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



6 Top Tips: Cyber Security

May 24, 2016

Cyber SecurityLooking outwards for opportunities and risks is a critical role for leaders.

So we asked our clients at IT Support Business (ITSB) to share their Top 6 Tips for Cyber Security:

Keep your IT updated – With new system exploits and viruses being discovered every day its critical your company IT is kept up to date. With operating system, software and antivirus updates it can be hard to ensure that every device on your company network hasn’t fallen behind, especially when it can be easy for your staff to cancel or ignore the updates. Whether you entrust it to your staff, your IT team / company or you’re going around checking everyone’s machine before they leave on a Friday, make sure someone is responsible for keeping your business IT up to date.

Who are your threats? 

Of course there is a whole world of cyber criminals outside your business trying to get in but there are recent reports that claim around 70% of the breaches reported last year were from disgruntled employee’s. It’s just as important to protect yourself from threats inside the business as it is from the outside. By making sure that your employee’s have the correct user privileges and are only able to access the information they need to complete their jobs you can minimise any potential breach.

Be careful in public

With just a few simple items it’s easy for a cyber-criminal to set up a spoofed wireless network and they can be very difficult to spot. Be extra cautious when you are connected to any public wireless especially ones you don’t know. Certainly avoid using online banking or making payment transactions.  Having good antivirus and web protection software on your laptops, tablets and mobiles is a great way to protect yourself from the unknown, while I’d also consider data encryption to protect your company data if you or your staff are generally working on the go.

Keep it secret, keep it safe – Passwords, we all have them and if they aren’t strong enough it can be very easy for attackers to steal identities and gain access to your data. But passwords can be a real pain for you and your staff, they can be so complex that no one can remember them and a sticky note in your top draw (or on you monitor) is not the place to keep it. Have a clear password policy for your staff to follow and if you or your team a have a lot of passwords to remember then consider a password management tool like Lastpass (www.lastpass.com).

Cover your risk – Consider taking cyber insurance for your business. As new laws have come in over the responsibilities of a business that have suffered a data breach, if the worse does happen you can be left facing a hefty clean up bill (not to mention a fine from the ICO).

Stay safe – together – No matter what systems you put in place, if your staff aren’t kept up to date about your security procedures and about current threats, then they can easily fall into the traps set out by cunning cyber criminals. Bring cyber security procedures into your staff induction and training processes.


About ITSB: At last… An IT company with a straightforward approach to delivering technical support with one single purpose:­ to serve our clients with Incredible Support! We focus on you, our client to ensure you really get the value you deserve from your IT partner to help your organisation develop and grow. We are the “Go To” people who can offer solid advice that comes from putting ‘what you need’ before our own sales targets.


Raising funds for Poole’s Emergency Services

May 24, 2016

Mayor's Charity Gala

The Italian Villa at Compton Acres was the setting for the Mayor of Poole’s Charity Gala Dinner, hosted by Aspirin’s own Paul Kinvig and the last major event of Cllr Ann Stribley MBE JP’s mayoral year.

Paul Kinvig, Business Coach & Facilitator with Aspirin said, “As a leader of our community, the Mayor’s role in bringing people together to support fundamental life-saving services in Poole is critical.  I loved playing my part of ensuring that everyone enjoyed the evening whilst raising funds for two great causes.  It was a privilege.”

Raising money for Poole Hospital Emergency Dept and Poole Lifeboat Station, over 70 lucky guests enjoyed a drinks reception in the gardens (courtesy of Beales Gourmet Catering) followed by a 3-course meal from Tony Beales & his team.

As well as compering the event Paul encouraged the assembled throng to take part in the traditional game of “Heads & Tails” as well as a paper plane challenge, both of which raised money for the Mayors nominated charities.

