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Getting Projects into Flow

By Neville Pritchard 

So many projects fail to meet initial budgets and/or timelines. Why? When working with the underlying principles of the Talent Dynamics profile relating to I Ching it is so clear that any great project or organization strategy needs to follow the natural flow of the seasons, natural energies and relate to the positive cycle of default question.

So, what are these links and how do they apply in a project context?

‘When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.’ – Howard Schultz

This approach relies on digging deeply at each stage. There is potential impatience in following taking time to fully consider each step before reaching ‘how’ – however, the stress caused when projects have to be pulled out of disaster or at least re-worked to incorporate more realistic timing and detail can be avoided by spending the time at this early stage.

Positive Flow

Think from NHS technology to those projects within your own organizations.  In researching a number of high profile and also smaller organization projects we have realized that whenever implementation has more closely followed the ‘positive flow’ we see high percentages of success.

The danger and where we have seen the lowest levels of success has been when either the Why has not been fully defined and when the planning has jumped from What to How. These are common issues yet a large percentage of these errors are made at the most senior levels. Often in the belief that key to speed is the ability to move thinking from what to how and an assumption that the why is obvious. Neither of these considerations are logical. When fully explored and the evidence of major project failings is so overwhelming it is time to stop the assumptions.

Stress, Timelines and Budgets

Think about the people you sit near on trains having fits of stress from phone calls about their timelines and budgets. The person I sat near last week was in deep do dah!

On listening (it was hard not to!) it was clear that so many of the ‘who’ questions had not been considered that he was now being blitzed by a range of people that he had never heard of now sending him irate e-mails. This he was passing onto a colleague to investigate and all of the action and task considerations would now need revisiting. Unfortunately this is a familiar tale.

Positive Depth

Essentially, once the ‘Why’ has been agreed at senior level and the ‘what’ defined then it is the time to pass the ‘thinking’ on the project over to a core set of project specialists and facilitators with the skills to ensure the positive flow and depth is completed.  The added value from executives can then be brought to consider a fully developed approach rather than ‘solutioneer’ a less developed frame. Time of all is better utilized.

This is not easy to achieve though; the need for trust is key. When in place though the enhanced impact on internal trust, of workflow and on people costs and people value contribution are likely to be significant and the real value of each level of contribution is focused to greater impact.

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Una’s Spotlight: 3 Common Mistakes Leading a Team

Una Doyle of Talent Dynamics lists the 3 common mistakes made by team leaders and explains the solutions that can stop them from happening

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Live interview with best selling author!

I’m excited to announce that on Thursday 13th June at 5pm GMT I’ll be interviewing best-selling author and Trust Conference speaker, Daniel Priestley – and you get to listen in for free!

You can get all the details about the live interview and  register your place on the call here.

Daniel is a successful entrepreneur and international speaker who specialises in marketing, promotions and personal branding. Daniel started out as an entrepreneur in 2002 (at age 21) and built a multi-million dollar event marketing and management business before age 25. He has since built several successful businesses in the UK, Australia and Singapore.
On Thursday’s interview Daniel will be sharing:

  • The trends you can expect to see in 2013/2014 – and how they will affect your business
  • How he’s used trust-based marketing to build a multi-million pound business
  • Why the personal brand of an entrepreneur is of paramount importance – and how you can create a powerful personal brand for yourself
  • PLUS Daniel will be revealing how you can get a copy of his best-selling book ‘Becoming a key person of influence’ – completely free!

If you want to improve the levels of trust people have in yourself as an individual, and in your organisation as a whole, I strongly recommend you attend this free online interview. Due to bandwidth restrictions, places on the call are strictly limited, so be sure to register now to avoid missing out!

Get all the details and register your place here.


P.S. Please note that the recording of this interview will not be made available for you to listen to afterwards. The only way for you to get this information is to be on the live call, so put the time/date in your diary now!

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Improving Team Performance

We have looked at how we can go about measuring team performance. This is an integral part of performance management but simply knowing and sharing all the details of team performance won’t improve it.  There has to be a shared desire in the team to improve with results that also benefit each individual team member.

Consider the defence team of a football side made up of a goalkeeper and three defenders.  Using the measures from the last blog post we know that this team is good, not exceptional but competent enough.  We could ask the team to improve and they could nod and agree.  Chances are nothing happens.  We show the team stats and figures, to display where improvements can be made.  There might be surprises and nervous laughter.  They all nod and look at each other, they can do better… nothing happens.


