Why transparency is the cornerstone of organisational success

In our social media age people are increasingly used to sharing their lives openly with the world. Transparency has become currency of connection. 
This currency is not limited to our personal interactions, however. Across industries, to trust an organisation consumers increasingly expect and demand transparency. And the same is true inside our organisations. Employees expect the same transparency as consumers. 
As leaders we are constantly on the lookout for breakthroughs to take our organisations and our teams to the next level. In the current highly-competitive climate, reviewing how we operate internally and consciously driving employee engagement can offer the kind of breakthrough that will enable us stay ahead of the curve. 

Transparency is critical to that breakthrough, playing a vital role inside our company walls.
Here’s why it’s so vital

Transparency is like the glue that holds a business together, through its inevitable peaks and troughs. It is crucial for fostering an effective culture of communication, honesty, teamwork and trust between colleagues. Without it, employees are less likely to voice their opinion and more likely to feel disconnected from the organization.

In fact, 35% of employees say they’d leave their company of they didn’t trust their manager. This makes sense too. Without transparency, employees don’t feel in the loop, making it hard to fully embrace their professional roles and see where they fit within the larger context of the organization.
This is why trust is such a key ingredient for employee engagement. If open communication gives workers a roadmap of the company’s aims, ambitions and strategies, trust gives them a roadmap of where they fit into this picture. Transparency is the key that unlocks this map. Without it we can’t foster this trust and unlock the extra effort employees will put in when they have a high level of engagement.
When an organisation has a high level of transparency, employees feel free to express themselves, leading to innovation and fresh ideas, which further invests them in business outcomes.
So instead of just a 9-5, employees at an organisation with a well-developed culture of transparency view their place of work as a relationship-based environment. This nurtures a feeling of belonging, where everyone understands their roles and how they can contribute towards the goals and success of the business.
But if we, as leaders, don’t develop that culture of openness and trust, it becomes that much harder to nurture a feeling of connectivity and generate alignment among employees. Hindering not only our work environment but the success of our organizations too!
But here’s the challenge
Transparency isn’t something you do, it’s a culture, one which needs purposeful and fastidious cultivation. Being transparent isn’t something that just happens when the time is right, but rather something we engage in consistently. Too often transparency is spelled out as an organisational value, but it doesn’t live and breathe in the corridors of power. As soon as a key decision is made which isn’t communicated, you no longer have a culture of transparency. 
But in the day-to-day grind of business, sustaining transparency is easier said than done. Join us for our next Breakfast of Change event to explore how to build (and rebuild) trust through transparency.

Something to believe in?

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Imagine we could all wake up every morning saying to ourselves, “I’m excited about going to work today, I understand the value I offer and how it supports the rest of my organisation”. This is the crux of employee engagement - understanding our role in an organisation and feeling able to contribute towards the goals.  

According to the Harvard Business Review, 71% of employees rank employee engagement as very important to achieving overall organisational success. If this is the impact engagement can have on performance, then we should be doing more to keep employees focused.  

Give Me Something to Believe In  

One of the biggest parts of employee engagement is communicating the why  - helping people to understand the purpose of the organisation, and giving them a chance to get involved and make a meaningful difference.   

Some organisations truly understand the importance of placing why at the forefront. Take for instance IKEA whose mission is to “create a better everyday life for many people”. In everything from their marketing to their product range to the family focused culture, the resonance of creating a better everyday life for many flows.

Their mission is so tangible that it has led to the concept of the IKEA effect; the cognitive bias that means we place disproportionately high value on products that we have partially made. IKEA understand from their consumers to their employees that establishing a strong mission, communicating it clearly in word and deed and providing space for the contribution of others makes for a very strong business model.

What part do I play?

This makes us think - how can we do the same for our organisations? Well, we can revisit (or perhaps visit!) our organisation’s purpose, and ask ourselves what parts resonate with us? What does it mean to me as an individual, to us as a team? How might we adjust the language so that it contains the sentiment of the original and becomes something we can live everyday? What adjustments might we make about how we do things to live with stronger purpose?

It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and then we’re left wondering ‘what’s this all for?’. Helping people to connect the dots between the why and what they do every day is vital to creating an engaging culture.

Britain's Heatwave: How Productive Are You?


