If no one goes to work to be difficult, why are they?

February 14, 2018

“Whatever the question is, love is the answer.”

I love this quote. It reminds me to move my focus from the superficial noise and angst, onto ‘what really matters here’.  No one goes to work to be unhappy.  No one goes to work to deliberately antagonise others, to be difficult – and yet that’s what we experience.

People are complex – and that simultaneously makes them brilliant and challenging. Increasingly employees (and customers) are becoming more demanding – for a number of reasons, and they have higher expectations. This is forcing managers and leaders to re-evaluate their own roles and their own behaviour. Management used to be primarily around the management of tasks – it just happened that a primary resource was often human.  This stems from the industrial revolution when we were machine-centric, and the humans worked around the capability and physicality of the machines.  My first degree was in Ergonomics (the man-machine interface), so I understand this.

“This is forcing managers and leaders to re-evaluate their own roles and their own behaviour.”

We’re moving beyond this now, at an exponential rate, and managers HAVE to manage people – not just as a resource but as individuals. For some managers this is normal – the way they’ve always worked. For many it’s a huge challenge, and it’s a challenge to their identity, to the way they generate respect and action.  Skills training alone is not enough, so ticking the box on a management course just won’t create the changes required. That’s why I work with motivation first.

There a powerful story that Tony Robbins tells of a woman who pulls out her hair; pulls it out so her scalp bleeds and people avoid her. Tony explains that, however strange and illogical the behaviour, at some level it works for the person. Otherwise they wouldn’t continue to do it, and we have to address this first.  (In this case – it was a deliberate strategy to avoid being hurt by others by making herself so undesirable.)  At a simple level, that’s why we’ve all read books, been on training courses and applied little of what we’ve learned.  The motivation, the deep desire for a different outcome, has to come first.  As they say ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’  And we’ve all heard stories of people who overcome all sorts of challenges – because it mattered to them.

“However strange and illogical the behaviour, at some level it works for the person, and we have to address this first.”

So today – as it’s Valentine’s Day, if you experience others who are being difficult, why not take a moment to wonder ‘why’?  Love is a verb – and the most loving thing you can do today, might be to take a moment to understand what’s really going on for someone else.  #motivatedperformance

Aspirin Business’s UK Network Expands

March 14, 2017

Dorset based Aspirin Business continues to go from strength to strength adding to their 30-strong network of Motivational Map Practitioners across the UK.

The Lucid Group, based in Birmingham, became the latest organisation to be accredited in using Motivational Maps. Lucid help clients in areas such as change management, strategic planning, marketing & sales improvement.

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Managing Millennials – a ‘Must Have’ Capability

March 14, 2017

‘Lazy’, ‘selfish’, ‘demanding’ – all labels attributed to Millennials.

Millennials will form 75% of our workforce in just 8 years’ time, accordingly to Deloitte. ‘Managing Millennials’ was rated the number 1 ‘Must Have’ capability for business leaders in 2017, in a survey conducted by Mindshop. However, many managers feel at a loss to understand how to get the best from them without constant attention, and to truly engage them in their organisations.
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Fit, lean and agile teams – getting fit for change

June 7, 2016

by Paul Kinvig and Susannah Brade-Waring – Business Coaches & Facilitators with Aspirin Business Solutions


The Scottish golf club Muirfield’s decision not to change its 272 year men-only membership policy has proved to be very costly, as it’s lost the right to stage one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the world – The Open.  By contrast, it came as a real surprise to us just how many world changing inventions/ discoveries/ innovations can be attributed to Scotland and its people. Here are just a few – pneumatic tyre, telephone, television, hypodermic syringe, penicillin, flush toilets and refrigerators.

Contrast that again to the high speed world of Formula 1, which has made a number of mind-blowing changes – for example moving from being predominantly funded by cigarette advertising prior to its international ban, and in achieving the seemingly impossible feat of a sub 3 second pit stop.

In order to survive and thrive as an organisation, the need to both embrace and drive change has passed from being an option to a fundamental requirement.

Racing drivers know that going slow into the bend allows us to be faster going out.  Leaders who deliver change successfully, know the same holds true for organisations.  So it’s in the preparation for change that the race is won.

Whilst every organisation is going through change, for some it is slow and predictable. Whereas, the retail market is moving so quickly it’s difficult to know what we need to change to, let alone how we do that.  The best we can do is become more agile, leaner and well-equipped so we are fit and ready for change.  And, the golden lining, when the team are ready, they’ll start to drive the change themselves.

