Ways to Make Hard Decisions Easier as a Leader

Leading a group of people is very demanding, emotionally and mentally. You have to handle your emotions and situation to fit the environment. Inevitably the problem that’s occur will come back to you. Having a team that allows you to learn as well as grow is so beneficial in any business.

However, you're the one who has to make the call, and the one who has to deal with the consequences. It's no wonder that depression affects entrepreneurs more than the average population. Sooner or later, you will have to fire an employee or make some serious calls that may affect people for better or worse. This is where the stronger entrepreneurs are made.

Take yourself out of the equation.

One of the best ways to make decisions is to remove yourself from the picture altogether. Imagine that this isn't your company: Instead, pretend that it belongs to a friend, and you're advising him or her on what to do. If your friend came up to you with this story (that your business is in) how would you react and how would you help? Oftentimes, it's easier to see the answer when we're removed from the situation, because the stakes are lower -- but the answer is just as good.

Create a firm deadline.

Procrastination. This is one of the biggest killers in today’s entrepreneurs as they cloud their mind with tasks that aren’t important. Well they are probably important but not urgent, or the other way round. If you give yourself a month to make a decision, you're going to take a month. If you give yourself a day, you're going to take a day. Obviously, you don't want to rush decisions with major consequences, but you'll also want to set a strict timetable so you don't procrastinate too long, wasting time and mental resources in the process.

Limit the factors you use to make your decision.

In reality, the more options you have to choose from the harder it is to make a decision, and the less satisfied you are when you are with that choice once you make it. You can compensate by reducing the amount options you have. Think strategically, only have 2or 3 different choices from different sectors. Then you can look at variables such as quality, cost and time.

Focus on long-term thinking.

Try and think about the long-term instead. Will your current decisions affect you in a years time or 3 years? Take time to plan for these types of problems that occur as you will most definitely be able to resolve them down the line. Procrastinating isn't a good idea. Delegating is possible in some situations, but generally not advisable. If you want to be a successful leader, you need to learn how to handle tough decisions rather than avoid them.




The Importance of Training your Team


How important is training when it comes to staff?

Can you give an employee a new job or a task and expect them to produce what you want without any challenges? Do you think your employees could be better? Your business results will reflect on your training of people because when people grow; the business grows. Keep them sharp and aware of things around them. Being able to spot a growing problem and dealing with it without having to go to upper-management is very effective when running a business of any size. Through training, teach your employees how being proactive and innovate translate into behaviours that should be visible. The challenge is to make sure that you promote consistent training to ensure that the company as a whole benefits from external measures taken by individuals.

What makes training effective?

All training has to be relevant. Relevant to the weaknesses that are occurring. Different methods such as retreats and internal training are effective ways to bring your team together - boosting engagement, as well as increasing their knowledge. Relevant training equals results. Think about the compound effect; training each level of your company bit-by -bit to make a big dent on the overall performance of the business. However, some business owners feel that once they have sent their employees through a training program, they shouldn’t need further training or even follow up. It is a naïve belief, there is always room for improvement and constant improvement is crucial to profitable success in business. Ask your employees to read. Challenge them to read a book a week on various topics to do with team performance to business management and overall mindfulness. Encourage them to constantly learn and encourage them to have a hunger them to be more knowledgeable, focused, and skilled.

Why is training around communication so important in the business world today?

Communication is extremely important in all areas, and people just don’t think about it often enough on a day-to-day level. It’s clear that people have different communication styles and preferences according to their behaviour, what isn’t so clear for most businesses is the clear relation between the success of a business and the strength of relationships between its employees. Successful communication revolves around people setting aside time to reflect on how they communicate and how they can make it more effective. We don’t always listen well and we are not always understood in the way we want to be understood and in a way that gets results. And this is in our native language! Offer your employees the chance to air challenges around communication, constructive conversations around how best to interact with other team members leads to better relationships between employees, which equals better results for the business.




3 Habits of Exceptionally Productive Leaders


Productivity is easily confused. When someone has a ‘productive day’ it usually means they got a lot done but it’s really important to identify what matters most, instead of completing a series of tasks that really could have been delegated.

Productive leaders dump their to-do list

To-do lists are great. However, they clutter your day with tasks that you perceive to be important, therefore, you prioritise the wrong activities. Everyone has 24 hours in the day, it’s up to you to choose where to spend those hours. Business owners tend to choose more pressing activities as it makes them feel ‘worked’; look at how you spend your time more efficiently. This is a sense of false achievement that can lead to the clouding of judgement.

80-20 is an amazing principle; called the Pareto Principle. This suggests that you spend 20% of your efforts on 80% of the results. You see it at home when most people wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time. Use this when creating a to-do list, split the page into 2. The left side should be the 20 percent tasks in which you feel are most important or effective for your business then, the right side can be 80 percent of the tasks that are less important or can be done after the others. If you are an employee, your manager may state a few tasks that must be completed as well as some others, so identifying which ones are which can make it a lot clearer.

Productive leaders slow down under pressure

The key is to plan. A great leader will adjust their time to take on more (important) tasks that allow his team to also widen their work load. Preferably before or after work hours, moving the diary around or allotting time for tasks that may pop up. This then saves the panic in the middle of the day when something important needs their attention.

Secondly, they should carve out times in the day to take breaks. Many business owners disagree with this but taking a step back and re-aligning yourself to the tasks in hand can be very effective. Blocking out a 30-minute gap in the day to process issues thoroughly and deeply with the whole team allows everyone to understand what needs to be done individually to complete it. Try it out!

Productive leaders use simple math for their hardest problems

Perhaps what sets the most productive leaders apart is how they respond to adversity. Most people buy into the myth that the events of your day lead to your outcomes. They adopt an E = O mentality, thinking if events go their way, their outcomes will be good, but if events turn sour, their outcomes turn sour as well. Adding a response or an extra letter =V, ‘”Victim” allows people to control one of the aspects. Changing the most challenging events into positive outcomes.

Changing Habits and Where To Start

Do you want to move from average productivity to outstanding productivity as a leader? Do you want to set an example that encourages your team to change their behavior in the same way? Then consider changing your habits. If productivity is primarily about getting what matters most done, then practice habits that focus on getting the most important things done, slowing down, and owning your response to the events the world throws your way.

