F.A.S.T.E.R Teams – Empower or stay on the ground!

November 30, 2015

Paul Kinvig, Coach and Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions


On Friday 20th Nov, 150 entrepreneurs, software developers & designers gathered in London at the behest of the Department of Transport in a 48hr “Hack Train Weekend!” The express intention of this coming together was to generate ideas for making Britain’s trains more efficient. Facing significant budgetary cuts, the need to achieve a “game changing” way of delivering a better service with reduced funding remains essential – ring any bells?

This is an example of a “hackathon” – a phenomenon that has grown up in recent years whereby individuals from differing sectors come together to solve a problem or create a new opportunity. Apart from the fact that this is “sideways thinking” at its best, it’s also a radical example of empowerment. The participants are encouraged to approach the situation from any angle or methodology. Industry or sector assumptions are disregarded and the contributors are “empowered” by the organisers/businesses to birth new ideas & solutions.

Now let’s be clear, empowering teams is NOT about having no parameters or limits but it IS about making those parameters clear and then giving them the tools and the authority to undertake the task or job at hand. Empowering people we lead should be about freeing them from unnecessary “red tape” & supervision and us managing them by remit & results…….

Now for many managers this can be challenging as the definition of their own success is the traditional model of hierarchical  management where “knowledge is power.” Anything close to “letting go” is seen as a challenge to their authority and undermining their own value and safety within the organisation .

Yet time and again we see the most successful leaders (and interestingly those seen most in control) are those who have truly empowered their teams to achieve rather than just obey!

So what are the hallmarks of empowering teams?

  • Led not ruled – At the heart (not the head) of an empowered team is a leader or manager who clearly & honestly communicates on direction, implements processes that enable rather than hinder and coaches rather than criticises to improve performance. They delegate and don’t “dump” tasks and most importantly…..they stay the hell out of the way and trust the skill & will of the team to achieve what has been agreed!
  • Autonomy – The other side of that coin is that truly empowered teams have and respect They know their limits of authority AND don’t abuse the trust placed in them. In fact many empowered teams impose stricter “rules” upon themselves than would be seen if they were inflicted upon them. They are clear on how decisions are made and communicated, and who is responsible for implementing them. They also keep the leader & manager informed on progress and any support needed WITHOUT being chased.
  • Impact – Without doubt, empowered teams have a far more significant impact in terms of results. Why? Simply because they see the project as theirs rather than someone elses and thus the engagement levels are always increased and along with it discretionary effort. Toyota empowers some of its employees to identify and help remedy problems that occur in product assembly. A car coming off Toyota’s assembly line with a paint defect is seen as an opportunity to delve into the root cause of the defect and not just something to be fixed. Solutions that have employee involvement tend to have more buy-in when it comes to implementation!

Additionally, truly empowered teams create empowerment for themselves by seeing and seizing situations, opportunities and coming forward with ideas to deliver even greater success. They don’t wait to be delegated to….they ask to be delegated to – or they just do it!

Here at Aspirin Business, we help our clients create empowered teams by co-creating clear goals, measures of success, developing skills, building trust and improving communication.  Empowered teams are essential to growth, freeing leaders to focus on strategy, sales and key relationships.  Worth a conversation?

F.A.S.T.E.R Teams – Never give up being TENACIOUS!!

November 16, 2015

Paul Kinvig, Coach and Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions


There are a number of things that Britain loves – queueing, tea drinking, caravanning on Bank Holidays, moaning about the weather – but none is higher than its love of a “trier.” Whether it’s Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, Del Boy, Salford City in the FA Cup, the 90 year old great grandmother completing the London Marathon, Wagner on X-Factor or the hapless Frank Spencer, Britain always seems to assent to the northern phrase “God loves a trier!”

Yet this ability not to give up in the face of challenge or adversity – even as a nation we refer to ourselves as having the “Bulldog Spirit” – is much more than just stubborness or an unwillingness to face facts. Tenacity has a number of things at it heart that are sometimes overlooked…..and F.A.S.T.E.R. Teams exhibit these in good measure.

  • Flexability– Tenacious teams don’t get fixed on only one way of doing things. They adapt and try new ways of achieving the objective rather than give up at the first hurdle or continue to do exactly the same thing thinking it would make a difference. Einstein put it succinctly when he said “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results!”
  • Refuel– Tenacious teams recognise that truly understanding what motivates them is vital in order to “keep on keeping on!” They regularly “refuel” that motivation to ensure they are firing on all cylinders, raise barriers against negativity AND guard against tiredness – both physical & mental.
  • Written & public commitments – Writing down commitments & making them public has a profound effect on increasing an individuals drive to achieve. It has the psychological effect of “making a contract with yourself and others” and therefore makes our determination not to break it much more powerful.
  • Acknowledge then Celebrate – Tenacious teams never celebrate too early so as to create a false sense of achievement. They acknowledge interim or milestone achievements (in the most appropriate ways to motivate the team) but only truly celebrate when the goal has been unequivocally reached.