So, how do we become more agile, leaner and well-equipped?  Here are 3 things to consider:

1. Re-recruit

We’re very familiar with re-recruiting for sporting teams, picking the players who’ll help us achieve our objectives for the next season.  But what if we applied the same policy to our teams?  After all, even if we are in the same role today as we were 2 years ago, it’s highly likely that the requirements of the job have changed.  So bearing in mind the current and foreseeable future requirements of your team, who would you automatically re-recruit, who will make the grade given training, mentoring or coaching, and who probably won’t?  We acknowledge that this idea will feel intensely uncomfortable to some, however we’re actually being much fairer to everyone if we acknowledge the likely struggle to keep up and, as leaders, to face this head-on.  A good test of whether we need to think about re-recruiting is that when a vacancy comes up, do we just automatically use the same job description?  And if someone is unlikely to ‘make the grade’ they may thrive incredibly well in a redefined job role.


 2. Develop an ethos of team working

Change brings new challenges and uncertainty.  Therefore, the need for people to work together as teams, with trust and appreciation for each others’ talents increases significantly.  Consider, if you will, two examples – firstly that of a flock of geese who would never migrate if they couldn’t depend on each other, and secondly the F1 pit stops – where a sub 3 second pit stop utterly depends on having the right people, in the right roles with the right equipment.

Teams waste time and energy when there is an atmosphere of mistrust and blame and lose focus on achieving what is ahead because they are looking around and behind them.  This is often exemplified by team members not believing that change is necessary, that there’s a hidden agenda or not trusting others to get their part of the work done.  And, it can be easier to fail by refusing to participate, than to be seen to fail if we can’t deliver the new requirements.

If we are to build agility into our teams so that change is embraced and, in many cases, driven, we have to create this culture of trust by communicating effectively, being honest and authentic, sharing information and actually always ‘doing the right thing’, even when it is tough and has challenging implications. Being consistent in these areas creates that culture by demonstrating it in our behaviour as leaders AND thus demanding it from our teams.

However there is one more area that we need to examine and it is that of…


3. Create a culture of motivation and accountability

You have to expect that with a former Finance Director as our leader, we believe accountability is a critical success factor.  And yet this issue of accountability is a thorny one in that knowing what to hold people accountable to, and how to hold them accountable can leave us scratching our heads (or walking away), and we sometimes think it applies to our team – but not us, as leaders.  And yet if we want to make our teams agile and responsive then accountability is one of the keys to this.

It’s defined in the Business Dictionary as –

“The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.”

If we look at the definition, the words underlined give us an indication as to key areas of focus. Each individual within the team needs to know exactly what is expected of them in terms of their activities and to what level so that the results can be accounted for without ambiguity or confusion i.e. in a transparent manner.

Contrary to what you might think, research shows that this principle of accountability has a very positive effect in respect of accuracy of work, problem solving, decision making, colleague co-operation and team satisfaction. It’s our responsibility to be accountable ourselves so that that authenticity moves through the team….there is no blame or vindictiveness…it’s just the way we do things!

And whilst we firmly believe in the principle of accountability, we also firmly believe in motivation – of creating the conditions that create a great place to work.  Being able to take pride in our work through a job well done, is a fundamental aspect of this.


At Aspirin Business Solutions, we take pride in creating great results for our clients.  Helping leaders and their teams adapt to change successfully, is critical in achieving their wider goals – such as succession planning, increasing profitable growth and in ensuring organisations will survive and thrive in a changing marketplace.

Our Seven Factors to Faster Growth model fuses people and processes to release the potential in individuals, teams and organisations.  It allows our clients to scope out the intended future through vision, strategy and mission and identify how to implement and deliver that through values, objectives and team performance – and then to define and increase the capability of leaders, managers and teams accordingly.

seven steps


If this article resonates with you, we’d love to explore how we could help you achieve your organisation’s goals.  Please get in touch and let’s talk.

E: sue@aspirinbusiness.com

T: 01202 801187

or sign up to our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bSJCaz

Which came first – the leader or the training?

May 25, 2016

by Susannah Brade-Waring and Paul Kinvig – Business Coaches & Facilitators with Aspirin Business Solutions


In a recent Radio 4 programme, Melvyn Bragg described how the Greek mythological creatures ‘The Muses’ descended upon individuals, transforming and enabling them to be better, more creative & knowledgeable than they were before.

It’s strange but in many organisations we almost expect our managers to become leaders in the same way – some magical external force will provide them with the skills and mindset necessary to become leaders as soon as they are promoted, or as the situation requires, with little guidance, training or coaching.  And this can leave them in a position to create damage and be damaged, and potentially be put off leadership forever.