For more information on how to make the most out of each day as a leader and manager or to find out how you can shape your employee’s behaviours, habits and attitude; just get in touch.


How a coaching culture makes your business more profitable

Management and leadership styles have developed over recent years with focus moving towards developing teams; and in turn greatly improving employee effectiveness and the profitability of the business as whole.

Traditionally, managers and leaders structured conversations with their team in a way that meant opportunities for individual members to contribute and innovate were thwarted by an instructional; ‘Directive’ management style. Although this style still has a place in the management tool-kit, it’s no longer considered the appropriate way to manage a team.

The primary objective of a Directive management style is for employees to comply. It’s a ‘do it the way I tell you’ approach that closely controls employees and motivates through threats and discipline. Generally, this approach is best used when there is some kind of crisis that needs immediate attention or when deviations from the task at hand are risky.

However, in a team of highly skilled employees or underdeveloped employees – this approach won’t work. Skilled employees will feel they’re being micromanaged and will likely become resentful, whilst underdeveloped employees are neglected, with no chance to learn or develop. The outcome of both of these scenarios is a de-motivated team who feel uninspired and won’t generate substantial results for the business. The outcome is a team that costs the business money instead of making the business money.

Today, training for future leaders and managers is more people-centric than ever before. This shift of focus from the ‘task at hand’ to the people responsible for completing the task means a stronger, more profitable business for the owner. This new style has prompted an increase in buzzwords such as ‘innovation’, ‘collaboration’ and ‘effectiveness’ - through nurturing your employees, they will work harder because they are more invested in the future of the business; working together to seek out constant improvement and better results. Your employees learn to view your business as a facilitator for their future goals; they become aligned with the vision of the business.

Improve your coaching skills

We’ve included 4 simple tips here to help you coach your team to be better, to be invested in the business and to generate more profitable results. It’s important to remember that this style doesn’t mean relinquishing control of results and how they happen, it just means the style of influence is changed:

  1. Ask good questions – encourage and enable the coaching process by asking good, open-ended questions.
  2. Meet the employee where they are – create a learning environment, meet your employees in their environment, not yours.
  3. Guide the conversation – use questions to arrive at a mutual agreement of action points, priorities and completion dates.
  4. Offer your support – through a shared commitment of goals, responsibilities and actions steps

Crucially, all of the above must be done consistently and done well for positive results to be the outcome. For more information about how you can train your current and future leaders to get the best possible results from their teams; get in touch and we’ll advise you on the best course of action.

Why meaningful conflict could be holding back the success of your team

What comes to mind when you imagine conflict between people in your business? Working towards a resolution as quickly as possible is usually one of the first steps a manager will take when conflict arises in the workplace, although it’s actually this hasty willingness to reach a resolution that can cause the most damage among teams in the workplace.

The first and most common behaviour typically associated with conflict is avoidance. Most people only see the negative results of conflict and will actively seek to avoid it. This is especially true for people in HR, managerial and supervisory roles as much of their time day-to-day will be taken up with activities that relate to mediating disputes and repairing interpersonal relationships between co-workers.

In simple terms, we know that conflicts are usually down to a clash of beliefs and values. And to be congruent as a team, we understand the importance of respecting the beliefs and values of each member of our team – so what is the disconnection that means we focus on resolving conflict as quickly as possible, without taking time to focus on the effectiveness and sustainability of the resolution?

Many people don’t know how to engage in conflict in a positive way which means they don’t bring important differences to the table. In business, this means a disengaged team that will agree with everything their manager says but will complain to each other later about decisions made that they disagree with.

If your business suffers from low productivity, low team morale or diminished relationships – a lack of positive conflict could be the cause.

According to Peter Block; Author of The Empowered Manager: Positive Political Skills at Work, if you are unwilling to participate in organisation politics and conflict, you will never accomplish the things that are important to you at work, your work mission. How damaging is that? The Empowered Manager was originally released in the late 80’s, but the learnings are still true today.

If avoiding conflict has inadvertently become a part of your company’s culture, it’s time to change.

Think about the possibility of providing your team with training around healthy conflict and problem-solving skills; it could be that your team need to know how to be effective before they can be effective.

Remember the clear difference between tension and conflict – tension only happens because there is a lack of positive conflict.

Patrick Lencioni, Author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team brilliantly explains the difference between tension and conflict, and why there needs to be a healthy dose of the latter within a team to enable success, positive culture and a results-driven, productive environment.

Unsure of how or where to begin? Reach out and get in touch, we will be happy to offer our advice.

The Millennial Generation of Leadership and Management: What does it mean for your business?

Leading and managing a team of people day-to-day brings its obstacles and can be especially challenging when that team is a diverse group of people. The rise of millennials in senior positions over recent years also means that more traditional management and leadership styles have been moved aside to make way for innovation and people who actively encourage others to challenge the norm, make improvements and come up with new ideas that will change the way the business works for the better.

Generation X contributed by making the workplace more casual, relaxed and informal. Baby boomers before them can be proud of employee support programs. Millennials? They’re creating a people-first workplace. Chip Espinoza studied millennials in the workplace, his most recent book ‘Millennials Who Manage’ (find it on Amazon by clicking here) talk about some fascinating insights into the future of management with millennials in the hot seat.

Millennials are geared up to be empowering and supportive for their employees, making sure their teams are moving forward in their careers. Trying new things and challenging processes is a daily habit of millennials, they’re problem solvers. They want to make improvements instead of doing what’s always been done, even if it works – because if they can find a more effective way to do it, they will. It also means they will encourage their peers and team to learn and develop in the same way.

“Millennials are highly relational” says Espinoza. Emotional intelligence is the new cornerstone of management and leadership when millennials are at the helm. This generation of managers will put people first.

“While you may hear the old generation of managers say “I don’t want to be friends with anyone who works for me because one day I might have to fire them,” Millennial managers would never take this attitude”

Implementing and managing change in the workplace might have previously been considered a delicate process in the past, but today’s evolving leadership style welcomes it. Change and innovation is becoming the norm.

With all of that in mind, this recent article by Management Today highlights the rise of a change in leadership and management that’s been influenced by the new generation of leaders in the workplace. Every business has the opportunity to benefit from the new approaches millennials bring to the table, if you want to find more about how to get the best from your team or your new generation of leaders, get in touch.

