Conversations to resolve conflict

It’s Conflict Resolution Day today – conflict-resolution-day-201719th October 2017 – a day to promote awareness of mediation, arbitration, conciliation and other creative, peaceful means of resolving conflict.

At 10Eighty we work in a collaborative environment and believe in constructively working on disputes to resolve issues amicably. In any workplace there will sometimes be conflict, it can take many forms; it may be a personal grievance, a problem between employee and manager or conflict between team members, or it may be stress-related, a misunderstanding or sheer temper.

Unresolved conflict gets in the way of work and makes the organisation less effective and productive.

What’s to be done?

ACAS advises that are some key steps an employer can take to help ensure disputes and conflict don’t arise too often, and to enable them to be dealt with when they do:

  • train managers to handle difficult conversations with employees
  • encourage open expression of opinions
  • recognise the importance of feelings
  • listen to what people have to say
  • focus on interests not positions and personalities
  • have clear discipline, grievance and dispute procedures for dealing with conflict
  • write mediation into your contracts of employment and/or individual disciplinary and grievance procedures
  • consider outside help where necessary, for example, using a third party by way of mediation

At 10Eighty we think the first point is key – talk to staff. Disputes and conflict are less likely to arise when you understand your people, their values, beliefs and motivations. Have a conversation about what really matters to each employee, and listen to their concerns and aspirations. If you understand where there is stress or disengagement you may be able to deal with issues before they become problems.

Don’t use the ostrich model

We think this is an area an employer needs to think seriously about. All too often a busy manager will be inclined to hope an issue will resolve itself. If you don’t act promptly you could:

  • mislead an employee by acting as though there is no problem
  • deny an employee the opportunity to improve or put things right
  • damage the productivity and efficiency of the organisation
  • adversely affect morale amongst team members.

Training managers to engage staff in constructive, connected career conversations will pay dividends in terms of employee engagement and enable a platform where issues can be raised and stress defused.

Managers don’t spend enough time talking to staff about career aspirations and development plans it’s a shame because successful career planning requires employer and employee to have mature conversations about ambitions, aspirations, potential, opportunities and growth. It’s about optimising organisational potential so the smart organisation will ensure that managers have the competence and confidence to manage workplace conversations that could also bypass conflict.

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Do you know how to coach employees towards high performance?


That’s what we’re asking in our latest White Paper ‘Coaching Employees for High Performance’.

In a nutshell ‘Employers need to be employee centric’ – a philosophy espoused by LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman. He believes the role of employers is to make their employees more employable.

White Paper co-authors Anne Fulton CEO of 10Eighty’s Antipodean partners’ Fuel 50 and Natalie Hackbarth Inbound Marketing Manager of Quantum Workplace, an employee feedback software company, collaborated to produce a handy HR guide for implementing manager or peer coaching programmes with a real impact.

Employee engagement experts, Anne and Natalie, provide a raft of insights into learning and development strategies and consider how organisations can create a coaching culture, and how manager coaching and peer coaching can optimise employee engagement and talent management, particularly in conjunction with the powerful career pathing software CareerCENTRE™.White-Paper-Coaching-Employees-for-High-Performance

Forge a thriving coaching culture

The 18-page ‘Coaching Employees for High Performance’ White Paper includes the Top 5 learning and development opportunities and 4 Keys to create a culture of coaching. And how a fusion of these two processes can make a valuable contribution to your talent management strategy.

Understanding the roles of manager coaches and peer coaches and nurturing these two complementary coaching styles is important. But for a coaching culture to truly thrive, a commitment to engagement and employee development is essential.

The White Paper also provides a ‘best practice bundle’ for successful coaching:

  • Set expectations
  • Educate the coaches
  • Create structure
  • Set a frequency
  • Consider attribution
  • Encourage 2-way conversation
  • Track, monitor and measure progress.

Coaching drives engagement

“People will produce more than they think they can if they’re challenged.” Ray Titus, CEO of United Franchise Group.

10Eighty’s CEO Michael Moran, expands: “Employees want to be developed. This is a key driver of engagement. In fact, research tells us that nearly 8 out of 10 employees who said their organisation had a formal development programme were engaged.”

Michael continues: “The connected conversation is at the heart of any developmental intervention. It is a conversation to understand what engages the employee, their values and motivators – what they like doing and what they are good at. This connected conversation is all about coaching.

“Line managers who spend time coaching their employees are rewarded with greater productivity, increased loyalty and a workforce that demonstrates a ‘can do’ attitude.

Research tells us that coaching by your line manager or by your peers is the biggest driver of engagement of any developmental initiative. “

Find out more

To get your copy of ‘Coaching Employees for High Performance’ simply click here and enter your details.

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A fine balance

Work-life balance on National Work Life Week

Work-life balance on National Work Life WeekNational Work Life Week takes place this week – 2nd to 6th October 2017 – and is an opportunity for both employers and employees to focus on well-being at work and work-life balance. Employers can use the week to provide activities for staff and to showcase their flexible working policies and practices.

