Our recent people management articles are found below.

The happy secret to better work

Editor : 15 April 2017 12:39 pm : Career, Featured, People, Purpose

TED talk by Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor is a highly respected academic and consultant. He focuses on positive outliers—to understand more about people who are well above average. As he says in the talk “if we study what is merely average, we will remain merely average”

Author of the highly successful The Happiness Advantage, his TED talk has been watched almost 15 million times. Arguing that success does not create happiness, Achor sets out how we can actively increase our levels of positivity, which he has found to be the major determinant of performance.

To find out more watch the video above or read the transcript.

This recording is reproduced with permission from TED is a non-profit organisation devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks of 18 minutes or less.


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Words to Lead By – Tamara Box

Editor : 8 April 2017 10:03 pm : Career, Impact, People

Head of structured finance at global law firm ReedSmith, Tamara Box shares the best piece of advice she has ever received:

A woman, now working on exciting infrastructure projects in Africa, gave advice on a panel that Tamara was watching: “Never have lunch alone”

Tamara Box interpreted this as advice to never miss an opportunity to connect with people, even if it is just spending your lunch time with colleagues, new clients, networks.

Tamara Box sees networks as power, but crucially not in a selfish way. She has taken the advice on lunching alone and developed it into ‘Say yes to everything’ – by which she means say yes to people who want to talk to you, people who want to introduce you to others, to young people who want to ask questions. Not just meet them, but see how you can help that person, introduce them to your network or others. Tamara sees this as mutually beneficial: “paying it forward really does always come back”

Look out for our interview with Tamara Box, coming soon.

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The Science Behind the Global Mindset

Editor : 28 March 2017 9:50 pm : Change, Featured, Management, People, Teams

Diversity has always been around, we have just tried to ignore it. The ones who were proactive and culturally intelligent are the ones now who are thriving in this economy. It is still not too late to catch up!

Customers and employees become disengaged and they choose your competition when they feel frustrated, confused or dissatisfied. Understanding how cultural background, such as generation, gender, profession, nationality AND personality type influence how they feel, think and behave is the strategic advantage of successful companies and managers.

Although…this is easier to be said than done.

What has changed?
The world is rapidly changing: increasing globalisation and mobility of workforce, super-connected cities and countries, dealing with people of many different national, ethnic, cultural, social, and generational backgrounds on a daily basis.

Companies can hire the best of the best from all over the world and they can do business in almost any countries. Still, over 70% of international projects fail. Why? Because culture is not just about arts and literature, it is the software of the mind, it determines how we think, behave and make decisions. If the programs are compatible, everything runs smoothly, if they are not, they will crash badly. That is one of the main reasons why the UK loses £48 billion a year according to UKTI (2015).

Why is it not about common sense?
Culture is our blueprint…what the world should be like… Cultural Intelligence is the ability to read the blueprint…it is one of the main parts of global mindset.
Just imagine that you see the blueprint of your house for the first time and we assume you are not an engineer or architect. Even if you live there, you are not aware of different parts, different technical terms, how things work…for instance how the wires are connected so when you switch on the light, it is bright inside….it just happens.

If somebody asks you to explain how it works, after all, you have been living there for years, probably you couldn’t explain it. As our identity has both learnt and inherited parts as well, and we are often unaware of them, most people would find it difficult to explain all the imprinted values and beliefs influencing us. Once we learn to read a blueprint, the structure behind cultural intelligence, we will be able to recognise and understand behaviour in a fast-paced, multicultural environment

Global mindset is not about learning how to like people from other cultures, it is about learning to understand them…if we can see a situation from their perspective, we might find out that there is a better solution or one that is equally logical to ours.

Diversity without inclusion turns into liability
We have heard a lot about Diversity recently. It is a buzzword. It is trendy.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a buzzword as a slogan created by a group of people working within a business just to generate hype. Some companies employ people who are different across dimensions like gender, age and race, who have different experiences and perspectives. They talk about diversity like teenagers talk about sex:
”Of course, we do it and we are great at it!”
Usually that is not the case and although practice makes perfect, it is not enough without some specific knowledge.

