has a role which is understood by other members. Members of a team seek out certain roles and they perform most effectively in the ones that are most natural to them.”

The process of moving from a group to a team can be complicated and takes time. Many a naive Director has thought that throwing a bit of the budget at an away-day once or twice a year will do it.  IT WON’T!  It takes a great deal more effort than that, and much activity between away-days to build a “team”.

The “more effort” I refer to above are called “interventions” and these are deliberate specialist activities or processes which introduce change into peoples’ thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The overall objective of an intervention is to identify, illustrate and then treat progress-destructive behaviour.  It does this by analysing how that behaviour affects individuals, groups, issues and progress and co-produces ways to overcome it. Monitor and measure these interventional activities and you will see what is currently happening (reality check), then be part of creating your own imaginative ways to change or eliminate those weaknesses.

And guess what?  Aresko specialises in these interventions 🙂  Contact us for a discussion about how you want to go about strengthening your team in 2014.


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! – Engagement: more than just words on a page

1240487_639765176056391_1435228163_nEmployee engagement used to be considered the soft skills of management.  Now it’s considered imperative and all “good” organisations will have a Staff Engagement Strategy of some sorts, in place.  The leadership makes a lot of resources available to produce strategies and they know how important staff engagement is. But how useful are these strategies to the day job, and is implementation of them under-resourced?  Basically, how well does that strategy work in your workplace?  It’s a telling sign of how well any organisation “lives the values it says it has adopted” to ask any member of staff what is the organisation value they are mostly driven by.

A recent Gallup pole suggested that, in 47% of organisations surveyed, staff engagement was the most important HR challenge.  That is an amazing statistic!  Particularly when you look at the results, which are pretty dismal: only 30% of staff were engaged; 18% were actively disengaged; with the remaining 52% not engaged. This means MERELY A THIRD OF THE GIVEN WORKFORCE ARE CONVINCED OF THE VISION, MISSION, VALUES AND OBJECTIVES OF THIER ORGANISATION.  This is a truly disgraceful situation.  Organisations should be ashamed of their organisation development initiatives as a result of this survey!

So for the next 5 weeks, we are going to address 5 simple steps to getting out of this dismal rut.  It’s not rocket science but it takes courage and a dedicated management team to turn such a situation around. Most of all, it takes consistent effort and commitment on a daily basis.

Whilst every organisation is different and will require it’s own engagement approach, there are key areas every one of them should focus on to get out, and stay out, of this engagement abyss:

Step 1: Create clear and credible values that are KNOWN and UNDERSTOOD;

Step 2: Build a healthy culture INTENTIONALLY;

Step 3: Insist on good MANAGER HYGIENE;

Step 4: Create platforms for POSITIVITY; and

Step 5: Understand what MOTIVATES your workforce and RECOGNISE and REWARD it.

So this week, we have a few hints and tips centred around clear and credible values.

“Those who say they “know and understand” the values of their organisation are 30x more likely to be fully engaged”

The absence of any recognition of the values which bind the organisation as one collective force, guarantees that staff will be disengaged.  Below are some practical tips on ensuring values are truly embedded in your organisation:

  • Have senior managers talk about them regularly. The values should be part of the daily vernacular;
  • Make them part of your corporate communications strategy. Internal and external communications should not only contain references to the core values, but translate them into the “way we do things around here”;
  • Link daily, weekly, monthly accomplishments to the values.  NEVER miss an opportunity to reference the role of values in any individual, team or directorate accomplishment.  They need to be seen and felt to be DRIVERS of effort.

Can you recognise any systematic way your organisation connects staff behaviour and work effort to the core values?  What happens in your workplace that enables the values to come to life on a daily basis?

If you are struggling to answer those two questions, then you are certainly not alone.  I recently facilitated a workshop of 30+ staff and not one person there could recount an organisation value to me.  How could engagement become infectious in that organisation if nobody knew what glue was supposedly holding them together?

A healthy organisation culture is the easiest way to avoid the engagement abyss – but engagement and culture are the chicken and egg equivalent in organisational life.  More about culture at another time, the foreseeable future focusses on engagement hints and tips.

If you have any tips to share about how to make organisation values known, please do so.  Easy to say, difficult to embed, so how have you gone about it in the past?

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – This is me and this is what I do

Here’s something to think about as we reach the annual mid-year point.  Have you actually delivered what you set out to deliver by now or have you allowed external pressures, flow and alternative focus to take over?  Is what you originally set out to deliver still relevant, and if not, have you identified why so you don’t waste time doing the same thing next year?  Are you really operating at your full potential, be that on an individual or organisational level?

