Stress and what we can do about it – managing stress

Managing stress at work

However well-trained they are, sometimes people find that things are all getting a bit much. They need a chance to stop and think through with their peers what they can do differently to manage themselves and their emotions better.  They learn what to do to ease the fevered environment on the team and further improve the quality of the service they provide and their team working skills. This practical session on managing stress aims to provide a fun and supportive group ambience for discussing and agreeing helpful techniques for overcoming these challenges.

Learning Aims

By the end of the session, delegates will have :

  • increased their understanding what specifically is causing them to feel as they do
  • recognised what needs to happen to manage their emotions and their interactions with others successfully
  • practised relevant skills to enable them to deal with real situations in the workplace and reduce stress for themselves and fellow team members while doing so
  • decided on some practical methods of dealing with difficult situations

For Whom

This workshop is for anyone who finds that they are sometimes having difficulty coping with the demands of the workplace. It has been created to help people who find that meeting the expectations of customers, managers and their colleagues is becoming more stressful.


  • Review of experiences which caused us stress : what happened, what was the result, how did we feel
  • Which zone are you in? – recognising stress in yourself and others
  • Personal responses to stress and the effect on our behaviour
  • Energiser exercise
  • Discussion groups – work-based scenarios and solutions to them
  • Clarifying your personal values
  • Managing our emotions and staying in control in stressful situations
  • Strategies for responding to difficult individuals and conflict
  • Practical hints and tips for reducing stress

It’s Time for a Proper Chat – Appraisal Skills

It’s Time for a Proper Chat – Appraisal Skills

Whatever name your organisation gives to appraisals – time outs, performance reviews, one-to-ones, job chats – the time may have come when they need to become more meaningful and more effective.  Managers need to think differently about how they are done.  This thought-provoking session turns the traditional view on its head and suggests that, for everyone but new recruits, the most effective method is to encourage people to assess their own performance and to set their own goals.  That way, there is more accountability and less paperwork for the manager.

Learning Aims

By the end of this six hours of appraisal skills training, delegates will be able to :

  • deliver appraisals effectively and confidently
  • demonstrate the skills to enable them to give and receive constructive feedback
  • agree clear goals
  • manage underperformance in a positive way

For Whom

This one-day workshop is for people whose role includes managing and appraising other people.  It acts as a useful refresher to complement any previous or existing training in managing performance, and acts as a standalone for people who have had little formal management training.  It is particularly useful for those who spend most of their time doing the technical side of their job and are expected to complete performance reviews for their team.


The material is adapted to each organisation’s process and culture.  As well as some appraisal skills teaching, delegates will learn by increasing self awareness, discussion, practising scenarios and active fun.

  • The relevance of a good appraisal process – why they are a good thing
  • Situational leadership self awareness exercise – flexibility in leadership style
  • The outcomes of a good appraisal
  • Listening, questioning
  • Giving and receiving constructive feedback
  • Setting goals
  • Creating the right environment
  • Levels of happiness; motivation and empowerment
  • Managing underperformance
  • Your organisation’s process and paperwork

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

Care Matters (Wilts) – Business Improvement

Business improvement - Care Matters

Care Matters (Wiltshire) Ltd is a medium-sized domiciliary care agency which has been operating out of Warminster for over ten years. The manager, Julie King, had heard about Investors in People as an effective business improvement framework, and was interested in finding out more. Always an employer who has been genuinely committed to her team, and already a successful business, she wanted to :

• better support compliance with Care Quality Commission standards
• bring more organisation and structure to systems for managing performance
• confirm her commitment to her team by gaining external recognition

Implementing Business Improvement

We started by arranging confidential one-to-one chats between me and each of her people – a face-to-face staff survey, in effect. This was a bit of a leap of faith on Julie’s part; it takes an enlightened attitude to be prepared to open up to criticism – however constructive – the business one has built up.

The output was a report reflecting perceptions of Care Matters as an employer, both good and no so good points. Julie and I then met regularly to consider consolidating those strengths in management practice and identifying solutions to areas which could be improved. We agreed simple ways to :

• communicate to the team what the business is aiming to achieve
• plan and evaluate learning and development
• redesign the Quality of Care survey of service users
• involve the team in discussions about team working and moral values
• deliver short in-house workshops on management skills for Julie and her team leaders

When we had worked together over a twelve-month cycle to put all that in place, we invited the award assessor in. Her feedback was glowing, especially around effective management, involved people, mutual support and respect, and commitment to high standards. Care Matters gained Investors in People accreditation “with flying colours”.

