Thinking Focus shortlisted in Learning Awards

Thinking Focus has been announced as a finalist in the Learning Awards 2019, a prestigious celebration of outstanding achievement in workplace learning and development.

The company, which was founded in 2016, was among hundreds of entries from companies across the world, and is vying for the title of Start-Up Learning Provider of the Year alongside five other organisations based both in the UK and abroad.

Ricky Muddimer, a director at Thinking Focus, said: “We’re delighted to be shortlisted in the Learning Awards and to be recognised for our achievements since setting up the company just over two years ago.

“The last couple of years has seen Thinking Focus win 49 new clients, work on assignments in 12 countries and across 21 sectors, and meet, work with and develop well over 2,000 interesting and inspiring people. We’ve also taken on our first employee, produced a book and created a gamified learning product called What Would You Do? which helps develop managers in a way that makes learning stick.

“But what gives us the biggest buzz of all is seeing how our work delivers impact, and hearing our clients report fantastic results.”

Run by the Learning Performance Institute, the Learning Awards are a leading event in the learning industry, and recognise outstanding examples of high standards, best practice, innovation and excellence in the corporate L&D sphere. Around 400 people will attend the glittering presentation evening at the Dorchester Hotel, London, in February next year.

Thinking Focus are people productivity specialists who work with organisations around the world to unlock productivity, implement change and deliver sustainable results. Using a flexible and practical tools-based approach, combined with their proven psychology-based methodology, they focus on developing growth mindsets to enable people to think and work differently, and to help them define a clear and shared vision.

Ricky added: “We’re so proud that our hard work, innovation and growth has been recognised in these prestigious awards, and would like to thank all those who have helped, inspired and supported us: We couldn’t have done it without you.”

Why do change leaders focus on the plan rather than the people?

It is not uncommon to find elaborate, well-thought-through change plans missing just one ‘small’ component: the people.

Why does this happen? Why do some change leaders get so lost in the detail of their planning that they forget to bring the people involved along with them on the journey?

Paul and Richard discuss why it can feel easier just to focus on the plan – and what happens when people get left out of it.

Effecting change involves two things: there’s the practical side of it and then there’s the ‘transition’ of taking people through it. Focusing on both elements leads to successful change. Having an awesome plan without the engagement and support of your people will mean it won’t be as effective as it could be.

A change plan can take up a lot of time and effort but, in a way, it’s the easy bit. Most change leaders have technical or project management skills, and know how to create a strong plan. It’s an area they feel comfortable with. But when it comes to taking people through the transition, the process is more unpredictable.

So, if you’re leading change and have a great plan but haven’t really looked at the people side, where do you start?

We’d suggest taking a step back and assessing where people are on the change journey. Ask two questions: 1, What is their attitude to this specific change? 2, How much energy are they putting into this?

Answering these questions about each individual will help you place them in one of four categories:

  • Spectators
  • Champions
  • ‘Corporate Corpses’
  • Saboteurs

The likelihood is that at least half of the people will be Spectators. They are in the neutral zone, supportive of the change but with low energy. However, the great thing is that they can become engaged with the process if they are given information and choices.

The Champions are the people who are supportive of the change and are putting a lot of energy in to it. They can help the leaders by taking some of the burden and acting as positive role models for the Spectators.

The ‘Corporate Corpses’ are the zombie brigade – people who have very low energy and a very bad attitude, although they’re not being disruptive or causing any trouble.

The Saboteurs are usually the very noisy vocal minority who have a bad attitude and lots of energy. They are the people who are trying to hold back change and undermine leaders. They tend to attract attention and effort which should instead be focused on trying to engage the Spectators.

Why do some people want change to be gift wrapped?

If you have experienced change in the workplace, you have probably met some people who will only get on board when all the Is have been dotted and the Ts crossed.

In this podcast, Richard and Paul explore why this happens, and if you find yourself or those around you in this situation, how you can deal with it.

 

There are some people who only want to engage with any change at the last possible moment. It is like they only get involved when someone else has gift-wrapped the change plan, so they don’t have to take any ownership moving forward.

As frustrating as this can be for a leader, it can help to understand why it happens – which can then give you the tools to tackle it and get people to engage.

Refusal to get on board with change is often related to our natural avoidance of uncertainty. As humans, we like to know exactly what lies ahead and will avoid engaging with something which contains elements of doubt.

It’s simply not possible to create a gift-wrapped change that will suit everyone. People create a story in their own heads to fill in the gaps and uncertainties so, in a large group, everyone may have a different expectation of the change which often doesn’t match up with what is really happening.

