Purposeful Teams

Our recent team development articles are found below.

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 csaba@ICQConsulting.com 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 info@formium.co.uk.


  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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Conquering the Pacific Ocean – Interview with Laura Penhaul

Eszter Molnar Mills : 12 September 2016 8:00 am : Featured, Leadership, People, Teams

Laura Penhaul, team leader for the Coxless Crew, the first all-female team to row across the Pacific Ocean shares the key lessons from the 8500-mile challenge.

Laura highlights that preparation was key to their success and to deal with unexpected issues well. Getting to the start line was one journey, being at seas another, both presenting different challenges. “The combination of the sleep deprivation, the stress of getting to the start line and the big seas, that was a bit of a rough ride for the first couple of weeks.” Penhaul recounts that they had to make some tough decisions, including considering turning back just 500miles off San Francisco and having to make decisions which were not unanimous. “I think it tested us in teamwork and decision making, but at the same time it brought us a lot of strength to see that we had systems in place and that we trusted each other in how we were moving forwards as a team. This brought us closer together.” Laura reflects.

She shares key lessons from the challenge that benefit all leaders:

  • Communication is key to bring people on board with your vision and plans. Allow team members to have autonomy while also working towards the same direction and make sure that their needs are met.
  • Establish values that everybody feels ownership over. For the Coxless Crew, the word ‘Spirit’ reflected the core values of the team: strength, perseverance, integrity, resilience, inspiration and trust.
  • As people move in and out of the team, that transition needs to be well supported. The team requires space and opportunity to say good-bye, learn from each other and welcome a new member. The Crew held very open reflections at handover points.
  • Embrace the differences within the team: “everybody brought something different at different phases and different times throughout the row.”
  • Hold regular meetings that encourage openness, honesty and taking pause. Do not be scared of confrontation. With good communication, it can break down the barriers and encourages open to different viewpoints and different opinions.

“Fundamentally, the process has taught me to challenge my own thoughts. People don’t see it in the same way as you do, so just keep yourself open minded” – she adds.

While the project team consisted of both men and women, Laura argues that it’s nice to start getting equality and women receiving the recognition that’s deserved.

Reflecting on the two charities for which the project raises funds, Laura says “they support people and show them what they can achieve. I really believe in supporting people towards their abilities.” We all have our own challenges – she concludes – rowing the Pacific allowed the team to collectively support the charities, and also to “show people that we all have our own Pacifics to cross, however big or small.”

All about Coxless Crew
Coxless Crew is a team of women, who rowed 8,446 miles across from the South Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Perth. This route has only ever been completed by solo and pairs teams, never has it been done by a team of four or as a continuous three stage row.

Directed and Produced by: Sarah Moshman

They did it to support and raise awareness of women who face extreme adversity and to raise funds to support their journey towards long-term health and wellbeing. The team, made up of three women who rowed the whole journey – Laura Penhaul, Emma Mitchell and Natalia Cohen, and three women who rowed one leg each – Isabel Burnham, Lizanne Van Vuuren and  Meg Dyos, completed the great challenge after 9 months at sea at the end of January 2016.

These inspirational  women rowed continuously as pairs in two-hour shifts in Doris, the £90,000 pink boat. Those who weren’t rowing grabbed 45 to 90 minutes of sleep at a time.

World records
Although it took 3 months longer than originally planned, the project set two world records: the women becoming the first all-female team and the first team of four to row the Pacific Ocean.

The Coxless Crew supports and raise awareness  and funds for two charities:

Walking with the Wounded the organisation helps fund the re-training and re-education of women and men who were injured in the military; they help with their transition after active duty.

Breast Cancer Care the only UK-wide charity providing specialist support and tailored information for anyone affected by breast cancer.

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Focus First on Building Trust With Your Diverse Team

Editor : 30 May 2016 8:00 am : Featured, Leadership, Management, People, Teams

Workplace diversity is important as it improves the performance of the team. Many companies focus on diversity when they are hiring new people. A whole system analysis is essential before the recruitment process, to understand if your ‘system’ will support the success of your new staff members.

Your new people will land in teams where their manager is or is not willing and able to manage a diverse workforce. The first line manager has a huge impact on the experience of the new hire and an important role in sustaining diverse employees in the workplace.

That manager may wonder where to start or where to focus. I believe that answer is simple, and it will yield dividends for all employees and the entire team.

Just imagine the competitive advantage if you have healthy diverse teams within your business. These teams will exceed your expectations, and their goals, because you’ll get great contributions from each member and a synergistic uplift because the employees propel each other forward.

The opposite is true too. An unhealthy or even mediocre team (with or without diversity) will not achieve its goals or potential. What you’ll have is a group of individuals who are just doing their jobs. You don’t get synergy from that team.

Trust and Respect Drive Better Results

What’s the difference between these two teams? It’s the level of trust and respect between the manager and the employees, and between the employees themselves.

A healthy diverse team with high levels of trust and respect can do great things. Every employee benefits from being part of that team, and your company is much more likely to be successful.

