In the swirling mix of economic forecasts, 2024 presents a peculiar paradox. We’re technically in a recession, yet it doesn’t quite fit the mold of the gloom-and-doom scenarios we’re accustomed to. “Not a ‘real’ recession,” some might say, as they try to pin down the elusive nature of our current financial climate. Yet, the business leaders I’ve chatted with echo a singular sentiment: the road ahead is peppered with challenges.
A common thread among these conversations is the wavering confidence levels. It’s not that customers and clients are vanishing into thin air; they’re just becoming more discerning with their wallets. This newfound pickiness casts a long shadow over budgeting and forecasting, making financial crystal balls fuzzier than ever.
Teams feel this uncertainty keenly.
Watching clients hesitate on the usual orders or campaigns sends ripples of insecurity through the ranks. No one I know has ever enthusiastically embraced downsizing or its myriad of euphemisms (“trimming the fat,” “getting a haircut,” “a close shave”). Yet, when profits shrink, the spotlight invariably falls on the largest expense for most businesses: their people. And believe me, everyone senses when that spotlight turns their way.
Amidst this backdrop, some may adopt a ‘survive until 2025’ mantra, tightening the proverbial belt a notch and looking to make cuts wherever possible. But whilst reviewing all costs is the sensible thing to do when the pressure is on and you enter what is colloquially known as ‘squeeky-bum-territory’, there is another path to consider as well: optimising team potential and steering through the fog, not just waiting for it to lift.
Open, transparent communication with your team can help.
Being candid about the company’s financial health doesn’t mean laying all your cards on the table, but sharing enough to maintain trust. It’s about giving your team a glimpse into the decision-making process, the challenges faced, and the strategies employed to navigate through them.
You can’t forecast the future with absolute certainty, but communicating regularly and openly with your team can dispel as much fear as possible. In times of uncertainty, bold ideas often take a backseat, but it’s precisely these ideas that can pave the way forward.
Acknowledging the economic elephant in the room while encouraging your team to brainstorm ideas and innovative solutions can replace a culture of internal competition with one of collaboration.
Upskilling is also a beacon of hope here too. Whether through internal training, shadowing, or leveraging the plethora of free resources online, equipping your team with new skills can turn the tide and help people see problems with fresh eyes and skills, offering flexibility and resilience in spades.
Positivity will thrive where you and your team have strong wellbeing and resilience.
The cornerstone of navigating these turbulent times is the well-being of your team. And whilst it’s not just all-on-you to ensure that support and positivity thrive, your influence will be considerably stronger than others in the team in this regard.
Paying attention to your own resilience quotient therefore in each of the four key areas – physical, mental, spiritual and social – can help boost your own wellbeing before turning to see how it can help others. From get togethers (social) to regular walk-and-talk meetings ( physical and social) right through to positive self talk and encouragement of feedback (mental), all of these small steps build to create a team with healthy habits and get you all in the right place. External help can also support, including providing tools and resources that bolster efficiency and effectiveness and Employee Assistance Programmes which allow for expert support in areas that you or your managers may not be equipped ( or be appropriate) to discuss.
Explore all avenues (but don’t forget to take your team on the journey too).
Adjustments may be inevitable, including the difficult decision to resize the team. Yet, there are many avenues to explore before reaching that point. I’ve seen businesses pivot to part-time arrangements or explore voluntary redundancies as a first step before making anything more permanent. But even if that is the end result, transparency and openness early on in these discussions can significantly impact how fair and respected team members feel and what this does for your businesses’ long term health.
In the heart of economic downturns lies an opportunity—not just for survival but for growth and innovation. It’s a chance to reframe challenges as catalysts for change, encouraging leaders and teams alike to adopt a proactive stance. Together, there’s immense potential to not only weather the storm but to emerge stronger, more cohesive, and innovative on the other side.
If you want to chat through options to steer your way to success, drop us a line at email@example.com or give us a call on 0203 951 1208.
Among the top complaints I’ve heard from various clients is a familiar refrain about some of their team members: ‘They’re just not delivering as expected.’
