Do your core beliefs affect your behaviour?

In the past few months in the build up to the EU Referendum people, such as the members of parliament, have been sharing their beliefs of whether or not to stay in the European Union.  I imagine quite a few of us have been discussing it with our families, work colleagues, in the pub etc.
We can read leaflet after leaflet, watch debates on TV, and listen to people’s views on the radio, but when it really comes down to making the decision we check it against our beliefs, principles, values and expectations.  We then get a number of different outcomes we either decide to vote in, vote out, don’t really care or become even more confused!
So how is it that these core beliefs can affect our behaviour?
Within ourselves we hold realistic or unrealistic beliefs, goals, principles, values, expectations about self, others and the world we live in.  These are the unseen beliefs that have been influenced by our culture, education, religion, our upbringing (family), government (law of the land), environment and media.  With the EU Referendum we have had a lot of media influence, difference in education and knowledge, or religious beliefs that pulls us in different directions.  I heard on the radio one person share their experience that his parents were out of work before the involvement in the EU, and when joining the EU it opened the trading barriers and his parents were able to get work in Germany and send money back to the family.  This person’s beliefs were based on his family history.  Another person shared how they were out of work because of the rise in immigration causing a lack of jobs and housing, this belief was based on not just government rules on open borders, but also the media influencing the negative side of open borders and over population.
Behaviour IceburgWe take information, process it against our past experience and gained knowledge, we process it against what we believe and our core values, which creates thoughts about the idea and information given.   These thoughts can be positive, negative or indifferent.  These thoughts are like our beliefs they are unseen, they are internalised.  These thoughts then affect our emotions, we can become angry, submissive, upset, happy, etc.  These emotions are initially unseen, it is how we behave following these beliefs, thoughts and emotions that is seen.


When it comes to voting some people have strong views right from the outset, no-one is going to change their minds.  There are the swayers, the go from one side to the next every time they listen to someone’s opinion or read something in the media.  Others may switch off from it all, they don’t have a strong belief either way and can’t see how their opinion will make a difference.  Then you have the ‘better the devil you know’ people, where change is scary and the not knowing is too much to.  All these decisions are influenced by values and beliefs that are then used to help vote.
Unfortunately whatever you vote today, tomorrow there will be some disappointed people.  These beliefs and values that have been thought about over the last few months and the emotions that have come out of heavy debate will come out in people’s behaviour.  We can only hope that people will take time to check their belief and their emotions before they start showing behaviour that has a negative impact on others.
One of the things we discuss in our workshops is that what we see on the outside is only the tip of the iceberg.  When you are communicating with people take time to understand someone’s point of view, you don’t have to agree, however understanding what has caused them to behave in a certain way plays a key role in effective communication.  The above diagram illustrates that our core beliefs can drive our thoughts, emotions and behaviour.  In many situations, to change our behaviour, we first have to change our beliefs.

On the behaviour iceberg image, where they would place a cross to indicate at which point you need to take action to change behaviour?  What steps are you going to take to make that change?


To find out more visit

Nervous about presentations?

There’s an actors nightmare that usually precedes the opening night of a show.  Rehearsals are done, the audience is waiting and the air is heavy with anticipation. The show music starts, the house lights go down and all eyes turn centre stage to you. You open your mouth to speak and suddenly you have no idea what to say. Not only do you not know what to say, you’ve got no idea how you got there, what you’re doing or what play you’re in. There is nothing but a sea of expectant faces looking in your direction and everything seems to go into slow motion.  The silence stretches into eternity.

Ever had that feeling before or during a presentation?  Relax, you’re not alone.

As a professional actor I’ve performed in front of thousands of people over the years, and as a trainer I work regularly with varied groups of professionals on presentation and communication skills.  I don’t claim to know everything but there’s one thing I know for sure – irrespective of age, job role or status, I’ve never met anyone who has never felt scared in front of an audience.

The good news is we are all human and it’s perfectly normal to feel anxiety.  The best presenters in the world get nervous and we are hard wired to react to certain situations with fear.  The ancient parts of our caveman brain that are really good at sensing danger and assessing who is a friend or foe, are not always so helpful when it comes to presentations and public speaking.

