The Art Of Engagement

I wonder how many times you have wondered what those who work for you do in their free time.
What is amazing is the number and varied activities people are involved in outside work, secretaries, chairpersons, treasurers, committee members, volunteer organisers, stewards, governors, and then there are technical and creative skills people also volunteer in support of activities that bring them pleasure to be involved with. WOW
Oh then there is going to work! All too often their participation and commitment is limited to the managers’ or owners’ own limiting beliefs.
So what happens when we both project a greater expectation, and involve our people with the belief that they have far greater resources than we had previously imagined. They don’t report to work simply to collect a wage; they come full of anticipation, eager to succeed, up for the challenges each day brings and have purpose.
How we are as leaders, owners, and managers can be measured by the engagement of those that work in the organisation…note I said in not for!
Whatever business we are in, we are in the people business.
Through the years, many of us will have faced both the challenge of disengaged staff and witnessed great effort and resources being directed at improving productivity, through investment in new kit, implementation of lean principles, improvement in efficiency through work flow analysis with impressive results, often in high single digit percentages or even low double digit improvements. Yet the biggest sustainable change is when our people choose to release their discretionary effort!
Going back to activities outside of work, it has always struck me how self-sacrificing people are when it comes to supporting things that are important to them, when they get a buzz from making a difference or feel good about being involved. As leaders, we have the ability, should we choose, to create the conditions for engagement. In my opinion, it boils down to our own values and beliefs, how secure we are and how comfortable in letting go of control and how much we can allow ourselves to change for the benefit of others.

What’s in an Appraisal

We all like to know how we are doing and its human nature to want to belong.
So why do so many managers and staff, feel demotivated and quite frankly unmotivated when it comes to having an appraisal meeting?

Well could it be a number of common things? Managers feel under pressure to get through the workload possibly trying to more with less resources, could there be pressure to meet KPI’s and there is that potential of a bonus if the numbers come in! To have to spend valuable time in order to satisfy the HR managers desire to complete the appraisals on time could be being viewed as taking me away from the real job!
Members of staff may have previously had poor experiences of it being a rather one sided affair, it’s been all about let me tell you what I think and what you need to improve! Maybe it’s been such an innocuous process in the past that its relevance is in doubt, bit of a tick box exercise!
Well whatever the reason, countless surveys report the same stats, on ineffectiveness of the appraisal process and that’s a big shame. Now I am not advocating that it is only at appraisal time that a manager should acknowledge a member of staffs contribution, achievements look to identify development opportunities and set some objectives. More I am an advocate of supporting managers understand and believe that their people are the most important asset they have, they certainly believed that when they offered them a job in the first place, but all too often the creeping of complacency sets in, if I had a pound for the number of times I have heard a manger say ‘ye they are good but they know that anyway’ or ‘dam so and so, has just handed in their notice because they have another job, what am I going to do now they potentially leave in a week or a month’. I believe that line managers should be appraising and communicating daily, weekly as they go about their business, having said all that, there is a place to formally review, agree and record the period just completed, when it’s done with the right intent and delivered with compassion, creativity and courage, it is a massive engagement tool that rewards a person’s efforts and achievements, identifies their potential and sets out to support them develop to the ever changing needs of the organisation successfully.
Many managers struggle to deliver an engaging appraisal meeting. They often are under prepared, having rushed their side of an appraisal form and spending much of that time thinking of what improvements can be made in the various competencies. So preparation is key, compiling evidence as the period progresses not at the end, thinking about what the appraisee might want to get from the meeting, being more open about some of their short comings and being prepared to act on that realisation.
Often the appraising manager takes it upon themselves to tell the appraisee what they are doing wrong, an approach that is likely to get the back up of the member of staff being appraised, simply exploring through open questions being gentle in the approach often yields insights from the member of staff. Can you remember a time when you have acknowledged by yourself something that could be improved? I guess it was a lot easier to then start thinking of how you would close that gap than if someone had pointed it out to you!