See how our Young Talent Programme can help

A different kind of resolution

‘Resolve’ has always been the theme for January which is why we’ve decided to make this month’s blog all about facilitation.

In an ideal world (and in most cases) issues or conflicts in business are resolved amicably and swiftly, but what if neither party is able to agree on a resolution?

That’s where a facilitator steps in. Their basic objective is to help a group have an effective dialogue without taking any side of the argument, in order to reach a consensus. But what does that actually mean in practice?

Here are 4 key areas that a facilitator adds value to:

Efficient use of time and money

Getting a resolution is important, but what’s key is the impact any action in your business has on your bottom line. A facilitator will help a group achieve more in less time, meaning the need for multiple meetings is eliminated; time and money is saved.

100% Contribution

One of the crucial roles of a facilitator is to guide conversation, making sure everybody gets the opportunity to speak without one person or group of people dominating the conversation. Respectful listening and full participation means the whole group has a better understanding of the situation which increases the chances of reaching a sustainable decision.

Record of results

Your facilitator will summarise what is discussed in your meetings without taking a side. This means an objective summary of what’s been agreed and what still needs to be resolved.

Collaboration of outcomes

After welcoming strong opinions and views, the facilitator will encourage the group to produce previously unconsidered options for resolving any differences. Creating the outcome means all members of the group move forward with a sense of shared ownership and responsibility.

De-busting the myth

Facilitation is a great but undervalued tool in business. Most business owners believe they should only use a facilitator if they haven’t been able to reach a congruent conclusion between two groups.

In actual fact the use of a facilitator makes reaching the end goal faster and simpler because they have all of the skills needed to guide both parties to a satisfied conclusion. Here are just a handful of situations where it would be beneficial to bring in a facilitator:

  • You want more effective meetings without dedicating more time to make it happen
  • You want more action and less talk from your regular meetings
  • You need to restructure or realign job functions and roles
  • You want to evaluate accomplishments and challenges in your business
  • You need your team to be held more accountable to what is agreed in team meetings

Get in touch with us via our website to find out more about the value we can add to your business through our facilitation services.

5 Pieces of Gold for Christmas

The festivities have begun which means office parties, festive cheer and depending on your workplace culture, a higher or lower level of productivity.

As a general rule, December is considered one of the most dreaded months of the year for business owners and managers. Employees are often distracted by events happening outside of the business, they want to take holiday at the same time and too much festive cheer can mean employees become too relaxed, slowing their output.

Rules always have exceptions, however, and this one doesn’t break the pattern. At Christmas, the productivity of your employees relies on two simple things:

  1. Your company’s culture
  2. How well your employees align with it

Company culture is built through an expression of values, attitudes & beliefs, so if you’re not sure you have a clear company culture that can be accessed by all of your employees; this is the place to start.

The recruitment stage is the first opportunity to make sure you hire the right people, skills can be taught, values, attitudes and beliefs can’t. It might seem illogical to do this, surely as long as someone can do the job, they’re qualified? Think about this another way; these people aren’t aligned with the culture of your business, yet they have a hand in how successful it is. The people in your business, are your business. Which is why is incredibly important to make sure they believe in what they do.

Get this right and you won’t just have employees, you’ll have people that want careers in your business that are committed and dedicated for the long term, and have a passion for what they do.

Does your business have a vision? This is just as important to make sure you have motivated, productive employees. The vision is a clear goal for the future that gives everyone a purpose and the culture of the business is how everyone will make sure it’s achieved. The famous story of President John F. Kennedy visiting NASA HQ in 1961 illustrates this well. Kennedy introduced himself to the Janitor and asked what he did, the Janitor replied “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”

This Christmas, we’re going to pass on 5 pieces of gold in the form of Allan Pease’s ‘5 Solid Gold Questions’, from his book “Questions are the Answers”. The book is about getting a ‘yes’ in network marketing and the questions were originally designed to find someone’s PMF (Primary Motivating Factor), use them in your business to drive up employee engagement by asking each employee to answer these 5 questions, making sure it’s centred around 2017.

  1. What is your number one priority?
  2. Why did you pick that one?
  3. Why is that important to you?
  4. What are the consequences of not having that opportunity?
  5. Why would that worry you?

These 5 questions are an extremely effective way of finding out what your employees are focusing on in 2017, both in your business and on a personal level. It also means you will have a clear insight into the current mind set of your employees, this activity will also highlight any potential issues that need to be dealt with in the business. For example, if your employees aren’t thinking of the bigger picture and are more focussed on getting particular tasks done or achieving deadlines, this could indicate a resource squeeze in the business which will increase pressure and burn out employees.

If you speak to employees that don’t have a number one priority, the chances are they’re not aligned with the company culture, which means they are unlikely to play a valuable role in achieving the company vision. Sir Richard Branson sums this up perfectly when he talks about Virgin:

"I'm often asked what it is that makes Virgin different. The simple answer is - our people. If it weren't for a bunch of well trained, motivated and, above all, happy people doing their bit, we'd have never launched a record label, never mind a fleet of 747s."

For any questions or for more information about the tools, training and courses we have available to increase and maintain employee engagement, please get in touch.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, from all of us at Bespoke Training!

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The Self-Development Mind Set

How often do you make a conscious effort to manage your mind set? Perhaps you already do it without thinking, but for most people, the exercise of being mindful is a strange and sometimes uncomfortable idea.

They key to changing our behaviour is our mind set. Without it, if we’re even lucky enough to have made a plan to change in the first place; it will almost certainly fail. We develop ourselves through the way we think, everything we interact with has the power to influence our beliefs and values which is why it’s crucial to make sure we surround ourselves with inspiration. These could be inspiring people, inspiring books or inspiring events, what matters is that they make a positive difference to you and your mind set and that you are always growing and developing.

Work is where we spend a majority of our time and can be a stressful environment, especially if it’s missing the right people, processes, training and support enabling us to be and do our best.

When it comes to avoiding change, we’re geniuses. We build beliefs and reasons in our mind that continually stop us from becoming the person we want to be. We make excuses and we sit comfortably in denial about what we really want, which means we become the reason why we haven’t reached our goals.

One of the greatest examples of denial is how much (and often) we underestimate how our environment impacts us. Road rage is a great example of how we can shift from one personality to another in a moment, without thought. Our environment can be a dangerous distraction that means we lose sight of who we want to be.

