Your Weekly Aspirin: “I must be the unluckiest salesman …”

October 31, 2016

Don’t accept excuses for poor performance. Most activities can be broken down to understand what’s working well & what’s not, and finding ways to improve that. But most people don’t do this analysis, and usually because they’re not used to taking ownership of their performance and feelings. Read more

Avoiding confrontations?

April 12, 2016

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


Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil – it’s the easiest way to avoid having to address an uncomfortable situation.

In our role as business growth coaches and facilitators, we hear a recurring theme …

“He/she is not comfortable with confronting or dealing with difficult situations……”

Our clients are, in our words, commercially driven business leaders with big hearts –  a combination that can create conflict around addressing undesirable behaviour.

Frankly, if our clients didn’t care quite so much – either about their business or their people, it wouldn’t be an issue.  After all, most of us have experienced managers who either let poor behaviour slide or ‘motivate’ through fear and pain.

Here at Aspirin we work with Motivational Maps and virtually every day we’re helping people understand themselves and others through their motivators.

One of these motivators is Friend.  It’s an intriguing one as people with this motivator at a high level view friendships & relationships as highly important. However, senior roles often rank it as their lowest motivator because they’re uncomfortable getting too close to their teams.  Additionally, they find it easier to make business decisions when less emotionally attached to the people their decisions affect.

However, every now and again, it does emerge as a top motivator and hereby comes the mystery. How do managers who enjoy feeling closely connected to their team deal with undesirable behaviour?

The reality is effective managers learn to do both.  They’re not afraid of demanding high performance, or making tough, unpopular decisions whilst recognising that remaining ‘connected’ to their team is a must. It’s the reality of the oft quoted manager’s phrase “It’s better to be respected than liked”.

Sometimes it requires a ‘bit of a bust up’ to clear the air and agree a way forward.  But, as one client said, ‘being punched in the face doesn’t hurt as much as you’d think’ – i.e. the fear is often greater than the reality.

So here are our 3 top tips for handling confrontations:

  1. Ensure there’s a common understanding of what acceptable job performance looks like. What does ‘acceptable’ mean? You can even ask the individual ‘How will we both know when you’re performing your job well?’  Once defined & communicated, anything that falls below that level must be addressed.

There are two parts to this – competence and behaviour.  Behaviour is the ‘trickiest’ to deal with as it is often inconsistent (with good days and bad days).

However it’s made much easier if there’s a culture charter which clearly states what the desired behaviour looks like.  Even better is a voiced-over Powerpoint describing what this behaviour looks like.  Consistent reinforcement is key here – the charter needs to be discussed during interviews and regularly referred to e.g. when rewarding outstanding examples of it.  As an example, our own ‘charter’ includes

“……open & honest conversations, clear agreed plans, everyone to play their part, pull together and be reliable”

Sound like hard work?  We know leaders who’ve avoided ‘confronting’ a member of staff about inappropriate behaviour for years.  It’s become a bit of a joke but here’s the sting – not addressing it diminishes confidence in the leader. As leaders what we allow, we condone!

Defining acceptable job performance should, then, be easier.  However in reality – how often do our team have key performance indicators or measures that relate fundamentally to the performance required? Do they exist at all? If they do, have they changed in line with current & future business requirements?

Tackling this will involve hard work, consultation and yes – more paperwork – but it makes a real difference. You can start with something very simple, such as a single KPI, if it will help you address the poor performance……

One of our clients is the Maintenance Department of John Lewis.  We helped them improve job performance and ownership by designing a set of business objectives.  For the first time the managers were able to measure non-financial performance across all of the branches.  They could see what was possible, which branches were performing best and identify and share areas of best practice.  And, in terms of this article, this helped them to comfortably address & improve poor performance and to make those difficult decisions quicker and easier when it became clear certain team members would be unable to attain the required standards.

So, a common understanding of what acceptable behaviour looks like means that when the individual sees for themselves that they are not performing, there’s the possibility of reduced resistance to having that difficult conversation.  In fact, they often welcome it – because they’re already uncomfortable.


  1. Create bonds that pull the group together.  Strong bonds require trust.  However, trust is only built through experience of not being let down or undermined! i.e. it’s only under testing conditions that we really know we can trust someone.

As an exercise write down 7 quick examples of when you’ve proven you can be trusted – if you’re struggling with that, go and look for opportunities to prove it!!  E.g. I apologise quickly when I make mistakes.

Successful groups needs a purpose (a reason to be together) and there is a difference between a ‘team’ and a ‘group’ – particularly in whether each individual believes they are part of a team, with everything that means.  As we say at Aspirin Business ‘At the heart of a FASTER team is a common goal that motivates and unites’.

Do you have a common goal like that?  When you do, it often means the team ‘self regulate’ and deal with unacceptable behaviour themselves!