The recent heatwave has been the longest we’ve had for five years. As we’ve experienced such scorching temperatures, how does the heat impact our productivity and wellbeing? An article from Personnel Today dives into the matter.  

Be cool

Working in a much cooler surrounding will help you to keep away from the extreme heat and focus your energy on where it matters rather than allowing it to get to you, which ultimately affects your productivity.   

In order to overcome the heat and optimise your brain fitness, carry out the following activities to keep cool:

  • Ensure blinds are on the windows and there is good ventilation: reducing the amount of light that floods the office and ensuring there is good airflow will minimise your experience of the heat.   

  • Drink plenty of water: I know it sounds obvious but keeping well hydrated throughout the day gives you the energy to perform at your best.  

  • Take regular breaks: optimise your brain performance by making sure your mind is revitalised and focused on the right stuff.

  • Exercise in the early mornings as opposed to late afternoons: helping to build up more energy that will be utilised during the day.  

These simple steps help to counteract the effect of heat. Keeping cool will help to re-energise your mind and ensure you’re as productive as you can be, even as the temperatures soar.

What's the Value of Coaching?

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We lead frenetic lives, with many of us not taking the time to reflect on how or why we’re doing what we do. We spend our entire lives living inside our own heads and this can sometimes lead to self-imposed limitations.

Coaching provides the opportunity to take a step back and reflect, building greater self-awareness, and from there, the ability to shift our thinking, to adapt our behaviours.

We’ve been working with a coachee recently who was being incredibly hard on herself, beating herself up for every perceived imperfection. From that position of judgement it was very hard for her to create movement - so our goal was to help her to develop a kinder mindset to enable her to tackle her challenges more proactively.

At Agents of Change one of our mantras is to lead with curiosity over judgement. One benefit of this is increased kindness - to ourselves and to others.

Coaching has helped her to become more curious and less self-deprecating. By adopting a more pragmatic approach, taking a moment to reflect at the end of each day, she now jots down what’s gone well and what hasn’t. This physical list has helped her to become more aware of the stuff that’s going well, and observe, rather than judge what’s not gone so well. This helps to create a greater sense of balance and control - and the opportunity to recalibrate her approach each day - what can she do differently tomorrow to generate more successes?

What can coaching do for you?        

  • Coaching provides the opportunity to deepen our understanding of our motivations and habits, and explore ways to create new ones.

  • Coaching helps us to achieve our goals by breaking them down into manageable chunks and proactively working towards them.

  • Our engagement with our roles, our teams and our families can be transformed through coaching - allowing us to contribute more effectively, to feel happier and more fulfilled in ourselves.

We have a wide range of coaches and coaching packages available, get in touch if we can help you.

The Power of Storytelling

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In his fascinating Ted talk, David Phillips explains the science behind the feelings we evoke when we communicate with others.

He talks about how positive hormones and neurotransmitters can be released by a good story. These include dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins, which Phillips refers to as the “angel’s cocktail.”

When dopamine is released into our blood, it leads to greater focus, motivation, and improved memory. The effects of oxytocin make us more generous, trusting, and ready to bond. It makes us feel relaxed and more human as we bond to the storyteller. Finally, there are endorphins which we create by making people laugh. Endorphins make us feel more creative, relaxed, and focused.

There is, however, an opposite effect that Phillips calls the “devil’s cocktail.” This is when there are higher levels of cortisol and adrenaline produced in response to a scary or stressful situation. This cocktail makes people intolerant, irritable, uncreative and critical.

In our work lives, we can influence people better when we are working with positive emotion, so it’s useful to use storytelling to create the right response in people.

What are you doing to feed the angel’s cocktail, and to mitigate the devil’s?

Time Out?

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I spent last weekend running a leadership retreat for a client in Budapest. Reflecting on the incredible progress this team made over two days reminded me of the benefits of taking teams offsite to talk about not just what we do but how we do it.

While some teams have more work to do than others, most will benefit from a schedule that purposefully mixes time offsite with on-the-job integration.

