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ecosurety – Team Values

TEAM VALUES – BELIEVING IN PASSIONATE PEOPLE

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What your people say about you as a business really counts in terms of market perception.  In fact, they are potentially your greatest advocates, conveying what is great about you and what they see as the kind of people you are – your team values – to thousands of people every day.

Selling dreams

Every business understands the importance of its brand.  The image it presents to the marketplace and the dreams it sells to its target market are fundamental to its success.  Most businesses set aside a significant proportion of their budget to invest in developing and presenting this image, which inevitably changes over time.

One growing business did this, but took some additional steps as well.  Ecosurety is an environmental compliance services provider.  Formerly known as Budget Pack, it spent a large sum of money on corporate branding.  But it didn’t stop there; ecosurety looked within itself as well as externally.

“It’s a hugely exciting change,” says managing director James Potten about the rebranding.  “Becoming ecosurety helps us to tell everyone precisely who we are and all that we can do.  Why have we done this ?  Because since our launch in 2003 we have changed a great deal.  We are a dramatically different business today, with services that build on our roots in waste compliance and take us into other areas too.”

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Chairman Steve Clark adds: “It’s a great fit with our ethos and approach, but we also work in partnership with our members and help them embrace sustainability on their own terms.  It’s essential to our business values.”

The branding consultants that James and Steve used followed best practice and involved the whole workforce in discussions about the precise meaning of these brand values.  Informed by these discussions, three headline values were expressed : Protect, Inspire, Perform.  The specific implications of each of these – for sales, marketing and customer service – was then explored and agreed with the whole team.  Also carefully defined were a number of Truths about the way ecosurety does business.  So far so good as far as the external face of the business is concerned, but the work progressed further.

Team values

“If we are to make promises to our customers, and make them stick in a meaningful way” says James Potten “why would we not do so for our own team values as well ?  That’s why we thought Investors in People would be a natural part of our strategy.”

As well as the usual consultation sessions with senior management, initial diagnostic and report, briefings at management meetings and presentations at team meetings, ecosurety asked me, as its Investors in People specialist, to provide something extra.

From the beginning of our relationship I could see how serious they are about the business benefits of being the best employer they could be.  As one employee explained : “I can genuinely say I look forward to coming into work every day” and there is a deep sense of openness and trust.  There was an enormous amount of excellent management practice but there were gaps :

  • Previously, the team values and business plan had been “created in only a semi-inclusive way”
  • Learning and development was not planned and evaluated against specific business priorities
  • Manager capabilities were not yet effectively analysed and built into the performance management system

The management team, supported by HR Manager Jackie Smith, developed and implemented solutions to address the last two issues. The extra step was then taken to make the values central to the way everyone works together.

As a trained facilitator, I was asked to run a workshop for the whole team.  Using Protect Inspire Perform as the starting point, three mixed discussion groups “satellited” around three discussion points :

  1. In our own words what do we believe is important as a place to work, considering the way we should treat each other and work together ? How can we define our ethos in terms of a shared commitment to the team values ?
  2. What specific commitments should we make to our colleagues and our manager ? What do we have a right to expect from each other ?
  3. How can managers support our team values in the way they manage ? What specific commitments should managers make to the people that work in their teams ?

I then took the flipcharts and turned them into a simple one-page document that became known as Our Belief In Our Team.  James Potten signed this document, it was published and the content of it then integrated within people policy in areas such as :

  • recruitment
  • learning and development
  • performance management
  • management training

It was a fantastic event” says Jackie Smith. “Even if the document listed things we were already doing, the passion with which everyone got involved was amazing.  And since then, nobody has had a problem with pointing out to their colleagues if their behaviour has contravened the published beliefs or team values.”

