Guinea Pigs: Pets or Prisoners?

Pets or Prisoners

Pet or Prisoner

A couple of years ago, my youngest son was approaching his 9th birthday and was insistent that he wished to have a guinea pig or two to look after.  After many, many discussions about the need to look after them and promises that indeed this would be the case, the said animals were purchased, along with all their paraphernalia and Garfield and Toffee became a part of the family.

For a good few weeks, maybe even a couple of months, our son was diligent in his duties and loved holding and playing with the little ones and enjoying being out in the summer sunshine in the back garden.  Even our cat took quite a liking!

Then as winter began to take its hold and the nights grew dark and cold and as the novelty of these two squeaking balls of fluff wore off, the monotony of looking after G and T fell (mostly) to mum and dad.

Two years on, sadly, not much has changed.  Over Christmas, as the frost came down we decided to move them into the garage for a bit of shelter.  Then one morning last week, as I went in to feed them first thing, I couldn’t help but liken their existence to that of a prisoner!

  • They live behind bars
  • Have the lights switched off at night
  • Get their meal(s) given to them
  • Get mucked out
    …and sadly very little else…

This experience got me wondering……how many of us leaders treat our team members more like prisoners than pets?

They say in life the more you put in, the more you get out.  I know from experience this is true with people (and pets!) more than anything else.

If we simply treat them like prisoners, clock them in and out and let them have a meal for their pleasure, we’re not going to be tapping into the true amazing potential which exists in our teams members and we’re certainly not going to ignite the collective consciousness which can manifest when all members are buzzing.

Rather, treat them like pets!  Find out what “strokes” they like, ask them about their story, what makes them tick? What do they love about work? What do they love about working here? What are their ambitions and dreams?  Such focused and genuine attention shows our team members how much they are valued, how much we appreciate their efforts and also opens our own eyes to the massive potential and opportunities which often, if not always, lay right in front of our noses.  This early time of the year is most often the time for appraisals, the annual review.  This can be a time that people dread, both conductor and receiver!  So if this is true of you, think about it as time with the pet rather than time with the prisoner!  Why not try some of the questions above?

One of the things I love about working with people is asking them what we could do better and how could they make this happen.  The ideas and solutions which I hear can be both simple and amazing, and when implemented (by them) have more impact than simply the solution itself.  Maybe we are all suckers for genuine attention and feeling valued and trusted?

Profit & Smiles

My challenge to you in 2015 is to make this the year to fully understand your people and then release and realise the collective potential within them.  You wont regret it!  Simply ask them to tell you their story…have you ever heard it?  Don’t interrupt…simply listen.  Then probe for their dreams….you may be pleasantly astonished.  With this knowledge tap into their potential and watch the results unfold….more profit and many, many more smiles.

Good luck and have fun, always.

Is Trust the Key to making more profit?

I have often wondered what makes us trust or not trust another person. I do believe there are those who naturally start from a position of trust, until it is broken, and then a smaller group who start with little or no trust of another and let this be built over time. I have also been curious to understand the difference, perhaps in the history, of individuals in these two groups.

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” 
 Ernest Hemingway

When reviewing our work in 2014, we noticed that one of the most common challenges we were given by the teams we worked with was helping them to “grow the trust within our team.” The thing is, all teams are unique and different and the issues and behaviours that have led to their current position can differ greatly. Simply, and sadly perhaps, there is no one cure for this.

As we dug into the trust issues we were presented with there were some consistent themes that came out. One of the tools we grew to love was The Trust Equation described in the book by Maister, Green and Galford and shown below:-


It is clear and I suppose obvious that when someone has prior knowledge, experience and/or skill that they automatically have credibility and are more likely to be listened to and we are likely to trust what they say.

It is also understandable that the more someone does what they say, and delivers well against our expectation, the more likely we are to trust them to do the same again; as the saying goes “the best predictor of future performance is past performance.”