Here’s a quick download of some of the key outcomes that we help teams to achieve:

  • Build trust - People may work together for years but it sometimes takes an offsite retreat to establish deeper bonds and mutual understanding. Time spent together equals increased trust. People tend to reveal more of their true selves when they’re relieved from the day-to-day pressure of delivery - getting away from to-do lists helps your team relax, get to know one another, and connect in new ways.
  • Create a unified team - An agenda with some flex in it allows issues to surface and be resolved, helping build buy in for strategic direction and a common approach. Teams learn about each others' strengths and explore ways to improve how to work together productively.  Back at the office, you'll see quick results as your group works together toward a common goal.
  • Hone individual strengths - Getting away from it all gives your team a chance to hone individual strengths. Through team building activities, people can learn about each others’ strengths, explore ways of building on these skills, as well as how to apply them to contribute to the goals of the team.
  • Improve communication - How well you plan for and subsequently involve the wider team in your decision-making and retreat goals is proportional to how engaged they will be with them.  When your team gets the perspective from being away from the office internal communication improves - most teams report improved communication as a result of their enriched relationships.
  • Increase productivity - With leaders aligned, the rest of the organisations will will experience increased productivity as there is more of a sense of flow, with leaders and teams actively working together to offset obstacles.  Most leadership teams see greater efficiency as they return to the office and work together on their shared goals

Keeping Mum

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One aspect of diversity and inclusion that’s not often discussed is how well organisations treat women returning after maternity leave, and the impact this can have on engagement.

An article in HR magazine that caught our attention recently discusses how the attitudes organisations have towards maternity leave affects women when they return to work.

Just like any of us, mothers returning to work need to feel a sense of belonging to their organisations. They want to feel as much a part of the organisational culture as they did before they left. But how a mothers' time away is viewed by line managers and the wider organisation can have a significant impact on engagement and performance. 

Subconscious bias can lead to women feeling stereotyped and judged on their return to work, with employers discussing availability issues and changes in priorities.

The research carried out reveals some solutions, however:

  • Organisations who view maternity leave as a brief interlude rather than a major disruption are more likely to retain high-performing mothers.

  • Importance of buddy schemes - new mothers felt more inspired to progress in their careers when they had role models they could look up to.       

  • Organisations need to be more inclusive of parents by introducing initiatives such as adoption leave, shared parental leave and flexible working.

If we look at our own organisations, what is being done to ensure mothers can re-engage easily and give their best? The risk of losing key talent is too great to ignore.

To explore more impacts of subconscious bias come to our next Breakfast of Change on Diversity and Inclusion - details below.


Once a quarter we bring together a cross-section of people for a unique Breakfast of Change. Each event brings fresh thinking to a challenge holding individuals and organisations back. 

Using the power of the network to explore new possibilities, Breakfast of Change kickstarts the day and reinvigorates the agent of change in each of us.

Join our next Breakfast of Change on 12th July, 8.30-10.45am in King's Cross, London. Click here for details and to reserve your spot. 

Beyond the Gender Agenda - Overcoming Unconscious Bias


Two candidates are shortlisted for a job vacancy. They both have exceptional skills and experience, so why do we favour one over the other?  

Subconsciously, our final choice is likely to be biased by age, race, gender, or any other social stereotype.

While we may not be aware of our below-the-radar biases, they can lead to serious consequences in the composition of our teams and networks - and the long-term success of our organisations.

Dangers of unconscious bias

Research has shown that unconscious bias can strongly influence recruitment and selection decisions. A manager who is educated to degree level might favour other graduates, ignoring the wider, more experienced pool of talent. Unconscious bias may make more extraverted managers reject quieter more talented candidates.

Why does it matter?

  • Workforce diversity is a key driver of innovation.
  • Diverse organisations attract and energise the best global talent, enabling a diverse range of opinions and more informed problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Greater growth - a study carried out by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity had 15% better returns.
  • More diverse organisations have access to a more wide range of customers, opening up new markets and audiences.

The benefits are clear. So what can you do to overcome to help your managers and organisations overcome unconscious bias and create a more inclusive culture?  

A good place to start is by joining us for the next Breakfast of Change, Beyond the Gender Agenda, to explore how we can overcome unconscious bias to create more inclusive workplaces.

For limited time only, get a 50% discount when you use code catalyst50 - only £10 per person.  

Gender Equality: Good For All

In this fascinating TED talk, Michael Kimmel explores how gender equality benefits men just as much as women.

The virtues for women may seem obvious - whether it’s narrowing the gender pay gap, smashing through the glass ceiling or simply taking a more balanced approach to housekeeping and childcare.