The reality is people are often called to be leaders before they are fully equipped to do the job, probably because they’re already exhibiting leadership traits and tendencies.

This is fascinating to us at Aspirin Business, because we’ve seen how this ‘am I or aren’t I?’ style of leadership changes the dynamics and relationships within teams and can be unsettling.  From Motivational Maps, we know that just because the person acts like a leader, doesn’t mean they’re motivated to lead, or to want responsibility for a team or project.  In fact, our data shows many people actively avoid it, despite having the potential.  That creates great frustration for their managers who offer extra responsibility and/ or Leadership Development, only to find the individual doesn’t show the expected enthusiasm for the opportunity, or deliver the expected change in behaviour.

If you’re confused, you’re not alone.  Recognising that just because it motivates us, doesn’t mean it motivates others, is a leadership challenge.  Understanding what to do about that is another.

Bill Murphy Jr’s article, entitled ‘7 Things Great Leaders Always Do (but Mere Managers Always Fear’ helps to identifies some of this, by identifying significant differences between leaders and managers.   These differences are not in what they do, but in their mindset and what they believe.  For example, Bill Murphy identifies that real leaders are thrilled when team members achieve great things, whereas ‘mere managers’ are threatened.

So which comes first – the leader or the training?

Before the training, there are some incredibly important steps that help future leaders understand what being a leader means, and how that differs not just in behaviour but in how we think about things.  (In a strange way it’s similar in going from GSCEs to A-levels, where you’re pretty much told to forget everything you’ve learned so far.)

Being mentored and coached through these steps helps them to develop their natural leadership style that enables them to wear and wield the mantle of leadership lightly, in a way that will enable them and their colleagues to enjoy and value their role as an effective leader.  Three of these steps are:

Focus on becoming comfortable with uncertainty and not having all the answers.

By definition leaders lead.  They need to switch from looking inwards at the tasks and details, to look outwards at the market, the opportunities and risks.  Therefore, they have to become comfortable with not knowing everything, not being the most capable person in the team and with not following the norm.  Instead leaders scope out the short and long-term future, using the best knowledge they have, whilst recognising this may and probably will change.  Leaders identify others who have subject matter expertise, knowledge and experience, and recognise their own role shifts from being the expert themselves to creating the conditions for others to deliver their best performance as part of the overall objective.  Leaders challenge the norms in order to raise the bar, invite different perspectives to their own and then manage the team to create structures & processes that will get the desired goals achieved.

How many of your current managers raise the bar on a regular basis?  How many encourage and support others to shine brightly?  Are they working in a supportive culture that allows them to do so?


Focus on behaviour not title

The fact that we’ve given someone a title does not automatically make them a leader… whatever the size of team. Whilst the position will (and should) command a level of respect, it’s exhibiting the right kind of behaviours that generates and retains long term respect, inspires people to emulate them, engenders commitment and encourages improved performance. In current business, the days of ‘command & control’ compliance simply because of the ‘rank’ of the order giver are gone. If we’ve learned anything in recent years on engaging employees for improved performance, it’s this – leaders walk it like they talk it! If the words & the actions don’t match then look out. As the saying goes……”people join companies & leave managers!”

What are the correct behaviours you want to encourage in your future leaders to enable them to lead effectively? Are you a leader they want to emulate?  If they can ‘crack’ this before they’re given the title or authority, then people will treat them like leaders anyway – and they’ll experience leadership as natural and enjoyable.


Focus on people not tasks

We need to coach our future leaders to get caught up in people not in tasks. Let’s be clear, tasks are vitally important in goal achievement but if we want to encourage our future leaders, then the phrase ‘lead the business or department, manage the team’ becomes our mantra to them. Understanding what motivates teams, creating goals that inspire and clear targets and expectations they understand and are held accountable to, along with consistency, authenticity and an ability to develop loyalty are all hallmarks of being people rather than task focused.

Take a look at your managers – how many of them are primarily task focused? Could it be that focusing on their people doesn’t motivate them?  Unless it does, they’ll struggle to learn the associated skills and empathy – because it just doesn’t interest them.


Helping our future leaders step up is not fundamentally about titles and personality…. it’s about mindset & behaviour.   And we can all create opportunities for our future leaders to understand, observe and practice that before we place the heavy expectations that come with titles, formal training and significant additional responsibilities.


Here, at Aspirin Business Solutions, we’re great at building strong Senior Teams and developing future leaders.  We help help in all sorts of ways – but primarily in identifying and developing both their strengths and weaknesses, developing their mindset and skills, and applying that to their work.