There are a number of ways you can accelerate trust and respect amongst your team, but I’ve found that the following two exercises work best because they allow everyone a peek behind the façade of who each person on their team really is. That additional insight into others will break down barriers and increase our understanding of each other, which in turn leads to increased trust and respect.

Accelerate Trust and Respect by Exploring Diversity in Personalities

One type of diversity that is a given, but not often discussed, is the diversity of personalities on your team. You can use an assessment like DISC to help people understand their own and others’ personalities and preferences – like finding out who has the ‘I’ or influence style versus the ‘C’ or conscientious style. As the C’s compare notes with their fellow C’s, they begin to realize they are more alike than they thought even though they may be a different gender, generation and race. Likewise with the I’s. Being an ‘I’ is not dependent on gender, race, age and so forth.

Your team will benefit from a discussion of the different personality groups because they can agree on how to best work together and capitalize on their different personalities. You, the manager, can discuss the strengths of the different personalities and how the team benefits overall by having a diversity of personalities. This all leads to a greater appreciation of diversity on the team.

The net result of a group discussion like this is that people get to know, understand, and appreciate each other quicker. They also begin to understand how they fit within the group, and how their strengths contribute to the team’s success. This will help retain and sustain the diverse employee who may feel, at first glance, out of place in the workgroup.

Accelerate Trust and Respect by Exploring Childhood Experiences

Another way to positively explore differences and commonalities with your team is to discuss their different childhood experiences growing up. I have witnessed great discussions in groups when everyone shares information about their childhood. How many kids were there in the family? Were they the eldest? Where did they grow up? What were their challenges? Who had the biggest influence on them as an adult?

This might seem like fluff, but the benefits can be significant. People tend to trust people they know, and sharing about one’s childhood opens the door to knowing each other on a different level. Also, just like discussing similarities in personality, you will find similarities in your teams’ childhoods that aren’t related to age, race, or gender.

These are just a sample of the ways that you can accelerate the development of a healthy, diverse team by creating space for the sharing of knowledge, understanding, trust and respect.

This content is reproduced with permission.

Donna Evans, high performance team developer, leadership trainer, coach and speaker, founder of Team Building for Success where she used these techniques and seen their success first hand. If you would like help with guiding your team through a process like this, Team Building for Success have proven tools and coaching to do just that. Reach out to Donna for more information!

High quality and productive meetings can play an important part in achieving excellent team performance. Download the Positive Team Meeting Checklist to help you motivate your team with purpose:  Click Here for Your Copy

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Ensure that your people know what you expect of them

Eszter Molnar Mills : 22 April 2016 8:00 am : Featured, Leadership, Management, People, Teams

When I talk to managers and leaders, the theme of high performance is a frequent topic of conversation. We can all agree that being a great organisation and providing exceptional products or services are important, but does everyone we work with know what we actually mean by excellence in the day-to-day?

 6 ways to set clear expectations for high performance
Too often, managers seem to lead through mental telepathy. Without clearly communicated expectations—in terms of standards or the milestones against which we test our progress—employees may not know what to do and how to do it. This can result in uncertainty, undermining effective teamwork, initiative and productivity.

Properly setting expectations for employees or team members is a critical dimension in quality workplaces, according to a large study of managers undertaken in the 1990s by The Gallup Organization. Below are some tips on setting clear expectations that will set standards for excellence and results.

  1. Start with creating a compelling vision. Describe and explain what you want the end result to look like. Not just what you want done, but the purpose and the results you want to achieve when the project is completed and the role of each person in its achievement. People want to know that their role, whether large or small, makes a difference.
  2. Discuss what you mean by “excellent performance“. This step is needed to make the vision ‘actionable’ and translate it into tangible performance measures. Set metrics where possible, paint a complete picture of the standards you are expecting. Refer to your performance review form or competency framework for behavioural standards.
  3. Focus on the expected outcomes, rather than on the exact steps you want your team members to take. Think of this as coaching rather than controlling. Encouraging your people to design their own way of delivering positive outcomes allows each team member to use their strengths to their fullest potential.
  4. Give frequent feedback. The annual appraisal or performance review is insufficient and often too late to let staff members know how and whether they are meeting your expectations. Give feedback along the way: describe the context, refer to the vision and give your reasons for the feedback. Next plan for a way forward, ask for more or less of what you observed. Take a coaching, rather than disciplinarian approach. The more two-way communication, the greater the clarity around the expectations.
  5. Give positive reinforcement. Unless you are especially skilled at giving feedback, don’t use the ‘sandwich’ of positive – constructive –positive comments. As Ken Blanchard suggest in One Minute Manager, catch people doing things right and you’ll get more of it.
  6. Give people the freedom to perform well. Once the expectations are clear get out of the way and allow people to meet them. Having set clear standards, milestones or deadlines, each team member will have the ability to track their own progress, check whether they are meeting the milestones and behavioural standards. This approach also allow individuals be accountable for delivering their own work, so that they can course correct where needed or stay on track to make their full contribution.

To find out more, view the  Positive Leadership webinar.

High quality and productive meetings can play an important part in achieving excellent team performance. Download the Positive Team Meeting Checklist to help you motivate your team with purpose:

Click Here for Your Copy

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