This is compounded by the fact that we are often distracted and don’t listen to the feedback from our environment; so don’t do anything about it. The good news is, once we’re aware and conscious of what surrounds us, and we realise that we’re constantly given the opportunity to develop through this feedback we can use it to our advantage and develop ourselves by being mindful.

As a Business Owner or Manager, you need your employees or your team to be at their best so their output is productive and generates results for the business. Think about the reasons they could be demotivated or disengaged– there are hundreds! How a business operates and performs is always going to be a reflection of the mind set held by its owner and their team.

Accountability is vital for a Self-Development Mind Set, to be aware and tuned-in to yourself, your behaviour and to recognise that you must own the outcomes and responses you get. This shift in thinking is a change that needs to happen for a business to reach its full potential and the results are brilliant, providing the change is managed effectively.

What is the current mind set of you and your team? How many examples have you seen already today that show how easily we’re taken off course by what’s out of our control? If you’d like to explore managing change successfully or developing you and your team in more detail just get in touch, we’d be happy to talk with you.

13 Behaviours of High Trust Relationships – Part 2

Continuing on from last month, we’re taking a look at the last 7 behaviours of High Trust Relationships taken from The Speed of Trust by Stephen M R Covey:

Get Better

If you’re not getting better, you’re going backwards. When your team sees that you constantly improve, learn and develop yourself, they will see you adapting to change and their confidence will build in terms of your ability to lead into the future. The key here is to make sure what you learn is put into practice and produces results, and to make sure that you also work to improve others and not just yourself. Covey suggests two places to start when it comes to getting better. The first is to seek feedback from those around you and the second is to learn from your mistakes.

Confront Reality

We cannot bury our head in the sand when faced with tough realties. Tackling difficult issues head on and being honest about them means people will trust us. As a leader, avoid the temptation to avoid reality or act is if you are addressing the issues when in fact you’re actually evading them.

Clarify Expectations

Failure to clarify expectations causes confusion and leaves people guessing. It also means that when results are delivered they fall short and aren’t valued. Focus needs to be on a shared vision of success up front and early on as a preventative measure. Time and productivity is wasted due to leaders not clearly defining expectations.

Practice Accountability

A natural response to failure is often to blame others, but part of great leadership means being responsible and holding yourself accountable for bad results. Great leaders build trust by first holding themselves accountable and then holding others accountable.

Listen First

Listening before giving advice or managing builds trust. Trying to take action before knowing all of the facts or pretending to listen when you are already thinking of a response is unfair and a waste of time. Communication is more than just words, so listen to what’s being said and consider non-verbal cues before deciding how to respond. If a member of your team feels that you haven’t understood all of the facts before responding, you will be making a withdrawal from their trust account.

Keep Commitments

Only make commitments you can keep. Be precise, don’t be vague and be careful about the commitments you make. When you keep a commitment you build trust. Remember that commitments can be both implicit and explicit, and violating either one of those will diminish trust massively.

Extend Trust

Trust should be extended to others that have earned it. The other 12 behaviours help you to become a trusted leader, this behaviour helps you to become a trusting leader. Be wise to who you extend your trust to and think carefully before extending trust to those who have not behaved as a character worth trusting, if you do this will have a negative impact on those who deserve your trust.

The Speed of Trust is a brilliant read which will contribute towards your development as a leader, whether this is as a business owner, a manager or a key player in a team. If you want to learn anymore about being a great leader, please get in touch with us for our latest relevant courses or for information on a bespoke training structure. 

Family pull on their running shoes for Children's Cancer Charity

13 Behaviours of High Trust Relationships – Part 1

The Speed of Trust is written by the late son of Dr. Stephen Covey (Author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), it’s been published in 22 languages and sold over a million copies since it was released.

The Speed of Trust talks about building ‘Trust Accounts’, each trust account is unique; a deposit in one person’s account may be a withdrawal from another person’s account. The simple way to build a trust account is to stop making withdrawals.

Relationship Trust™ looks at 13 behaviours that are crucial to great leadership and will build your trust account with each member of your team:

Talk Straight

Over a staggering 80% of employees don’t trust their managers to tell the truth! Tactful honesty leaves the right impression and builds trust with your team, if employees don’t believe you’re speaking honestly they will spend time trying to decipher truth from dishonesty which impacts on productivity. There is absolutely no excuse for being blunt or hurtful, so it’s crucial that talking straight is paired with tact, a skill that can be learnt and developed.

Demonstrate Respect

Every action taken as a leader should be sincere and show that we care; this behaviour acts out the Golden Rule; treat people the way we want to be treated. Your team will be able to recognise when the reason behind an action is insincere which is why it’s important to demonstrate your respect through daily actions. Small actions taken daily will build an incredible amount of trust with your team.

Create Transparency

What are your values in business? Most business owners would include words such as ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity’, but how are those demonstrated by employees and managers? Transparency means telling the truth is such a way that it can be verified. This means doing things in the open where everyone to see. It could be being transparent about salaries, with a breakdown of how they are decided. Strategic sharing of information like this will encourage your employees to reflect the same values of your business, increasing output and building a strong team who understand WHY these values are important.

Right Wrongs

If a mistake is made, some people will justify this behaviour while others will try to cover up their mistakes, both will result in a breakdown of trust which takes a long time to rebuild. Righting wrongs is not just about apologising, it could be a gift with a sincere apology for example. It’s the principle of going the extra mile. 

Show Loyalty

There are plenty of ways to show loyalty to your employees, in The Speed of Trust Covey focusses on two. The first is to give credit to others. Recognise the success and give credit to the individuals responsible. A leader should never take credit for the hard work of others in their team. Equally, a leader should never give credit to someone in their presence, but then downplay their contribution to others.

This leads on to the second way to show loyalty; speak about others as if they were present. A quick way to decrease trust with your audience, whether it’s a room full of people or a couple of colleagues, is to talk about someone behind their back when they are not present. Trusting relationships are not built by talking about others.

Deliver Results

It might sound obvious, but the fastest way to build trust with your team or your clients is to deliver results. Delivering results is based on competence, many leaders and managers deliver activities instead of results. This is the first half of Covey’s definition of leadership: Getting results in a way that inspires trust. Delivering results establishes trust in new relationships as well as restoring trust that has been lost due to a lack of competence.

What causes your employees to underperform?