And it comes in many guises:
The ‘Promising Interviewee, Disappointing Employee’ one;
The ‘Missed Deadline for Important Meetings’ scenario;
The ‘They Should Know Where to Find Information’ assumption;
And the classic …… ‘They Should Just Know’ expectation.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the harsh truth often points in a different direction: it’s not solely on them; it’s also about you, the leader.
Communication Is Everything When It Comes To Performance Expectations
In my experience, upon probing how expectations were set, it becomes clear that 9 times out of 10, clear direction from them on what is actually required has been lacking, if not entirely absent.
I recall a manager who bluntly stated, ‘I pay them to know what to do!’. And whilst it’ might seem frustrating, this mindset overlooks a crucial aspect: payment doesn’t guarantee understanding or alignment of expectations.
The Disconnect Between Said and Understood
Fair enough you might say. You pay a wage and you expect certain standards to be delivered. But what you believe you’ve communicated, clearly might not be how your team perceives it. Effective communication involves not just stating expectations but also ensuring they are understood.
You might think that what you said had been understood by all, but how did you summarise and play it back? Did you involve them in how they might deliver what was being asked? Did you check to see that they understood what you had asked? And, crucially, did you do this in the way in which your team work best? Because each team member is likely to hear different things. What is understood by one team member, may not be understood in the same way as another as we all learn differently. Which is why you should also write things down and follow up wherever possible. Your role here is as a coach, helping them to see how they can achieve the goal in hand, providing the support (and environment) so that they can deliver with aplomb and inspiring them to want to do it.
Leaders often fall into the trap of assuming that their team members will connect the dots on their own. This gap between assumption and reality is where underperformance begins. To bridge this gap, leaders need to practice active listening, understanding the unique perspectives and challenges faced by each team member
So the person you hired that isn’t working out – could a more thorough assessment have predicted the challenges? Reflect on your briefing methods. Were there gaps in how you communicated timelines or deliverables? Self-reflection on your communication style can unveil improvements for both your team’s performance and your leadership.
There’s No One Single Way To Get Great Performance Every Time
…But there are some simple steps you can take to get your message across and make the dark art of getting people to perform and behind you a darn sight clearer:
- Set Expectations From The Outset: From up to date job descriptions to quality time during the interview process and discussing what success in the role looks like. This stage is critical.
- Support Them When They Do Join: Don’t just leave it to chance that they will ‘pick it up’. Spend time with your new recruit on a regular basis outlining what you expect from them and when. Like to be updated on a weekly basis on how the product is progressing? Tell them. Show them. Share with them how you do it. Try it all.
- Focus On WIIFT (What’s In It For Them): For you it’s probably very clear what you get out of their high performance, but What’s In It For Them? Learn what motivates them and push those buttons to get the most out of your team.
- Return The Favour: Give them feedback on how they are doing. Do it immediately and make it real. A well-timed comment along the lines of “That campaign you ran totally hit the mark in terms of coverage but the signups we were after didn’t materialise. Let’s analyse it together and see how we can do it differently next time” is far more supportive and constructive than leaving it a few months to the end of the probation to tell them they didn’t get the results you were after. You’ll have missed valuable time for them to improve and will look as though you were too incompetent to raise it beforehand.
- Keep Talking: Few people like to work in a vacuum, so keep the conversation flowing. It builds relationships. Makes giving feedback (good and bad) much easier. And makes people feel involved.
Despite spending much of my adult life coaching on the subject, I’m not immune from it either.
There’s been many times over the years when I found myself ‘tutting’ in my head when a piece of work failed to materialise or arrived half finished. At that point I have to check myself and think about what exactly I said/ did/ wrote when I communicated what I wanted. Almost every single time I realised that I hadn’t been clear about the importance of what I’ve asked for, why I’ve asked for something and what exactly I’ve needed.
For HR help, advice and all the tools you need to manage and develop your team & help you take your People & HR plans to the next level, contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 020 3951 120
Established as a firm favourite in our household last year (& possibly one of the only shows the multi generations will watch together these days…) Traitors is back this month to help plug the hole where were it not for Dry January or the precedence of a month of excess, we’d be out on the town.