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Since Our Belief In Our Team was issued, ecosurety has made great strides.  End-of-year results exceeded expectations, customer feedback on the rebranding has been excellent, staff retention is well above average, growth plans are ahead of forecast and Silver-level Investors in People accreditation has been achieved at first assessment.  Speaking of which, some of the award assessor’s comments are worth noting here :

“It is rare to meet such a thoughtful and reflective company”
“against a backdrop of a rapidly expanding company with challenging targets, you have managed to maintain an ethos of mutual respect and support in so many different ways”
“People felt they were actively encouraged to contribute ideas and, most importantly, that these ideas mattered and counted”
“There is a whole organisation ethos despite the re-structure into distinct teams”
“The culture that you have engendered is one of such maturity and trust that feedback both from managers to team members but also upwards is accepted and valued”

The increased employability deal

The business payback on all this goes further. On the one hand, every Investors in People employer knows the deal, and accepts that the learning and development opportunities it provides make each employee more valuable on the job market.  On the other, as the famous joke goes, “imagine if we don’t train them and they stay.”

What has happened in ecosurety’s case is that the workforce believes in and feels part of what ecosurety is aiming to achieve, not just because of the positive effect on the planet but because of how they really do care about whether the business succeeds or fails.

The passion of the team has communicated itself to the customers.  Satisfaction levels are very high and rising.  New business referrals from existing customers are up.  As they say, “there’s no better advert than a passionate employee.”  Without the need for too much in the way of artificial incentives, everyone in the team, customer-facing or not, acts as an evangelist everywhere they go.  As a result, the sky’s the limit as far as growth is concerned.

As James Potten says : “We’ve always been very busy, concerned with meeting and exceeding our customers’ needs and continuously changing and improving at the same time.  It’s been tough, but the time and investment we’ve put into our own people and the team values means we have a really solid and structured basis that underpins everything we do and gives us confidence for the future.”

If you haven’t already held discussions with your people about how your brand values apply within your team, you should consider doing so.  These sessions can involve more than it might appear, so do think about using an independent facilitator.  You can also arrange some brief workshops on basic selling techniques for non-sales staff to equip them for conversations outside work.

Let’s leave the last word to ecosurety employees : “We are the business.”

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Update 23 March 2016 :  Following an intensive programme – which involved my running a series of in-house steering group meetings, managers’ workshops and whole team events – ecosurety achieves Gold !  See here https://www.ecosurety.com/ecohub/news/ecosurety-achieves-gold-standard-for-people-management/

Alliance Homes Group – Mature People Management

Maturity Doesn’t Always Come With Age

Mature people management practice hinges on how you do it, not how long you’ve been doing it. And it starts with values.

When we think about a mature person, we usually imagine someone who has learned from experience over many years. But when we apply the word to people management, it doesn’t always work like that. It’s perfectly possible for long-established businesses to get stuck in an entrenched mindset where development, change and ‘enlightened’ thinking are simply not on the agenda. On the other hand, there are relatively young organisations out there that have embedded a set of values into their development strategy, demonstrating a truly mature approach to people management.

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Values for identity, quality and purpose

A west of England community-based social enterprise providing housing management, care and support, maintenance, and green energy solutions, Alliance Homes Group is a great example of this.
In 2006, it had just split away from the Local Authority, where it had been a directorate merged with Adult Social Services. As an organisation now standing on its own, the team at Alliance Homes Group faced a great many challenges, including how to change their culture from one dependent on the public purse to an independent, energetic and enterprising service provider with its own recognisable brand.

One advantage Alliance Homes Group had was the enlightened thinking of the Chief Executive, Clive Bodley, and his senior team. Their primary focus was on customers and service users, so a great deal of work went into developing a set of customer service values, with some high-quality training to support this. Cleverly, they made these values applicable to Alliance Homes Group as an employer as well. Through facilitated staff events, they involved their people in creating and expressing a set of words they could apply internally as well as externally.

With those values and commitments in place, published and owned by everyone, they had a solid foundation from which to develop. And develop they did. Strategic planning, role descriptions, appraisals, training and communications have all been planned and implemented with explicit links being made back to the values.

Surveys and employee voices shaping improvement

One demonstration of how their emotionally intelligent approach is working is how the employee survey has come to be treated by departments like HR, Finance and IT as a customer satisfaction measure. They agree improvements to the service they provide internally in just the same way as the customer-facing teams do in response to the survey results they receive.

Alliance Homes Group were committed to consulting with the whole team on a five-year corporate plan and putting in place their own systems to implement it. They formed a Performance Management Group to oversee the whole process at corporate, team and individual levels. They recognised the need to evaluate as they went along, and invited me to carry out an internal perception-gathering exercise.