Let’s think about it reasonably.  You are in front of a group of people because you have something important to say, your audience are not going to throw rocks at you and who is this really all about?

The wonderful truth is that our success as a presenter or speaker is not determined by the amount of times we feel nervous or concerned about our performance, it is determined by the way in which we deal with the situation we have in hand.

In the workshops I run, I like to spend plenty of time focusing on the most important presentation skills tool you will ever have – yourself.  Content is important of course, but it should never be at the expense of your connection with yourself and your audience.

So next time you feel the fear in front of a group of people, do as the Beatles suggest and let it be!  Don’t deny, refuse or suppress your fear and reassure yourself that it will come and it will go (probably sooner than expected).  Pause and breathe, be gentle with yourself and remember – life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Wishing you every success in your presentations,

Justine Marriott

Justine has a large amount of experience working in Learning & Development for a wide range of private and public sector organizations. She regularly works on Management Development and Behavioral Change programmes and has extensive experience delivering Presentation and Communication Skills courses. 

Justine’s creative background gives her a unique set of skills, and she specializes in the design and delivery of role play, forum theatre and interactive drama based training.

Justine can be relied upon to bring professionalism and authenticity to the training room, and consistently delivers engaging sessions for a wide variety of clients. 

If you are interested in attending one of Justine’s workshops to build on your presentation skills you can book your place on the ‘Presenting with Impact’ open programme.  Alternatively you can contact Keyturn to discuss an inhouse ‘Presentation Skills’ programme with Justine.  Email: or call 01788 815500.

presenting with impact

The Finance team looks after financial stuff – it doesn’t affect me!

scoreboardIt’s a common view in business that financial success is the responsibility of the Finance team, so we can leave it to them.  What most people don’t realise is that the Finance team are the scorekeepers.  They calculate the results from what everyone else does.  They count the goals, they don’t score them.

And that misunderstanding often means they also have to count the “own goals”.

Next time you’re talking to one of your sales team ask them “Does 10% discount mean 10% less profit?”

If they say “yes”, you’ve got an own goal.

Think about it.  We but things for 80, and sell them for 100.  That’s 20 profit.  If we give 10% discount we’re buying for 80 and selling at 90: that’s only 10 profit.  10% discount means 50% less profit in this case.  We need to sell twice as many at the discounted price just to make the same profit!

Whoever you’re talking to in the business, ask them whose responsibility it is to make sure the customer pays on time.

Chances are they’ll say “Credit Control” or “Finance”.  You’ve got another own goal!

Customers give lots of excuses for late payment.  We did some research with one client and the excuses included things like:

  • you haven’t sent all the required supporting documentation
  • the invoice is wrong
  • there’s no Purchase Order number
  • there are warranty or quality problems
  • the invoice has gone to the wrong person
  • the goods were delivered late

In each case, when the invoice was sent out it was clear then that the customer wasn’t going to pay in time.

Improving the score
Part of the answer to the problem is seeing the issue.  Hopefully these two examples have helped you see things differently!

Another part of the answer is knowing what to do.  That’s where training helps.  Most people think financial training is about the accounts, and it’s for the accountants.

Wrong on both counts!  It’s about working out what we all need to do to improve the numbers in the accounts.  And it isn’t for the accountants (we rather hope they already understand the accounts!).  It’s for all the people out in the field scoring the goals.

Click here to find out about our Finance Open Programme

kt25_35Wishing you every success!

Alex Hewlett

Finance Facilitator at Keyturn Training

To find out more about our highly enjoyable ‘Finance for non-financial managers’ programmes email us on or telephone the team on 01788 815500.


Finding the cure for ‘folded arms’!

folded armsHave you ever sat down for a discussion or meeting with someone and noticed that you are sitting opposite someone with ‘folded arms’ syndrome?

A strong indicator of this condition is the physical weaving of the left arm over and under the right arm (or vice versa). Even the most inexperienced communicator will find it difficult to miss the powerful body language statement conveyed by this action.

However, even if the subject’s arms are not physically interlocked, ‘folded arms’ syndrome may still be present.