Hire slow, fire fast. It’s a well-known fact that most employers are fearful of losing their best people and thousands of pounds, sometimes more is invested to find the right candidates for a role in every business.

People truly are the best asset of any business, but what happens when you think you have ‘underperformers’ in your team?

Don’t dig out the disciplinary procedure just yet, before you do, it’s important to identify exactly why you have members of your team that aren’t fulfilling their role. If the right steps have already been taken to hire the right people that fit the values and culture of your company, and more importantly, if money has been spent to do this – then it makes sense to take a look at the business before deciding that your employees don’t fit.


Even the happiest and most motivated employees need a healthy work-life balance and although some workplaces are tougher environments then others, the feeling of frustration from employees can grow quickly if they feel overwhelmed by the workload.

Let this build into a feeling of resentment among the team and you will have employees that grumble about completing tasks, don’t look forward to new projects and responsibilities and fail to deliver when it comes to their role.


Setting out clear expectations early is crucial to having happy employees that will go above and beyond their call of duty. The reason? People might have similar or suited communication styles, but no two people will ever communicate or comprehend in the same way.

So you might not have grumbling employees, but unclear expectations in a role leads to confusion, demotivation and reduced productivity. The cause of this is usually down to a lack of strong leadership, it’s very important that employees know what to expect from their managers and vice-versa. Make it an absolute must that the expectations of the role are outlined from the very start and invest in leadership development and training for your management team.


If your employees are underperforming, think about the last time you recognised employees for their hard work. Poor employee recognition in the workplace is a big reason why workers become distant and non-committal. The most dedicated employee could soon become uninterested if there is no incentive to keep up the good work. Recognition doesn’t have to cost a lot, but it does need to be of value to the employee being recognised. Take the time to speak to your team of people and find out what would make them feel more engaged in their role.

Nurturing your team of people needs to be consistent and constant for it to have a long term, positive impact on your business. Build the right team and develop them throughout their career and it will make a monumental difference to the success of your business.

3 simple ways to be a better leader

Last month we took a look at the latest on Sports Direct, with shocking news that they were saving millions of pounds a year by paying their employees under the National Minimum Wage, charging some to have and use a pre-paid card for their wages and docking 15 minutes of pay if they were 1 minute later (to name a few examples).

On the same strand this month, let’s look at three simple ways to become more effective as a leader and boss in the world of business today.

1.      Make yourself available

Availability in business has earned itself a whole new definition over the last 5 years. Bring on the age of the millennial and the phrase ‘my door is always open’ is almost completely obsolete. Being effective has always been about great communication and it’s definitely developed into a multi-platform concept. Think less about emails and more about Facebook, Twitter and Google Hangouts (yes, we’re serious). Building and maintaining a healthy working relationship with your employees has evolved and you don’t want to be left out of the conversation. Simplicity still has its place though, so if the modern way of communication send your head spinning a frequent, Friday ‘open bar’ policy at the pub can still be just as effective.

2.      Go beyond your comfort zone

You don’t have to know everything just because you’re in charge, so don’t be afraid to own up about it either. You can only grow your comfort zone by stepping out of it so make the effort to learn constantly. One of the worst traits to have as a manager and a leader is to be completely unaware of your own incompetence. The best thing about this is that as a leader, you’ll likely have members of your team that will follow in your footsteps when the see the rewards of your efforts. Be their mentor to develop yourself at the same time and the results will be spectacular.

3.      Increase your self-awareness

She’s always late. He’s always messy and disorganised. Its human nature for us to sometimes eagerly point out someone else’s shortcomings while turning a blind eye to our own. As someone who’s in charge, if we lack self-awareness we’re less likely to accept and understand the reality because our desire to feel good about ourselves is stronger. Imagine the outcome when you’re talking to an employee about lateness if you’ve been trotting in and out of the office without a moment’s thought about what it looks like to your employees?

It’s also worth remembering though that your team will be just as irrational as you are when it comes to recognising their own weaknesses. Being more self-aware means you can manage your team effectively, it takes practice to tame human nature, but this approach of leading by example will get brilliant results. Inconsistencies frustrate anyone at the best of times, put that in the mix of an employee-employer relationship and the possible outcomes are scary (a quick google search will show you).

Carrot or Stick?

‘Carrot and Stick’ is an idiom that’s been around for years in the management sector and it’s thoroughly debated too. The ‘carrot’ is demonstrated well by the likes of Google and Virgin, and as for the ‘stick’, last week’s news featured one of the most recent and fitting examples yet.

Unless you make a point of not following the news you would have heard or read about Founder of Sports Direct; Mike Ashley.

In the MP’s committee session last week, several revelations made it painfully clear that Sports Direct had been operating below bar for some time. Stood before MP’s on the business, innovation and skills committee, Ashley defended his retail group by saying that Sports Direct had a “hard-working culture” and that it was a “victim of its own success”.

Workers being docked 15 minutes of pay for being one minute late to work and being paid under the National Minimum Wage, saving the business millions of pounds a year are just a couple of examples of what was highlighted by MP’s during last week’s committee session.

Now facing the prospect of hefty fines from HMRC alongside a full investigation of the 6 year maximum that HMRC can investigate, it’s fair to say that Sports Direct and it’s upper level management team are in hot water.

In light of recent news then, it seems only fitting that this month’s topic is centred on management & leadership style. You may not own a multi-million pound business, but the same rules of management exist.

Some managers rely on the ‘stick’ method of management, usually it’s because it’s in their comfort zone and they find that it’s a faster way to get a reaction out of their employees, even if the consequence means no change in behaviour. As a motivation tactic, it can be very effective for the short term, but it creates an attitude of compliance instead of commitment and more importantly a culture without strong values that employees can work to and build on.

Targets without any incentive or with the threat of discipline is a good example of the ‘stick’ style of management. Hardly inspiring is it?

Build a well-structured and well-managed system for employees to work with and you can expect to see productivity soar. Better yet, with ongoing training and support, you open up the opportunity for you and your employees to talk about any areas where changes and improvements can be made.

In reality, the ‘stick’ according to the definition in the famous idiom should never have to exist within a business. Hire on values not skills, manage and train your employees well, treat them even better and you should find that your disciplinary procedures do little more than gather dust.

Drive Up Employee Engagement in your workplace

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development have reported that job satisfaction is at an all-time low for the first time in two years, and have also suggested that this drop in happiness is going to encourage workers to look elsewhere.