There is, however, one thing that tenacious teams do that may seem counter-intuitive……they have the courage to let go when it is the right time to do so. Tenacity is not about obstinacy but about not giving up at the first, second or third hurdle.

However,  in business even with the best planning & execution there are times when the best use of time, resources & energy is to stop. Banging your head against a brick wall just gets blood in your eyes. Tenacious teams then put that away & move on to the next project with the same drive & determination to succeed as before.

Here at Aspirin Business, tenacity forms a key part of our F.A.S.T.E.R. programmes.  Whether it’s as a team, leader or an organisation, transformational results are achieved by being F.A.S.T.E.R. – Focused, Agile, Strong, Tenacious, Empowered and Real.  Worth a conversation?

Releasing potential: I’m not ready to hang up the gloves

November 12, 2015

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


Floyd Mayweather has hung up his gloves, saying “I’ve been in this sport 19 years, been a world champion 18 years, broke all the records. There’s nothing else to prove in the sport of boxing”

To retire as a world champion, aged just 38, having never lost any of our fights, is a goal many of us would be satisfied with … and yet, it reminds me of a conversation with a friend, who’s recently retired.  He heartily recommended retirement to me.  I heard myself say “I’m not ready for retirement yet, my best is yet to come.”

I have a very strong sense that my life is still building.  My passion, focus and certainty are getting even stronger with time.  Part of this certainty, I’m sure, is the quality of the people who are coming forward to work with us.  Their passion, talent and belief fuel my own.

Our journey to success is very different to Mayweather’s.  He was born into a family of boxers and taught to box before he could walk.  Beyond the gruelling training were a series of ascending battles.  Each with clearly define ways to win and a declared winner.  Fuelled by frenzied media and pay-to-watch matches, his route to success followed a well-trodden, if intensely tough, path.

By contrast, our own route has felt at times more like fumbling around in the dark.  It’s not been helped by my own desire to reject the well-trodden paths.  I suppose I wanted to be in no doubt that I’d earned my own stripes, that I’d followed my own values and not played another’s game by another’s rules.  There’s something wonderful freeing and invigorating in knowing you’ve created your own success in your own way.

Instead of a ladder to success, my own has felt more like a diminishing spiral – of circling closer and closer to the truth.  That’s why my best is yet to come.  I feel it building and, unlike Mayweather, I’m still excited.

I love, with a passion, the difference we make for our clients.  On a monthly basis that may be seen through increased sales and profits.  But our passion is inspired by the day to day, sometime mere glimmers of transformation, that we see, hear or feel in our clients.

Sometimes it’s in the physical presence and engagement with our work of someone who was previously too busy and sceptical.  Sometimes it’s hearing of team members who, seemingly out of the blue, ask if they can research a new and potentially lucrative market.  (Both stories shared by our clients this month.)  For it’s the day to day, mere glimmers that build to create these increases in sales and profits.  It’s the butterfly effect, the turn of the tide that create ongoing success.

Yes, it’s about the great sales person or manager who spots an opportunity and races off heroically to ‘bring home the bacon’.  Of course, it’s about a strong and focussed Senior Team who’ve agreed which strategies will grow the business.  But – for every reaction there’s an equal and opposite reaction.  It might be the reaction of a competitor for having a high profile deal snatched from under their noses, who decide to squeeze you out of the market or steal your sales person; like an arms race.

Yet the gentle flutter of a butterfly’s wings goes unnoticed until it build to a point where the competition are taken unawares and left behind.

For many including us, the sustainable joy in a career comes not from these quick heady, but soon forgotten, individual successes but in knowing you’re part of creating a winning AND happy team.  It’s in the joy of nurturing the spark of potential in your team into flames.  It’s in being proud of how you’ve spent your time here on this planet.

The best is yet to come.  I’m sure of it. I’m doing it right now in writing this.  There is plenty of potential left to be released.

If, like me, your best is yet to come, would that be worth a conversation?


F.A.S.T.E.R Teams – Be STRONG, you never know who you are inspiring!

November 11, 2015

Paul Kinvig, Coach and Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions


fighter-jets-440519_1280For most people, the sight of the Red Arrows flying overhead causes the heart to skip a beat. The primal noise of the engines, the sight of nine people & machines in perfect harmony, the unbelievable ability to achieve death defying moves, that sense of pride in a group that is the best in the world……and they’re British!