Half of the people in the UK want to work flexibly but, currently, less than one in ten jobs is advertised flexibly. Apparently, more than 10% of UK employees work over 50 hours a week. Excessive working hours lead to reductions in productivity but flexibility pays dividends in terms of employee engagement, motivation and loyalty.

Here are some things employers might do to help their employees:

  • Highlight good examples of people working flexibly in your workforce, whether it’s because they have caring responsibilities, are pursuing interests outside of work or progressing towards retirement.
  • Hold on a special event for staff like a lunchtime discussion on work-life balance, training for line managers on how to manage flexible staff, or ask a senior manager to share their insights on how they balance their time.
  • Offer guidance to employees about how to use digital devices to support flexibility around when and where they work, rather than as a way to work ‘around the clock’.
  • Showcase family-friendly working policies and practices in staff newsletters and on your intranet.

Support new ways of working

We’ve seen many changes in the workplace in the last ten years from the globalisation of work and demand for 24-hour service to changing demographics and attitudes towards work and the psychological contract.

Making a business case for flexible working is about more than wanting to accommodate certain employee groups – there is plenty of evidence that flexible working is “good for business”, that it enables you to meet customer demand, that it enables retention of skilled and experienced workers and it enhances productivity.

Organisations that are able to develop an agile, flexible approach to work will maximise engagement, wellbeing and on-going high performance, the key to business success. Promote flexible working and support the parents, carers, flexible workers and line managers in your organisation.

Work smart

At 10Eighty we value flexibility and life-work balance is important. There is no better advice than that from 2001 given by the DTI “Work-life balance isn’t only about families and childcare; nor is it about working less. It’s about working ‘smart’, about being fresh enough to give all you need to both work and home, without jeopardising one for the other and it is a necessity for everyone, at whatever stage you are in your life.”

Achieving a good life balance is a continuous process – we need to unwind and feel in control of our lives. It doesn’t necessarily mean a reduction in productivity or working hours, viewed from a lifetime perspective life-work balance should take into account the trade-offs made between work and leisure as interests and commitments change during the course of life. One size does not fit all, it’s important to understand what your team need and what motivates them in order to formulate the best solution for your organisation.

Taking time away from the workplace takes you away from problems and challenges and helps put them in perspective. Albert Einstein had it sussed, saying: “although I have a regular work schedule, I take time to go for long walks on the beach so that I can listen to what is going on inside my head.”

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Values and the connected conversation

Career Conversations

At 10Eighty we think it’s important to be practical and realistic in our thinking around motivation and engagement. The performance review process, in truth, isn’t doing the job – and hasn’t for some time. There needs to be a more employee-centred approach.

We talk about motivation a lot and know that motivation goes well beyond what we pay people. We often talk about ‘you need to know your team’ but it’s plain that if that process doesn’t feel authentic for staff then that constitutes a major stumbling block right from the start! You need a meaningful connection with employees.

Why are values so important? What on paper looks like the perfect job, may not be such a good fit in any real sense. If the values of the organisation don’t resonate with your personal values then the likelihood of success and job satisfaction are compromised, not because you don’t have the skills or motivation, but because values are not aligned.

Career Conversations

Workplace values drive the attitudes and behaviours that make a team member effective or otherwise. Effective organisations seek to attract people who share their key values and the best people look, not just for a job, but for a work environment with values and culture that align with their own.

It’s not a ‘soft’ HR fad. Engaged employees demonstrate higher levels of performance, commitment, and loyalty. Watson Wyatt studies show that an organisation with highly engaged employees typically achieves a financial performance four times greater than a company with poor employee attitudes.

The relationship between employee and manager directly affects engagement levels. If you want effective and productive employees you need a culture based on trust, shared values and open communication. Use the connected conversation to focus on the employee as a means to build their engagement and optimise their potential. Employees who feel valued and understood by their employer are more likely to perform well and to demonstrate loyalty.

Engagement and motivation are increasingly important because we have high levels of employment and serious skill shortages in some sectors. Disruptive technologies, labour market flexibility, globalisation and increased mobility have serious implications for talent managers. The competition for the best candidates isn’t going away anytime soon. A recent survey showed that 67 per cent of HR leaders believe the war for talent will be one of the most pressing issues for their workplace in the near future.1

The challenges we face in terms of recruitment, training and development, employee motivation, and many other aspects of HR, mean we need to be proactive in order to attract and retain talent for competitive advantage.

Employers must focus on their employment brand in order to secure top talent – employees want authentic connection with their organisation and managers. The CIPD reported in June that almost half (47 per cent) of Brits have rejected a job offer, with 41 per cent doing so because they felt the company culture was not right for them.

Making a real connection with your workers, building a realistic picture of their values, drivers and aspirations is the starting point for building real engagement in the workforce.

1HR2020 report, Navigating the future, Eversheds Sutherland with Winmark, 2017

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Michael Moran discusses Engagement and Careers on Engage for Success podcast


Engage-for-Success-Podcast“If video killed the Radio Star, what will a radio podcast do for employee engagement?”