An online appraisal system was designed, with ratings against a comprehensive list of competencies. But there were issues. Although there were many performance metrics in place, people weren’t making the best use of the information these provided. So we streamlined the process into a crystal-clear traffic light report approach, published to both customers and staff.

Another issue Alliance Homes Group faced was people not being clear about the role of managers, and having an inconsistent understanding of what was expected of them. To address this, Alliance Homes Group rolled out a modular management development programme with additional coaching elements, which, over time, led to a real change in managers’ behaviour. One of the administration team told me, “I feel inspired – my manager supports me and is willing to share his knowledge and experience to help me progress.”

To accreditation and beyond

In 2010, Alliance Homes Group felt it was ready for Investors in People accreditation, invited the assessor in and achieved Bronze on its first go. But as with many businesses where excellence in people management  is embedded in everything they do, the improvement didn’t stop there. Despite a major restructure, which led to a lot of pressure on Alliance Homes Group’s HR team (three TUPE projects in a single year!), the organisation continued in its commitment to developing its culture and its people.

“We were due to be re-assessed at the end of 2013, so 12 months before that Lance carried out an informal audit for us to benchmark where we were,” explains Amanda Strange, Assistant Director of HR. “Following the audit, Lance identified the areas where we needed to focus our efforts, including evaluation systems, all-staff communications about strategy and values, team meeting agendas and developing a people policy, all of which we worked through.”

The shift from local authority department to independent organisation may have been difficult, but it enabled Alliance Homes Group to decide what sort of business it wanted to be and to create a workplace culture that reflected that. Much of what they do now would have been far less likely in their former guise. They are open and transparent within their team. As one employee explained, “It’s amazing that we’re given all the information about figures – we’ve never had that before”.

They delegate measurement and reporting across their team to create a sense of ownership. They hold regular team meetings, inviting guest speakers from different teams to talk about what they do, to improve cross team understanding. What’s more, they invest in skills for the long term and think innovatively about learning solutions, with options including job shadowing, mentoring and on-the-job coaching. “I prefer learning practically rather than in a ‘chalk and talk’ situation,” explains one team member. “The shadowing opportunities have been great for this.”

These achievements have been made possible because of the all-important values. If there’s an atmosphere of trust, then so much more can happen. People share more, challenge what needs to be improved, and come into work with smiles on their faces. Faith in human nature becomes a virtuous circle. That’s got to be good for customers, right?

Time served vs. maturity

To talk about mature people management is to talk about values and the atmosphere they create. Shaping your values with your team and embedding them in your business is the first step to maturity, because it breeds a workforce that is more engaged, responsive and committed – which in itself can take your business to new heights. And you don’t have to have been around for decades to do it. You just need to mean it, and follow it up with actions that bring those values to life.

Just like Alliance Homes Group did.

Hft – Leadership Qualities in Everyone

Why leadership means more when it’s spread out

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When it comes to effective leadership, the spotlight turns not just on the team at the top. Encouraging leadership qualities in employees at every level can have a powerful impact on performance.

If you google ‘distributed leadership’ you’ll get such a plethora of articles and images it’s almost impossible to work out what it’s really about. The idea has been around for some years now, but only an enlightened few organisations have managed to successfully put it into practice.

One of them is Hft, a national charity providing local support services for people with learning disabilities. And while Hft sits firmly in the social care sector, the principles and approaches for encouraging good leadership behaviours in staff across an organisation apply to us all – multinational or microbusiness, profit-driven or charity.

Steady under pressure

As in many other sectors, Hft operates in a world where outside pressures can set the agenda and influence how the organisation operates, from central and local government to regulators and the families of the people they support. But despite the huge pressure to focus on compliance, Hft has held steady in its commitment to its team, understanding that they hold the key to creating the best experience for the people they’re there to support.

For Hft, individual leadership comes in the form of each member of staff working with another support worker to draw up a client care plan, inspiring them to stick to it and helping them to achieve great things. A few years ago changes in legislation introduced the need to have a care plan for each person Hft supports, so they responded by designing a special training programme which enables them to delegate responsibility to the support workers themselves.