The condition may be detected through a variety of other manifestations. The most common include: a hard-set facial expression; a cold or detached look in the eyes; the tone (and possibly content) of speech; a range of huffs, puffs and grunts; or indeed a stony, uncomfortable silence. Also, slightly bizarrely, ‘folded arms’ syndrome may be indicated by the folding (or crossing) of legs!!

With practice, you will become increasingly adept at identifying the condition, even in its more subtle forms. Essentially however, ‘folded arms’ syndrome is likely to be present whenever you detect an unreasonable resistance to something you are trying to say or do. However you observe it, hear it, or sense it, you will be aware of your subject communicating the following sentiment…

“Talk to me if you want, but my mind is already made up!”

So how do you treat ‘folded arms’ syndrome?

Essentially, the condition develops within a subject who feels threatened. Their ‘folded arms’, physical or metaphorical, simply represent the erection of a barrier for protection.

At the mention of the word ‘barrier’, some managers are immediately keen to ask, “How can I break it down?” To take such an approach would be to misunderstand the condition, and invariably make it worse – in effect, reinforcing the barrier!

The appropriate question to ask is, “How can I get them to remove the barrier they have erected?”

And the answer is:

  1. Make the environment in which you talk, as non-threatening to your subject as possible. (Consider familiarity of surroundings, privacy and confidentiality, and how you can best put someone at ease).
  2. Get them talking – restrict your own talking to asking lots of good questions. “Please would you explain your concerns to me?” and, “How do you feel about that?” are two good examples.
  3. Don’t be in a rush. Keep encouraging your subject to talk until the root cause of their condition has become apparent
  4. Empathise with the way they feel (regardless of whether you ‘agree’ with it)
  5. Ask your subject: “What do you think would be the best way for us to move forward from here?” (or something similar)
  6. Agree a step forward that you are both happy to commit to and arrange a time to meet and review

1) It is possible that you will sometimes come into contact with someone, who is simply sitting comfortably with their arms folded. In this instance, application of the above technique may offend, and could inadvertently cause the onset of ‘folding arms’ syndrome! If in doubt, seek the advice of a competent manager before proceeding
2) Surprisingly, in contrast to the link between crossed arms and crossed legs, there is no such link between crossed arms and crossed fingers. Crossing of fingers is never a sign of ‘folding arms’ syndrome, although interestingly enough, it is an unorthodox method used by some managers when treating the condition!
3) Keyturn Training run workshops on ‘Handling difficult people and situations’, which provide a great opportunity to develop essential relationship management skills. Please see our website for more information or call us on 01788 815500

When do you need to start to develop leadership skills?

When do you need to start to develop leadership skills?

  • Is it when you promote people?
  • When they show signs that they don’t know what they are doing?
  • When they ask for it?
  • When you are dealing with disciplinary issues due to their actions?

Here are a few learning outcomes I read recently, that may look vaguely familiar to some of the content in your leadership and management programmes:

  • Takes steps to resolve conflicts with others
  • Explains own knowledge and understanding, and asks appropriate questions of others
  • Understands that own actions affect other people
  • Aware of the boundaries set, and of behavioural expectations in the setting
  • Beginning to be able to negotiate and solve problems without aggression

Would you believe that this was taken from the ‘Early years outcomes’ document put together by the department of education in September 2013. The points above are outcomes from children aged between 40 to 60 months. You would think that we would have these elements of our learning nailed by the time we reach work age!

Last year at the age of 5 my son’s school report read, ‘He needs to work on his leadership skills’. I was a little concerned that they had forgotten my son’s age and his role in the school! He shouldn’t be doing the teachers job, should he? When looking at the Key Stage 1 and 2 curriculum it again included recognisable learning outcomes which we are still learning as adults:

  • Evaluation skills

These enable pupils to evaluate information, to judge the value of what they read, hear and do, to develop criteria for judging the value of their own and others’ work or ideas, and to have confidence in their judgements.

  • Problem Solving

Problem solving includes the skills of identifying and understanding a problem, planning ways to solve a problem, monitoring progress in tackling a problem and reviewing solutions to problems. All subjects provide pupils with opportunities to respond to the challenge of problems and to plan, test, modify and review the progress needed to achieve particular outcomes.

  • Working with others

Cooperate and work effectively with others in formal and informal settings, to appreciate the experience of others and consider different perspectives, and to benefit from what others think, say and do.

