A glass half-full: the cost of negativity on business

October 28, 2015

Susannah Brade-Waring, Managing Director and Coach at Aspirin Business Solutions

glass half full

Following my post on resilience, I’ve had a number of conversations about negativity and its effect on self-confidence, motivation and resilience.

A negative attitude, i.e. one that focusses primarily on all the things that are wrong, is incredibly pervasive.  In a sense, it’s like carbon monoxide.  Carbon monoxide is invisible, it has no smell and it bonds more easily to our blood cells than oxygen, making it difficult to replace.  Even the most resilient of people can succumb over time – or they physically locate themselves to a different area or a different organisation.  This creates silos in organisations and the cost of poor communication, to replace lost talent, let alone the missed-opportunity costs, can be enormous.

Negativity has another consequence for organisations – it can create a groundswell of resistance to change.  This is, perhaps, insidious.  We don’t notice it until we need to change how we do things – by creating greater cost accountability, for example, or more proactive account managers.  This is particularly prevalent with long-serving employees who have become accustomed to the ‘way things are done here’ and aren’t aware or ready for the agile business environment that we now compete within.  Again the costs can be enormous – both in terms of lost competitive advantage and in changes being forced upon us if we act too late.

How do we turn this around?

  • For new recruits, we can try to spot negativity.  In my last post, I described ‘priming’ where key words affect how we feel on a subconscious level.  This is strongly linked to negativity.  Years ago we banned TV programmes like Eastenders and Jeremy Kyle from our home because they feature so many destructive arguments and relationships.  McDonald’s ask job candidates to name their role models, and why.  It might be interesting to ask them to name their favourite TV programmes and hobbies too.  Look for signs of negativity and positivity in their choices and language.
  • For existing employees, on a daily basis it’s important to nip negativity in the bud by discussing this with the individual and not tolerating constant grumbling.  Occasionally, individuals are unaware that they grumble and just mentioning it can be enough to stop it.  However, in my experience, these grumbles are the outward signs of someone who is generally unhappy within their role and who may struggle to keep up with a growing and evolving organisation.  If the individual performs their job well, coaching can be highly effective – providing the individual is committed to trying to turn this around.
  • Creating a cultural change is larger project.  It has to start with the top in creating a strong, cohesive leadership team who are firm and fair, and demonstrate the behaviour they’re looking to create.  We need a vision (based around a strategy) to summarise where the organisation are headed, which creates the framework for the change in attitude and behaviour.  After all, if we’re not going to be doing anything consistently different as an organisation – why change?

We’ve found a combination of Motivational Maps and Clarity4D personality profiles to be particularly effective, enabling the individuals to understand themselves better and how they appear to others.  Whilst the power of others’ opinions can be destructive on Facebook (with popularity measured by ‘Likes’), it can be very powerful in curbing negative behaviour when used with the tangible reports produced by these two tools and coaching.


Here at Aspirin Business Solutions, we help release the potential in leaders, Senior Teams and organisations through our F.A.S.T.E.R. programmes.  The starting point is often a Motivational Map with a 30 minute debrief.  Worth a conversation?


F.A.S.T.E.R Teams – Focus

October 26, 2015

by Paul Kinvig, Coach and Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions


I have a number of friends who are photographers and I love to watch them in action. What they do is a real art – coaxing the right result out of the subject with all the inherent distractions of light, background, movement etc.

One of the things that identifies a great photographer is, of course, this issue of focus. Getting it right is more than just hitting the autofocus button (as any taker of a selfie via a smartphone will admit!) It’s knowing the required result of the picture as well as keeping it in register!

One of the characteristics of a successful team is just that – focus! They have a clear vision of what is to be achieved and how to do it. In fact, these teams don’t just wait for targets & tasks to be given to them but either offer input into the goals as part of the process or even set them themselves….and here’s the interesting thing, motivated focused teams will often set themselves goals that are more stretching & achieved more regularly!

So how can we, as leaders, develop this sense of focus within our teams to help drive effectiveness & performance?

  • Strategy –  Ensure the team has a clear vision of its purpose and plan in the long term as well as for the short & medium term operational needs
  • Roles – Ensure team members know with absolute clarity the function of their role. Time and habit will blur their understanding…….
  • Objectives & Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) –  Ensure the team knows what it has to achieve and what the success standards are. Get it right and they will start to self monitor & correct to ensure success.
  • 90 Day plans – Ensure the team have a specific plan to achieve the stated objectives and meet every 30 days to review KPI’s.

It’s our role as leaders & managers to align these 4 areas and to know & take action when they go “out of focus.”