Have you ever fallen out with your colleagues because you did not agree on something? Or maybe you felt you could not contradict your parents? You felt frustrated and inferior? Well, that was not inclusive then! Be inclusive first before you get more diverse, it will not work the other way round. Increasing diversity without understanding it is like buying new software for our computer without knowing if it is compatible or it will crash the system. DIVERSITY is the mixture of differences; INCLUSION is the right mixture of people managed with Cultural Intelligence. One is a minefield and the other is a gold mine

The Global Mindset
The world is our BIG DATA and we filter all that incredible amount of information through our unconscious biases…the little categories we try to fit everything we see. The conscious mind is limited, it tries to analyse the information while the unconscious mind starts seeing a pattern we might not even be aware of..

Our biases are influenced by our background, cultural environment, personal experiences and they have enormous impact on what we consider to be true and logical. Even if we refuse to admit it, we all have this…we all have a first impression of someone which seldom changes. The reason is not necessarily our expertise in understanding people, but the subconscious distortion of the information processes by our brain….

Unconscious bias is like Google’s “I’m feeling lucky” function: we quickly find what we are looking for. Most of the people are quite happy about this function, it saves time and hassle with the added bonus of feeling fortunate.

Global Mindset is about connecting with ourselves and others by learning to see the world from different perspectives. Instead of relying on ‘feeling lucky’ we make some effort to check different results, different ways of searching so we might find something even better than we were looking for!

Step 1: Building Awareness
The foundation of cultural intelligence is understanding how our personality and cultural background influences the way we see the world and how others see us. Without a strong sense of who you are and how your own culture has influenced and shaped you, you are very unlikely to know how to respond to other cultures or have the confidence to mediate our behaviour in the light of our discoveries. This is the first step where we consciously notice diversity.

Step 2: Building Competency
Diversity exists because different cultures have found different ways of solving a problem. Understanding the logic behind their thinking allows us to find better ways or at least to accept theirs. There is a scientific structure behind behaviour which explains that we are all unique, but predictably different. This is the step where we consciously understand diversity.

Step 3: Building Skills
Pointing out differences does not help too much…we need to find similarities and complementary traits to build a common ground. The difference between knowing something and applying that knowledge is the difference between success and failure. This is the step where we consciously turn diversity into inclusion by learning how to make the most of our differences.

Global mindset is the result of cultural intelligence, although it is never a final product of it. This is a never-ending process with the highest return on investment as 85% of success is down to people skills.

Csaba Toth MA, MSC, FCMI, is European Managing Partner of ICQ Consulting which helps clients measure and leverage personal and cultural differences to turn diversity into profitable inclusion instead of a painful liability.

He developed the internationally accredited and endorsed framework InterCultural DISC™ which helps people understand and connect with others who have different behaviour and communication styles due to their cultural background. The book, Intercultural DISC™ , is due out soon.
Contact Csaba on or feel free to connect with him on Linkedin.

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The Science of Strengths

Eszter Molnar Mills : 31 October 2016 8:12 am : Career, Featured, Impact, Leadership, People, Perspectives, Teams

In my work with managers on developing their capacity and confidence to lead, the theme of strengths has come to the forefront over the past 5 years, to the extent that we now define our business as strength-based. There is something profoundly attractive about the idea of delivering excellence with ease, building on your own authentic talents and showcasing your best self while being more fulfilled.

While the notion of authentic leadership has been gaining ground, implementing it was always a challenging idea. How do you develop yourself, learn from role models, mitigate your weaknesses while remaining authentic? The answer lies in identifying and harnessing your strengths.

Character strengths are defined by the VIA Institute as “the positive parts of your personality that impact how you think, feel and behave and are the keys to you being your best self”. Applying your strengths will come easily to you and is energising though may need practice or development.

The newly established disciplines of positive psychology and positive organisational scholarship have focused on creating an evidence-based and scientific understanding of what it takes for people, teams and organisations to flourish. Although some of it may seem self-explanatory, it is important to note that this ever-growing body of peer-reviewed academic studies demonstrates that strengths are not part of the latest self-help fad. Rather, the positive impact of strengths is underpinned by scientific research:

Using Strengths is good for your wellbeing, happiness and stress levels

Where you are able to use your strengths as part of your work, this has a beneficial effect. Those of us who use our strengths more, experience less stress and feel more positive and contented, with some people also reporting more energy (1). Other researchers found that using your strengths in a new and unique way could be linked to increased subjective wellbeing – what we commonly think of as happiness – for up to 6 months (2).