The agency has continued to grow, profits have risen, there is stronger resilience as it is better able to overcome market volatility, and business improvement has become a way of life. At the next CQC inspection, particular mention was made of the strong leadership and performance management practice in evidence. On top of that, they are a lovely group of people to work with.


Palm Equipment – management training

Photo Palm-equipment-europe

Palm Equipment International – management training

A Clevedon-based manufacturer and supplier of kayaks and related gear with 45 people, which responded to a mailing about the Coaching For High Growth scheme.  I visited the senior management team to find a business that was building a great reputation worldwide and making money, but wasting resources through firefighting its way through lots of problems.  It had become successful through its technical excellence but the training it had done had not been in the essential skills for working with other people nor in management and leadership.

I started by having one-to-one chats with a representative sample of people and identifying the main issues.  I set these out in a report which the senior management team and I debated and which they then used as guide to help them prioritise their business planning.  The funding scheme mentioned above meant they got all this at no charge.

The next stage was to agree some objectives for a series of four half-day in-house management training workshops – necessary because of shift patterns – and design the training to meet them and to suit the audience.  The sessions were aimed at boosting self-awareness of different styles of leadership and team roles, and gave hints and tips on motivation, coaching, assertiveness and delegation.

Two groups of ten senior staff, including the directors, participated.  They made public commitments on what they were going to do differently back in the workplace and accounted to the group for this at the next session.  The feedback acknowledged the workshops as “very thought-provoking”, “a great contribution to our successful business” and “made a big difference to the smooth running of the place”, and I have been asked back to do some more work on skills development.

Rise Technical – Investors in People Gold


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

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.

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

Righting Wrongs – complaint handling training

Turning complaints into business opportunities

However talented they are, sometimes customer service professionals find that things can inevitably go wrong.  They need a chance to stop and think through what they can do differently to provide an even better service to customers.  They need techniques for responding to people who express dissatisfaction in a way that helps both parties feel there has been a more than satisfactory resolution.  Starting with some self-awareness work, delegates will work on self control, enabling them to ease the fevered environment on the team and further improve the quality of the service they provide.  This practical complaint handling training aims to provide a supportive group ambience for agreeing and practising helpful skills.

Learning Aims

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

  • describe what needs to happen to manage personal confidence and impact successfully
  • demonstrate  relevant skills to enable them to deal with difficult situations and reduce stress for themselves and fellow team members while doing so
  • agree consistent standards for dealing with difficult people and situations
  • respond to customer complaints in a professional way that promotes a positive image of the business consistent with its brand

For Whom

This workshop provides complaint handling training for anyone who deals with customers as part of their job and has to cope with a commercial environment in which rising (and sometimes unreasonable) customer expectations are becoming the norm.  It has been created either to act as a standalone for people who find that meeting these customer expectations is becoming more stressful, or to complement any previous or existing customer care training.

Content – complaint handling training

  • Review of past experiences :  what happened, what was the result, how did we feel
  • Self awareness exercise :  boosting our own confidence
  • Managing our emotions and staying in control in stressful situations
  • Difficult situations :  defence mechanisms and barriers to a positive resolution
  • Taking the HEAT
  • Directing the conversation
  • Strategies for responding to difficult individuals and conflict
  • Providing mutual support within the team
  • Managing expectations and making it easier to keep promises
  • Practical exercise based on real scenarios
  • Strategies for responding to unreasonable requests
  • Following up in writing

The Secrets of Successful Teams – Team Skills

This interactive session allows delegates to further explore some key aspects of their role within a team. It provides an opportunity for some deeper reflection on how human beings interact with each other.  This enables delegates to decide on any changes they want to make based on real insight. In a facilitated environment, most of the learning is done by increasing self-awareness and developing empathy for others.

Learning Aims

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

  • explain their preferred working style and their understanding of the preferred working style of other people
  • describe the reasons why certain people within a team may get on well or not so well together
  • demonstrate some additional techniques to get the best out of themselves and every team member

For Whom

This session is designed for anyone who wishes to develop or refine the skills needed for either performing well within a team or for managing a high-performing team. It is a refreshing thought-provoker both for people who have been part of a settled team for a while and for those who have recently joined a new team.

Content – Team Skills

    • Pre-session work : Team skills self awareness questionnaire
    • Characteristics of successful and unsuccessful teams
    • Individual working styles
    • How different working styles interact
    • The success trap
    • Tactics for overcoming conflict within teams
    • Harnessing the power of team skills – strength in diversity
    • The power of positive thinking, an inspirational vision and goals
    • The real meaning of assertiveness