Uncertainty usually results in an emotional reaction, as we discussed in our previous podcast. When our expectations of certainty clash with the reality that change means uncertainty, our natural instinct is to see it as a threat.

As leaders, we need to look at ways to tackle that emotional reaction and get people to respond more rationally.

Richard and Paul revisit the ICE strategy: giving Information to reassure people about what we know and being honest about what we don’t; presenting Choices to help people gain more control over what lies ahead, which drives the shift from emotional to rational; and helping people to Engage so they become part of the decisions and solutions needed to shape the change.

By using this approach, you can encourage people to let go of their need for gift-wrapped change and to accept uncertainty as a natural part of the process of change.

Why do some people find it easier to play the victim card than to get on board with change?

Facing change can lead to some people playing the victim – refusing to engage, pointing out the problems in the plans, and not joining in with the rest of the team.

In our latest podcast, Rob and Paul discuss why change can often bring out victim behaviour – and what managers can do to tackle that response.

 

Playing the victim is the path of least resistance: you get attention for being the victim without having to do anything, and it doesn’t hold the associated risks of failure if you try something new.

Sometimes, victims seek out fellow victims to support their view and reinforce their position. They will collude to come up with reasons why the change is negative or won’t work.

In a situation where there are several victims, the group will often begin to dwindle as individuals get on board with change, and those remaining begin to wonder if they are in the wrong. One person is often the most dedicated victim and can be so negative that it puts others off agreeing with them even if they were feeling slightly negative.

Yet many victims don’t realise they’re doing it until they have done the same thing several times, or perhaps hear it coming from someone else. So often, victim behaviour needs to be challenged by an external factor.

How can you as a manager help these people?

Behaviour and language are key: you help people to understand the consequences of them continuing with their current pattern. Ask them how long they want to continue as they are and what they think is likely to happen as a result. For many people, this is all that’s needed for them to realise what they are doing and move on.

Ask questions of the victim to find out if they are deeply held beliefs or they’re just releasing frustration. If they fundamentally believe that things won’t work out, you have a bigger issue to address.

Tackle this behaviour by being consistent. Offer help to everyone involved in the change so they can move through the stages required as easily as possible. Make it clear that this support is on offer to the victim as well, showing that while they choose not to take part, they are refusing the help that everyone else is receiving.

The victim will either join in when they are ready, or they will eventually decide they are not going to engage at all and will remove themselves from that situation.

Why do some people take organisational change personally?

Dealing with any kind of change can bring out an emotional response in people – and when we get emotional, things get personal.

In this podcast, Rob and Paul discuss why some people take organisational change personally, and how thinking of ‘ice’ – Information, Choice and Engagement – will help managers thaw any frosty relationships with their people.

An emotional response to change is natural. It usually starts with shock and uncertainty before moving on to denial and feeling threatened. We only see the bad things and what’s being taken away from us.

These feelings can grow into resistance if left unaddressed and if we don’t feel that we have a choice in the process of change. If people feel they have no idea what’s going on, that uncertainty can very easily turn to an introspective feeling of unfairness, helplessness, despondency and loss of control. This often leads to people being negative, resisting change and sabotaging the process.

As a manager, it’s vital to lead your people successfully through change. Thinking of ‘ICE’ could help: Information, Choice and Engagement. Giving people information in answer to their questions about change will help to ease their uncertainty. But, because people who are feeling emotional won’t immediately process the information they’re given, it needs to be provided consistently and repetitively. Also think about who provides the information, whether that’s you as a manager or someone else.

Move as much choice back to your people, to give them control over details that affect them. For a start, give them a choice about whether they even want to be involved and, if so, to what degree.

Engage people as they go on the journey of change. There are thousands of things, from small details to larger activities, that need to happen for organisational change to take place, so engage people in what’s relevant and meaningful to them.

Why do some people think that managers are keeping secrets?

When senior managers drive change, they can get stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they may not be able to share certain, sensitive information. But if they don’t give their workforce enough details about what’s happening, people will become dissatisfied, suspicious and unproductive.

In this podcast, Rob and Ricky discuss how and why this happens, and the impact that a growing perception that senior managers are keeping secrets can have on an organisation.

In the absence of any clarity or information about change in the workplace, people start to fill in the blanks. Sometimes, it’s with information that may be true – but more often than not, it’s massively assumptive and untrue.

There are many reasons why senior managers do not share information with their people. Some information is confidential or sensitive, or may be withheld because of the perceived reaction it would cause. Sometimes, managers are trying to protect their people.