The author Linda Poindexter once observed “Life is like a camera, focus on what’s important and you’ll capture it perfectly!”  Here at Aspirin Business Solutions we believe it’s important to help our clients develop focused teams as part of our F.A.S.T.E.R Teams programme so as to concentrate on what’s important for their businesses to achieve. Worth us having a conversation?

Look out next week for F.A.S.T.E.R Teams – AGILE……

Celebrating our clients’ success – Janine Pattison Studios

October 22, 2015

We are delighted to share with you our client’s wonderful news.  We have been working with JPS for 5 years, most recently on our FASTER Growth Programme which involved co-creation of their 3 year business strategy and implementation plans.

JPS Homegrown Talent

F.A.S.T.E.R. Teams

October 14, 2015

by Paul Kinvig, Coach and Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions

FASTER TeamsUnless you’ve been living in a cave for the past few weeks you cannot have failed to notice that its been the Rugby World Cup. Countless hours have gone into analysing England’s premature exit & Wales’ incredible performance, Japan’s inexplicable result vs South Africa and Scotland & Ireland’s courageous wins.

The phrase that was commonly used in association with the victorious teams and their performances was this – “they wanted it more!” It’s a commonly used term across a whole range of sports & activities, especially where teams significantly outperform expectations but what does it actually mean? If it was just a matter of desire then why, irrespective of time & lineup, have the All Blacks been the team that no-one really wants to face? There must be some defining characteristics that are part of consistently high performing teams that work in conjunction with the will to win.

The mnemonic F.A.S.T.E.R can give us an insight as to what they are AND the areas, as leaders & managers, we should be developing –

  • Focused – they know what they want to achieve and how to achieve it
  • Agile – whatever opportunities or circumstances arise they seize, react or adapt to deal with them
  • Strong – they pull together with the right mix of motivation, skills & resilience to achieve the objective
  • Tenacious – they don’t give up until they achieve the objective OR until they recognise the right time to let go so as not to waste effort
  • Empowered – not only do they know what has to be achieved but also have the trust & authority from their leader to get on with it
  • Real – they build strong, trust-based relationships with their colleagues & customers by being authentic people who enjoy what they do

Look out for our blogs on each of these defining characteristics.

Here at Aspirin Business Solutions we’re fond of the quote ” If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to far go together” as it emphasises the importance of the power of teams.

However, we’ve developed ways in which teams can go fast as well as far!  Aspirin’s F.A.S.T.E.R. Leaders, F.A.S.T.E.R. Teams & F.A.S.T.E.R. Growth programmes are designed to help organisations & individuals do just that! Worth us having a conversation?

Sideways Thinking 3 – Transformational Change

October 9, 2015

Paul Kinvig, Coach and Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions

Change Chance


When my son was much younger, he was fascinated by “Transformers” and often as the dutiful father I was required to play with them with him. He could “transform” them in seconds from a lorry or car to a planet threatening robot whereas (in all honesty) when I had finished with it, my transformer looked like it had been in a train wreck!!

Sideways thinking can significantly help with the concept of “transformational change” – defined in the Cambridge Dictionary (in their ‘business english’) as “a complete ​change in an ​organization, ​designed to ​bring about ​big​ improvements”

Let’s be clear, transformational change isn’t about tinkering, it’s about a real “left or right turn at the traffic lights!” which brings about “as the definition says, real improvements. It’s risky, scary & takes a huge amount of courage but here’s the thing……it’s not random or chaotic!! Yes it has, as part of its DNA, the acceptance of chance outcomes but it is a process that is decided upon & shaped by those appropriate within the organisation. It is not like a firework where once you’ve lit the blue touch paper you stand well back and watch it explode but rather a laser -powerful, focused & at its best unstoppable but always with a someone guiding it!

Take the Virgin Group – that organisation regularly goes through “transformational change” moving as it has from record label through gaming, cola, radio, air travel, to banking & space flight! As a business they are constantly taking “left turns at the lights” and not all of them work. However they are always in control them – both in terms of getting in & getting out!! They make the choice to “sideways think” and then use a process to give them the best possible chance to drive successful change.

Now you may well say, hold on a minute – that’s ok for global, multi-billion dollar mega companies but my organisation isn’t anywhere near that!!! Well maybe but the root decision for any size organisation is the same as regards transformational change and it is this “We won’t carry on as we are!” Now that maybe instigated by sector change, customer evolution, technological advancement or product obsolescence but it is always a conscious choice. When organisations build into their strategy & culture phrases such as

  • “We are not at the mercy of industry conditions”
  • “Instead of focusing on competitors we should look for a quantum leap in value for customers”
  • “We will not be constrained by what we have but rather what would we do if we were starting anew?”

then you know they are committed to the change because all of the above are conscious choices they have made underpinned by sideways thinking!