But the idea of gender equality has some interesting perks for men as well. Men are able to have a better work-life balance when their wives are able to be just as committed to their careers as they are.

When men share housework and childcare, their children do better in school. They have lower rates of absenteeism, higher rates of achievement.

It is also good for companies. Research by Catalyst and others has shown conclusively that the more gender-equal companies are, the better it is for workers, the happier their labor force is. They have lower job turnover. They have lower levels of attrition. They have an easier time recruiting. They have higher rates of retention, higher job satisfaction, higher rates of productivity.

The film reveals many of the rewards gained from gender equality and the impact it has on our wellbeing as humankind. So we need to empower not only women but men as well to become a part of the dialogue. It’s only then we’ll be able to create more diverse, inclusive cultures, and happier, more productive teams.

Come join our next Breakfast of Change, Beyond the Gender Agenda, to explore how we can overcome unconscious bias to create more inclusive workplaces.

Employee Engagement: Inside and Out

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It’s little surprise that feeling connected to our organisation’s mission drives positive performance at work - when we buy into the purpose of what we’re doing we’re willing to go that extra mile as we feel the company’s success is allied to our own.

But feeling engaged with our work benefits us as much as our organisation. We’re happier, more focused, self-motivated. We understand our contribution to the organisation and are invested in our personal development.

Each of us is responsible for our own engagement, and that of those around us. So we need to try to recognise what’s working and what’s not, and influence change where necessary. But where do we start?

We need to look inside, and we need to look outside.

Inside lens  

Firstly, take a good look at your team and/or organisation and make an honest assessment of what’s working well about your culture. How are these aspects celebrated? What can be done to make them even better?

Secondly, analyse the gaps - where can things be better? Make a list of the changes you’d like to see. In what ways could people feel more included? What would help them to contribute more positively towards your organisation’s success? Who do you need to influence to make change happen?

Outside lens

Everyday more and more case studies are emerging of organisations who are getting this stuff right. These organisations understand the link between employee engagement and performance, so we can learn from their experience.

For Marks & Spencer for example, shifting from an annualised, action-plan driven approach where engagement was merely seen as another task to be completed to a more committed approach that concentrated on regularly listening to employees - and acting on what they heard - has delivered a year-on-year increase in engagement for the past six years.

This is just one of many examples where organisations have seen the difference a fresh approach to engaging employees can make. So what needs to happen to help your organisation reinvigorate its approach to engaging employees?

Privacy vs Trust


In the wake of the Facebook data scandal, we have to ask - is privacy still possible?

For many of us, the answer is no. The digital trail we leave behind us, our social media profiles, that random online quiz we took, they all open up our personal preferences for the world to see.  

But it’s as much about trust as it is about privacy. As technology continues to influence our everyday lives, the question is how much we can trust the platforms and people we open ourselves up to?

Concern for our privacy  

When 50 million Facebook users can be manipulated into having their data collected by Cambridge Analytica, it’s no wonder we are hesitant to share our lives with others.

How companies collect and use our data is an issue the GDPR initiative seeks to address, but it doesn’t stop there. There can be a knock on effect in our everyday lives too - the wariness we feel sharing our lives online can impact how much we reveal and share with our colleagues in the real world.

A lack of trust sits at the heart of many of the issues we’re called in to support clients with - it’s an issue that holds many teams and organisations back.

But trust is a two-way street - in order for others to trust us, we need to trust them.

Openness leads to better solutions  

The more we open up to others, the more they will feel confident sharing with us, so we can build our collective confidence and trust in the knowledge that there are people who ‘get us’, who care. A survey by Time to Change revealed 66% of adults had no one to speak to about their problems. This further highlights why it’s vital for us to talk more - not less -  with our colleagues.

For organisations to thrive employees have to be able to feel safe to speak openly - which is only possible through relationships built on mutual trust and respect.

Companies that promote a culture of open communication and transparency reap the rewards.  At TGI Fridays - voted Britain’s best big company to work for by The Sunday Times - 79% of employees say they love working for the company, thanks to the culture and the fact that they feel like they have a voice.

Furthermore, far more creative solutions start to emerge when we open up and create a culture of trust with our teams. This can lead to bigger and better things not just for us, but for our organisations.