During times of change, there will be people who embrace it and are proactive about asking questions. They’re a breeze to manage. But there will be others who start to fill in the blanks and – worse still – go recruiting others who are easily influenced by their opinions. Why do they do it? Because they are looking for meaning and certainty when they have a lack of information. They want that classic ‘comfort blanket’. This links to our previous podcast about why people look for evidence that supports their point of view.

Everyone is making assumptions: Employees are filling in gaps with information they don’t know to be true, and managers are deciding what information they think is relevant to their people.

So how does this impact the workforce? Effects can range from falling engagement levels and rising dissatisfaction to people asking difficult questions and spreading false information. Some employees will cause a fuss while others may withdraw into themselves. All of this can lead to a drop in productivity and efficiency.

What can senior managers do about it? It’s crucial to keep people informed and engaged, to tell them what’s going on and why. And involve people in the journey, especially the most cynical or critical ones!

Why having purpose behind change is fundamental to success

Imagine setting off on a journey.

You leave your home and you know you want to get to a city further away – but you haven’t decided why you want to go or what you’ll do when you get there.

Along the way, you stop off at another town. You look around and find somewhere to eat, then you start exploring the landmarks, enjoying the views and finding some hidden gems. Before you know it, you’ve forgotten all about going to the city and you’re staying in the town – or heading back home.

By contrast, if you set off with a purpose in mind, you are far more likely to stick to your journey and to reach your destination without being distracted by something else before you arrive.

How does this apply in business?

Whenever we’re called in to support an organisation facing change, one of the first questions we ask is, “Why?”

“Why?” is always the starting point for successful change. Without knowing your Why, you can’t hope to get the How, When, Who of Where right.

Having purpose behind change is absolutely fundamental to success. Understanding why change is needed gives you the best possible chance of staying on course to achieve your aims.

Think about it: if you don’t know why you need to make change, it affects everything else in the process.

You will struggle to set the most appropriate end goal if you can’t articulate the reasons for setting it in the first place.

Your method of achieving your goal may be flawed if you don’t fully understand why the change is needed.

You can’t possibly convince your team of the merits of what’s ahead if you’re unsure of them yourself..

How do you establish the purpose of change?

Recognising that change is needed is only the first part of the story. It’s surprising how many people fail to look at the bigger picture at this early stage, ploughing on with the change regardless and soon losing sight of what they wanted to achieve in the first place.

We recommend starting out with a thorough examination of your project. Try answering these questions:

  • What aspect of your business needs to change?
  • What is it that’s not working at present?
  • What does future success look like?

In combination, the answers to these questions will give you your purpose of change.

Getting your team to buy in to change

Once you’ve established your purpose, getting your team to buy in to change is vital – and helping them to understand the purpose of change will be the most important factor in your success.

We frequently come across managers who think that, by simply telling their team what is going to happen, they are saving them from the extra burden of needing to understand why. Their intentions are good, but all that happens is that team members feel dictated to, rather than buying into what lies ahead. The change process is inevitably less successful.

People change faster when they have purpose. Explaining why your organisation needs to change will engage people more quickly with the new ways of working. If we believe in the why, we can accept the smaller process changes as being justified.

Share the purpose of change with your team and you might be surprised by their enthusiasm. If they can see the end goal, as well as what future success will mean to them, they are far more likely to play an active role in achieving it. Not only will they be more willing to follow instructions, but they may also chime in with their own contributions and help to add a new dimension to the project.

What next?

Once you have established your purpose and got your team to buy in, turn your thoughts to the routes to success. In most cases, there will be several ways in which you could implement change, with variation in cost, timescale, effort and so on. As above, your team may also bring forward new suggestions you hadn’t even considered.

Analyse them all in relation to the success you need to achieve before choosing the way forward.

By establishing the purpose of change, you can transform the entire project and hugely escalate your chances of success.

 

Planning workplace change and want to ensure you have the best possible chance of success? Contact us to find out how we can help.

How can you calculate the cost of change?

One of the most challenging things about change for any organisation is facing the unknown.

You may know what needs to change, or why you want to change, but can you ever really be sure how the process will go – and, more importantly, what it will cost?

This uncertainty is never more acute than when you look at the human factors which can influence the way change is implemented. Some people are simply more adaptable to change than others – and some have a stronger attachment to their current ways and bad habits.

Whenever any change is implemented, the workplace itself goes through a transition process which may take longer than the change itself. For example, if a workplace were introducing a change in working hours or shift patterns, that might happen overnight. The transition for the team, however, will take much longer, as they accept the change and adapt to it.

Any manager considering change needs to weight up the potential costs of change against the costs of not implementing that change. While it can seem easier to maintain the status quo rather than causing upheaval, the reality is that doing nothing could be costing you money.

So where do you start?