The researchers also asked workers to rank their line manager on how effective they are at meeting certain criteria, one of them being coaching. Over one quarter of the workers asked said their boss never coaches them on the job and a minuscule 9% said they always do. Coaching might not be appropriate for every role, but in most it’s crucial, teaching workers how to do their job better is likely to make them more engaged.

So how can you make sure you retain employees and keep them happy in their roles?

  1. Create a company culture that reflects your employees
  2. Too many organisations either don’t understand and don’t practise company culture, or try too hard and end up with a cultural ideal that feels fake and awkward for employees. By looking at what you want from an ideal employee, you can then begin to shape a culture that will help to nurture and grow those values.
  1. Play to employees’ strengths, work on weaknesses
  2. Place employees in roles that make the best of their strengths so that they will naturally feel more motivated and be more productive in roles where they can excel and make use of their current skills. Everyone has weaknesses that can be developed, so invest in regular coaching or training which will encourage employees to learn from each other as well as developing themselves – both have big benefits for your business.
  1. Find new ways to reward team members
  2. It could be as simple as a hand written note or picking up a coffee on the way into work as a reward for a job well done; rewarding team members works and has a positive impact on their productivity. Non-monetary recognition has been proven to be the most effective, so think outside the box and increase engagement from your team.
  1. Give back
  2. Charity based activities don’t have to be a massive commitment and giving back to the community is a great way to increase positive energy in the workplace to drive employee engagement. Involve your team and commit to getting involved in charities and projects that they’re passionate about for a huge boost in workplace morale.

What does it really take for an employee to be the last one to leave or to ‘go the extra mile’? More often than not, it’s the level of investment a workplace makes into engagement, making sure their employees are given the opportunity to develop, to learn and to get more from their role whilst benefiting the business.

The influence of expectations

A recent news article published by Management Today highlighted the challenges around making sure customers of today are truly satisfied. We’ve all heard Warren Buffett famously quoted saying ‘It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it’, and the advance of technology means today it couldn’t be more correct.

Social Media has become the perfect platform for people to air their thoughts and opinions, good or bad. Customers have expectations about every single aspect of a business, from the people they interact with to the products or services being provided. Meet these expectations and better yet; exceed them and you’ll not only have repeat business and customers that stick with you over time, but you’ll also have advocates who will speak highly of what you do and encourage others to join them in the experience.

Fail to deliver though, and those unhappy customers will ‘talk with their feet’ and influence others to do the same. Making sure you keep your customers satisfied so they feel they’ve gotten what they expected and more has always been a challenge for businesses to consistently achieve, which is why so many businesses choose to keep a focus on managing customer experience.

By training customer facing staff right through to the way the systems and processes operate within the business to surpass customer’s expectations and to encourage an increasing, positive perception of the brand as a whole. Constantly developing these techniques within the company is crucial and should be a key part of any businesses training & development.

The Management Today article shows how Vodafone have recently spent £2bn on upgrades to improve their customer service, yet complaints from mobile users have soared – from October to December customers complained to Ofcom twice the rate they did at the beginning of 2015.

Just over 5 years ago, Dave Carroll named and shamed United Airlines when he couldn’t get compensation for damage to his guitar. He created a video on YouTube which subsequently went viral and had a disastrous effect on the company’s reputation. For other airlines, however, it was a great PR opportunity, offer free tickets to Mr Carroll so he could experience how much better their service was in comparison.

Whilst as a nation we’ve become more empowered to complain when we’re not happy, whether that’s through emails, letters or Social Media, we’re also in an age where businesses must be more empowered to raise the bar when it comes to delivering on the expectations our customers have and this needs to filter through every aspect of the business. What’s happening in your business to make sure it exceeds the growing expectations of your customers?

How to make your business more effective by overcoming the Peter Principle

Have you ever heard that people are simply promoted to their level of incompetence?

In the late 1960’s, authors Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull produced a satirical book theorising that workers in a hierarchical business structure get promoted to the next level if they are good at their job, and then again if they are competent until eventually, they reach a level of role at which they are incompetent, and so remain at that level for the rest of their career. Eventually every position in a business will be occupied by someone who can’t do the job.

Still available in print over 45 years later and heavily debated since it was originally published, it’s clear that this satire resonated with the general public.

Even with an established structure for internal promotion in place, this happens in large companies, but is even more common in smaller businesses. An Engineer might be great at their job, so they are promoted and are now responsible for managing a team of Engineers. The theory is because they are good at what they do, they will be able to lead a team work to the same high standards.

It seems logical doesn’t it? Often at the time both the person being promoted and the manager think it’s a fantastic decision. The hard reality is it’s much more likely to be a bad move, as positive and logical as the decision might seem, it can actually be damaging and cruel to both the business and the person being promoted.

Ideally, what should happen is that team members who show promise are provided with training and education as to what will be involved in the role.

Of course every situation isn’t ideal, yes, there will be circumstances where your business grows faster than expected, needs change and people are promoted without prior training. But it’s very important that promoted employee is given training as soon as possible, days or weeks into the job – not the more common years in or never at all.

Take our Engineer, they are great at doing their job, but what leadership skills do they have? What does it take to be a good manager and what knowledge and skills are needed to ensure they are effective in their role?

Say our Engineer has values and qualities aligned with the business which is why they are great in their current role, do they know what conversations they need to have while managing to be able to lead an influence a team positively so they too approach their work in the same way?

They are always on time to work, so what happens when they need to manage lateness with a member of their team? Will they know how to handle the situation appropriately and effectively?

A surprising number of businesses are guilty of promoting according to the Peter Principle, and the results are often the same; lower productivity, lower motivation, lower job satisfaction and lower profits.

Do you see training as an investment or as a cost? Effective training generates results, a more motivated, knowledgeable and productive team means better performance and profits for your business. That’s your Return on Investment.

Think about how many people in your business could potentially be in roles they haven’t been sufficiently trained for. You may already be aware of areas where they need to develop and although the Peter Principle is true in all businesses at some point, it’s easy to overcome by investing in your employees to generate better results for your business.

How to make sure your employee’s behaviour reflect your company values

We all know of popular businesses who have mastered the art of creating an excellent culture and set of values that their employees love to work and even live by. Richard Branson was famously quoted to say “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”, so how to businesses like Virgin set themselves apart from most?