As an example, if you already apply your strength of curiosity when following world affairs or watching documentaries, you could benefit from approaching reactions to a proposed change at work from a perspective of curiosity: setting out to really understand the position and concerns of each stakeholder, whether colleague or customer.

It is argued that this strong connection between well-being and the use of strengths exists because strengths help us make progress on our goals and meet our needs for feeling independent and capable (3).

Using strengths is good for your performance

As mentioned above, the increase in happiness is in part generated by the positive impact on work performance generated by a strengths-based approach. Researchers have found that using our strengths is linked greater work satisfaction, subjective wellbeing and a sense of meaning (4). These soft outcomes have a real benefit – applying strengths in your daily work leads to a 44% higher probability of success on measures of customer loyalty and employee retention and 36% on productivity (5).

pencilsUsing strengths gives greater personal growth

With the limited time and resources available for learning and development, it is worth considering that for comparable effort, people can achieve greater growth in an area of their strength than of weakness or deficit (6).

Using strengths as a manager improves your team performance

Perhaps unsurprisingly, on the basis of the research that using strengths makes teams happier and more productive, it was found that the probability of success was 86% greater for managers who took a strength-based approach (7).

As well as the increased productivity and wellbeing, use of strengths leads to a more stable team – awareness of strengths correlates with engagement and decreased staff turnover (8).

How you can harness strengths

Having been persuaded by the research, you may be wondering how you can harness your strengths and those of your team.

Firstly, you can identify your strengths – less than a third of respondents in one study were aware of their strengths (9). You can use methods such as reflection, 360-degree feedback, but for the most reliable results, use a psychometric tool. We recommend the VIA Survey of Character Strengths and Realise2 from Capp & Co.

Next, set out to identify a strength in yourself and also in a colleague over the coming week. Then consider the benefits that harnessing these strengths could bring to your team or the organisation.

Eszter Molnar Mills is a strength-based leadership and organisation development specialist and the founder of Formium Development. An accomplished facilitator and qualified executive and team coach, Eszter helps leaders and organisations reach enhanced performance by reflecting on what works, and developing skills and strategies for improvement.  If you would like to know more about how she helps managers identify and utilise strengths, including delivering team analysis and debriefing of VIA or Realise2 surveys for you or your team, please get in touch at


  1. Park & Peterson, 2009, Park, Peterson & Seligman, 2004, Peterson and Peterson, 2008, Proyer et al, 2013, Rust, Diessner and Reade, 2009, Wood et al, 2010.
  2. Seligman, Steen, Park, Peterson, 2005.
  3. Linley et al, 2010.
  4. Littman-Ovadia and Davidovitch, 2010; Littman-Ovadia and Steger, 2010.
  5. Harter, Schmidt and Hayes, 2002.
  6. Asplund et al 2007; Clifton and Harter, 2003.
  7. Gallup Organization, 2002
  8. Asplund et al, 2007
  9. Linley, 2008


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Stakeholder management – What are family businesses doing well?

Guest Author : 21 October 2016 10:59 pm : Featured, Management, People, Strategy

Regardless of its size and nature, the growth and success of an organisation ultimately depends on the engagement and contribution of the people who, in whatever capacity, play a role in its development. In particular, it relies on the collaboration and successful interactions of the different networks of stakeholders who have an influence on its strategic decisions and their implementation.

When it comes to family businesses, it is even more evident how communication and solid relationships can make or break a company. Like other organisations, they need to identify the most suitable management strategy to engage with internal and external stakeholders. However, choosing the most efficient approach becomes even more complex within a family-owned business. This is due to the fact that, in addition to traditional stakeholders, these organisations are characterised by the coexistence of two unique sets of them: family members either directly or indirectly involved in the business – often from different generations and representing the current and perspective management – as well as non-family members.