That’s the question 10Eighty CEO Michael Moran asked himself a couple of days ago before he was interviewed on the Engage for Success podcast (or ‘radio show’ in old money).

True to form he made the case for an employee-centric approach to business. Here’s how the song goes, stop us if you’ve heard this one before:

If you know what is important, what motivates, and what it is the employees like doing and consequently does well, and you take this information and sculpted it to the job, you’ll end up with a highly engaged, highly productive workforce. As we all know engaged employees make for profitable businesses.

So Michael duly spoke to Jo Dodds on Show #221 of Engage for Success Radio on the topic of ‘Engagement and Careers’.

We’ve mentioned Engage for Success movement in previous blog posts and took part in one of their conferences in 2015.

Engage for Success are an inclusive organisation committed to the idea that there is a better way to work by releasing people’s potential and capability at work, spreading the word about employee engagement and shining a light on good practice. They are widely supported across the UK by the public, private and 3rd sectors.

You can find out more about Engage for Success by visiting their website, join in the wider conversation using #E4S or you could join their LinkedIn Groups.

Listen to Michael discuss engagement and careers:

Michael puts the case for developing the skills and careers of your people, which he appreciates for some organisations is double-edged because well-developed people may leave. But, he argues, if you don’t develop them, they’re even more likely to leave…

You can also listen to and subscribe to the Engage for Success podcast/radio show on iTunes.

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Connected career conversations = an engaged workforce

Career Conversations

Today’s leaders achieve far more engagement and credibility when they take part in genuine conversations with the people who work for and with them.” 1

Our recent Connected Conversations event was about thinking differently. It’s all too easy to do things because that’s what we’ve always done. Every now and then it takes a little lateral thinking to produce a fundamental shift in our outlook and approach.

In recent years HR professionals have been rethinking the performance review as a measurement of effectiveness. When did you last hear anyone say they were looking forward to their annual appraisal? Everyone dreads them, both manager and those managed and our view at 10Eighty is that we need a more employee-centred approach.

Traditional appraisal uses a carrot and stick approach, which can work in a task-orientated culture, but it’s not appropriate in most jobs in our new work environment. There is evidence that the traditional approach is demotivating and decreases levels of performance. Many successful organisations have dropped the annual appraisal in favour of periodic feedback – Deloitte, Accenture, Microsoft, Gap and Adobe among them.

Career Conversations

People not process

The idea of ‘scientific management’ became popular because it enabled managers to treat staff like widgets, a ‘one size fits all’ approach. But in the modern workplace that approach is counter-productive. Making the most of the values and skills of the team is more like fitting together the pieces of a puzzle to build a great team that works collaboratively and is committed to the aims and values of the organisation.

An annual appraisal that reduces a person’s whole year performance to a number or a rating on a form, is often an artificial, subjective and usually retrospective process. That’s not particularly useful as a basis for future planning. We need to use performance conversations that are based on what matters to the employee and what motivates them to do a good job.

A real career conversation starts with what is important to an employee, in terms of their personal and work values. Alignment between one’s values and the values of the organisation is at issue here. Without that alignment then engagement and job satisfaction are compromised and the likelihood of success in the role is much reduced. Someone with a need for social interaction at work won’t be happy alone in the office all day and, a person who needs a level of autonomy will be unhappy working for someone who tries to micro-manage them.

Positive connections

It’s also important to look at skills and strengths. What do team members love doing, how proficient or competent they are, where they want to improve – and what do they hope to achieve? To manage people well you need to understand what makes them tick, in order to make the connection between how the organisation can help them to achieve and develop as part of a high-performance team. This is a much more positive experience than the average performance review.

These connected career conversations are no soft option. They can be challenging. Sometimes there is no alignment of values – and it may be better for a disengaged employee to move on. Line managers need to be trained in using such conversations to address motivation and engagement with team members and ensure optimum deployment of resources.

A connected conversation centres on the employee as this gives their manager clarity around how to build engagement and optimise their potential. A better understanding of employee values, skills and preferences allows the construction of a framework for sculpting jobs around the right employees in the right roles.

As our recent work with DS Smith shows, if you can initiate connected conversations with all the members of the team, with all the people in the organisation, just think about the huge impact that can have on overall levels of engagement and performance.

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Balance all the options

work-life balance

11 September is the start of Balance Awareness Week, which is about raising awareness about vestibular disorders.

Life-work balance has been a perennial topic on our blog for years. Do you love your work? Work and a career are an important, they help pay the bills and give us a sense of purpose but it’s important to remember that work is just a part of life but we need a balance away from the stress of the office to enjoy other aspects of our personal lives.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful”, Albert Schweitzer.

Finding meaning

A career is not enough. Your life should have meaning and ultimately you define your own success. It is only worthwhile if it allows you to enhance your life and the lives of others.

There’s no single formula that works for everyone, as life-work balance is different for each of us because we all have different priorities and different lives.