In a recent article written by Vicky Roberts on the, she highlights practical ways that Learning and Development can help to translate values into behaviours:

“How do you explain to someone that whilst they might be delivering what they’re required to do in terms of the functional aspects of their job, they’re not behaving in a way that is in line with company values? Appraising the whole person, not just the completion of task – giving feedback on approach, or how a person does their job – this is a tough challenge in the real-world workplace.”

Unless you already have an established structure in place for your staff that involves regular training about what it means to reflect company values in their role, the chances are you are able to think of members of your team that often do exactly what Vicky describes above.

Often, this begins at the recruitment stage. Recruiting based on skills rather than attitudes that fit into your company values can cause big problems later down the line, as an example; you might identify a great candidate for a bookkeeping role. They may have previous experience in processing or preparing invoices and have good IT skills, but without a diligent attitude which translates into an ability to work to deadlines, being accurate and paying attention to detail, it wouldn’t be productive to hire this person.

There is a massively positive impact to be made by investing in Learning & Development to help your employees understand company values and translate them into the way they behave in the workplace. Ultimately, this process can improve the entire culture of your organisation. By getting your values off the wall and onto the floor, you will enhance your people – and your whole employer brand - in a measurable way.

Take a look at Virgin’s values as a great example of how they form part of their culture and how they are translated into tangible behaviours:

1. Insatiable Curiosity

We’re always restless, always curious. We want to know what makes people tick and constantly ask ‘what if?’ and ‘why the hell not?’

Give your all

You’re not a settler. You’ll question the norm. And you’ll jump at the chance to try new ways of doing things better – for your customers, your colleagues and the business.

Get it all

We’ll ask you what you want, because we’ll always want to know what makes you tick. And we’ll give you everything you need to keep on being your best, and better.

2. Heartfelt Service

We give heartfelt service. Our people are warm, honest and authentic. Everything we do says ‘we give a damn’.

Give your all

do says you give a damn.

Get it all

We’ll show you that we care about you too. We’ll always be up-front, and respect who you are and what you do.

3. Delightfully Surprising

We like to surprise and make people smile. We want to defy expectations, coming up with fresh ways of doing things and delivering those memorable little touches.

Give your all

You like to make people smile. So you’ll go above and beyond to defy expectations – to surprise and delight, and make sure everyone remembers the things you do.

Get it all

You’ll enjoy a working environment that never gets stale. And it’s the little touches that count – from all the benefits and rewards you’d expect – to a few nice surprises that you wouldn’t.

4. Red Hot!

We create red hot brand experiences. Irresistible and sensational services sealed with great value and fabulous quality.

Give your all

Quality is everything. Whatever your role, you’ll do it in sizzling style and provide a sensational service for customers and colleagues.

Get it all

Whether it’s the people, the place, or professional and personal development prospects that get you all fired up, we’ll give you a red hot career experience.

5. Smart Disruption

We love to outsmart the competition. Challenging the status quo we sidestep predictable thinking to punch above our weight.

Give your all

Of course you’ll always do what we expect from you. But we’ll love it when you challenge too. Because when you’re thinking differently, you give us the edge we need to outsmart the competition.

Get it all

We’ll keep you on your toes. In a good way. We’ll challenge, inspire and empower you to punch above your weight.

6. Straight Up

We play it straight. Honest and decent, we want to do the right thing for the customer and believe that what is good for profit can be good for people and the world we live in.

Give your all

Straight up, honest and decent, you’ll always do the right thing – by your customers, your colleagues and the business.

Get it all

We’ll always do the right thing by you. So you’ll always know what we expect from you, and what you can expect in return.

Be more, do more & have more in 2016

With just ten days to go before Christmas and the pressure to get everything done before the day itself, it’s no wonder that most of us are stressed at this time of year.

We all know friends and family who snigger and crack a few jokes when they see retailers preparing for the festive season in June, but by this time of the month are burning the candle at both ends in a desperate effort to get everything done in time.

How often have you felt you’ve wasted time at work? When is the last time you missed a deadline or weren’t happy with the quality of your work because you felt rushed?

Just like Christmas, you will know colleagues who only manage to achieve half the amount you are able to even though they work the same amount of hours. Equally, you will know colleagues who are accomplishing double or sometimes even triple the amount you can in the same amount of time.

So what’s the difference between you and them?

We all have the same amount of time to achieve what we want to achieve, 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year. The only difference is how we choose to spend and invest it.

Failing to manage time effectively is one of the biggest costs to businesses and can become a big stress factor in the workplace for employees, not surprising considering it’s often said the quality of your time determines the quality of your life.

You might manage others or just yourself, it doesn’t matter. Start by managing time effectively and you will find that positive mind set and productivity increases massively.

Although time management could appear to be a trivial matter, the consequences can be very serious to the detriment of company performance and working relationships. Resentment, frustration and demoralised employees are common in an environment where time isn’t managed effectively. Stressed relationships can lead to financial losses, more missed deadlines and sometimes even job loss, all starting with a few distractions that, if managed appropriately could have saved a significant amount of effort, stress and time.

The average person works at less than 50% of their capacity, so imagine the results that could be achieved, even if this only increased by 25%. Think about what you accomplished last week, what difference would it make for you to be able to do half of that on top of what you had already done?

For a small business with a team of 6, this could increase productivity by 150% spread across the team. For a larger business, the impact is incredible.

Did you begin the Christmas break this year feeling like you’d accomplished everything you wanted to or are you thinking about what you will need to get done when you go back to work in the New Year?

Are you having the length of time to unwind this year that you wanted to? Or will you be working a few days over the 2 weeks between the end of this week and 4th January?

If you want 2016 to be a different year, with increased productivity and better quality of life through an effective use of your time, join us on our Time and Work Management course in early 2016 as part of our Opening Doors Programme. With a small financial investment, this is a one day course that will educate you on being the most effective you can be and will give you a boost for the year ahead. You will learn and understand how to manage your time better, both in your personal life and in the workplace.

The deadline to book your place is 29th January, however there are limited places available, so overcome procrastination and plan in advance by clicking here to book your place. Time & Work Management course

A team of experienced professionals means you can have confidence in the quality of courses we offer, we guarantee you will be 100% satisfied or we will give you a full refund.