Catch people doing things right! You know what you focus on increases, if you look for the error, the poor judgement call then that’s what you will find, it’s not where you find the continuous improvement culture, don’t wait until an appraisal to acknowledge what’s good and great, do that ongoing as described above, make sure they are references in the appraisal, affirmation touches the heart in toughest of characters.
Be specific when appraising both skills and behaviours. Behaviours are so important, has the organisation identified what behaviours lead to success? Are the behaviours demonstrating supporting the culture the organisation wants? Some organisations do not include behaviours in the appraisal process, this I find interesting and I believe counterproductive, its usually not skill or even knowledge in a job role that prevents highly coherent and productive teams from forming its usually attitude and behaviour that have been unattended to, not challenged and accepted.
Managers often lack skill in delivering and receiving feedback themselves. Being aware or various feedback models, knowing which may be best in which situation is easily learnt, feedback delivered unskillfully often shuts the door rather than facilitate the tentative opening that can lead to both personal and organisational gains.
Agreeing the development opportunity is only the first step, making sure the intervention is a fit for that person is critical in gaining their commitment and trust. Often statements like ‘ attend training course’ is written in the development field, I think managers need to be more creative, find out how a person best learns, what they are comfortable with, what support they would find useful from the line manager and be brave enough to challenge to use what’s best and right for a person to bridge the gap.
Finally we have to be smarter in the way we both set and schedule objectives, ‘ongoing, never works and neither does ’in x weeks’. We want to set up for success, be fair, supportive and realistic in our plans.
So what is in an appraisal? Well hopefully a conversation that two people want to have, a meeting attended with positive intent, one that is open and informative, that results in continued enthusiasm, commitment, ongoing engagement and a shared sense of purpose.
How? Well you have to want to be interested in your people! Have a good process and have access to good support resources.
Successful Appraisal Coaching Cards are available from
They are suitable for all sizes of business, if you would like support in developing an appraisal process for your organisation including skills and behaviours frameworks call us NOW 07968 102578 or e mail

Ask the right Appraisal Questions

Ask the right Appraisal Questions

Better Appraisals

Better Appraisals

Potentially Misunderstanding the Power of Courtesy

This morning, being a leisurely Sunday morning, a BBC News online article caught my attention; ‘A Point of View: The Underrated Power of Courtesy’.   I appreciated the author’s intelligent questioning and reflexive approach to her exploration of how courtesy and discourtesy show up in our society, how we respond to them, choose to accept them or even not notice them when all around us.  The piece certainly got me thinking and reflecting.

As you may know from previous posts, the emergent and developing field of mBraining draws from cutting edge neuroscience and also ancient wisdom traditions to demonstrate how we have multiple brains (scientists define a brain as a complex adaptive neural structure), each with their own specialist competencies.  Broadly, our Heart serves us best in expressing emotions, experiencing our values and how we relate and connect to others.  Our Head’s prime functions are cognitive perception, thinking and making meaning.  Our Gut brain (the earliest to form in embryological terms) exists primarily to mobilise us to action, to decide what is part of me (that is both metaphorically and literally) at core identity level and to keep us safe.

In mBraining, we differentiate between when one of our intelligences is doing its own prime function effectively or not and also when any of them is attempting to do another’s ‘job’, which is inappropriate and can lead to a lack of congruence, alignment, or effectiveness.  Just imagine a brain surgeon trying to substitute for an orchestral conductor; she is clearly extremely intelligent and capable, but is competent in a totally different field, for a different purpose.  So, whilst reading this article, I started ruminating upon which brain courtesy comes from and if we may misunderstand its power by seeking it in another place.

I love language and often go back to a dictionary to catalyse such explorations and so, was delighted to find that the dictionary definition for courtesy is two-fold; 1) polite behaviour and 2) a willingness and generosity in providing something neededBehaviour is a form of action, mobilisation and is therefore derived from the gut brain and both the emphasis that it is polite behaviour and the second clause of the definition focus on the contribution from the heart brain.  Politeness is defined by our values – what is deemed to be important, right and wrong – and values live in our heart.  Notice next time someone you’re listening to refers to something dear to them…where does their hand go?…most often and naturally to their chest / heart area.  Then, the willingness and generosity are also driven by our heart’s intelligence and leadership development has identified the multitude of benefits of developing our Emotional Intelligence in recent years.  mBraining acknowledges the role of the electromagnetic field generated by the heart in building and maintaining rapport, called entrainment, which scientifically explains why we feel drawn to certain people (or otherwise) because we just have a feeling.

Reading the article, I noticed that whilst I agreed logically with almost all of the content, something wasn’t sitting well for me and I have learned that’s often a sign for me to reflect further and to check in with my different intelligences to learn more and for wiser decision making.  Then it occurred to me that society seems to use courtesy as a theoretical concept, a principle … a function of the logical, rational head brain.  In other words, we may be trying to get our inner brain surgeon to conduct an emotive and moving symphony – it doesn’t compute, because acting courteously is how we do what we do according to what we value and feel.  In the article, the writer talks about losing a dear friend who she remembers as the epitome of courteous; “when (Gill) met you, he assumed you were worth defending and respecting and cheering on. He took that risk.”  Heart and gut – acting courageously upon what is truly held to be important.  The (grammatically-incorrect) verb of courtesy-ing, therefore, arises from the highest expressions of our heart (Compassion) and gut (Courage) resonating in unison and yes, our head is of course needed to provide the Creativity and finesse of which words or vehicle to best use in each situation, but we misunderstand the power of courtesy if we do not bring it from our heart and gut.