You need to make deliberate choices about which opportunities to pursue and which to decline, rather than simply reacting to events, so that you can engage meaningfully with work, family, and community.

In our 24/7 economy we still need to unwind and to feel in control of our lives. Think about the demands on your current professional and personal life – deciding when, where, and how to be accessible for work is an ongoing challenge, particularly for those with families.

The highly successful Danish businessman Martin Bjergegaard, interviewed by The Guardian, said that to succeed and be happy it’s not necessary to work extra-long hours that don’t allow family time. He suggests that we need to be more flexible. If working from home is sapping your energy, you should look for cheap shared space or divide your living quarters into work and not-work areas. “If it works, fine – if not, change it. Experiment. Don’t live with it.”

work-life balance

Establishing balance is a good idea, and positive thinking enhances a lifestyle that involves more than just the hours put in at work. But, worries about life balance can create even more stress and pressure it means you feel guilty about not spending quality time with the family.

Flex for engagement

Research by the CIPD into flexible working provisions discovered that seven out of 10 employers who offer flexible working arrangements find that it can have a positive effect, helping to support employee retention and improve motivation and productivity. For employees, being able to work flexibly was found to boost health and wellbeing. Workers who are satisfied with their life-work balance are more likely to be engaged with work and less likely to feel pressurised.

Your time is precious and you need to value that time and negotiate what you consider important. Evaluate your preferences, goals and priorities and list your work and general life priorities and the amount of time you spend on each. Could some of that time be better spent doing something more fulfilling?

If you need to make changes, then bite the bullet and take control – a healthier work-life balance will result in greater productivity and motivation.

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Forgotten heroes and being in the right place at the right time

Grace Hopper forgotten heroes

Grace Hopper was the inventor of the computer language COBOL; she designed the compiler, a remarkable innovation which made modern computing possible. The compiler evolved into COBOL, one of the first computer languages, and led to the distinction between hardware and software. Along the way, Grace single-handedly invented the idea of open source software too.

Grace Hopper forgotten heroes

A compiler sequences code to programme computers. My favourite behavioural economist Tim Harford highlighted this invention as one of the 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy. Click here to listen to the podcast.

Kurt Beyer’s book, Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age is available at all good bookshops and online at that well known virtual store.

Harford introduces Grace Hooper as very much like the heroines of the film Hidden Figures, which is about the female African-American mathematicians at NASA, who were critical in putting a man on the Moon, but not recognised for their input with their work being credited to white, male scientists.

Practice makes perfect

The story of Grace has a parallel in Matthew Syed’s story told in his book Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice.

Matthew had a brother, three years older and their home had a double garage which housed a table tennis table. That meant they got lots of practice at table tennis – remember Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of practice required to achieve mastery?

Matthew grew up in Reading and his secondary school employed the UK’s national table tennis coach. When a leading Chinese table tennis player defected to the UK guess where he went to live, Reading, of course.

From an early age Matthew had the opportunity to practice and the best coaching. He went on to become the UK’s No 1 table tennis player and to represent GB at the Olympics. Yes, you need the talent and the passion but sometimes it helps to be in the right place at the right time!

So, back to Grace Hopper. She was born in New York in 1906; a curious child who, at the age of seven, decided to find out how an alarm clock worked, and dismantled seven before her mother realised what she was doing and limited her to one clock.

Unusually for the time Grace’s father believed that his daughter should have as good an education as his son received. Grace’s grandfather was a rear-admiral in the Navy, and she wanted to join but couldn’t as the Navy didn’t take female recruits. A talented mathematician and eventually became an associate professor of mathematics at Vassar.

Seize the moment

Then came World War II and Pearl Harbour, when the US entered the war. The men went to war and that presented a real opportunity for women like Grace. The Navy needed mathematicians to calculate speed, distance and trajectories for missiles, these are not complex calculations, but time-consuming for a human armed only with pen and paper.

Grace Hopper forgotten heroesIn 1943 the Navy accepted Grace. She trained at the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Smith College in Massachusetts, and graduated first in her class in 1944. At around the same time the Harvard Mark 1 computer was invented and the Navy wanted to exploit the new technology so Grace got to work on the Mark I project. She was instrumental in the development “programming sequences”.

The first computers needed individual programming as they were all set up differently. The men who programmed them liked to be the only ones who could communicate with the computers. Grace called them ’the high priests’; she developed sequences of code that allowed programming not only to be efficient but also accessible to all.

Grace thought that anyone should be able to programme and, now, anyone can.

Learning as we go

Grace Hopper was unknown to me until I read Beyer’s book as part of my holiday reading programme. I learned a lot about the development of computers and also why we de-bug computers – the Harvard Mark 1 fell over once because a moth got into it!

Wonderful things holidays; they say travel broadens the mind and that certainly happened in this instance.

So what does this story tells us apart from the fact that some people don’t get the recognition they deserve?

I think it has a lot to do with creating the right conditions to allow talent to emerge and flourish. Also I think we should recognise the power of education – remember Grace’s father and his encouragement.