Current and future leaders play a significant part in our Seven Factors to Faster Growth – they are a core part of the team that will develop and deliver the strategy to take the organisation forward.

seven steps


We’d love to explore how we could help you develop your future leaders.  Please get in touch to arrange a conversation.

E: sue@aspirinbusiness.com

T: 01202 801187

or sign up to our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bSJCaz



How do I… engage my team in our vision & mission?

May 10, 2016

by Paul Kinvig, Business Growth Coach & Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions

Rowing Team

One of the more annoying things about visiting supermarkets, (apart from the apparently random “unexpected item in bagging area” announcements from the self-service checkouts”) is the time honoured challenge of pushing a shopping trolley with a wonky wheel!

We’ve all been there, pushing the trolley in the direction we want it to go, only to have it veer sideways into the red peppers or the legs of an innocent shopper. Using one of these trolleys takes additional time and effort as well as building up a significant amount of frustration and all because one wheel is out of alignment!

This issue of alignment is the spine of our ‘Seven Factors to FASTER Growth’ programme, the first step of which is ‘business vision & values.’ We’ve discussed what makes a strong vision in a previous blog – I have a dreambut too often MD’s, CEO’s & senior teams construct vision & value statements that they’re inspired by then hit the “wonky wheel” syndrome.

Why? Simply put their vision is out of alignment with what really motivates & drives the people for whom it was intended to inspire, align & energise – the staff!  They then don’t understand why their teams are not equally or even remotely enthusiastic about it – and push the trolley harder just to try get it to move rather pausing to ‘align the wheels.’

In our experience here are three common causes of misalignment:

  • Words vs Experience – The employees experience of working in that organisation is different from that which the vision states it to be! Nobody should expect perfection, however, if the real life impact of the way the organisation operates bears no resemblance to the stated vision & values then the likelihood is that not only will staff not buy into it but actively kick against it. They will see no authenticity and authenticity is one of the key drivers in employee engagement. If you lead an organisation then it’s sometimes a painful but necessary question to ask “How does the experience of my employees working in my company/team match up to what I believe it to be/want it to be?”
  • Company Motivators vs Personal Motivators – “What motivates us may not motivate them” – we know that to be true and yet in the heat of everyday business we often go for what we think is the easiest route….the one we’d pick for ourselves!! For example the vision might focus on growth, innovation & agility (because that’s what really lights our fire) yet the team are truly motivated by customer service and security. There would be a very real chance that the team would be resistant as they fear the vision would somehow put this at risk. Sometimes we have to let our teams know ‘what we won’t do’ as much as what we will do – otherwise they pull back to manage the perceived risk. The RNLI in Poole, address this issue clearly & concisely on their website. Do you REALLY know what motivates your people or do you just assume it’s the same things that motivate you?
  • Not Hardwired………There are times when the culture AND structure of organisations are not aligned with the vision/mission etc. For example the mission statement may talk about innovation and yet there is no route or structure for new ideas to be put forward or no way in which those ideas are encouraged and supported. Alternatively, the organisation may profess a commitment to customer service and yet have no clear and agreed way of understanding customer issues or handling things effectively when they go wrong. Again, a question worth asking is “Do we have the structure & culture in place to reflect and deliver the vision and mission?”


George Labovitz in his book “The Power of Alignment” puts it brilliantly when he says

“Vertical alignment implies more than employee compliance with strategy that is set at the top. It’s a two-way street… employees in the middle of the organization and on the front lines almost always experience greater intimacy with customers and competitors than do senior managers, and their insights can enrich strategy-but only if they are actively solicited.” 

Are you brave enough to “solicit insight” from your front line, understand what truly motivates them and build a culture that reflects your vision in the company?


Here, at Aspirin Business Solutions, we help leaders create visions that inspire them, written in a way that motivates their team.  We help them to identify clearly, and as a team, what they want to change and what they won’t.  And we help them articulate the values that truly drive the business, because they drive the business leaders.  Then we help them ensure every aspect of their business plan links, from the vision, through the values, strategy, 12 month mission & mantra, through the business objectives and team missions to the individuals, who clearly understand how their work contributes to the vision and to the organisation and team as a whole.  In a nutshell, through our Seven Factors to Faster Growth:


seven steps


We’d love to help you explore how the Seven Steps could add more value to your organisation, and avoid the ‘wonky wheel’ syndrome.  Please get in touch to arrange a conversation.

E: paul@aspirinbusiness.com

T: 01202 801187

or sign up to our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bSJCaz