Learning for Growth


This week marks the celebration of Learning at Work Week, and as workplaces are rapidly evolving, we too need to continue to  develop and grow.

In the quest for competitiveness, companies are constantly looking to be the leanest, most effective, most productive they can be; versatile employees are the key to making this possible. And in today’s fast-paced working environments, dynamic, flexible employees are the most widely sought after.

So as we’re faced with constantly changing demands, it is important we maintain a focus on our own development - if we lose that drive and hunger to grow we risk being left behind.

Evolving Learning
Along with changing ways of working, ways of learning are evolving as well. As training budgets get ever smaller, the 70:20:10 model has served as a powerful guideline for organisations to maximise the effectiveness of their learning and development programmes. Long gone are the days of chalk and talk in dull grey rooms - we’re now able to learn from a plethora of different sources - whenever and wherever we need it.

With the growth of platforms such as Google and YouTube, we’ve never had such an array of opportunities to learn. In fact such ready access to learning is driving self-development, as 67% of people learn on mobile devices, and 80% choose to learn from Google, at the point of need.

Tapping Into Expertise
Our own colleagues are also a great source of learning – many of them have been there and done that. Finding ways to tap in to their knowledge and experience can help us to hone our own approach and discover new, more effective ways of doing what we do.

Opportunities for learning are all around us - we just need to recognise and capitalise on all that’s available. So how are you learning? And when?

The challenge of course, is time. It’s easy for our own development to slip down the agenda when things get busy. So with all the complex demands on our lives how do you ensure you regularly carve out time for your own personal development? 

Learning at Work Week is a great opportunity to take stock, to ensure we are putting our attention where we'll reap the greatest rewards. 

Safe is Risky

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Sometimes the riskiest thing we can do is play it safe.  Choosing to stay in our comfort zone can become a prison - or worse. 

We’ve all heard the sorry tales of companies who became complacent, failed to innovate or capitalise on the gaps in their markets - which eventually led to their downfall.  

Remember Blockbuster - the former video rental industry leader? In the 1980s and early 90s, the brand was untouchable.

Come 1997 and the birth of the young upstart Netflix, Blockbuster happily remained in the safe zone that it had always known, a lack of vision and courage which ultimately led to their demise.  

Netflix instead took the risk of challenging the status quo and thinking one step ahead. And with a market capitalisation of $142 billion, it clearly reaped the rewards. 

So, what can we learn from Netflix’s success and Blockbuster's failure? Do we stay in our comfort zone too often? Could we be more courageous and daring with our choices? That crazy idea in the back of our heads could just be the spark we, or our organisations, need. 

So we have a responsibility to push the boundaries, to try new approaches and test out new ideas. 

If not you, then who?

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What is the single biggest driver of change? This is a question we’ve been asked by many of our clients, and the answer we give is simple - you.

Whether your organisation is in the middle of a merger, launching a new strategy or transitioning into a new structure, people - peers, leaders, team-members - are looking to you to sponsor and support that change, so you need to lead by example.

Resistance to Change

Change is tough. When change happens at work, we're likely to feel uneasy - we relate to what’s familiar and comfortable, and change can take us wa-ay out of our comfort zone.

We’re all familiar with the change curve, and as it's taking place we have to remember that we will inevitably be going through one of the stages of the curve. Sometimes people get stuck - which is where you come in.   

If we don't listen (to ourselves and each other) and seek to understand and overcome the challenges, performance, engagement and relationships will suffer. But each of us has the power to provide inspiration and support to help ourselves and others adapt to change.

Three steps towards being an agent of change

Firstly we need to be open to change ourselves, to build our muscle at handling uncertainty and to learn to seek support and advice whenever we need it. Change can be isolating so talking through your concerns with line managers and peers helps. Where are you stuck? 

Secondly, people are looking to you so you need to model the behaviours and attitudes needed to deal with change - openness, comfort with uncertainty, a zest for overcoming challenges. By demonstrating those characteristics you will help to lead by example.

Finally, create a space for open conversations, listen to those around you and recognise their concerns. Share your own struggles with change, and what has helped you. Only by creating an open dialogue will people really open up to you about their issues, so you can help them to overcome them.  

Motivating Matters...