In essence, though the lesson is, make the most of your opportunities. In fact Grace herself said just that: “The most important thing I’ve accomplished, other than building the compiler, is training young people. They come to me, you know, and say, ‘Do you think we can do this?’ I say, “Try it” and I back ’em up. They need that. I keep track of them as they get older and I stir ’em up at intervals so they don’t forget to take chances”.

Sadly, there is still a lot of discussion about how to get more women into science and technology and I do wonder whether without WWII the US Navy would have accepted Grace.

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Make a mess, make a breakthrough


On Saturday 19th August the NSPCC are holding a Messathon, a 2.5km obstacle course of messy, muddy fun where families get out and get active together. The event is to raise money for the Childline service which offers help and support to thousands of children and young people whenever they need it.

At 10Eighty we are organised types but making a mess can be a lot of fun and we approve of fun. A tidy desk is generally seen as a positive, but could mess actually be good for the mind? Does it help creativity? One of my favourite broadcasters is Tim Harford who claims that if you want to be creative and resilient, you need a little more disorder in your world.

Messy: How to be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World celebrates the benefits that messiness adds to our lives: why it’s important, why we resist it, and why we should embrace it instead. Using research from neuroscience, psychology, social science, as well as tales of inspiring people doing extraordinary things, Harford explains that the human qualities we value – creativity, responsiveness, resilience – are integral to the disorder, confusion, and disarray that produce them.


Stop struggling for success

Guardian columnist Oliver Burkeman says of Harford’s work “His liberating message: you’ll be more successful if you stop struggling so hard to plan or control your success”.

Many people seem to feel threatened by anything vague, unplanned, random or hard to describe. We like a script to rely on, a system to follow, being able to categorise and file stuff. But there’s a lot to be said for a loose and experimental approach in some situations. Try it and see what happens!

Columbia management professor Eric Abrahamson and writer David Freedman present the thesis that organisational efforts tend to close off systems to random, unplanned influences that might lead to breakthroughs. Neatness for its own sake, they say, not only has hidden costs in terms of man-hours that could be spent doing other work but it turns out that the highly touted advantages may not even exist. More loosely defined, moderately disorganised people and businesses seem to be more efficient, more robust, and more creative than the obsessively neat.

This brings to mind two ideas we think are worth considering:

  • Just relax – don’t fret about the untidy aspects of much of life, recognise that clutter and disorganisation can be beneficial
  • Off the wall, contrary, messy spontaneity can lead to exciting personal and professional discoveries.

Stop playing it safe

Studies show that there is no need to be ashamed about being messy; Albert Einstein famously joked “if a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Kathleen Vohs of the University of Minnesota says that orderly environments “encourage convention and playing it safe”, while people are subconsciously encouraged to think creatively in a messier setting.

A similar study using cluttered desks and shop fronts by researchers at the University of Groningen, Germany, made similar conclusions. “Messy desks may not be as detrimental as they appear to be, as the problem-solving approaches they seem to cause can boost work efficiency or enhance employees’ creativity in problem solving”.

So, don’t worry too much about decluttering, being able to find stuff when you need it is good but being a neat freak may not be as great as you might imagine.

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Life lessons from our feline friends


International Cat Day, a celebration that takes place on August 8 every year was created in 2002 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Every sensible person knows that cats run the interweb thingy but did you know that cats sleep for 70% of their lives and one ran as mayor of Mexico City? The Downing Street cats are famous and take care of the really serious work at the Treasury, Foreign Office and Cabinet Office, with a cohort of ambassacats around the world.

Cats are good for your mental health. A study, by the charity Cats Protection, of more than 600 cat and non-cat-owners (with half attesting to mental health problems) found that 87% of feline lovers saw looking after a cat as having a positive impact on well-being. It’s true that looking after any pet is good for you but there is something about the frequency at which a cat purrs that is particularly relaxing.

life lessons

The other really noticeable thing about cats is that they are generally very self-sufficient, so 10Eighty decided to draw some life lessons from the feline world:

  • Aim high – cats are not tall but they can jump so high that the most trained athletes would be astonished aback – most domestic cats can typically jump up to 6 times their own height. No excuses, if you put your mind to it you can do If you are serious about career success then you need to step up, take your chance to shine and show management that you are confident and capable.
  • Take care of those who take care of you – cats hold people who feed and take care of them in high regard. Don’t let pressure of work cut you off from your friendships; people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.
  • Live in the moment – a cat lives its life without stress and has mastered the art of simplicity. Connect to the present moment and banish stress from your workspace, try meditation. Aim for 15-20 minutes a day, but try to integrate it into everyday life. You can meditate at your desk, in a meeting or going home on the tube.
  • Learn to let go – move on from mistakes, learn from them but don’t obsess over them. Cats do not dwell on their mistakes. Watch a cat and learn how to delegate, but don’t micro-manage as then you stifle creativity, innovation and the autonomy and courage that allows a team to thrive.
  • Be nimble – in the modern workplace you need to be versatile, resilient, agile and able to adapt quickly to new situations and technological change. Success depends on innovative thinking and knowledge sharing, as employees we need to learn to handle ambiguity so we are able to rise to a challenge and perform effectively and productively.