  • Improving own learning performance

The key skill of improving own learning and performance involves pupils reflecting on and critically evaluating their work and what they have learnt, and identifying ways to improve their learning and performance. They need to be able to identify the purposes of learning, to reflect on the processes of learning, to assess progress in learning, to identify obstacles or problems in learning and to plan ways to improve learning.

  • Communication

Skills in speaking and listening include the ability to speak effectively for different audiences; to listen, understand and respond appropriately to others; and to participate effectively in group discussion.

The National Curriculum, Handbook for primary teachers in England (1999)

Whether you think children are ready to learn this type of behaviour from the age of 3 or not, it is undeniable that from an early age we are learning skills that assist us in our development as a person.

Certainly, by the time people are ready to enter the world of work, those that have learnt and developed key life skills will be at an advantage.

Likewise, throughout life, the earlier we are afforded the opportunity to develop skills and ‘Unlock our Potential’ the better!

So when do you need to start to develop leadership skills?

Simply put, the sooner the better! It is becoming increasingly clear that leadership is a key life skills which all people can benefit from developing, and organisations which have a high number of competent leaders are those most likely to thrive!

Graduates, Rabbits, and Unlocking Potential!

Unlocking PotentialIf you spend substantial time and money sourcing graduates for your organisation, you most likely do so because you believe they have great potential.

Chances are you are right – they do have great potential – and hopefully they will realise that potential in your organisation, making a significant and valuable contribution to your success.

Well there’s a lot to be said for hope, but is it enough?

Let’s consider a parallel….

…. Imagine you have a back garden full of rabbits. Whether the picture is appealing or not, is immaterial, but there they are! As you survey each area of your garden, you see rabbits – hundreds of them – covering every patch, filling every corner – they are playing, running, jumping, chewing, burrowing, and of course, breeding. Excellent!

Why excellent? Because this is exactly what you hoped for when you bought that first group of rabbits. You believed in their potential to breed. You had the foresight to buy some of each sex and believed they had the ability to breed; you saw they looked healthy and energetic, and believed they had the desire to breed; and as soon as you let the two sexes loose in your garden, you gave them the opportunity to breed. And, “Hey presto!” The Potential has been Unlocked!

But hang on a minute.

Your original aim (hypothetically) was to breed rabbits, and this has undoubtedly occurred! On reflection however, viewing your now overrun garden, would you really be pleased with this result? Could that potential have been unlocked in a better, and ultimately more successful way? You don’t have to be an actual rabbit breeder to realise that clearly the answer is, “Yes”!

So back to our graduates, or more accurately your graduates – the people who you hope are going to inject expertise, energy, creativity, innovation, and ultimately success, into your organisation.

In what ways am I comparing them to rabbits? Firstly, let’s set aside any direct connection to breeding – this is not where I am going! But I do believe there are several parallels which may help to guide planning, as you seek to ensure that the performance of your graduates is successful:

Parallel 1: Do you believe in the Potential of your Graduates to perform well within your organisation?

Parallel 2: Do you believe that they have ability to succeed? Their graduate status is a clear indication of this, but in what areas do they need to develop?

Parallel 3: Do you believe that they have desire to succeed? You have noted their enthusiasm and motivation during the selection process, but how will this be sustained?

Parallel 4: Are you are in a position to offer them a relevant and rewarding opportunity to apply their skills and enthusiasm?

Parallel 5: As ability, desire and opportunity converge, Potential will be Unlocked, and there will be results!

Parallel 6: Unguided and unchecked, those results may look like a lot of activity, but are they what you want / what the business needs / as successful as they could be???

Parallel 7: If ability, desire and opportunity are set within the framework of good strategy, planning, and management, Potential will be Unlocked in a manner that produces the most pleasing and beneficial results, both short-term and long-term

All very well you may say, but at the end of the day (in fact throughout the day) graduates are not rabbits! Of course they are not. Graduates are much more complicated creatures, with much greater potential, and multiple ways of seeing that potential unlocked. All the more reason then, to ensure that a framework of good strategy, planning and management is in place!

There is also (at least) one other major difference between graduates and rabbits – their ability, desire and opportunity, to shape the way in which they Unlock their Potential themselves!