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Motivation is the springboard to success. It not only helps us to get out of bed and get ourselves into work each day, it helps us to realise our goals.  But what happens when we get to work depends on the culture and habits that we create for ourselves and those around us. 

A survey carried out by The Hays Group recently revealed that poorly motivated employees reduce productivity by nearly 50%. Finding out what motivates people and enabling them to spend more of their time doing it is clearly good for business. 

Of course, what motivates each of us varies - but tapping into that and ensuring that we create time to focus on it regularly helps us to stay on track. 

Regular one-to-ones are great opportunities for this, but there are many ways to lock in a routine. The key is finding the way that works for us - and making sure we do it! 

The Challenge

I love driving change - as an Agent of Change, that shouldn’t be surprising - and I’m motivated by creativity, so I’m constantly seeking to explore new solutions, different approaches. But I don’t always get it right - like most of us, when we’re busy or we lose focus it’s easy to get caught up in the hamster wheel and forget about why we do what we do. 

It’s only when I consciously take the time to remind myself about what’s important for me, and why it means so much that I can ensure I have the motivation needed to stay on track. 

Tapping into Motivation

What are your goals? What motivates you? Ensure you carve out time to focus on the stuff that gets your blood pumping, the stuff that motivates you. Try to do a little every day. If you lead a team, encourage them to do the same. 

Do it regularly and you’ll see the impact it has on our energy levels, on what we achieve and on how connected we feel to ourselves and to those around us.



Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even If You Hate Doing It)

by Jennifer Porter

When people find out I’m an executive coach, they often ask who my toughest clients are. Inexperienced leaders? Senior leaders who think they know everything? Leaders who bully and belittle others? Leaders who shirk responsibility?

The answer is none of the above. The hardest leaders to coach are those who won’t reflect — particularly leaders who won’t reflect on themselves.

At its simplest, reflection is about careful thought. But the kind of reflection that is really valuable to leaders is more nuanced than that. The most useful reflection involves the conscious consideration and analysis of beliefs and actions for the purpose of learning. Reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning. This meaning becomes learning, which can then inform future mindsets and actions. For leaders, this “meaning making” is crucial to their ongoing growth and development.

Research by Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano, and Bradley Staats in call centers demonstrated that employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting about lessons learned performed 23% better after 10 days than those who did not reflect. A study of UK commuters found a similar result when those who were prompted to use their commute to think about and plan for their day were happier, more productive, and less burned out than people who didn’t.

So, if reflection is so helpful, why don’t many leaders do it?  Leaders often:

• Don’t understand the process.  Many leaders don’t know how to reflect. One executive I work with, Ken, shared recently that he had yet again not met his commitment to spend an hour on Sunday mornings reflecting. To help him get over this barrier, I suggested he take the next 30 minutes of our two-hour session and just quietly reflect and then we’d debrief it. After five minutes of silence, he said, “I guess I don’t really know what you want me to do. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been doing it.”

• Don’t like the process. Reflection requires leaders to do a number of things they typically don’t like to do: slow down, adopt a mindset of not knowing and curiosity, tolerate messiness and inefficiency, and take personal responsibility. The process can lead to valuable insights and even breakthroughs — and it can also lead to feelings of discomfort, vulnerability, defensiveness, and irritation.

• Don’t like the results. When a leader takes time to reflect, she typically sees ways she was effective as well as things she could have done better. Most leaders quickly dismiss the noted strengths and dislike the noted weaknesses. Some become so defensive in the process that they don’t learn anything, so the results are not helpful.

• Have a bias towards action. Like soccer goalies, many leaders have a bias toward action. A study of professional soccer goalies defending penalty kicks found that goalies who stay in the center of the goal, instead of lunging left or right, have a 33% chance of stopping the goal, and yet these goalies only stay in the center 6% of the time. The goalies just feel better when they “do something.”  The same is true of many leaders. Reflection can feel like staying in the center of the goal and missing the action.

• Can’t see a good ROI.  From early roles, leaders are taught to invest where they can generate a positive ROI — results that indicate the contribution of time, talent or money paid off.  Sometimes it’s hard to see an immediate ROI on reflection — particularly when compared with other uses of a leader’s time.

If you have found yourself making these same excuses, you can become more reflective by practicing a few simple steps.

• Identify some important questions. But don’t answer them yet. Here are some possibilities:

◦ What are you avoiding?