This has nothing to do with not wanting to improve team performance.  If the team is already performing then chances are they are in a routine or pattern that ‘works’.  At least for them, right now.  Small adjustments to the routine will provide small improvements over a short period of time but won’t result in significant change.  The routine is too strongly ingrained and old habits will start creeping back in.  There is the fear that by trying to improve they will ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ and performance will drop.   They won’t ever  reach their potential by improving their team performance.

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” ~ Frank Zappa

The problem is that significant change comes with significant upheaval.  Because of this if an outside force imposes change on a team, the team will unconsciously (or consciously) resist.  The desire to improve team performance must come from every team member.  The desire for change must come from within the team to ensure that change is entrenched and followed through.  The best (and perhaps the only) way to bring the idea of significant change into the team’s thinking is to lead them to discovering it themselves.

Discovering Team Performance

It can be very hard for anyone to admit they find some things challenging.  In a similar vein, some people lack confidence in their own natural strengths to recognise they do things better than others.  The defence team might have a great goalkeeper who isn’t in goal while the actual goalkeeper would prefer to have more freedom to move around the pitch.  It might be quite difficult for them to own up to this as these are significant changes but could improve team performance significantly.  This is where the value of an impartial profile test can be used to establish things that team members may take for granted both about themselves and each other.

So this is the starting point for improving team performance.

  1. An understanding that to significantly improve performance, significant change must be undertaken
  2. Leading the team to a point where they discover significant change is needed
  3. Provide a foundation of self and team awareness using an impartial tool such as a profile test.

The next step is to gather the team together with the measurements that you have gathered and use these as supporting material rather than jumping off points.  The team as a whole needs to discuss and examine both their own roles and the other members roles and performance.  This should be done in a relaxed and objective matter with the focus being on improvement to the team rather than the individual.  Insights from the team members and guidance from the profile test results should allow the team members to volunteer ideas of how they can help the team function more effectively.

Rather than concentrate on small ideas, big ideas (significant changes) should be encouraged and developed.  Areas where team performance is currently being subconsciously hampered should be explored with team members encouraged to contribute ideas of solving problems.  Skills should not be dwelt upon to the exclusion of ideas but skill gaps should be identified.

The final step is to draw these ideas together under headings.  Going back to the defence team we already have three headings.

  1. Stop the opposing side from scoring
  2. Take the ball away from the opposing side
  3. Get the ball to the midfield team

Duplicates should be discarded and ideas should be placed under headings that will have the most impact.  The anticipated results should be discussed between the team members with some approximate quantitative measures put in place with timescales.  The results should not only look at the benefit to the team but the benefit to the individual team members.

This ensures that the team is focused on the significant changes towards improving team performance.  The changes have come from the team and they can see the benefits on making the changes.  This will mean that the changes are more likely to be implemented with a massive improvement in results.

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Jans Corner: The Positive side of Negative People

We rarely celebrate when we have so-called negative people around us. Often times our experience is that they zap our energy, slow down or demoralise our team and poke holes into our plans and ideas. It just seems that around them nothing is possible and everything is a problem.

Therefore at the workplace and in real life, we try to get rid of them, avoid them, minimise their impact or – for some of us – to convert them to the religion of positiveness.

The premise goes that everyone needs to be super positive otherwise they cannot function constructively in a relationship, team or business. Or that what they do is somehow harmful. However, being negative and being destructive are not the same thing. We often confuse negativism with someone not caring, not believing or not willing to contribute.

Often times quite the opposite is true. Negative people point out problems and highlight risks exactly because they do care and they see what others are missing. They might say “That will not work,” or “We have a problem here,” or “We cannot do this now.” It is useful to notice that they do not do it to rock the boat. Actually they most often do it with the intention to save the boat. To save it from trouble ahead. To save energy, time, money. To prepare for all eventualities.

What we perceive as negative, they may view as careful, prudent or realistic. And this can have great value for business.

The idea is not to ostracise them or shut them up but to fully use the power of their “negativity” at the right time and in the right way. Because without it bad things can happen to good people, well though-out projects can go terribly wrong (just think about the Challenger space shuttle incident in the eighties where a small neglected mistake caused a major catastrophe), and businesses with great potential can underachieve or falter.