Power naps

Oh, and have a cat nap – a cat will be so happy if you curl up and snooze the day away with them. Not that what you want is top of the cat’s list of priorities, Higgs who runs this author’s household likes to sleep on the laptop when I’m trying to work; it’s nice and warm and it always gets my full attention.

If you need a break a short nap can be refreshing and set you up to tackle your work with renewed vigour. According to the BBC, in Japan dozing in meetings is apparently a sign of status to show off how hard you work. Some bosses are even said to fake it in order to eavesdrop on indiscreet employees – and the employees fake indiscretions to humour them!

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 Careers: Why it’s time to have ‘Connected Conversations’

connected conversations

Earlier this month we held a 10Eighty session on the importance of ‘connected’ career conversations. Why connected? Because a sense of connection in the way we talk about careers helps employees feel cared for, listened to, developed and stretched when they discuss career paths with employers.

Let’s face it – everybody hates the annual performance review process. And recently we’ve been seeing a lot of articles about companies who have replaced the annual review with more regular feedback sessions. There are a number of problems with the traditional performance review – managers are not trained to do them well. Many managers prefer to leave well alone, if they don’t mention career progression to the staff perhaps they won’t ask for development opportunities! This is short-sighted at the very least because most staff want development and growth and will leave to find it elsewhere if necessary.

connected conversations

A big issue for many mangers is that they believe staff always want more – either in terms of promotion, salary or power – and when they have more they will still want more. In fact, many employees don’t want any such thing but they do want recognition and to make best use of their skills and talents.

Focus on the person, not the job

Reward and recognition need to be relevant to the individual otherwise it won’t have the desired effect; some employees need regular reassurance and positive reinforcement and some need only the occasional pat on the shoulder and a ‘thank you’.

A sense of a “connected” series of conversations reaps dividends for the employer, as well as the employee. Apart from anything else this is about making effective use of your resources. If you don’t understand the basic motivations of your people you are not likely to be making best use of their talents.

Using a connected conversation to understand what staff want, what motivates and drives them, what values underpin their workstyle and what aspirations and ambitions they nurture is crucial to building an effective team and a collaborative working culture. The aim is to inspire staff to reflect on their role and commit to a career pathway that benefits individual and employer.

We have a serious problem with employee engagement and productivity in the UK so reviewing the nature of your career conversations to ensure effective career pathways and talent management pays dividends long-term.

Our belief is that every employee is entitled to job satisfaction and career success – and every employer will benefit from helping them get there. Talking to employees about the work they enjoy doing and committing to helping them with personal development and opportunities to meet their career aspirations is the starting point of a more connected conversation – and a more connected business.

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Taking work seriously


Matthew Taylor, head of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), commissioned by Theresa May to undertake a review of modern employment, calls on policymakers and employers to make all work “good work” – which he defines as “fair and decent, with scope for development and fulfilment”.

The review ‘Good Work: The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices’ is based on the premise that the pace of change in the modern economy, and particularly in technology and the development of new business models, means we need a concerted approach to work which is both up to date and responsive and based on enduring principles of fairness. The labour market is changing, self-employment is rising, and innovative forms of working are leading us to question established norms.


The notion of ‘good work for all’ is one with which I can empathise. While having employment is itself vital to health and well-being, the quality of people’s work is a major factor in helping them to stay healthy and happy, something which benefits the individual and serves the wider public interest.

Taylor’s report examines the factors that are important to working people:

  • People have different motivations at different points in their career and so what represents quality now may not represent quality ten years later;
  • Pay is only one aspect in determining quality work; for many people fulfilment, personal development, work life balance or flexibility are just as important;
  • People are most likely to enjoy what they do when they have a meaningful say at work.

What is good work?

A good job may be characterised as one where the worker feels a sense of stability, has a say in the workplace, knows that their effort is recognised and rewarded, has the skills to do the job but also to develop their potential, and trusts they will be treated fairly. Being able to structure tasks or decide on the approach to delivery can have a significant impact on the sense of fulfilment people have at work. While some are content with work where they do what they are told, for many, being able to shape work is increasingly important.

We know that engaged employees are proud of their role within the organisation; this is facilitated by a line-of-sight to career success and the organisation’s mission and goals. They are energised and committed to using their talents and discretionary effort to achieve sustainable organisational success. A spirit of teamwork and cooperation makes employees feel proud to be working for their organisation and willing to advocate as ambassadors for it; recognition and praise incentivise effective contribution and effective engagement.

I firmly believe that in the workplace and business environment we need to look at job design and organisational structures from the perspective of the employee. Organisations need to provide career management systems that allow employees to look across the organisation for opportunities and to manage their own careers.