Strategic organisational development is about having the tools and techniques to make good decisions, and more importantly, following through on them in a sustained and noticeable way. Having a great OD practitioner check in from time to time is vital to driving and maximising that potential for success.  Have a look at this and see if you can afford NOT to invest in this support – remember …. make good decisions!

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.

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – Do you stand out for the right or wrong reasons?

Spotting potential and developing yourself or those in your teams take a certain degree of judgment and a whole lot of effort! Incompetent leaders have teams who turn on each other and fight in a non-productive manner.  There is absolutely no reason why everyone, with developmental help and an attuned sense of professional self-awareness, cannot all be rising stars and creative and productive team members.  Aresko can help, in all sorts of ways.  With a small bundle of tools and techniques (360° feedback/Belbin team role analysis)  we can help to spot where on the matrix below your team members might be now, and we can give developmental support on how to affect a shift into “high performing team” status.  So what are you waiting for?

 Screen Shot 2013-04-25 at 10.43.34


High performance, low potential. Every team needs some so give recognition for good work, use to coach others in getting done what matters. Then consider whether they really have no potential, which will be highly unlikely.  Everyone has potential, it just needs spotting and developing.  We can help you spot and develop!


Low performance, low potential. This crew could contain potential stars and backbones, they just might not be being motivated in the best way.  We ca help you counsel, establish trust, agree aims, and take action to help, including outplacement if best. It is vital you understand what makes your icebergs tick.


High performance, high potential group. They will need challenging work to stretch them.  We can help you coach and mentor them to agree stretching projects and produce satisfying career development.


Low performance, high potential individuals who are often bored from low challenge on a daily basis. They will need to be inspired, motivated, encouraged and managed very carefully indeed or else they can often be the instigators of nasty fighting.  We can help you determine whether there is any personal agenda in play.  Those who care more about their own, rather than the teams success, hunger after control or credit.  When this is evident, they are the ones who will fight for it but who will refuse to give it to others. It’s time for a tough conversation at this point and we can help you prepare to deliver it in a constructive, non-damaging way.

So to help create productive teams, approach Aresko at the earliest opportunity and avoid the naughty fighting culture which focusses on people.  Instead, let us help you focus on nice fighting which focusses on issues.

Productive Fit:

Those who don’t fit, fight. Team formation establishes team potential.

Icebergs and Problem Children, who don’t fit for one reason or another, ruin teams and do nothing but stop high performance. Let us help you create a more productive fit:

  1. Identify purpose. Why are we here? Know who you are before identifying those who fit or need a bit more help.
  2. Establish your code of conduct. How will you treat each other?

Will you interrupt each other during discussions correctly or incorrectly? 
What happens if someone is late or doesn’t follow through?
 Will you have fun or be serious? 
How will you solve disagreements?
 What does candor look like in your team?

All these are vitally important in building an effective and productive team culture and working environment.  Where are you and your team right now? Do you know for sure or is your wet finger in the air on this?

Opposing mindsets: Which one resonates more with you?

Yahoo recently produced a big debate around working from home. It’s Chief Executive, Marissa Mayer, instructed the whole organisation as follows:

“Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.  We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

Many have disagreed with this approach, most notably, Richard Branson of the Virgin Group.  In his blog, he said:

“Many employees who work from home are diligent, get their jobs done, and spend more time with their families.  They waste less time commuting and get a better work/life balance. To force everybody to work in offices is old-school thinking.”

So we have diametrically opposing views here.  My personal experience suggests the former is better for very young teams or organisations, before a trusting relationship is established.  Thereafter, the latter approach produces loyal and very hardworking staff, who never flinch at going the extra mile when its needed because of their gratitude in being trusted and being given some flexibility in their working life.  It’s never let me down in any case.

Which mantra do you subscribe to and why?

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – How do you demonstrate your personal qualities?

We’ve often talked about leadership qualities through this blog and this week we do so again, with  no apologies.  This blog is about improving your personal contribution in the workplace and leadership is just one domain of that menu.

Effective leadership requires individuals to draw upon their values, strengths and abilities to deliver high standards of service. To do so, they must demonstrate effectiveness in:

  • Developing self awareness by being aware of their own values, principles, and assumptions, and by being able to learn from experiences
  • Managing yourself by organising and managing themselves while taking account of the needs and priorities of others
  • Continuing personal development by learning through participating in continuing professional development and from experience and feedback
  • Acting with integrity by behaving in an open, honest and ethical manner.

Look at statements below:

On the scale next to each statement, choose a rating that reflects how frequently it applies to you then total your scores after each domain and reflect on how you have scored yourself.

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 09.45.58

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 09.45.02

This interesting exercise will stand you in good stead for the first part of any future leadership assessment programme.

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