As much as an effective collaboration between family and non-family stakeholders can be the key element for sustainable growth and business success, it might also because its main weakness. First of all, the professional relationship between family members can be heavily affected by pre-existing personal dynamics that are often transferred to the organisational environment.

As a result, it is essential to have a solid governance that defines roles and responsibilities clearly – the involvement of spouses and children, for example, is often a bone of contention if not managed properly. Nepotism and favouritism – or the mere suspicion of it – are two of the most common criticisms made against family businesses.

In order to avoid the negative influence of potential family feuds and disharmony, successful family businesses find it essential to acquire the knowledge and expertise of non-family members (employees, consultants and advisors). They not only have specific skills that can benefit the business at every seniority level, but they can also guarantee the objectivity required to make key strategic decisions and improve performance levels.

So, what do family businesses do particularly well to create a collaborative environment and strong relationships among the different stakeholder groups? When it comes to internal stakeholders, successful family businesses are characterised by:

Effective recruitment processes

Because of the widely recognised importance of creating positive relationships between family and non-family individuals within the business, these organisations use the recruitment process not only to assess technical skills but also to look for individuals who share their values and respect the ownership’s approach. Looking for a combination of skills, personality and shared work ethics goes a long way to help select the right people compared to recruitment processes that are merely based on specific qualifications and achievements.

Communication and ‘direct’ interaction with management/ ownership

Frequent and honest communication is key to build trust and promote transparency across all levels of the organisation. The advantage that family businesses have compared to bigger organisations is that, in most cases, employees have a direct interaction with the owners. This helps humanise the values and beliefs of the organisation, so that employees can relate and identify more with the strategies and policies and, as a result develop a sense of belonging.stakeholder-quote

Higher levels of (actual) employee engagement

Even though family businesses might not have a structured HR strategy in place, they seem to achieve high levels of employees’ loyalty and retention.  Because of their nature and, often, smaller size, these organisations naturally promote a more organic process of employee development. In order to maintain high levels of flexibility, family businesses support the continuous development of employees through specific training, diverse experiences across the organisation and the understanding of different roles.

Also, as a consequence of the direct relationship with the company’s ownership/management, employees feel more involved in the decision making process because they are given the opportunity to be heard and for their ideas to be considered and potentially taken on board. This creates a sense of equality and fairness as well as a collaborative culture where team efforts are key to an improved performance.

Similarly, family businesses can leverage their identity and nature to create and improve their interactions with external stakeholders, including clients, suppliers, external collaborators, other organisations operating within their industry and the wider community. Best practises include:

Increased customer loyalty and retention

Compared to their non-family owned counterparts, family businesses create relationships that are based on higher levels of emotional engagement with their current and potential customers. This is because customer can relate more to their authentic history and clear identity as opposed to more ‘artificial’ story telling. Even though this might be purely a matter of perceptions, it helps customer identify with the brand, its owners – as actual individuals – and its values, and make the decision to purchase into a specific lifestyle. This represents a very powerful way to create longer-term loyalty and support to an organisation and what it stands for.

 Reliability and trustworthiness

In many cases, the involvement of family members is key when it comes to negotiations and relationships building with suppliers and other external collaborators.  The fact that the organisation’s and the family’s reputation are perceived as one can work as a guarantee of the reliability and trustworthiness of the company.

Clusters creation and knowledge sharing

Due to their size and nature, family businesses often promote collaborative relationships within their industry. This does not mean that the competition is less fierce within this sector than in others, it only translates in the recognition of the importance of promoting shared infrastructures (distribution channels, economies of scale, etc.), shared networks (specialist suppliers, complementary products or services, etc.) and shared practices (knowledge spill over, specialist expertise, etc.).

 Strong and ‘genuine’ brand identity

It goes without saying that family businesses have a clear advantage when it comes to communicating a message of authenticity, tradition and continuity as well as of social responsibility. The direct involvement of family members across different generations is a powerful tool to prove commitment in front of all stakeholders and the wider community.

valentinaAs an independent project manager and consultant, Valentina Lorenzon helps companies implement change and advises clients on strategic decisions like, for example, the development of new products, markets and propositions. Valentina is experienced working with companies of all sizes across different sectors and, has specialist expertise in supporting SMEs and family businesses.  Get in touch here.

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