Looking at the costs of change can feel daunting, so we’ve created a simple formula to help you make sure the numbers stack up and give you the confidence to implement change as effectively as possible.

Calculate your answers to the following questions:

  1. How many employees are likely to be affected by the changes in your organisation?
  2. On average, how much non-productive time is spent per week by each employee reacting against the changes – or on worrying, gossiping, speculating and rumour-mongering activities?
  3. How many weeks has this been going on for?
  4. How many weeks will it continue for if you do nothing?

Then use these numbers in the following formulae:

  1. The number of hours lost so far: a x b x c = x
  2. The number of additional hours that could be lost in future: a x b x d =y
  3. How much it could be costing you financially: (x + y) x average employee hourly rate

Of course, this doesn’t take into account any additional potential revenue which you may have missed, such as if your sales team has failed to focus on the needs of your customers in the way that would have generated more profit for you. In reality, the cost is probably even higher than these calculations suggest.

In considering change, no doubt you’ve done some calculations of your own, looking at how your new system, set-up or project could make the business more successful. Compare those figures with the amount you’re currently losing and suddenly, the need to manage change effectively becomes even more urgent. Resistance from employees not only costs you money now, but also delays the benefits you should be getting from your plans.

If you’re preparing for change, our advice would be to consider all the costs first. Weigh up the cost of staying as you are against the cost of change, then analyse how much higher the cost of that change will be if you don’t implement it effectively.

Rather than waste money down the line as your employees struggle to get to grips with transition and resist a change they have never fully embraced, invest from the outset in getting everyone on board. It will reward you with significant savings in the long run and enable you to reap the benefits of change much sooner.

Don’t worry if you looked at this and thought, Oh no, maths!  We have created a worksheet that will help you with the calculation.  This is a great exercise to complete with your colleagues, as it builds the momentum to take control of the change and do something different.  So, once you have downloaded it, print out a few copies.

Why do people go looking for evidence that supports their point of view?

Change in the workplace can take people out of their comfort zone and make them feel uncertain, powerless and, even, angry.

In this podcast, Rob and Ricky discuss why people look for evidence that supports their perception that change is difficult and undesirable. They also offer suggestions about how leaders and managers can help their teams to navigate and embrace change.

Resistance to change is a natural reaction in most of us. We like doing things the way we’ve always done them, and we don’t like having to learn something new or do something in a different way. It makes us feel like we’re not in control.

So when change is foisted upon us, we look for evidence that supports our deep-held belief that things were fine the way they were. We don’t like being made to accept someone else’s point of view and we want everyone to conform to our perception of the world. It’s classic ‘comfort blanket’ behaviour!

Change in the workplace is often viewed by employees as inconvenient and detrimental to their ability to carry out their job effectively. They’ve made that assumption and they go looking for proof to back it up.

Managers can address these concerns by helping their staff to see change as an opportunity. They can ask people to look for evidence by all means – but evidence that supports the positive outcomes of change. Explaining the reasons why things have changed can also be very effective: perhaps it has helped eradicate a problem, streamlined a system or opened up new opportunities. Usually change is about progress. Give people the answers they need. Explain how change might help them to do their job more effectively or simply. Show them the bigger picture.

By turning a problem-orientated mindset into a positive one, we can understand that change may mean different, but it doesn’t have to mean difficult or bad.

Why do some managers allow people to opt out of change?

Change can mean upheaval for everyone in a team. But why is it that, while some people engage and do their best, other people simply opt out and carry on as if nothing has happened?

In our latest podcast, Richard and Ricky discuss the reasons why these situations arise – and what can be done to tackle them.

There are several reasons why a manager would allow certain team members to opt out of change. It could be that the manager doesn’t have the skills to challenge the behaviour of the team members resisting change, or that the manager views this team member as a crucial player in the team and tackling them could reduce their productivity or even make them leave.

Whatever the reason, Richard and Ricky say allowing some people to get away with this creates a two-tier system, where some team members are allowed to do things in a way that other team members are not able to get away with.

So how do you tackle it?

Richard and Ricky discuss how to engage with resistant team members and get them to want to be part of the solution. Giving them some responsibility that will mean they have to behave in the right way and show those behaviours to others can be crucial, as Ricky describes through one of his own experiences.

They talk about sitting down with the person and talking through the reasons for the change, as well as their concerns. By unpicking their thinking and talking about the impact of their behaviour on the team, you can better understand their thought process and help them to see that they do need to engage with the plans.

If you can’t engage with them and they won’t change despite your efforts, you need to be clear about what that means – is this the right role for them? Even the highest achievers need to be team players, otherwise the benefit of their achievements can be undermined by the negative impact of their attitude.