Have a very Happy Christmas from the team here at Bespoke Training Services, enjoy time with your family and friends and we’ll be back in the New Year!

Accidental managers wreck business

Accredited to: Ann Francke, Chief Executive, CMI

Who are they? How do you find them? And why it’s crucial for the future of British business that the accidental manager is stopped, trained and turned into a professional.

That is a bigger challenge than it might sound. CMI’s own data shows that four in five managers wound up there by a fault of history, lacking the training, credentials or professional preparation for the role that now confronts them.

Imagine a super saleswoman – let’s call her Rose. She’s had the company’s ‘how-to’ training in super selling and consistently smashes her targets. So her boss, Simon, does the obvious – he promotes Rose to sales manager. Six months later, Rose has lost two key salespeople, morale is low and the team is behind target. The company is suffering as a result.

Rose is an accidental manager. The story is the same the country over. Someone has been well-trained in their core function – and excels. So we promote them. But then we back off. We don’t train them. In most cases, they fail to grasp the myriad ways in which management responsibility has changed their role – and they carry on as usual. But it doesn’t work. Indeed, CMI estimates that bad management cost UK Plc over £19 billion a year in lost revenue, thanks to compromised productivity. Add up the indirect costs of stress and the picture is even worse.

Management – like selling, finance or IT – is a skillset. It can be learned. And yet four out of five companies don’t train their managers. So, with the productivity debate fresh on the agenda, it’s time to invest in developing your workforce.


Too many managers are flouting the principles of good performance management, as despite being rated as poor performers, they are still being rewarded by their employers according to new research published today (3 June 2015) by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and XpertHR.

Data from the National Management Salary Survey 2015, which for the first time recorded performance ratings alongside pay, shows that rewarding poor performance is widespread within organisations, as nearly a third (30%) of all managers ranked as underperforming were handed a bonus in 2014.

Looking at the top of organisations, the salary and performance data reveals that of those senior managers and directors whose performance was rated as ‘not meeting expectations’, almost half (45%) received a financial bonus. The average bonus paid to underperforming senior managers stood at £8,873.

Data from the survey, taken from 72,206 employees in 317 UK organisations, also shows that managers’ salaries are on the rise. Pay increased by 3% on average in the past year - the biggest annual increase since 2012 - compared to a 2.7% increase the previous year. The average salary across all executive levels now stands at £38,328. The average bonus pay-out for all managers was £8,836, rising to £44,687 for directors.

Ann Francke, Chief Executive of CMI, comments:

“Too many managers are reaping the rich rewards of their positions despite being poor performers. This unacceptable discrepancy between pay and performance is even more widespread among the ranks of senior managers. Unfortunately, it seems to be a lot easier to reward poor performance than to face the awkwardness of having difficult conversations with underperforming staff.

“Change must start at the top with CEOs’ pay, as there’s plenty of scope at that level to bring pay and performance more in line. To improve performance, managers must be prepared to have honest conversations with their staff and provide regular feedback and coaching. Managers should also have clear targets and be measured against them. Organisations and their employees will only benefit from a culture in which pay closely reflects performance.”

Mark Crail, Content Director at XpertHR, adds:

“Another reason so many low performers get bonuses is that there is often a culture of rewarding past glories. The biggest and most significant indicator of whether someone will get a bonus this year is whether or not they got one last year. The longer that goes on, the more people come to rely on the money and the harder it is to stop paying it. In those circumstances, employers really should think about whether it would be better to address the level of basic pay rather than finding spurious reasons to add on an arbitrary annual bonus that has little basis in performance.”

In other findings, the number of employers experiencing problems recruiting new staff has risen significantly in the past year, from 79% in the 2014 survey to 89% in 2015. The main recruitment issues cited by organisations were difficulty in recruiting people with specific skills (75%), while 37% cite a poor quality of applicants which indicates a skills shortage emerging among UK managers.

Competition for skills is being driven in part by an increase in labour turnover, which has leapt from 4.8% in 2014 to 11.4% in 2015. Resignations account for 64% of labour turnover, compared to just 13% who were made redundant.

The financial implications of this management skills shortage are also being felt, with 23% of employers saying the high cost of recruitment has been a problem for them in the past year, compared to just 7% in 2014. There are signs that companies are starting to address this however: CMI’s Future Forecast report* found that training and development is one of the areas most likely to see a rise in employer spending in 2015, with 45% reporting that budgets are set to increase.

Ann Francke continues:

“A toxic recruitment environment has been created by employers failing to invest in management training and addressing poor performance. The data show that managers are on the move again, and those with the most desirable skill sets are able to demand greater pay and higher bonuses – often without any link to performance targets.

“If employers are to regain the loyalty of their staff and create a working environment that attracts the very best talent in the UK, training and development programmes are critical. By helping staff to achieve their full potential and only rewarding good performance, companies will be reaping the rewards of their investment for many years to come.”

'More of the same' strategy

A recent article in Management Today highlighted that what was once a solution for your team and your business can become a problem.

In this article, Alastair Dryburgh states the depressingly common phenomenon of compulsive micro-managers. When they started out they had a few things to take care of and they were successful by controlling every last detail. Then they acquire larger responsibilities and still try to take care of every last detail, with the usual frustrating results.

A vicious circle starts to operate and what was a solution becomes part of the problem. Micromanagement demotivates staff, leading to lower performance.

Attempted solutions make the problem worse, which leads to more attempted solutions, which make the problem even worse, and so it goes on. The circle is given an extra shove by cognitive narrowing; as the situation gets more difficult, rising anxiety creates tunnel vision and becomes even harder to think of different ways of achieving desired results.

Are you doing something where the usual methods seem to produce less and less improvement? If so, take a step back. Look for the vicious circle. You are doing something that used to work but now makes things worse.

You don't need 'more of the same', but something different.

We are delighted to announce that we have now achieved ISO9001-2008!

To adopt our ethos of ensuring quality - right first time, every time, we have committed to achieving the ISO 9001-2008 standard.

It is designed to help organisations ensure that they meet the needs and expectations of both customers and other interested parties. Based on Internationally recognised quality management principles set out by the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

At the heart of the standard is a quality policy and set of systems and principles that tie together business objectives, customer needs and a marketing plan. When this approach to quality is embedded across the business every employee understands how their actions create a better customer experience and processes are put in place to continually review and improve our customer's experience.

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