And this is where the value of a top quality learning and development provider (Keyturn, for example) really comes into play…. picking up the existing ability and desire of your graduates, developing and shaping these qualities to fit into the parameters of the opportunity you want to provide, in a way which keeps your graduates engaged, motivated, efficient, effective, and ultimately, successful!

Do you have the keys which will Unlock the Potential of your graduates within the context of your organisation? Do the graduates have them? What are these keys? What do they look like? How many of them are there? How do you actually use them to Unlock Potential?

All ‘key’ questions to think about and answer if you want to back up hope with good strategy, planning and management.

As you can see, we at ‘Keyturn Learning and Development’, have a quite a few thoughts on the subject of ‘Unlocking Graduate Potential’. If it’s a subject you’d like to talk about more, we’d love to hear from you.

Best regards

Philip Maggs

Chief Executive

P.S. No rabbits (or graduates) were harmed in the creation of this article

Is it all about me or the team?

Most of us will have heard the cheesy saying, there is no ‘i’ in ‘team’.  However, we still come across teams where there is an individual thinking it is all about them (at least that may be our perception).

HurdleMy daughter recently put her name forward to be the ‘Class Team Sports Representative’ at the school she recently started.  There were three entries including my daughter.  A month ago my daughter went to school ready to do a class presentation on why she should be the team sports rep for her class.  In the evening when I asked her how it went she shrugged her shoulders and said that the other two girls were much more experienced in sport and played a lot more sport that she did and there was no chance that she would be nominated as the class team sports rep.  The following day when I got home from work my daughter greeted me with a big smile on her face with the exciting information that she was chosen as class team sports rep.  She was surprised, as were the other two girls who didn’t get the role.

The next week I had a parents’ induction evening and a chance to meet my daughter’s teacher.  Once the teacher knew who I was she promptly mentioned the class team sports rep competition.  I tried to hide the fact that I was surprised that Rebecca was nominated, however I was too curious and had to ask why she had been given the role.  Her teacher said it was the easiest decision to make; the other two girls presentations were about their experience and what they can do and what they have done.  However my daughter’s presentation was all about what the class can do together and how the class could encourage others to join in and be successful in their chosen sport. Now I am not going to lie, speaking to that teacher made me the proudest person in the room!  It also taught me a valuable lesson.  The first lesson was that my daughter is cleverer than I was at 12 years old.  The second is that when talking about a team, people do not want to hear about “I this…” and “I that…”.  They want to hear about the collective, they want to feel part of what is happening within the team.  There was definitely no ‘i’ in my daughter’s team.

So what makes a successful team?

teambuilding01I am a Liverpool football fan and I ask this most weekends.  I believe being a successful team is not just about winning; it is about having a sense of belonging and wanting the team to succeed over and above personal ambitions.  Here are the seven characteristics that make a successful team:

1. The Sense of Belonging
This can be given through definable membership.
2. A Shared sense of Purpose  
Everyone knows what has to be done, and why, and participates in the decision process.
3. Group Prestige  
Team members are proud of their role and achievement in the group.
4. Supportive Attitudes
A visible, active willingness, to support for the success of the team.
5. Total Interaction
Everyone interacting together; no-one doing their own thing.
6. Simultaneous Action  
‘Team Synergy’ – a single organism.
7. Success Culture
Members want the team to succeed without personal ambitions coming first – i.e. both together – if the team is successful, you will be.

A team is more than just sitting next to someone or distributing a few jobs.  For a long-lasting, successful team it needs all the above points working together.  At Keyturn we work with managers every week who are looking at ways of managing their team and this is just one of the tools that we equip those managers with.  If you want to discuss this any further feel free to contact us on 01788 815500 or email me on

Wishing you every success,

Cheryl Shepherd

Have you ever wondered at the end of a project what you could have done better?

generalBuildingI am currently having an extension built on the back of my house, there is nothing more exciting than seeing the plan put together by the builders.  You like the design, you have worked out a way of affording the build, you imagine yourself in the room and how you will use it.  The quote from the builders seems to cover everything that is needed, including the toilet hire for the builders!  Then you get the project plan, 6 weeks and the building will be finished – how exciting.8 weeks into the project and you start to realise this 6 week plan isn’t working, along with that you come to understand that it seems there is always something that hasn’t gone to plan and will cost you another £20, £40 or £100 or there was something missed from the initial plan like purchasing radiators or fitting the new flooring.  Suddenly this dream room that you expected in 6 weeks at a set cost slips out of your grasp and you are just frustrated and disheartened by the whole experience.