So how can we turn the negative into constructive?

By seeing its purpose first and that is – like the police – to serve and to protect.

:: Where do you need more protection, more details to be paid attention and more risk to be seen and managed?

:: What products or projects would benefit from a more critical eye in terms of checking priorities, risk, cost and timing?

:: Where do you need to hear an honest assessment of the current situation and a pragmatic way to address current problems?

Interestingly, these apparently negative people can not just clearly see the risks and identify the shortcomings but also they will come up with surprisingly elegant strategies and solutions on how to deal with them – if you give them access to the data, space to analyse them and enough time to think.

We can choose who we surround ourselves with and whom we choose as business partners, employees or team members – and how we interact with them. In that choice, a balanced team and a successful business cannot afford not to have some “negative” people and make the most out of their gift. In the last analysis, it is not about who appears to be positive and who appears to be negative, but what allows the team and business to best fulfil on its mission. “Negative” as much as “positive” people are both mission critical.




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Jans Corner: Which Profiles makes for the best Leader?

We often get asked which of the Talent Dynamics profiles are the best leaders. On the surface the answer might seem very easy. Of course, the Supporters. Given their people focus, blaze energy, and extroverted action dynamics, Supporters are best at leading teams and organisations as they bring others together and motivate them to be their best naturally building collaboration, trust and loyalty critical for sustained high performance.

High profile Supporters, such as GE’s Jack Walsh, eBay’s Meg Whitman or Microsoft’s Steve Balmer, have shown how much they can accomplish if they put their talent at work.

This natural talent, however, doesn’t give Supporters a monopoly on leadership. Everyone can be a leader. Businesses are complex ecosystems and different talents come handy at different times and in different situations. All profiles can bring a valuable perspective and energy that can be used to build performance and increase flow depending on the teams focus, task at hand, nature and stage of business or season of the economic cycle.

Let me give you a few ideas about how to make the best use of the leadership potential of the other seven profiles (apart from the Supporter) in the team or businesses context.

Creators might not be the best people-people or data-driven analysts, but they lead best by setting the vision and a high standard to reach for. Being task focused to start things they lead others to reach their goals. They are best at the helm of new projects and initiatives, thinking out of the box and out of the ordinary. They are the best initiators and pioneers.

Stars are fast and often don’t wait for their team to catch up or bother with the details, but they will give energy and credibility to new ideas, projects, programs or strategies through the power of their personality. They can improvise while leading upfront to build and maintain excitement, momentum and buy in when it matters. They are the best promoters.

Deal Makers are true people’s people, but they are more private than a Star or Supporter, and prefer to work one-to-one. They bring people and opportunities together and lead best when they are able to be in constant conversation whilst listening closely to what is happening around them. They are the best connectors and negotiators of win-win solutions.

Traders thrive when they can build and grow a connection with their team or customers. They might be paralysed when facing a blank sheet to fill, or strategy to create, but will quickly make sense of what is going on around them. They lead best when immersed in daily action, when timing is of essence and when they have ongoing input from their environments and people to inform their decision-making. They are the best operations leaders and excel as hands-on troubleshooters.

Accumulators are excellent project managers given their analytical skills and sense of timing. They are reliable and will find the way to deliver what is needed on time. However, they have little interest in and are ill equipped to handle office politics. Accumulators lead best when a well defined task or project needs to be accomplished and when the detail and risk management are critical for success. They are the best planners, and project and risk managers.

Lords are great at finding inefficiencies because they patiently track data, analyse the detail and strive to stay in control. For this reason, Lords are best at leading through the numbers instead of through conversation and collaboration. Lords almost always value process and policy over people, and are great at providing leadership when resources and finances are tight and success requires efficiency and precision. They are the best data-driven analytics and efficiency leaders.

Mechanics constantly look for improvements and as a result they are continually challenging the status quo on the way things are done. This can be very stimulating for some, and very frustrating for others. The best way to for them to lead people is to make it easy for others to collaborate and perform indirectly, not through motivation but by perfecting the underlying processes, procedures and systems. They are the best systematisers, improvers and finishers.