◦ How are you helping your colleagues achieve their goals?

◦ How are you not helping or even hindering their progress?

◦ How might you be contributing to your least enjoyable relationship at work?

◦ How could you have been more effective in a recent meeting?

• Select a reflection process that matches your preferences.  Many people reflect through writing in a journal.  If that sounds terrible but talking with a colleague sounds better, consider that.  As long as you’re reflecting and not just chatting about the latest sporting event or complaining about a colleague, your approach is up to you.  You can sit, walk, bike, or stand, alone or with a partner, writing, talking, or thinking.

• Schedule time.  Most leaders are driven by their calendars. So, schedule your reflection time and then commit to keep it. And if you find yourself trying to skip it or avoid it, reflect on that!

• Start small.  If an hour of reflection seems like too much, try 10 minutes.  Teresa Amabile and her colleagues found that the most significant driver of positive emotions and motivation at work was making progress on the tasks at hand. Set yourself up to make progress, even if it feels small.

• Do it. Go back to your list of questions and explore them. Be still. Think. Consider multiple perspectives. Look at the opposite of what you initially believe. Brainstorm. You don’t have to like or agree with all of your thoughts — just think and to examine your thinking.

• Ask for help. For most leaders, a lack of desire, time, experience, or skill can get in the way of reflection.  Consider working with a colleague, therapist, or coach to help you make the time, listen carefully, be a thought partner, and hold you accountable.

Despite the challenges to reflection, the impact is clear. As Peter Drucker said: “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection, will come even more effective action.”


Invest In Yourself

I was running a workshop last week and when we were summarising our experiences at the end, one of the quieter participants summed up the reason it's such a privilege to do what we do at Agents of Change.

A smile started to appear at the corner of his mouth as he told us that he felt a newfound confidence in it being ok to be him - to trust his instincts and not to feel pressured to try to be like everyone else. 

It reminded me of the eecummings quote, "It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are."

It does take courage, and it takes time, and sometimes, provocation...and it's a job that's never done – no wonder many of us opt to bury our heads in the sand! 

Invest in yourself

It's courage and time that's well rewarded, however, if we choose to invest it. Life is easier when we're in our flow. Finding comfort in the skin we're in; finding joy in what we have to offer – that's the pay off for our investment. 

But taking time out from our hyper-speed lives can seem like a challenge – unless we make it a habit.

At Agents of Change we help people to create sustainable habits that enable them to build confidence in who they are today, and provide the tenacity to evolve into whoever they'll become tomorrow.


Try to take a moment each day this week to celebrate what's great about you - and watch the difference it makes to your confidence. 

Are you an Agent of Change?

Given that our name is Agents of Change we often get asked what it takes to be one. 

Agents of Change show themselves in many ways: some are loud, shouty and obvious and others are quiet and stealth like. Regardless of their style, change is always the result. 

So how do unleash the Agent of Change in you?

    Agents of Change are very clear about the future they see and articulate it in a way that brings it alive for others. Martin Luther King didn’t say ‘I have a strategy’, he said ‘I have a Dream’ and then went on to describe, using visual language, what that world would look like. In doing so, that vision of the future took life in the minds of others.

    In 'Man's search for Meaning' Viktor Frankl describes the rapid decline of fellow inmates in the Nazi Concentration Camps when they lost their reason for living. If you are absolute clear WHY you are doing something, that purpose is a source of energy and motivation; it will enable you to dig deep when you need to.

    Change is hard and frequently takes much longer than we expect. Tenacity is like focus and commitment amplified, giving you the resolve to keep going when others might be flagging. Of course in order to maintain your energy, you need to know what fuels and restores it.

    How frequently do we hear contestants on Master Chef or Bake Off tell us that it's their passion for food that drives them. Emotion is hugely important in driving our behaviour, so Agents of Change fall in love with the change they are seeking. And their passion is infectious, inspiring others to join their cause.

    Agents of Change are well connected. They invest in relationships before they 'need' them, forming strong bonds with people. And that means they can be assured that help is always at hand.

    The ability to articulate a strong, well conceived case for change is a core skill of an Agent of Change. You have to be able to see all sides of the idea and adapt your communication to the differing needs of those around you to convince them, hearts and minds, to join you.

