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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People are Like Jigsaw Pieces

October 3, 2016

If we believe that people have strengths, then they must have weaknesses.  Sounds obvious – but it’s difficult for some leaders & managers to embrace.  The result?  A disproportionate amount of time is spent covering up and trying to improve weaknesses, and frustration levels skyrocket. Read more

Strategy … a waste of time or a chocolate hobnob?

February 16, 2016

Paul Kinvig & Susannah Brade-Waring, Business Growth Coaches and Facilitators at Aspirin Business Solutions



Passion is a funny thing – it has started wars, fired scientific discoveries, underpinned world changing inventions, brought down the great people from lofty positions, driven athletes to unheard of performance, set people aflame in their commitment to a cause …

It’s also the quality that is often attributed to business owners & entrepreneurs – the quality that means 9-5 is a Dolly Parton film not their hours of work! The quality that means that if they’ve had a bad day they don’t just walk away and let someone else deal with it.

When that passion is focused it’s not only the strength to get through challenging times but also the power to achieve & exceed business goals………………..

But what provides that focus? Well it’s that often maligned & misunderstood concept of “strategy”.

Now “strategy” tends to divide people down the middle – on one side are those who believe it’s an unnecessary waste of time and as the quote says:

“Strategy is something that gets in the way of doing business.”

On the other are those for whom strategy meetings are like chocolate hobnobs – incredibly moreish! However, they spend so much time strategising that as Winston Churchill eloquently put it:

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

But in reality what is it?  It’s a word that peppers business conversations – you will often see “high powered” meetings take place where the CEO or MD goes “We need a strategy for this….” and the assembled team nod sagely in agreement….then look to each other to see if anyone really understands what it means!!

We overcomplicate strategy considerably – in the Oxford English Dictionary it is defined simply as:

“A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.”

Thus we can really break it down into three simple but powerful constituents that are best looked at in “reverse” or “backwards”:

  • Overall Aim – the most successful strategies are driven by a specific reason.  The most common reason is an increase in turnover – but in truth that rarely motivates anyone.  Growth by capitalising on a new product or service offering is much more tangible and exciting.  Opening up a new market sector – either geographic or a different industry, can be equally exciting.  Other goals may include acquisition of new technology, other businesses or reducing overreliance on a market.  Whatever the reason, the strategy needs to be something everyone can believe in and get behind.
  • Long Term – strategy is not about reacting to the market; it’s about becoming masters of your own destiny.  It’s about taking stock, deciding where to position your organisation and developing a long term plan.  That provides the context for key investments, such as technology, premises and employees.  Critically, it allows you to fully commit to the next 12 months, knowing that whatever you put into place now will still be relevant for the long term goals.  A strong strategy often involves significant performance or direction changes, which don’t happen overnight.  Therefore, strong, clear and consistent leadership is required to keep everyone on board, pulling in the same direction and on track with both the long terms strategy and current tactical activities.
  • Plan of Action – There is an ancient Japanese proverb that says “Vision without action is a daydream” and this is where many strategies fail.  Frankly, the act of balancing long-term goals and short-term needs is challenging.  There is an art in breaking down the strategy into measurable business objectives which will be delivered through focussed and motivated teams and individuals.  A key element is balancing both the business needs and the people needs, in creating the right amount of structure for quality and consistency, whilst retaining creativity and passion.  In short, lofty aspirations and eloquent phraseology need the tangible, practical structure of a plan that people can and want to deliver.

So what is strategy for you?  A waste of time or a chocolate hobnob?

Well, here at Aspirin we help our clients find a strategy that is neither a waste of time nor indulgent but rather focused, stretching and built around the business needs.  We help them to understand their overall aim, create a robust long term strategy and a plan of action.

Critically, we do all of that whilst strengthening and aligning the team so they will pull together to deliver.  After all, the real test of a strategy is when it delivers the desired results.  Worth us having 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

” 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?

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?