This meant everyone in the organisation had to think in unfamiliar ways about their role in helping the people they support to gain more independence. The main problem lay in switching from care provider to facilitator – as one support worker put it: “people deserve more than just care.”

Initial research revealed that Hft was already doing well with working in partnership, being creative and flexible, aiming for the best and having a genuine passion for what they do. So the next step was to build on these existing strengths by painting a clear company vision and sharing it effectively with their employees. Hft Centres across the country set about designing their own interpretations of this model, so it was always relevant. “They’re quirky, but they really work for us,” says one Hft employee.

Initially seen as “more paperwork”, the subsequent response was extremely positive as it allowed support workers to think deeply about the aspect of the job they found most rewarding – seeing people flourish and gain independence. “We call it person-centredness,” says Paul Twynam, Leadership and Management Specialist at Hft.

The roots for success

Organisations wanting to reap the benefits of distributed leadership will need to make sure they create the right environment for it to flourish. Looking at the Hft example, the roots for success include:

· Thinking very carefully about the different communication needs of different groups of staff, and adapting the channels to suit
· Consulting with staff on all major decisions and explaining the bigger picture, via their Partnership Forum and team meetings
· Encouraging managers locally and at the top to create an environment where people feel trusted to make the right calls about how they do their jobs
· Designing the delegation of accountability into all training, and providing ample support during the transition

Taking this approach allowed Hft to achieve great results in a sector where costs are being squeezed and inspection regimes are tough. And when it comes to fully invested employees, the positivity of Hft’s people speaks itself: “The way Hft does things is how it should be done in the 21st century,” says one Hft employee; “I’m really proud of our approach to supporting people” says another. The longer-term impact on Hft’s working culture means:

· The organisation is freer than most to take strategic decisions without being tied by outside factors
· The organisation is able to plan and manage major change programmes, knowing that their people have the mindset and competence needed for these to work. In the last year alone, there has been a merger and a new strategy launch
· Compliance problems are reducing
· Sickness and absence rates are lower than the UK average for the sector

Across all sectors, being a leader involves developing a vision and inspiring others to achieve it. For example, in the construction industry each contract manager, using the specification as a vision and the programme as a roadmap, has to inspire colleagues, partner contractors, tradesmen and clients to buy in to the suggested ways of achieving that vision – on time, to spec and within budget.

It’s not our job to sell, is it ? – Selling skills for operatives

“It’s not our job to sell, is it ?”

In a small or medium-sized business, the pressure is on to win new work.  The Director in charge of sales and his/her team do what they can to bring in enough at least to keep everyone busy.  The difficult job of identifying opportunities to explain how great the product or service is can be so much easier if the whole workforce is involved as well.  This session covers the basic skills people need to make optimum business use of the sense of pride in doing good work for a good company.

Learning Aims

By the end of the session, people will be able to :

  • Demonstrate a good understanding of the demands on everyone in a small business
  • Take responsibility for their own contribution to developing the business
  • Explain some tools and techniques which will prove helpful to them in taking advantage of new leads in the future
  • Take forward some ideas the group has had for generating more new business leads

For Whom

This half-day workshop is for people who have not had any selling skills training but deal with customers as part of their day-to-day job.  These may be site operatives, customer service officers or anyone who answers the phone.  It acts as a useful eye-opener in how to spot opportunities to promote the company and encourage anyone the delegates come in contact with to do business there.

Content – Selling Skills

  • The importance of everybody getting personally involved in promoting our services
  • What are we expected to sell ?  Who to ?
  • Identifying opportunities
  • A good answer to the question “What do you do ?”
  • What information we need to get from potential customers
  • The techniques for “closing the deal”
  • Features and benefits

Rise Technical – Investors in People Gold

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Rise Technical Recruitment – Investors in People Gold

Of the thousands of Investors in People organisations in the UK, about three percent are Gold; almost all of these have been working with the Standard for many years.

The fast-growing specialist recruitment firm already had a high-profile in the Bristol business community.  The founding directors, Jeff Leng and Ben McCarthy, had featured in the local media for their ambitious and skilled entrepreneurship.  When I was invited in, it was already a successful business, a great place to work, with phenomenal levels of professional ethics, customer service and team motivation.