    No one of these skills on its own is enough. Tenacity without Influence, for example, can just be over bearing! It's the balance of these attributes that creates an Agent of Change.

    So if you were to score yourself out of 10 (0 = low, 10 = high), how do you measure up?

    And what could you do to up your scores by one or two in each category?

    We'll be exploring these ideas and more in our Summer Breakfast of Change, come and join us to unleash the Agent of Change in you.

    Building an Intrepreneurial Culture

    We spend a lot of our time talking to organisations eager to know how they can better engage their employees and reduce attrition. Attrition has always been expensive for companies, but in many industries the cost of losing good workers is rising, owing to competitive labour markets and the increasingly collaborative nature of jobs. 

    Exit interviews show that one of the most common reasons people choose to leave is because they don't feel their voices or ideas are being heard, so the first question we ask is always about culture - what is happening currently to ensure people feel like a valued part of the organisation? 

    Innovate to Engage

    Innovative ideas are the lifeblood of progressive organisations, but many don't provide sufficient forums or budget for them to be explored or exploited. Enabling ideas to be heard and talent to shine will not only engage and retain your people, but ensure that your organisation stays one step ahead. 

    Lose your entrepreneurs and you not only cut off the source of innovation, you're left with a torpid, uninspiring culture - which in turn prompts others to edge towards the door. 

    An intrapreneurial culture invites and activates ideas from employees, ideas that capture the best of the start-up, entrepreneurial mentality, but that can be brought to life internally, to provide a valuable source of new products, processes or approaches.

    One of Google's most famous management philosophies is called "20% time." Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin highlighted the idea in their 2004 IPO letter:

    "We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google," they wrote. "This empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner."  

    Huge 20% products include the development Google News, Gmail, and even AdSense. 

    So the potential is huge, but what can you do to invoke and support this spirit?

    1. Regularly encourage idea sharing at team level. Implement great ideas that fall within your remit and support people in creating viable business cases for those that don't.
    2. At organisational level, recognise who your intrepreneurs are and consider them for new positions. Some firms, such as Credit Suisse, ensure Internal recruiters cold-call the employees to alert them to openings inside the company. In 2014 the program reduced attrition by 1% and moved 300 employees, many of whom might otherwise have left, into new positions. Credit Suisse estimates that it saved $75 million to $100 million in rehiring and training costs.
    3. Encourage the board to set up an innovation fund, to provide funding for projects that wouldn't pass regular governance procedures. Ideas that might not have an immediate business case, or a clear return on investment but that come under the "I think this could work but we need to experiment and we need some money to be able to do that..." banner. 

    Whether you're able to instigate intrapreneurialism at a team or organisational level, you'll ensure teams that endure and stand out. 

    Divide or Multiply

    We loved hosting our quarterly Breakfast of Change last week.

    For those of you who weren't able to join us, it was a deep-seamed exploration into the power of vulnerability and the benefits of leading by heart. Our Breakfasts are generally fertile breeding grounds for ideas, and this one cut to the core of the human experience - we laughed, we cried and we parted feeling galvanised and uplifted - all before 10:45!

    The choice of whether to divide (exclude, judge, differentiate) or to multiply (bring together, include, cross-pollinate) is one we face every day, in a multitude of different ways. Whilst instinctively we might appreciate the value of multiplication, it's often easier for us to do the opposite - to exclude people, to handle stuff on our own, or with the ones who 'get it' most readily.

    At the breakfast we shared this beautiful short film which went viral recently, an ad for a broadcaster in Denmark. Take a look at it if you haven't already seen it - take a look again if you have! 

    What this film does so elegantly is to expose us to our own prejudices, pre-judgements that assume an entire identity (and point of difference) from what we perceive at surface level. 

    I have always believed that there is more that unites us than that which divides us - we simply have to take the effort to dig beneath the surface - to ask questions to expand our understanding of other people; their experiences and perspectives.

    Much of my adult life, and our work at AOC, has been invested in helping people to see the wholeness and uniqueness of each of us as human beings, resisting simplistic generalisations or superficial judgements. This film writes the rulebook on how we can do this. 

    What can we do? 

    This week's Catalyst asks: how can we do more multiplication, less division. How can we include people more, or give people greater opportunity to reveal who they are? What advantages will this bring?