The aura surrounding the team inspires respect and admiration. They know what needs to be achieved.  They have almost off the scale skill levels and a determination to succeed & consistently deliver.  They share a sense of camaraderie and trust at the highest level and an attitude that does not let circumstance dictate their mentality. Nowhere was this more clearly demonstrated than when they dealt with the tragic loss of one of their team, John Egging, at the Bournemouth Air Show. They mourned, showed the utmost respect then came back stronger and more determined than ever!

So let’s take a look at these elements of strength exhibited in successful teams :-

  • Alignment – Strong teams share a clear vision of where they want to go and how to get there.  That enables them to commit to both the actions required AND the philosophy of how they will behave with each other, their colleagues and customers as they get there.
  • Skill – Strong teams are ALWAYS highly skilled in their respective areas. These skills cover both the competencies of doing the job and the “emotional intelligence” to deal with customers (both internal & external) who have different requirements & personality types.
  • Will – Strong teams have the desire to do what it is required and adapt, resist & overcome circumstances that get in the way! Their determination comes from knowing what motivates them, individually and as a team, and the skill of the leader in creating the conditions for that “will” to be maximised.
  • Cohesion– The bonds between a strong team are such that supporting and challenging each other are the norm. In many cases they “self manage” and encourage their colleagues to greater levels of achievement by sharing knowledge, experience and assisting them without the need for recognition. The members of the team recognise & appreciate each other’s differences & skills and understand that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  • Resilience –  When times are tough, strong teams remember who they are and what’s important to them.  They learn from both their successes and their failures to come back faster and stronger.  In order to bounce back, they draw upon their self-belief, strength and motivation.  Crucially, they receive support, strength and motivation from others that believe in them.  Each time this happens the individuals and teams grow stronger, with even more alignment, skill, will, cohesion and resilience!


The wonderful Muhammed Ali once said “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”

Here at Aspirin Business Solutions we help our clients build “Strong” teams that can adapt to, lead and inspire both change and growth.  Worth a conversation?

F.A.S.T.E.R Teams – Agile, a race winning formula

November 2, 2015

Paul Kinvig, Coach and Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions

FASTER Teams - Agile

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.

With Lewis Hamilton being crowned the 2015 F1 World Champion, I’m reminded of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 2008 where I was privileged to witness Sebastian Vettel winning his very first F1 race. It was lashing down with rain and the cars were having to negotiate a track where they could run flat out and then suddenly hit bends where there was more water than an Evian bottling plant (other bottled waters are available)! It was the agility of Vettel AND Toro Rosso, his team at the time, in handling both of those situations with power & grace that won him the race and led him to his world championships!

It’s the ability to be, as the dictionary definition puts it, “quick & well co-ordinated” that links this sense of agility to successful teams.  Look at any oustanding F1 outfit, and you’ll see a culture of progression, a need to innovate, an ability to sideways think and a commitment to constantly change & evolve! Add all that up and you see a team that can deal with almost anything that get’s thrown at it……rule changes, aggressive competition, financial pressure, changing conditions, accidents……their reality is they are either agile or they disappear!

So how does that compare to the world of business.  Ernest Sokup highlighted “7 Steps to Stagnation” – 7 phrases often used in the workplace that run counter to the behaviour of agile teams.   Let’s look at four of these phrases :-

“We’re not ready for that!”

  • Culture – agility in business is first and foremost a culture. It’s a mind set committed to swift and positive action based on robust information & business instinct. It’s almost inherent in a team’s DNA to have a can do/will do attitude and be committed to finding solutions rather than problems. It’s a culture that is exemplified by a willingness to experiment and occasionally make mistakes!

“We’ve never done it that way before!”  

  • Innovation – agile teams embrace and look for innovation in everything they do. Not just big leaps in product development or highly visible, game-changing eureka moments but in the routine processes and functions of everyday work.

“We’re doing alright without trying that!”

  • Sideways thinking – as part of the commitment to innovation is this adoption of sideways thinking. Being both willing and able to look across to other sectors and adopt, adapt & improve ideas is a key indicator of agility. Sideways Thinking is covered in one of our previous articles https://www.aspirinbusiness.com/sideways-thinking-1/

” Something like that can’t work!”

  • Change management – agile teams deal with and manage change effectively – even when that change is difficult and/or imposed. They are resilient and emotionally mature and don’t waste time or energy on things they cannot change, rather working on how that change can be best implemented.

Here at Aspirin Business Solutions we’re excited by the transformations agile thinking creates for our clients – as one of them observed “it’s about becoming masters of your own destiny.”

Whether that is leading an organisation-wide cultural transformation programme or knowing how to adapt our own communication style to influence and engage others, the starting point is often identifying what will happen if we don’t take responsibility for becoming masters of our own destiny.  Worth a conversation?