If you currently experience frustration or ineffectiveness of leadership in your team or business, it might be that you are trying to put a square peg into a round hole. As businesses and demands evolve so will the need for the appropriate leadership. Chances are that you will not need to re-organise the whole team or organisation. For a start, just notice whose talent can help most with the task or challenge at hand and provide them a space to contribute it at the right occasion. Build from small opportunities, for instance, just allowing the right person to lead a meeting or spearheading a project – and then expand from there. The reward will be a more resilient and better performing team as well as increased engagement and flow of everyone in it.


New Speaker for the Trust Conference: Richard Barrett confirmed

We’re really excited to announce our fourth speaker for the Trust Conference today. Richard Barrett of the Barrett Values Centre, is a best selling author, speaker and social commentator on the evolution of human values in business and society.

He is the Founder and Chairman of the Barrett Values Centre and an internationally recognized thought leader on values, culture, leadership and consciousness.

He is the creator of the internationally recognized Cultural Transformation Tools (CTT) currently being used in 60 countries to support more than 3,000 organizations and leaders in their transformational journeys. He is a Fellow of the World Business Academy, and Former Values Coordinator at the World Bank.

There are just a few days left until February 28th, to get yourself special launch price ticket for the Trust Conference at just £59!

Book today to get your ticket along with a stack of bonuses valued at over £300!

Click here to see Richard Barrett explain what the key factor is within an organisation in order to build a high performance team.

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Jans Corner: Upgrading to a 5 Star Business

Beginning of the year is a time of hope and excitement. Not just in our personal lives. Businesses and teams get inspired and energised by the year’s goals and visions too.

Yet as we may painfully discover, great visions may fall short not because we didn’t dream enough or strive enough but because accomplishing a lofty vision requires a change of our conduct, an upgrade in how we think, interact and operate on a daily basis. For a grand vision to be feasible we need to raise our standards – individually and collectively.

For an aspiring olympic athlete, high standards means a regular focused practice and meticulous approach to nutrition, regular mental training and enough time for recovery. It means having the vision in mind and translating it into productive daily habits that best support its accomplishment. It means saying no to things that may be attractive and comfortable in the moment but detrimental in the longer run.

Dan Gable, legendary U.S. wrestler and 1972 Olympic Gold Medalist, named “Sports Figure of the Century”, emphasises the importance of high standards for high achievement. He states that “I’m a big believer in starting with high standards and raising them. We make progress only when we push ourselves to the highest level. If we don’t progress, we backslide into bad habits, laziness and poor attitude.”

Pushing ourselves to highest level does not necessary mean we need to work harder. It means working smarter and more deliberately with the end in mind but feet on the ground and running – like Dan Gables indicated, not tolerating distractions, bad habits, laziness and poor attitude that limit our progress and spoil the journey towards our aspirations. Often times raising standard actually means doing less by focusing on what makes the biggest difference.

Raising our team standards need not take long, nor be complicated. For instance, agree to come to meetings on time and prepared. To bring constructive mindset and language to problems and disagreements. To listen inquisitively before advocating our own view. To threat colleagues with respect. To stop complaining and giving reasons, and take responsibility for the produced results – yours and the team’s. To plan in advance and then test and measure your progress and learn incrementally from both successes and missteps.

If you care about high performance and accomplishment of your shared vision for this year, I’d encourage you to sit down as a team and openly begin discussing where you can raise your standards to reflect your higher aspirations. Start simple. You may discover some obvious rules, routines or behaviours that might be small to make but can go a long way.

Be specific. Explore both what you can start doing to raise your standard and what you need to stop doing or stop tolerating because it constrains you or does not serve you anymore at this level of your game.

Raising the standard of how your team and your business operate is like upgrading from a three-star inn to a five-star hotel. It takes some commitment. However, soon you notice that at almost the same effort you create very different results and experience.

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Performance Indicators (K is for Critical)

Performance IndicatorsAs part of any performance management you need performance indicators.  How ‘key’ these might be depend upon your business and your team.  We can agree the performance indicators for a multinational business are very different from a local cornershop but what about between departments or teams? Even people?

A performance indicator is a defined value used to measure against.  With it you can track ‘how you are doing’.  As such it is often something that is seen at the end of the process but it should be seen right at the start.