When we discussed Investors in People, the original intention had been to gain accreditation against the basic Standard, firstly to gain the “badge” as a marketing tool, and secondly to support the ambitious plans for continued expansion.  When I spoke to the people that worked there, it soon became obvious that there was a great deal more in place than the core Standard seeks evidence for.  There was therefore every reason to suppose that the firm could match up to the rigour of Investors in People Gold.  We decided to go for it.

Not everything was perfect:  The team were rather vague on what the top-level business objectives were, more could be done to promote the learning culture Jeff and Ben were seeking to create, and team managers’ skills needed further development.

We worked together to design a series of management skills workshops based around the contents of their operational manual.  I delivered these in bite-sized sessions with lots of practical tools to help make the models in the manual come alive.  We did some serious thinking about how strategy was communicated and the link between training and business targets strengthened, and I gave them tools to help.  I would go to see Jeff and Ben every 3 or 4 weeks, and at every meeting they had always completed the actions agreed at the previous meeting.

When the award assessor came in to Rise, he had no hesitation in awarding Investors in People Gold at the first time of asking, only 9 months after our initial meeting.  The score out of 10 achieved for being a great place to work was between 9 and 10.

The sense of pride in the team has risen even higher than it was.  As their adviser, I too am proud of what they have achieved.  Major credit goes to Jeff and Ben for their positive, responsive and enlightened attitude.  They are quick and effective in implementing improvements, crystal clear on the business benefits of Investors in People, and are well set to be the fastest-growing independently-owned firm in their sector.

Social Responsibility

To follow through on my commitment to social responsibility, I volunteer 5 days every year to help young people with their employment prospects and act as an independent mentor on their cv and career planning.

Career Planning

A school leaver called Nathan came to me in some distress after being told by his careers adviser to get a job in a call centre.  I listened, created a safe and calm environment, encouraged him to take a deep breath, and then listened some more.  I asked him to look back at the achievements of his life so far, and there were plenty; we quantified these and included them in his cv.  I reassured him about how there is no need in early life for specific professional goals and we looked at some options.  He had never travelled outside the UK before.  He is now working abroad, filled with vitality and a sense of opportunity, and is one of the happiest people I know.

Student business start-ups

I have been a judge for UWE’s student business planning competitions, sharing as much feedback and “wisdom” as I could.  Many of the entries I judged have gone on to set up successful businesses.

Bridging the education – workplace gap

I act as a volunteer business expert for an excellent organisation called Working Knowledge which is well worth checking out.

Working Knowledge Expert
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Sharing knowledge

Another way in which I uphold my social responsibility is to make my knowledge and experience available for the general public to learn from.  I make no charge for writing articles like this one for the national Investors in People website,  In this way, people can find out what it’s like to a) go through the process, and b) work with me.  I believe strongly in the power of organisational development and want to share this passion.

Case Studies – successful business

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Working to sustain successful business

I am at the service of any business or organisation that wants to grow and improve, sees the need for expert outside help and is prepared to invest in that help.

I have acted as business counsellor to the full spectrum of organisations.  From small businesses in distress to large national charities seeking to consolidate, I have a record of achievement to ensure your business success.

Looking back while writing these case studies, something struck me.  It was how many medium-sized firms there are which aren’t exactly struggling, they just want to stop firefighting, add some structure and thinking time, and prove to themselves and to the outside world what a successful business they are.

These are very short stories which I hope you will find as inspiring to read as I did to be a part of.

About Me – business consultant

Bristol business consultant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I help businesses grow.  Some of my clients refer to me as their business guru. I facilitate team events and deliver strategy and change consulting, business performance coaching, management and personal skills training and Investors In People advice.

At school and university I specialised in languages; the main thrust of my professional development has been in facilitation and consultancy skills.  I have enjoyed successful spells in general management, training, quality, network development and customer service.

I am a qualified trainer, a licensed Investors In People specialist and national level Business Excellence Award assessor.  I am a member of the Institute of Consulting.