I think the word intimacy could be replaced by vulnerability also. I think leaders who show vulnerability and are prepared to admit their own mistakes and short-comings do create a safe and secure environment for others to do the same; this creates more of a learning culture. Leaders who do this are more likely to be trusted as a fellow human being. If not replaced, I think vulnerability is a core element of intimacy and certainly weaker leaders rarely have the courage to be vulnerable.

That leaves self-interest, the negative side of our “ego”. We all know them! Those people who seem to do everything with an edge of “how can I do best out of this?” (I guess I recognise this well as this reflects a lot of my own attitude in much of my corporate life!) Those who say the right thing in the meeting, but you know they’ve taken a slightly different interpretation to everyone else. Those who say things purely to be heard and noticed. Those who say things for the impact it has back on them. Those who help others primarily for self-gratification purposes and, at an extreme (and thankfully rare), those who really don’t give a damn about others as long as they get their own way. Clearly the stronger this self-interest element, the lower the chance of trust existing within the team.

There are sayings about it only taking one bad apple to ruin a fruit bowl. Our experience would indicate that just one strong “self-interest” in a team severely attenuates the commercial and cultural performance of that team (their profit and their smiles). People see such behaviour and think “well if they’re going to do that then so will I” and so the vicious circle begins! Sadly this is simply standard ”human operating system” and it’s just how things go. Thus it is very important to nip such behaviour and attitude in the bud.

So if there is self-interest present what do we do about it?

The truth is that unless this element is eradicated then the team will simply not function as a team, and the commercial and more importantly the cultural well-being (the profit and the smiles) will be compromised. Other members’ energy will be sapped, hours dedicated to worrying and stressing about the situation, focusing on the negative behaviours and how to deal with them rather than how to grow the business together.

As a leader your challenge is simple; you change the people or you change the people! Start by showing the trust equation and having a common language to “call it” when anyone witnesses self-interest from others. Have a way of “calling it” in a safe and not-so-serious way. Then, if things don’t change, you have to move the person in question on, no matter how painful. My personal experience has been that when this step is finally over my thoughts have always been “why did I wait so long?”…..and perhaps more importantly, the speed of change in those that remain has ALWAYS been quite remarkable! Profit and smiles rapidly follow.

Good luck with your teams and your goals in 2015. We would love to hear from you, so if you are looking to increase your profit and the volume of smiles in your team(s) this year, then give us a call. Happy New Year!!

What nature teaches about teamwork…..

In our heart of hearts we all know instinctively that we can achieve far more by working constructively with others rather than on our own.  Not only can we share the load, but if we can all speak the truth and listen well then the creativity which can be applied to an opportunity or challenge is simply awe inspiring.

Unfortunately for us humans, we often struggle with teamwork!  There are so many reasons for this which I am not going to dwell on in this article…however we can look to nature to get some great lessons….

Honk! Honk!

Watch the short video of geese in flight and reflect upon these key lessons they demonstrate to us….

1. Geese fly in a v-formation and “slipstream” as cyclists do in the velodrome. Slipstreaming simply makes it easier for the ones behind to keep up Challenge – how can you create a “slipstream” for your colleagues?


2. Geese rotate the lead – it is exhausting if you are at the front all the time.  Great teamwork is when each take their turn

Challenge – when can you take the lead in your team


3. Geese benefit from the up-draught vortex created by the wing of the bird in front.  Look at the video and you will see that they are not all up and down together, but strategically positioned to benefit the most from the one in front

Challenge – when not leading, where and how should you position yourself to benefit the most from others work and activities?


4. Geese HONK! to encourage one another.  It’s the ones in the middle who do this (as the one at front are busy leading, those at back are recovering and those in middle will be heard everywhere)

Challenge – what can you do to Honk! and encourage your colleagues?


5. Geese support each other.  Did you know that if one is ill then 2 others drop back with it, in that way if the sick one dies then one will not be stranded

Challenge – how can you recognise if a colleague is struggling and what could you do to support them back to full effectiveness?