For those who haven’t got involved with the Dutch originated show, it’s reality TV at its best. The plot is pretty simple: 22 contestants gather together in a Scottish Castle to play a game that’s classic murder mystery meets strategic play with the goal of walking off with a truck load of money at the end of the day. On arrival they’re split into different roles with the majority being ‘Faithfuls’ and a few who are assigned as ‘Traitors’. The Traitors know each other’s identity, but the Faithfuls do not. And it’s their job to expel the Traitors before the game is up. The Traitors’ opposing mission of course, is to eliminate the Faithfuls at regular intervals throughout the game, either by targeted ‘kill’ or by engineering one of them to be voted off by their peers at the regular ‘Round table’ meetings, the latter being much more brutal than any of the ‘murders’ seen to date…..
The success of the programme stems from a number of sources: the way the programme flips the tradition of goodies vs baddies on its head ( who else has found themselves rooting for the Traitors as the comedy ‘dress up’ and meet-cutes held in the bell tower??); the breathtaking scenery of the highlands; not to mention Claudia Winkelman’s cracking wardrobe (think rustic-glam-core).
We need all of this in our life in January.
It’s also in part however due to the inherent interest we have in watching psychology of people play out in front of us. Much like the dynamics in any business environment I’ve seen, how people adapt their own behaviour on an instinctive level to changing situations which threaten their own goals can be fascinating to see on screen. For the majority of people in any workplace, they all want a thriving work environment filled with collegiate atmosphere and team spirit. But for some… not so much. And whilst we’ve yet to see a variety of ‘Traitors-meets-The-Office’ committed to film, you only need to have experienced the underhand tactics of a tactical bcc and ‘whoops I’m sorry I forgot you on the invite’ to see how much corrosive damage can be done when someone doesn’t want to play by the rules and start to target someone who’s just going about their business….
In the show, much of the potential success hinges on the role and influence of the ‘Faithfuls’ who are the majority, the ones who keep the game going and whose diligent observation and teamwork gradually (they hope…) reveals those working against them before their time is up. And in the office, much of your own potential success hinges on the work and commitment of your very own ‘Faithfuls’: the ones who are the backbone of your business, who show up when you need them, who aren’t just present but actively engaged and who don’t always bolt for the door mid-presentation if the clock turns past 5.30.
So far this year I’ve heard from friends, clients and family alike that there’s a bit of caution in the forecasting of this year. Nothing like the utter gloom that overshadowed the beginning of 2023 thank god, but certainly it’s one where confidence is not overblown. And so in a year forecasted to be full of turbulence the role of the ‘Faithfuls’ around you cannot be overstated ,as they offer the discretionary effort that can be a game-changer for you.
Discretionary effort is the extra mile that employees willingly go, not because they have to, but because they want to. They put in the kind of effort that fuels innovation, drives performance, and boosts customer satisfaction. Anf in times of turbulence, this discretionary effort becomes even more valuable as it’s the difference between a team that merely survives and one that thrives.
Engaged employees, much like the ‘Faithfuls’ in “Traitors,” are deeply invested in the outcome of the game: in this case, the success of your business.
As a business leader, creating a culture where this kind of commitment flourishes should therefore be top of the list for your people priorities this year and can be encouraged by understanding the motivations of your team, providing them with the resources they need to succeed, and recognising their efforts. It’s about creating an environment where every person feels valued, heard, and empowered to contribute.
It’s 50/50 still whether Harry will take the lot in this particular series (remember how close the a traitors got to winning the loot last time before they self destructed?), but as you complete your planning for 2024 and take a deep breathe for what comes next, the lessons you can take from “Traitors” are there. Your ‘Faithfuls’, your engaged employees, are not just a part of your team; they could very well be the key to navigating through the turbulence and pressing forward. Just as the game in the Scottish Castle can be won by strategy, observation, and teamwork, so too is the game of business.
Interested in finding new ways to encourage the Faithfuls in your own business? Contact us via email@example.com or call on 020 3951 1208
The park was bitter this morning, yet still brimming with those keen people working their way around the perimeter: showing off their Christmas kit, nearly half way through the month and towards their January goals, a symphony of Sweaty Betty, Under Armour and Lululemon.