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Business coaching

My clients range across a wide variety of sectors.  Current clients include a valve maufacturer in Wiltshire, a marine engineer in Weymouth, a charity for people with learning disabilities in Bristol and a building firm in Royal Wootton Bassett.  Many of my client relationships have lasted over ten years.  I have twenty years of experience with Investors in People and continuous improvement, using a large kitbag of tools and techniques to help my clients improve their business results.

Previous roles include managing major improvement programmes at NatWest, setting up the local service provider network at Business Link Somerset, General Manager of Excellence South West for two years of its infancy and adviser to small businesses at Business West.

I have built up an extensive network of contacts for the sharing of learning and expertise.  My main background and passion is facilitation aimed at helping senior managers to gain insight for themselves and their people to achieve better business performance.

Legal Stuff

While I am a big believer in plain English, my legal adviser has suggested I adopt the following wording.  By instructing me to work with you, you are agreeing to these terms.

Standard Terms and Conditions of Business

Contract

Our contract will be based on these terms and conditions and the written proposal.  I will hold these costs for three months from the date of the proposal.  By agreeing to proceed you are confirming that you have read, understood and will abide by these Terms and Conditions and Cancellation policy.

Planning and Cancellation

Once dates are booked, I will hold them for you.  Any further meetings will be subject to availability and will be charged at the agreed rate for the work.  If you cancel any meeting which you have booked, and I am not able to replace it with another paying client, I will charge cancellation fees at my discretion to a maximum of :

o        15-10 days notice – 50%
o        10-5 days notice – 75%
o        Less than 5 days notice – 100%

Termination

If, for any reason, you decide not to complete the work, you must confirm this in writing.  I will charge you for the work completed up to the date this confirmation is received and any cancellation fees due (see above).

Project review

If the project remains partially completed and there has been no contact from you, I will request a meeting to review whether the work is meeting your needs and to plan new dates.  If I receive no response to this request, I reserve the right to decide at my discretion a project termination date and charge you as per the termination clause above.

Fees and Expenses

I charge mileage at 45p per mile, and train and taxi fares and subsistence at cost.  I will add expenses to the fee invoices at appropriate times.  If you have any concerns about the fees, please contact me as soon as possible and before the work begins.  If you continue with the work after the proposal has been received and agreed, it is understood that you have accepted the outlined costs.  Between us, we will identify and agree any variation to these terms and conditions before the project begins.

Invoicing and Payment

I will invoice you according to the payment option you have chosen and which we have agreed before work starts.  The terms of payment are 28 days.  I reserve the right to discontinue delivering services if payment is outstanding.

Confidentiality

I guarantee the confidentiality of all of your information, documentation and records that I have access to. I conduct myself at all times in full compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Copyright

The copyright in the content of any work produced during or as a result of work I undertake for you shall be the absolute property of Lance Cross Business Performance Ltd.

Unavoidable Circumstances

I will try to supply the services agreed to the best of my ability.  In the case of unavoidable circumstances, such as serious illness, I will complete the work as soon as practicable and will accept no further liability.

Company Law

English law shall be the proper law of the contract and all claims under the contract shall be settled by reference to the English legal system

Happiness and Motivation – Managing people

This interactive workshop provides an opportunity for delegates to explore the challenges they face when motivating themselves and their team members. They will share these challenges and learn from each other in a safe, energising and fun environment. They will come away with tips and techniques to practice in the workplace, giving them happiness and fulfilment in their role.

Learning Aims

By the end of the workshop, delegates will be able to :

  • motivate themselves and their team effectively
  • build better relationships with other teams across their business
  • demonstrate a range of personal skills in managing people, to get the best out of their team members

For Whom

This session is designed for anyone who is interested in developing or refreshing their understanding of why it is that they themselves, and other people, usually aim to do a good job. It is a good eye-opener for people looking for greater motivation in their own role.  It is also for team leaders who have been managing people for a while and are looking for new ways of thinking to help them motivate others.

Content – Managing People

  • The philosophy and science of happiness
  • What makes us happy ?
  • Levels of happiness
  • Self awareness exercise : Career motivations
  • Understanding motivation – “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” factors
  • Empathy and sympathy
  • Helping people to feel valued
  • The real meaning of empowerment
  • What this means for managing people in practice