The guests were entertained by ‘close up’ magician James Brown and singer Natasha Dark and also added funds to the charities through the purchase of raffle tickets, prizes for which included VIP tickets to the Beach Polo & dinner for 4 at Vesuvio Italian Restaurant   


Aspirin’s involvement in is part of its ongoing commitment to supporting the wider community in which it operates, adding to its involvement in such things as Diverse Abilities, Lewis Manning Hospice & Royal Bournemouth Hospital Charity

Engaging our clients – 5 Top Tips for PR

May 10, 2016


As you probably know by now, we’re could be accused of ‘banging on’ a bit about engagement, but there’s good news!  Engagement is not just for our teams.  We also need to think about engaging our clients.  In fact, we probably put more effort into exactly this because without engagement, we can struggle to attain clients who buy for quality of service, and we certainly won’t retain them.

In our minds, engaging clients starts with a clear understanding of who we are, the value we offer – and then, how do we best convey that to our prospects?

So we asked our clients at Darren Northeast PR to share their Top 5 Tips for PR with our lovely newsletter subscribers.  Here’s what they said:

  1. Develop a clearly defined goal

All PR campaigns should start with clearly defined goals. Do you want to strengthen brand awareness or launch a new product or service? The answers will dictate the appropriate media coverage, the target audience, and the message that you are trying to convey.

  1. Harness the power of Social Media

Social Media is an excellent form of communication, allowing businesses to engage, listen, share and exchange information with a huge audience. Free to use, it’s important to remember to give it as much time as you can with regular updates, content, and shares!

  1. Network – and follow up

From local meetings and groups to specific industry events there are always opportunities to grow your list of business contacts. To build successful relationships good networkers should be friendly and attentive, avoid hard selling, and always arrange follow chats over coffee.

  1. Develop a story that is interesting

To share your business with the public you will need to develop a story that is interesting and compelling. Be informative, entertaining and stay clear of blatant advertisements. Research which publications your target audience reads, or pitch your story to relevant industry publications.

  1. Update your Website

Regular articles and blogs on your website are a great way to attract people to your site. It will increase your SEO so that your website features higher-up in search results, attracting more people to your website and establish a long-term presence online.


As one of the South leading and award-winning PR agencies, Darren Northeast PR have vast experience helping businesses to gain a competitive edge. They know businesses who choose to follow their top tips have the best chances on the road to success.

T:    01202 676762

W:  www.darrennortheast.co.uk

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

As we grow, what won’t we change?

May 10, 2016

by Susannah Brade-Waring, MD & Business Growth Coach & Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions

What We Won't Do


For our clients with a strong heritage, we’ve found defining ‘ What won’t change ‘ very powerful in helping people to create change and growth.  For example, our lovely clients at Douch Family Funeral wanted to create greater consistency across their 8 branches, without losing the heritage and individuality of each branch.  Other clients have been reassured by clearly agreeing that ‘what won’t change’ is a core focus on a certain client group, or the level of service to be provided.

We’ve noticed this is particularly powerful with the Searcher (need to make a difference) and Defender (security) motivators.

Clearly stating ‘what won’t change’ is not a Canute-like attempt to hold back the tide, but a way of allowing people to fully support the organisation’s growth mission.  The alternative, which most leaders have experienced, is inexplicable resistance, not giving our all and questioning decisions.  After all, the individuals themselves often aren’t consciously aware of their own concerns and resistant behaviour.

We often share with clients the excellent example provided by the RNLI.  In the “Purpose, Vision & Values” section on their website, there’s a section called “Things We Will Not Change”. It’s a really interesting and perhaps surprising read, and begs the question:

“What are the things in our organisations we would not change?”


Here, at Aspirin Business Solutions, we help Senior Leadership Teams develop strategic plans and 12 month missions.  We also help them define ‘What won’t change’.  We’ve found externally facilitated group creation of the strategy to be very powerful in strengthening team bonds of trust and understanding, and in enabling the team to pull together powerfully.  It’s another way of creating alignment, at the highest level.

In the words of Steve Jobs “Deciding what not to do, is as important as deciding what to do.”

To explore how we could help your organisation create a Strategy and a 12 Month Mission & Mantra that your leaders and team want to deliver, get in touch to arrange a conversation.

E: sue@aspirinbusiness.com

T: 01202 801187

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