So, I am feeling a call to action this morning, to seek out opportunities to act (gut) upon compassion (heart) in order to be more courteous.  Courtesy may not yet be as fashionable as it once was, but perhaps we deeply feel it is time to bring about a heartfelt resurgence!

If you are intrigued by how mBraining can offer wiser decision-making in your leadership and life, how you will benefit from the congruence of all your intelligences working in alignment and what more influence you can build; please email or pick up the phone 07790885086 to find out more about our mBIT (multiple Brain Integration Techniques) Coach Certification and other training programmes, our products or coaching.  We look forward to having a conversation with you.

How is our mental health

I start this blog with a question.  How is your mental health, that of your friends and family and the people you employ?

A staggering 1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer with some form of mental health issue in their lifetime. Next time you are out and about, notice those around you.  Unfortunately, a lot display classic signs and behaviours that indicate an underlying issue.

Could it be that people and organisations are fixated on the wrong things? Could it be that pressure to compare and benchmark against others and other organisations is accelerating the decline of our own health?

What makes people happy? Well there certainly isn’t one universal answer, but I suspect that a lot of people are trying to be happy by achieving what others want them to achieve, having what others have and achieving this through short term activities and actions.

We are and have always been at our most powerful when we are with others, communities, groups, tribes, teams etc. Human beings are naturally communal and the point I am going to suggest is that we are losing touch with that. Mental illness is nigh-on non-existent in some tribes and remote groups in the world, yet has found its way into other cultures as they have been exposed to the “I must be better and/or beat someone else or organisation” culture.

So where is all this conjecture leading, you may ask? Well, we have a responsibility in the workplace to engage with others, to encourage everyone’s involvement and to respect diversity. We also must consider leadership and if we are leading, to be willing to look at our leadership style. There is, in my opinion, a need for empowering leadership and a duty to provide clear vision, values and beliefs of the organisation. That’s what provides purpose and leads to fulfilment when we are part of group that achieves the vision, overcomes the obstacles and finds solutions together. Wages are a given and provide security, while employee benefits only provide short term hits of the feel good factor.

So how is your community, group, tribe or team? Which do you belong to and more importantly, in which are you active? For if we are not active, we are not members, we are voyeurs and likely to be merely taking from it when it suits us! Too many of us can fall victim to that route, yet it is our choice.

So be active, take part. Work collectively and have fulfilment from being with others and achieving something to the common good of all.  Rather than just looking after our own interests; this way,  we are more likely to remain mentally healthier and to facilitate the opportunity for others to be mentally and emotionally resilient also.

Find you inner hedgehog

The three circles of the Hedgehog Concept is a management tool to help people and organisations morph from ‘good’ to ‘great’. So what is your organisation really good at that it could be even better at?
The Hedgehog Concept is all about identifying and understanding what an organisation is really good at – and to keep doing it.
This theory stems from the story of the hedgehog and the fox. Each day, the fox would try different ways of stealing up on and catching the hedgehog. But the hedgehog did the only thing he knew how to do – curl up in a prickly ball. While the fox tried every different ruse to get past this, the hedgehog focused on just that one defensive response – the thing that he did best.
In his book, Jim Collins talks about the ‘three circles’ which are:
1. what you are deeply passionate about;
2. what you can be the best in the world at; and
3. what drives your economic engine.

Wells Fargo, for example, realised that it couldn’t compete with CitiBank on international banking. But that it could beat the competition at providing bank services to the West Coast of the United States – and ever since that change of direction the company has outperformed the market and its competitors. It was Chris Washington-Sare, who had formerly worked for Greenpeace, demonstrated that the campaigning organisation’s ‘hedgehog’ was what he called ‘media mind bombs’. In 1971 a group of twelve American and Canadian activists chartered a boat and sailed straight into the nuclear test site in Amchitka Alaska. It has been performing similar stunts every since to dominate headlines and sustain awareness of its cause.
The application of the Hedgehog Concept can also be made to personal development , so here is the challenge can you find your ‘inner hedgehog’

Adapted from an Article taken from the People Bulletin July 2011

Coaching Cards

Now going for the fourth reprint our coaching cards are being purchased by coaches, managers, social workers, doctors, Organisations for their managers etc. as a means of management development, leadership development, supporting coaching as a management style and for use in appraisals.
The GROW coaching model is a powerful tool and we see these unique cards as a way of supporting coaching in the UK and around the world.
If your a life coach, business coach or simply want to improve your coaching practice these cards will assist you in your development