What we've been thinking about and working on lately...

what we've been talking about

So none of us really enjoy being the new person – it can be pretty daunting.  However, we don’t often look at it from the other direction. 


Having a new person start in your team can also be daunting - will they fit in?  How long will it take to get them up to speed? Will they be as good or better than their predecessor?


Recently I’ve been working with several new and different people on various projects.  I guess I’ve been lucky – they are all great!  What has been most amazing is the energy and enthusiasm they have brought to the projects. New ideas, fresh energy, some much needed inspiration.


It’s easy to get stuck doing the same things in the same way.  Fresh blood can shake things up a bit, shed some new light and make it exciting for all of us all over again.


That’s me – feeling inspired just by having some new friends/colleagues to play with!!

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I’m often posed the question ‘ we’re going to invest in some time together as a team, what’s the quickest/easiest/cheapest way to ensure we get some new thinking and everyone feels able to contribute’ at this point I’m meant to come up with a complex framework and some clever words to help pave the way. My answer is usually much more simple ‘go offsite’.

Our habits, patterns and thoughts of behaviour are so associated with our environment that we can inadvertently become fixed in our way of thinking when we’re physically in the same office which we reside in day to day. Find somewhere new; somewhere people can breathe, relax, get some fresh air have space to move, lounge and be themselves. This doesn’t mean a swanky hotel (not everyone’s idea of relaxing!) just somewhere where people can be people.

We recently invited a leadership team to work with us from our offices on Exmoor. They lounged on sofas, took lungfuls of fresh Exmoor air and plotted their strategy for the next 3 years whilst sat watching the river rush by in the warm spring sunshine. They wore jeans and hoodies, ate locally produced food from the pub across the road and pots of coffee from the local roast house. They left happier more relaxed and importantly with clarity; about why they were in it and where they were going. They ran the next day to book in to come back in 6 months time.

So my advice remains the same, go offsite, you might be surprised at the results.


At Tinder-box we can run team sessions and away days from our base on Exmoor, please call us for more details.

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Bringing very distinct and different companies together to try and agree one set of vision and goals has never been easy. Of course each business has it’s own:

-          Identity

-          Culture

-          Existing goals

And so to try and get something that trumps or builds synergies with all of those is really difficult.

I had the experience last week – I’m thankful to say – of helping a group of 4 different business ‘get it right’. The businesses were all #1 or #2 in their fields, from Turkey, US,  Contintental Europe and UK, and so all had very strong track records and forward plans. So what was the tirck? Simple really – just 3 steps:

1) Build trust amongst the group : understanding of styles, preferences, beliefs and values

2) Find the common ‘Why’: what really is the core purpose of each business, and what therefore is the common thread

3) Agree ‘What’: agree areas of synergy, leverage and quick wins

Sounds very straightforward and it workked because of the time invested in building relationships and developing trust. That allowed a very honest and forthright debate to take place where people really sought to listen and understand, and without that investment in relationships ot would never have happenned.

Many people are cycnical about spending 1 whole day (the first day) out of a 2 day session on relationships, but it does pay out. Otherwise you are trying to build a house on sandy foundations.

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It’s that ‘back to school’ time of year. Facebook is littered with images of fresh faced children with slightly too big uniforms and brand new school bags and for many people in organisations there’s a sense of a new chapter, post summer holidays.

With only 16 (yes 16!) ‘proper’ working weeks of the year left it’s a great time to take 10 minutes to check in on how you and your team are progressing towards your ambitions and goals for this year. Setting visions and aspirations in January can often seem a bit idealistic, anything can happen in 12 months, but 16 weeks focuses the mind somewhat.

So here’s our suggestion, sit down with your team and ask yourselves the following;


How are we doing against our goals?

What adjustments do we need to make and what do we need to change?


What do we do more efficiently than we did in January?

What inefficiencies have crept in?


Do we have more trust and respect amongst the team than we did 6 months ago?

What culture do we want to have by the end of the year?


How have we grown the talent in the team so far this year?

What gaps in our expertise do we need to focus on closing by the end of the year?

You may not have all the answers but we can guarantee a fruitful conversation. Let us know how you get on!

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I seem to have found myself talking to teams and also individuals during coaching about how their actions have been misread / misunderstood and caused problems. Recovering from these incidents can be tricky for people as they feel things have ‘got personal’.