Here at Aspirin Business Solutions we encourage our clients to become receptive to and ideally drivers of change, taking more responsibility for their organisation’s success and, in doing so, their own success.  It is easy?  No.  However, it’s far better than the alternative of constantly adapting to change forced upon us.  And it’s often transformational for the individuals – empowering, reinvigorating and fun -creating what we call FASTER Teams i.e. teams who are Focused, Agile, Strong, Tenacious, Empowered and Real.  Worth us having a conversation?

Sideways Thinking 2 – Intrapreneurs

October 6, 2015

Paul Kinvig, Coach and Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions

LightbulbsMany years ago, a senior figure in a company I was working for said in a presentation, “The best way to get a good idea is to get lots of ideas!”. He had a reputation within the organisation of always doing things differently and encouraged others to do the same. His ability was always to see across boundaries and almost as importantly, to inspire others to do the same – he really was comfortable “colouring outside the lines” and thus brought fresh thinking and ideas to what we did!

Part of “sideways thinking” is about discovering & nurturing these individuals within our organisations to deliver tangible outcomes. In recent times the title “intrapreneur” has been used to describe such people – Gifford Pinchot in 1984 defined them as “Dreamers who do – those who take hands-on responsibility for creating innovation of any kind WITHIN a business”. The key in that quotation is the connection between “dreaming” & “doing” – that mix of seeing beyond the now and then bringing it into being.

Let’s be honest, by their very nature, these people are not easily managed and if we wanted an easy life then we probably wouldn’t either hire or encourage them. They tend to exhibit traits that create waves – recognise any of these?

  • They ask awkward questions – often starting with “why do we do this….?” or “why can’t we do this….?”
  • They often ask for forgiveness rather than permission
  • They work across departmental boundaries as a matter of course
  • They see change as something to be embraced and encouraged
  • Often they are no respectors of the chain of command.

So why on earth should we actively seek out and encourage these people to join or remain within our businesses? Well here are some things they “see”……

  • They “see” things about our company and the sector we operate in, that we (and possibly our competitors) do not!
  • They “see” things that our customers will want but as yet don’t even know they do!
  • They “see” collaborations with competitors that benefit both parties and are not afraid to pursue them
  • They “see” desired results and then come backwards to change the process, rather than be shackled by “how things are done”

It’s often said that if you want to see the next big leaps in science fact then look at science fiction 30-40 years ago. Don’t believe me? Go back and look at the original Star Trek communicators and then go look at the Nokia Flip Phone! Remember the definition “Dreamers that do……” – so intrapreneurs can give us both competitive edge AND increased profitability if we are brave enough to “let them loose.”

Who are the intrapreneurs in your business? Have you got any? How are you nurturing them? Do you and your leadership team have the culture, tools & skills to deal with them?

Here at Aspirin Business Solutions we help our clients foster a culture of intrapreneurship through assessing strategies, breakthroughs, innovation processes & understanding the motivations of the team. Worth us having a conversation about your business?

Sideways Thinking 1 – Colour Outside the Lines

October 2, 2015

Paul Kinvig, Coach and Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions

 Sideways Thinking 1


In a recent list of the 10 traits of creative people, number 3 was “They colour outside the lines!” In effect, what that means is they are not constrained by boundaries and are ready to explore what lies beyond the established norms.

When Steve Jobs talked about creativity in Apple, he said it was less about original thought and more about “connecting the dots of experience from a whole range of sources.” He also went on to postulate that the more “dots” people had to connect, the better their chances of producing a more significant solution.

Sideways Thinking is a powerful tool to enhance business growth, create a game changing shift or just improve a process. It challenges individuals & companies to look outside their sector and ask “What can we learn/adopt or adapt from other sectors?” It breaks the lines of established paradigms and encourages us to forget WHAT these different organisations do and focus on the principles of HOW they do it!

For example, what are the learning possibilities from the hospitality sector that could be picked up by the care sector?  Also, what can be learned from the experience of the private sector in delivering projects to public sector for the burgeoning third sector group?

So here are five key things to help you develop Sideways Thinking:

  1. Clearly identify the shift you want to create or the issue you want to resolve within the organisation.
  2. Identify someone who has both the courage AND the desire to “colour outside the lines” and let them loose!
  3. Identify opportunities to engage with successful businesses outside your sector – then network for information & business connections NOT sales.
  4. Focus on the principles rather than the processes – how they do it not what they do!
  5. Identify & challenge the paradigms as a result of the learning – remember it was less than 10 years ago that a certain computer company decided to go into phones!!!

One of the things we do at Aspirin Business Solutions is encourage & facilitate “Sideways Thinking” through connecting our diverse client base, focused seminars & training on specific tools to develop the process. Worth us having a conversation about your business?