It is amazing how out of control you feel when you go off the plan and you lose communication with the key people who are involved in making the plan happen.

The Keys to Effective Project Management

KPM21.       Make a business case – for everyone to understand why a project is taking place they need to understand their role in the project and how the business will benefit.  You need to understand how it will affect other areas of the business and make sure you communicate this to those involved in those areas by stating the benefits of the project.

2.       Planning the project – tools such as Gantt, Work Breakdown Structure and Milestone charts will help you understand the actions that need to take place, including when, by who and how long the actions will take.  Marking out key phases of a project will help you manage the time and actions that need to be completed before moving on to the next phase.  The key to keeping the project on track is using the Gantt chart to mark key tasks that need to be done within a given time frame.  It is important to communicate and discuss this with the team and to set solid foundation of expectations.

3.       Managing risk and solving problems – it is inevitable that a project will shift and change, it is how you manage these changes that will move it from being an ineffective project to a successful project.  Make sure you are aware of any risk that may occur during the project.  Predicting these at the beginning of the project and having an awareness of where these may lie in your project plan will help you either avoid or put in contingency plans at the beginning so you are not caught off guard.  When faced with having to solve problems professor Kaoru Ishikawa devised a technique which is now known as the ‘Cause and Effect Analysis’.  This tool assists you in discovering the root cause of the problem or to find where the process may not be working

equipingimage014.       Communicating throughout the project – it is important to regularly review the project, with the project team and key stakeholders.  These review meetings would normally be marked on your Gantt chart so everyone is aware of them.  Good communication is key to keeping every involved, updated and motivated throughout the project.  Communication is two-way, make sure you check with the project team and stakeholders if there is anything they want to communicate with regards to the project as well as what you want to communicate.

5.       Closing the project – you need to make sure you conclude the project, this includes reviewing the project as a whole, noting what worked well and what you could have done differently.  All documentation needs to be completed and stored in a place that is accessible for future reference or use.

Equipping yourself with the correct project management tools, and inspiring and motivating your team throughout the project will lead to you and your team managing projects successfully.

This experience prompted me to review the key principles of project management and I hope that sharing them may help you in any projects – business or personal – which you are involved with.

Wishing you every success,

Cheryl Shepherd

Is Performance Management A Thing Of The Past?

There are a few things in the job description of a manager that don’t always stand out as being the most exciting, Performance Management is one of them.  If the organisation you are in has a formal process, with as many variations of title as you can think of, it’s easy to see it in the diary as ‘one of those things I have to do, but don’t really want to’.

So why is it like this?  Have we some built-in resistance, because of our own bad experiences of a tick-box exercise done to us?  Is it something we just don’t see the point of, or even do we just don’t think it’s our job in the first place?

Our own experience, as we’ve matured in years and experience, will certainly have some bearing on the way we think about performance management. If you’ve been made to sit in front of your boss to hear the ‘warts and all’ of your performance over the last 12 months and sat there wondering ‘where did all that come from?’ you’re probably somewhat sceptical to the value of the time spent doing a review.  If you’ve come away thinking, ‘so that’s what you were expecting of me – I wish you’d said that before!’ then again you are not going to see the review process in a positive light.  Does it really have to be like that?

So here’s the opportunity to break the cycle of the negative thinking.

If you are responsible for people then you need to start with the mind set of ‘Bringing the best out of the team is my priority, it’s not about making myself look good’.  Many people new into a man-management role (and some not so new) face the shocking reality that they really have little idea about managing people, whilst being extremely confident and competent in the technical aspect of their role.

With this reality Performance Management can be seen as being focussed on how to deal with poor performance, which when discussed is likely to be confrontational and difficult – something we generally want to avoid.  It is however so much more than this!