6. Geese BITE as one!  On the ground they work as a team to defend themselves from attack.

Challenge – what coherent and consistent messages need to be heard from your team and by whom.  There is simply nothing more powerful than all members of a team speaking as one


Conclusion:- if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far then go together.  Geese actually fly up to 83% further together than they could on their own.  What would an 83% improvement in performance look like in your team?  We could do worse than to learn from nature.


Call us in when you would like to understand how these improvements can help your team to fly…

Is it time to kill the smart phone?

On the day that the new iPhone 6 is launched I can’t help but wonder if smart phones are actually the worst thing that has ever happened to the human race!?!?

Am I one of these new age gurus who goes around living off the land and dispelling anything of the modern age….TV’s, phones, radios etc..?  Hell no!  I am up there with the best of them…I wouldn’t exactly be writing a blog now would I!?!… but hear me out…

We all know instinctively that when we are calm we make better decisions.  We know that when we are stressed that the smallest extra “straw” can break our back.  We know and see that when athletes are calm and “in flow” they perform much better.  We know deep down that keeping calm and quiet in our heads leads to a much happier and more successful outcome in every situation.  That’s why in today’s world “mindfulness” is becoming a common word in business and APP’s such as Headspace are so successful.

So how does the smart phone fit in to all of this?  Well, how often do you look at your phone?  Text messages, emails, Facebook entries, news, What’s APP, Instagram, Snap Chat etc? ..and what does this do to you?  My own experience and that from observing others is that this activity puts us back into, or keeps us in our heads.  It encourages us to create more thoughts, more noise in our heads.  It keeps us crowded and blocks out the natural outside world and the ability to deeply connect with ourselves and others.

Life is all about relationships and people.  The best ideas and best solutions to problems often come from dialogue with others or when we are doing something completely different, like having a shower.  The point is, these are times when we are not connected to our smart device.

So, maybe the best thing for smart people who want to be more successful, is to put the smart-device down more often and give themselves time to get calm and connect with themselves and others and live a far richer and more meaningful day.  Surely it’s worth a try?

Just 60 days to establish the culture???

When training in hypnotherapy in the last couple of years, one of the elements we learned was that an individual’s values and ethos are most often embedded between the ages of 7 and 9 years old.  It is between these years that our role as parents is pivotal in establishing the self-esteem and cultural platform of our offspring for years to come.  Whilst this can be a frightening or inspirational thought for any parent, it got me thinking……

         how long do we get to establish the culture in any team we lead?

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Leadership – breaking the chain

I’ve recently been struck by several examples of leaders and teams in a bit of a rut, doing the same thing, running the same behaviours, over and over again and hoping that things will improve.

The famous quote by Gandhi is often banded around: “be the change you want to see in the world…” I cannot help but think that as leaders we have a responsibility to break the chain of these habits. In doing so we show our teams, other observers and stakeholders that there is indeed “another” way.

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Let me tell you a story….

Once upon a time….

When you hear those words, what emotions do they conjure up in you?  Memories of childhood; at home with the bed time story or maybe even sat in Primary School on a Friday afternoon when the teacher read your class a story?

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5 a day – keeping you and your business healthy

Whilst in the kitchen earlier today, I caught sight of the fruit bowl and I perceived the contents to yell at me that I should give them more attention! I started to question if I’m regularly eating my 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables to keep me healthy? Then my attention wandered back to business and I wondered what the business equivalent would be…..

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Is Leadership the same as Air Traffic Control?

Whilst stuck in a major traffic jam on the A4 heading into London early this morning two thoughts occurred to me….

….if this is one of London’s “major arterial” routes, then how could we perform an angioplasty and then stent it so I can get to my meeting on time!?

…and then as I watched planes go closely overhead with regular precision towards Heathrow (one every 2 minutes) I couldn’t help but wonder how much calmer business would be if we could line up and then “land” our projects and major tasks with such regularity?

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