Contracts and choice

There has been a lot of focus on the issue of flexible working and zero hour’s contracts. The ‘gig economy’ has been characterised as exploitative by the media but we should not tar all organisations with the same brush. Working with self-employed, freelance and contract staff often means companies can enhance productivity, profitability and wellbeing. Taylor suggests that too many employers and businesses are relying on zero hours, short-hours or agency contracts, when they could be more forward thinking in considering the impact on their workforce and devising fair and responsible models of employment, which strike the right balance between security, flexibility and innovation.

The self-employed make up nearly one in six UK workers, up 25% in the last ten years. This new way of working is here to stay and perhaps the conversation shouldn’t be whether the gig economy is good for workers, but how we can make it work well for all parties.

A lot of workers want flexible hours and choice the work they accept, both employers and staff increasingly look to non-traditional work arrangements. As long as the relationship is understood and has benefits for both parties it can work well. Taylor points out that individuals should be able to decide which aspects of work are more important to them and which elements they are willing to trade-off.

This new way of working does have many benefits for those who have in-demand skills and good contacts. Research by London Business School, carried out with consultancy Eden McCallum, found that 59% of independent consultants saw their freelance status as a deliberate choice, 92% were moderately or very satisfied with their working life, and 50% were making more money than when they had worked for a large firm.

It is particularly noticeable that freelance staff rather than being loyal to a particular company, tend to be loyal to specific people they work with. They choose to work with those with whom they share common values and objectives, while working independently the self-employed make connections that bring them together to feel part of a wider community. As the concept of the employee changes and the fixed office space disappears skills such as effective communication and effective collaboration become more important.

Lifelong learning and employability

I note not much air time has been given to Taylor’s recommendations around training. As the labour market changes and industries come and go, the importance of lifelong learning is growing. In fact, learning opportunities are much more important than guaranteed hours or benefits as they are the key to long-term employability.

The opportunity to develop and progress should be available to all. Those in atypical or freelance work need to obtain, improve and evidence skills and experience over the course of their working life. Taylor advocates more flexibility in the new apprenticeship scheme launched this year and enhanced Government support for lifelong learning, training and retraining alongside the development by employers and the education sector of a consistent strategic approach to employability.

We see a preference for flexible working and alternative forms of employment and in the future, I believe workers will need to be adaptable and able to learn new skills quickly. To stay employable, we will all need to update and enhance skills with lifelong learning and skills development, with employability as the goal rather than employment.

Organisations will need to adapt them to a more flexible style of working and Taylor maintains that most employers already provide fair and decent work, but the best employees demand meaning and purpose in their work; they thrive and perform to full potential in a culture that resonates with their own values and aspirations. Ensuring that all work is fair and decent with realistic scope for development and fulfilment is no easy task.

Taylor concludes his report by pointing out that good work is something for which Government needs to be held accountable but for which we all need to take responsibility. Organisations must be seen to take good work seriously and be open about their practices and ensure that all workers are able to be engaged and heard.


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Good communications


The Samaritans do great work by offering a safe place to talk any time you like, in your own way about whatever’s getting to you. Really listening to people makes them feel valued and understood. Being able to listen well to others helps you to be someone who others can turn to.

Monday 24 July is Samaritans Awareness Day. Please visit their page and think about helping them.


Good communication skills are really important in the modern workplace and learning to deal with challenging conversations at work is a skill that all managers should acquire.

Talking to the staff

At 10Eighty we advocate meaningful career conversations as a route to a more effective workplace. Managers don’t talk often enough to their staff about career aspirations and development plans. It’s a shame because successful career planning requires employer and employee to have mature conversations about ambitions, aspirations, potential, opportunities and growth.

We have a serious problem with employee engagement and productivity in the UK so talking about effective career pathways and talent management with employees will pay dividends long-term. Talking to staff about the work they enjoy doing and committing to helping them with personal development and opportunities to meet their career aspirations is the starting point.

Learn how to communicate clearly and effectively. Focus on developing communication skills that enable you to effectively connect with others, build trust and respect, and feel heard and understood. Effective communication allows you to engage your listeners, convey your point of view clearly, and convince your audience of the validity of what you say. Communication is not just about what you say, but also about how you say it and how you present yourself.

Listening to the staff

Effective communication is not only just about how you convey a message so that it is received and understood by someone in exactly the way you intended, it’s also how you listen to gain the full meaning of what’s being said and to make the other person feel heard and understood.

Don’t focus only on what to say, because effective communication is less about talking and more about listening. Listening well means not just understanding the words or the information being communicated, but also understanding the emotions the speaker is trying to communicate.

Active listening involves paying close attention to what the other person says. Ask questions to clarify what you think you heard, and rephrase what the person says to ensure understanding (“So, what you’re saying is…”).