To ‘Bring out the best in people’ there are some really simple details to bear in mind:

  1. Be clear about your own goals as a manager and those of the organisation
  2. Set clear goals/objectives for each of your team – and any development needed
  3. Monitor, review and evaluate on a regular basis with each individual
  4. If there is poor performance deal with it at the time (It’s not an annual event)

Performance Management is an investment of your time – not a cost!!!

Here at Keyturn we equip managers with the skills to help them achieve the four points listed above.  If you want to find out more and take this opportunity to book a 1 day Performance Management workshop for some of your managers contact us on 01788 815500 or email me on

Wishing you every success,

Andy Dernie

Managing Director, Keyturn Learning and Development

How far up the ladder are you?

I was 2 when I climbed my first ladder, there is nothing more pleasing to a 2 year old than climbing to the top of the ladder and getting on top of the Garage, however my parents thought differently!  At the age of 2 I had no fear, I didn’t understand that there was a possibility of falling off a ladder.  As we grow older we grow more cautious, we are aware of the consequences of taking the wrong step and often would rather not take the step at all.  We all have a certain level on a ladder that we are willing to climb to, some will be higher than others.

Our level of understanding and attitude towards leadership is reflected in our position on the ‘Growth Ladder’.

1. Survival Level

Imagine a ladder with 5 steps.  The easiest step to stand on is the bottom one.  It isn’t as high to fall, it doesn’t require much effort and it doesn’t take long to get there.  If you are a leader on the bottom step, you are at the ‘Survival Level’.  You can’t lead others if you are not going anywhere!

2. Self-Protective Level

This step is also fairly easy to stand on.  You have got used to being off the ground, but only on your own terms.  It requires a bit more effort to stand on this step. As long as people know that this is your territory, and you have a set routine and structure you are happy on this step.  If you are on the second step you are at the ‘Self-Protective Level’.  It will be a challenge to lead others when all you are thinking about is protecting yourself.

3. Conformist Level

On this step you are in the middle of the ladder, you are starting to show signs of becoming a creative leader.  If you are operating at the third step of the ladder then you are at the ‘Conformist Level’. How often do you decide to do what people expect of you rather than to live life by choice?  It is fairly safe to remain at this level, half way up the ladder, and there is comfort in feeling accepted and ‘liked’ by others.  How often do you decide to do what people expect of you rather than to live life by choice?  You will struggle to be an effective leader if you are not willing to step out of your comfort zone.

4. Achievement Level

You have now passed 3 steps, the shaky legs are now steadying themselves and you are starting to appreciate the view.  Being on the forth step is not without its challenges, however you are feeling more equipped to be able to deal with them.  You are committed to achieving targets, setting your own goals and achieving them.  The characteristics of this ‘Achieving Leader’ are:

  • Chooses tasks or goals which are of moderate risk, rather than the very easy or very difficult
  • Is carefully realistic
  • Is confident in their own ability
  • Is motivated to achieve success rather than to avoid failure
  • Has a positive attitude to business
  • Is flexible and adaptable
  • Plans and arranges the workload in order of priority
  • Creates a sense of urgency, motivates the staff
  • Takes ‘responsibility’ and gets results

5. Responsible Level

You can often see for miles at the top of a ladder, however not all the views are stunning!  It is so easy when something goes wrong to go back over the paperwork and see who made the mistake, when the fact is if you are the leader, you are the one who has ultimate responsibility.  Taking full personal responsibility is the key to making things happen.  When things go right you can celebrate the success with the team.  When things go wrong you need to ask yourself “What can I do to improve the situation?”  At this level you need to focus on results, ensure performance is productive and maximise output.  Here are some ideas of how you can put this into practice (and maybe you could add some more of your own ideas):

  • Focus on results: Plan how you will achieve the results;  Set objectives;  Be realistic.
  • Ensure performance is productive: Communicate well with staff;  Encourage others; Build confidence.
  • Maximise output: Be an enthusiast; Be an example; Reward people with sincere thanks.

As leaders, you are concerned with the top half o the ladder (step 4 and 5) and ultimately operating at the responsible level.

Maybe it is time to decide where you are on the ladder, where you want to be and how you are going to get there?

To find out more about developing managers and leaders within your organisation please visit .

Wishing you every success in your adventure!

Cheryl Shepherd