So I found the way through was to ask about their intentions. Sometimes people need a while to think about this, but they are always able to articulate what it is they are trying to do / achieve / change in the scenario. And it is always positive and constructive. When I then ask them how the other person (s) would behave towards them if they understood this very positive intention – then again, the answer is virtually always positive (“Oh – they’d be really happy to support me / or debate constructively / or help”).

So what’s the problem? I think it is because we are so busy that we act first and expect others to quickly and easily understand or interpret our intentions. Of course they don’t, and it is even more tricky with e-mail. So the recipe is to ensure that you explain your intentions first, then this becomes the filter for people to respond to your actions. Without this  filter in place, then all they have is one of their own filters – and people have many to choose from based on past experience of you, your reputation, their mood etc etc.

Some of the most successful, constructive and innovative sessions I have seen have been where groups have been really clear about their common intentions and then robustly challenged each other’s views/ideas/perspectives to get an even better collective outcome. Without challenge there is little innovation......

It’s a basic idea – but then when we’re busy we do forget the most basic things. Which reminds me.........better get some lunch (written at 15:33pm!)


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Most team leaders go about recruiting and gathering a talented group of people around them. The benefits are obvious - it’s not only about getting the job done well but also about building the reputation of the team, which of course we hope will reflect well on us. But thrown into situations working on something unfamiliar, or working with peers we perceive to be more talented than us can be more complicated. Our confidence and performance can suffer if we are worried about being overshadowed, overlooked or overwhelmed.

I’ve been reminded of some of these fears since joining our local choir. My singing prowess is best described as having the ability to “hold a tune”, but I love singing and a little flicker of interest has grown in direct correlation with Gareth Malone’s TV career. My first “term” with the choir was spent building up to and perfecting a number of songs to perform to a packed and festive audience at the local Abbey the Saturday before Xmas. As we progressed from truly shambolic to full on performance mode, I re-learnt several principles that also apply to the workplace.

  • Singing alongside people with much better voices than me has actually improved my own voice and built my confidence
  • Making a mistake in a loud voice is embarrassing, but can be quickly corrected before it becomes a habit – and the best singers make mistakes too
  • Practicing techniques and having the discipline to warm up and prepare really does improve performance
  • Approaching a new song in bite size chunks with each section of the choir perfecting their own part may feel disjointed, but delivers results   

Singing also has numerous personal benefits - regardless of how “good” you think your voice is or isn’t. I’ve listed a few from singing coach Sally Garozzo below in the hope that it might inspire you to give it a go. Or to be patient with people who are finding their voice!

Physical Benefits

  • Singing increases the amount of oxygen you take into the body which increases alertness as more oxygen gets to the brain
  • As you sing you improve muscle tone in the face, throat, neck and jaw, thereby promoting a youthful appearance
  • Singing stimulates the thyroid gland, which helps to balance metabolism

Mental benefits

  • Like physical exercise, singing requires a level of focus and bodily activity that shifts our minds away from our usual patterns of thinking, even away from quite pressurized and stressful attitudes and so helps to calm mental “chatter”
  • The process of learning to sing and singing, especially with others, dramatically increases attentive listening
  • Learning to sing moves you out of your comfort zone and daily routine and a sense of achievement provides a huge boost to our self-esteem

Emotional benefits

  • Singing releases natural opiates, endorphins, creating a similar effect as when we exercise
  • Singing can make you cry. Singing can ignite your passions. And singing can make you laugh
  • Singing creates positive energy and a happy mood and that's infectious and transparently good for those involved

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Diversity and inclusivity are topics that many teams or organisations find challenging. Despite a lot of effort and goodwill creating a team performance that allows everyone to be themselves and add their piece, the overall performance is elusive and hard to achieve. The end result is sometimes frustratingly a sum less than the parts.

Last night I witnessed a remarkable performance which was better because of the diverse range of participants - ability, background, age, plus any of the other usual criteria that are typically used - who were truly and inherently part of the performance. Not simply tagged on or given a small part, but given the freedom to express themselves vs meet expected norms.

By the way, it was Peter Pan at Chicken Shed's theatre in Southgate. I honestly wasn't expecting it to be quite so brilliant and moving. It was stunning.

The work that Chicken Shed do is stunning and I'm so happy that I'm going to be working with them over the next few months. Their ethos of welcoming anyone to develop and participate really shows in their work and really challenges perceptions of what is possible.

A tiny example is how Peter Pan's shadow was the one who did the sign language through the show, and hence was an integral part of the show vs a clumsy add on. Absolute genius!

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