10Eighty’s checklist of communication skills you need in business:

  • Active listening
  • Empathy
  • Reflection
  • Summarising
  • Understanding

Finally remember that Dale Carnegie once said, “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”

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Apollo 13: a lesson in leadership style

There’s a key moment in the blockbuster film Apollo 13, when Commander Jim Lovell and his crew are asked to perform an essential task to save their lives. They have already suffered an explosion on board, dangerously high levels of CO2, freezing temperatures and sleep deprivation. Finally, they need to fire up the engines to get themselves to the right place and trajectory to attempt re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Under extreme pressure, the team are all able to operate to the true level of their capability. The crew quickly work out, by brainstorming with Mission Control, that if they keep their view of Planet Earth within the frame of a small triangular cockpit window while burning their last drops of fuel, they will stay on track for survival. In spite of the severe turbulence caused by firing the boosters, Lovell’s crew work together to keep the earth firmly in the window – and return safely home.

Leadership Development Leadership Style

Can your organisation keep it’s “earth” destination firmly in the window? The chaos of the powerful engines feels like the turbulent business environment in which we all operate. And leaders in business, as well as in space, have to be able to adapt to the environment in which they find themselves – and adapt their leadership style to suit the occasion. At 10Eighty we love to give examples that bring leadership to life. And in the film, the leadership team in Mission Control shifts decisively from “command-and-control” to trusting its team on both the ground and in space, to create the answers. To save the life of the crew, scientists are asked to improvise a makeshift carbon dioxide filter from a series of objects contained in the spaceship. The programme director spells out the goal, sets the (very short) timeframe before life becomes death, but trusts his team to show their full capabilities to come up with the answer.

Similarly, a successful leadership team in business today needs to adapt its style to suit all circumstances. We have all had work situations, perhaps not quite so dramatic, where we have felt overwhelmed by the pressures, the volatility and the uncertainty of our environment. And there is a strong tendency amongst leaders, when faced with rapid change, to take back control and direct not only what success “looks like” – but also how it is to be achieved. These leaders perhaps fear their team may not be equal to the uncertainty of a stretching task. Yet the only certainty on offer is that they will never, ever know how capable their team is, unless they are stretched.

So the capability of teams to operate as effectively as possible depends crucially on the awareness of the leader to the style required of a given set of circumstances. Sometimes this means a long series of obstacles and opportunities coming at high speed, for which highly collaborative hearts and minds and skill sets are required. In other times, a reversion to command-and-control leadership may be more appropriate. The point is that the modern Everyday Leader’s role is to know the difference. The very best organisations have these leaders – they stay connected to the purpose driving them, are able to assess quickly the changes in their environment and then adapt their leadership style to let the capabilities of their teams flourish.

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Workplace skills for all

World Youth Skills Day

Young people are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and exposed to lower quality jobs, labour market inequality, and long and insecure school-to-work transitions. In addition, women are more likely to be underemployed and under-paid, and to undertake part-time jobs or work under temporary contracts.

July 15 is World Youth Skills Day, a United Nations initiative on the theme of “Skills Development to Improve Youth Employment” aimed at widening understanding as to what works to support young people in today’s and tomorrow’s labour market through training and skills development.

World Youth Skills Day

We think everyone needs to plan their career and ensure they maintain their employability. For young people good career advice and the ability to focus on continuous development are crucial.

Our young people are most employable when they have good general education and training, basic and transferable skills, including teamwork, problem-solving, information and communications technology and communication and language skills. In other words a skillset that allows them to adapt to the changing world of work.

Learning to learn

At 10Eighty we champion continuous learning and curiosity as key drivers for a successful career. Clearly training needs depend on career choice and sector but basic skills are something that our education system should focus on:

  • Good learning habits that empower one to plan and attain learning goals as autonomous learners in a workplace culture where lifelong learning is essential
  • Communication skills – effective listening, observation and literacy skills that facilitate interaction and networking and the ability to explain one’s ideas clearly
  • Teamwork is an obvious workplace skill in a culture where we all need to cooperate and collaborate
  • Problem-solving and analytical skills to assess information and situations in order to as to plan work and address challenges

Securing the right skills are important to our economy and, sadly, skills shortages have long been a problem for British industry and services. In a globalised economy employers seek candidates with good vocational and technical skills. A report by McKinsey (2012), collating survey data from nine countries, found that less than half of employers (43 per cent) were able to find the skills they needed in entry-level workers.

Learning agility

World Youth Skills DayThe best way to acquire and build on good skills is while working. But not all employers are prepared to train their people. In an ideal workplace both individuals and organisational training systems would work on building skills for the future.

It’s smart to remember that we are only as relevant as our current skillset and have a responsibility to connect, share, communicate, and learn so as to be productive in career terms. An employee needs to be able to adapt to market demands and to be innovative in a competitive and rapidly evolving environment.

Learning agility is a crucial skill. Research suggests that “People who are learning agile: Seek out experiences to learn from; enjoy complex problems and challenges associated with new experiences because they have an interest in making sense of them; perform better because they incorporate new skills into their repertoire. A person who is learning agile has more lessons, more tools, and more solutions to draw on when faced with new business challenges.” (Hallenbeck et al, July 2011).

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Michael Moran – CEO 10Eighty

A blog about career and talent management, things that might help you with your career and in your job.