  1. Practice makes perfect. Instead of avoiding those confrontations, nip them in the bud. Having regular team and 1:1 meetings using an agenda depersonalises it & keeps it focused on the business.  For example, our own agenda has four components:
    • 3 achievements
    • Updates on KPIs and/ or key news
    • Top 5 priorities for the week ahead
    • Concerns

Yes – concerns are on our agenda as a standard item.  By expecting everyone to have concerns, people don’t bottle them up.  In fact we often find that our concerns are the same and airing them means we reduce the number of confrontations.

Never be afraid to have that difficult conversation.  If it’s an employment issue then get the facts.  Understand exactly what you should and shouldn’t do – knowing you’re legally right will give you the confidence to follow the process, until you’re comfortable developing your own.

Crucially – it should never be a surprise.  If you’re dealing with an issue, the individual should be aware that it’s a potential problem first.  That way the conversation is, at least, not unexpected.


Worth a conversation?  Here at Aspirin Business we strongly believe a ‘culture charter’ and key performance indicators are critical to business and individual success.  They form part of the glue that align individuals with their team, leaders, organisation and their performance.

Our preferred style is to work with the Senior Team to develop these, engaging further staff members as appropriate.  If this is something you’d like to explore, then get in touch and let’s have a conversation.

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“I Have A Dream…”

March 8, 2016

Paul Kinvig, Business Growth Coach and Facilitator at Aspirin Business Solutions


In the year of my birth, one of history’s greatest speeches was delivered by Martin Luther King.  Now most of us know the “I Have A Dream” section and the “Free At Last” ending, but the whole thing is simply jaw dropping.  Because, if you read it, you cannot fail to be challenged & inspired but above all else be left in no doubt as to his vision of a different future where, to paraphrase ‘character content is more important than race’, he finishes with the famous declaration “Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

As we shared in our last blog, it’s the combination of passion and strategy that creates the foundation for achieving business goals.  However, it’s the creation of a clear & compelling vision that keeps us focused and attracts, retains & inspires our team and customers.  And the vision has to be built around values – the driving forces that are wrapped up in its leaders’ personal & business DNA. When you read ‘I Have A Dream’, Mr King’s values of fairness, justice, peace & hope ring out clearly out in his closing words – and resonate deeply with those with matching values.  It’s the resonance that creates the focus and attraction and reminds us, during even the darkest days, why we’re doing what we do!

So in constructing our vision, we first need to consider the question, ‘What are our values?’  It might seem like a simple one to answer but is it? It goes to the very heart of why we do what we do & what we do it for.   Discovering what truly drives & motivates us gives the foundation for a vision that is authentic and powerful.  It’s when we attempt to follow something that isn’t ‘ours’ or alternatively deny those core values that are ‘ours’ that the power of resonance is diminished.

It could be that what we value is to use our knowledge to make a difference.  It could be that we’re driven to deliver excellence, or to keep people safe or to create something of beauty.  Or perhaps it’s similar to our own – to help people live fully by pulling together to overcome challenges.

So once we’ve truly understood our values, what constitutes a powerful vision?

  • Be Sharp – It’s pretty much accepted that the shorter and punchier the vision, the more likely it will be remembered. There is a story told of Sergey Brin and Larry Page from Google expressing their company’s vision in a single sentence to some potential investors: “Google provides access to the world’s information in one click!”
  • Be Specific – The more specific we can be in our visions then the more we are likely to build belief, commitment and purpose in both our colleagues AND customers! When John F Kennedy, in 1961, said his vision was to put a man on the moon and return him safely by the last day of the 60’s, that vision caught the imagination of the nation….and it happened!
  • Be Consistent – One of the core learning processes of any human being is repetition. The more we see, hear, touch & experience something the more we remember and adopt. Our vision needs to be constantly repeated using ALL the channels at our disposal – interviews, social media, e-mail footers, staff noticeboards & intranet, packaging, marketing materials etc. This is how it keeps us focused and attracts, retains and inspires our team and our customers.
  • Be Emotional – There is a greatly used phrase in the art of successful presenting and it is this – “Persuade with logic, inspire with emotion!” The language of vision is highly important as we need to connect with people emotionally in order to inspire them. One read of Martin Luther Kings’ speech will show you that he knew that his vision needed to inspire people to overcome incredible challenges, undertake personal sacrifice and potentially for them not see the fruit of their commitment realised. However, that vision struck people in such a way as to inspire them to acts of bravery that started a fundamental change.


Here at Aspirin, we often start by helping our clients create their vision.  Their openness and honesty in sharing how they want the business to develop, and what they truly value, builds trust and a strong bond that enables them to quickly agree on how they’ll achieve that vision – and what they will and won’t change.  Worth a conversation?