The problem is that in order to ‘measure’ we have to ‘do’ so we naturally put the performance indicator after the action (that’s where the excitement is anyway), if we put it the other way around we would have nothing to measure.  However, this attitude risks several things:

1. The performance indicator is removed from the original objective.

2. The performance indicator is confused with other metrics (there’s A LOT you can measure out there!)

3. The performance indicator doesn’t change despite your business, team or project changing radically.

4. The performance indicator doesn’t give you  anything more than success or failure.

You might have noticed I have only mentioned the word ‘key’ once, that is because you can have performance indicators which aren’t ‘key’.  To achieve business growth the indicators need to be critical to your future plan.  They figure right at the beginning before you ‘do’ anything because if these indicators don’t happen resources will be wasted and the plan is unlikely to happen.

Getting Performance Indicators Right.

In order for everyone to understand how critical these performance indicators are they need to know:

1. Why the plan is being put into action?

2. What are the critical performance indicators that will be needed?  An important point here is for the team to be involved in deciding what needs to be measured.  Not only will there be a range of different ideas that might not have been thought of but also so the team can ‘own’ these measures as critical to the future.  They will know what actions will need support.

3. Who is responsible for which performance indicators?  This isn’t just about balancing out the tasks but providing the right skills, talents and experience to ensure that the critical actions are undertaken.  You can use the Talent Dynamics profile test to help work out who will be good at what.

4. Where and when will these performance indicators will be tracked?  There is no good hiding away what will be measured and when.  Allow the team to ‘own’ the measures, to stay motivated and allow them to support each other.

5. How will success be measured? If the performance indicator is fallen short of, this doesn’t mean a failure.  If I wanted an 100% increase in sales but only got to 95%, in what world would I call that a failure?  What the performance indicators show is the degree of success achieved and what happened that made it such a success or why performance did not meet expectation.

There is another step however…

6. What needs to change in order for a greater result to be achieved?  Performance indicators should never remain static or fixed.  Unless they are put to use in answering how something can be done better, a great part of the value of measuring the actions is lost.

Performance indicators are critical to your business because they are the key to your business growth!

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Jans Corner: A radically better 2013

The end of the year is in business traditionally associated with both looking back and planning the next year. Normally, we approach the business plan for the next year as an extension of the previous year. If we feel pressed or optimistic, we budget in an incremental percentage increase. We feel really bold and daring when the percentage is in lower double digits.

What if we could approach next year differently this time? In a radical fashion. One that could mobilise us and awaken the latent potential in the business.

A radical approach starts with a radically different question. Rather than asking about what can we accomplish or improve next year, ask what if it was possible to double our business or team performance? Yes, to double productivity, sales, profit or whatever is the key performance indicator for you. Or whatever has been the biggest challenge in the past.

The magic that opens up from entertaining such a question should not be underestimated. An interesting phenomenon occurs when we acknowledge that something radical is possible. We begin to search, to look intensely for ways to find out, even if we don’t know how exactly in the moment. It opens a space for us to boost our collective creativity and collaboration in areas that remained unexplored before. Also old assumptions and ways of thinking and operating will surface and be up for a challenge and upgrade.

Jack Welsh, former CEO of General Electric, used to lead his executives to set two types of goals for themselves and their business units – a base goal and a stretched goal. The base goals were the minimum that had to be accomplished for the business to perform at a level, to stay competitive and profitable. Stretched goals were designed to target the bold ambitions and bring the best out people to on the way to accomplish them. One thing was obvious, if one wholeheartedly pursued the stretched goals, the accomplishment of the base goal was virtually guaranteed. So there was no pressure just the opportunity to stretch, to expand one’s capacity and discover the hidden potential. No wonder GE was growing in spectacular fashion for several decades.

You can capture the same untapped resources and creative energy whether you are part of a small or an international corporation.

Just consider the following questions as an example:

:: What if we could attract double the customers in half the time next year? Would we be willing to explore that? And plan for it?

:: What if we could spend just a third of the time in meetings while accomplishing more every single time we meet? Would you be willing to challenge how we think about and run meetings? And change the way we go about them?

:: What if we could double our profitability while working less and having more fun and fulfilment at what we do everyday? How would need to interact and approach each problem and opportunity? And what kind of work environment we need to create and sustain?

Often, what limits us most are not the realities of the outside world but the questions we don’t ask and the assumptions we don’t question – individually and collectively.

I wish you a radically better 2013, not because you should or have to, but because if you play you might as well play big. You might be surprised that it actually takes less time and effort and is far more rewarding whether you actually achieve your aspirations or not.

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