I however was on a more gentle path. Having committed to my own fitness goals for this month (I’m down with the NY drill just as much as the next person…) and even going so far as kitting up myself with my own new fancy leggings and trail shoes over the Christmas period, my personal journey however started with a bang and very quickly turned to a cough and splutter as a rogue Winter lurghy took hold of our household. This left me bed bound and bathing in Olbas oil for several days. Not quite the New Years plans that are worth a post on Insta….
A few years ago I may well have forsaken my rest and ploughed on through or felt guilty as hell that I’d already failed to keep up with nailing my goals at only the two week mark. But perhaps it’s something to do with approaching an ahem, ‘significant’ birthday this year, that I’m far more attuned to my health than I used to be. And so, rest I did.
I decided to surrender to whatever was breathing up my body and just ease myself into January, however it showed up this year. I didn’t put pressure on myself, I didn’t beat myself up. And despite having some pretty specific things I wanted to achieve this first couple of weeks, I acknowledged that sometimes, despite the best of intentions, plans go awry and it’s best just to gently change your course.
And it’s the same with your People goals. It may not be illness that’s holding you up from making progress on your intentions in this department, but another change in circumstance or just good old fashioned procrastination that hits us all from time to time. Either way, just ease yourself in gently by looking at a couple of things which are going to help your team’s performance this year.
Instead of killing yourself to make sure all your team have a full set of OKRs by the end of the month, how about doing some of the following instead:
- Catch up individually: just working through having catch ups with each of them, making sure they’re clear on what you want them to prioritise for this first quarter, but also ensuring that they have the support they need to achieve these goals. These catch-ups can be informal and more about connecting with your team members on a personal level. Understand their own goals for the year as well as challenges, and offer guidance that aligns with their individual strengths..
- Adopt a Flexible Approach to Goal Setting: Given the unpredictability of current times, setting rigid goals might not be the best approach. Encourage a flexible mindset where goals can adapt to changing circumstances. This approach reduces pressure on both you and your team and fosters an environment where everyone feels more in control and less stressed about the unknown.
- Implement Gratitude Practices: Encourage team members to share small wins or things they are grateful for in team meetings, fostering a positive work environment.
- Introduce wellness walks: January is a great month to introduce small wellness initiatives that don’t require a lot of effort but have significant impact. This could include lunchtime walk and talk meetings to kill two birds with one stone!
- Be Available and Approachable: Finally, make sure that you are available and approachable. Sometimes, team members just need to know that they can come to you with their concerns or ideas. Open-door policies, regular one-on-ones, or simply checking in with your team can make a huge difference in how supported they feel.
If you’re interested in cutting down your to-do lists and getting the experts in to help you take your People & HR plans to the next level, contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 020 3951 1208
As Black History Month arrives this October, your business has a unique opportunity to engage in recognising and valuing the rich tapestry of cultures that form our shared human story. This year’s theme, “Saluting our Sisters”, serves as a potent reminder of the vital contributions Black women in particular have made, and continue to make, across myriad fields and eras.
Established in the United States in 1926, Black History Month began as a week-long celebration, spearheaded by historian Carter G. Woodson & has evolved into a month-long observance now celebrated annually in each October both in the US and here across the Pond.
The essence of the month is to spotlight the central roles and narratives of Black individuals in history, so without further ado, let’s share some of the most impressive Black women of our very own UK history:
Nicola Adams – Gold medal winner in Boxing in 2012 and 2019, Nicola has smashed down barrier upon barrier by helping to bring women’s boxing to the fore at the same time as continuing to advocate support for LGBTQ+ rights. And if that weren’t enough, she’s born and bred in Leeds, which – as we all know – is the best city in the world 🙂
Baroness Floella Benjamin (b. 1949) Trinidadian-born actress, author, and businesswoman. For many of my peer group, she’ll be forever best known and loved for her role in Play School, however Benjamin’s career in education and entertainment is extensive and she has grown into a prominent advocate for diversity in the media and has served as a member of the House of Lords since 2010.
Doreen Lawrence (b. 1952) After the tragic racially motivated murder of her son, Stephen Lawrence, in 1993, Doreen Lawrence became an anti-racism advocate and campaigner. She played a significant role in bringing about reforms in the British police service. She was awarded the OBE for services to community relations in 2003 and was made a life peer in 2013.
Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock (b. 1968) A space scientist and science educator, Aderin-Pocock has worked on numerous space projects and is a co-presenter of the long-running BBC program, “The Sky at Night.” She has been a passionate advocate for increasing diversity in the sciences.
Fanny Eaton (1835 – 1924). As a big lover of the Pre-raphaelite art moment myself, I’ve seen Eaton grace many a canvas as I was going about my studies. An influential muse of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, Eaton was a Jamaican born artist’s model and domestic worker, who sat for many paintings in the Royal Academy.
Joan Armatrading (1950-today) . West Indies born Armatrading, moved to Birmingham in her childhood and grew up to become a three time Grammy award nominee whose music influenced a generation, not to mention producing some of the catchiest tunes out there. #dropthepilot
Deborah Anne Dyer OBE (b.1967) aka Skin : In homage also to my own teenage music influences, the list wouldn’t be complete without inclusion of Skin, the lead singer of SkunkAnansie. Brixton born Skin was the first every Black music artist to headline Glastonbury and was awarded an OBE earlier this year for her services to the industry.
Olive Morris (1952-1979) A community leader and activist, Morris co-founded the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) and was an influential member of the British Black Panther Movement. She worked towards racial, gender, and social equality.
Diane Abbott (b. 1953) In 1987, Diane Abbott made history by becoming the first Black woman to be elected to the UK Parliament. She has been a Member of Parliament (MP) for Hackney North and Stoke Newington since then, advocating for various social issues.
This is just a taster of some of the many influential UK based women of colour the UK designed to encourage you to research further. Why not go further however and encourage your teams to celebrate their own icons and influences in order to honour Black women’s past and present contributions?
For more information about access and how this can help you become a more inclusive organisation, contact email@example.com
Later this year,The HR Hub team will be moving up in the world, as we take part in the Three Peaks Challenge.
The race to climb Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon (the three highest mountains in the UK) within 24 hours, is one I’m both looking forward to and with apprehension in equal measure. On the plus side, it will be great to spend some time with the team away from laptops and with the wind in our hair ( and perhaps the odd blister on our feet too….). However given that the last time I saw Scafell Pike through a window out of the back of an ambulance as I was whisked away to the hospital having suffered hypothermia was on a Silver Duke of Edinburgh exercise, I’m hoping very much that my visit this time will be with less need for medical intervention!
Notwithstanding this, the team and I are all primed and ready to start our training for the big weekend! And so how lucky we are then, that in the first month of our training for the race, that May is none other than National Walking Month – an annual campaign that takes place every May to encourage people to walk more and improve their physical and mental health – something that can only. boost our motivation to lace up the trainers.
The campaign is led by the charity Living Streets and aims to raise awareness about the benefits of walking, as well as promoting walking as a sustainable and environmentally friendly form of transport. It’s also therefore a great opportunity for you to support your team members in engaging with this & some suggestions of how to do this are shown below:
3 Weeks Challenge: Create a walking challenge for different team members to rack up the distance of the Three Peaks Challenge between them, but to be done over the remaining days are left in the month. Less sleep deprivation needed for this one that the real Challenge but still provides a sense of achievement for those who take part.
Walkey Talkey: Encourage team members to take their meetings outside and walk while they talk. This can be a great way to boost creativity and productivity, while also getting some exercise.
Happy Feet: Create a walking club within your company, where team members can get together and go for a walk during lunch breaks or after work. This can help foster a nice sense of community and support among the team as well as often getting to see parts of your city and town that you’ve never seen before!
Keep on track: Share resources to help people get started such as route maps, apps to share or trackers in order to make it more accessible & achievable for everyone.
Lead from the front: As a business owner or leader, you can set an example by prioritising your own physical activity and encouraging your team members to do the same. This helps create a culture of Unity as well as one which values and supports their team’s well-being.
For more information on how to keep your team engaged and firing on all cyclinders, drop us a line via firstname.lastname@example.org, give us a call on 0203 6277048 or pop in a diary time here.
#walkthismay #lighthtspark #employeemagic #wellbeing