Happy kids

How to Win The Three Legged Race in Business

How to Win The Three Legged Race in Business

The Three-Legged race – it’s that time of year isn’t it?  Have you been at a school sports day recently?  Or do you remember your own sports days? Well, I was at my kids sports day today, and it was good to see all the ‘old’ stuff still exists.  There is still the ‘Egg and Spoon’ race, Tug of War and of course, the good old Three-Legged race.  It’s hilarious for those watching, and sometimes for those playing. 

Yes, it’s all good fun …until….someone gets upset. 

Why would they get upset?  Well, because the other person “isn’t doing it right” or “they’re going too fast”, or too slow. Sometimes they aren’t paying attention because they suddenly see their Mum cheering them on in the crowd and they get out of step.  Sometimes one person stops and the other one doesn’t.  And the only way to get the rhythm back is by completely stopping and restarting. 

You see the three-legged race depends on co-operation and communication.  It also involves agreeing a strategy.  And watching the participants today, it is clear that those who collaborate well, go faster. 

And it made me think.  It’s a bit like business really, isn’t it?  And teamwork in particular. 

Teams who collaborate well, generally ‘go faster’.  Everything seems to be so easy and just flows.  It’s the difference between a great experience in a restaurant and a poor one, for example.  9 times out of 10, when people aren’t happy in a restaurant, it isn’t about the food (the product) it is about the service – the EXPERIENCE.

And that applies to the team themselves.  9 times out of 10 when someone leaves a team or a business, it isn’t because there is anything wrong with the product the business produces or the ‘company’ itself, it is about the lack of teamwork and leadership.  Because the leader is, of course, an integral part of the team.

If the leader explains the vision (to get to the finish line without falling over), and the rules (how to move with ‘3’ legs), and why we are doing it (to have fun), then the outcome is more likely to happen. 

If the team then collaborates (one person ties the knot), communicates (if we get out of step we stop and start again) and co-operates (I wanted to tie the knot but I am happy for you to do it, if I can go on the right hand side), then it is much more likely that the goal will be achieved.

If, on the other hand, the team are not clear on what they are supposed to do (one little boy running on his own to the line) then it becomes more difficult to achieve a result.  And if the team start to blame each other for ‘failures’ (knots that come undone, falling over etc), then that really prevents focus on the solution. 

And we all know where that is going to end.  With one party stomping off crying and the other calling names.  And I wasn’t referring to the kids!! 

Teams can be a tricky dynamic, or they can be the biggest asset the business has.  Teams are so crucial to business success (and to winning three-legged races), and that’s why I created the Team Performance Engine ™.  Teams that laugh and collaborate, under focused leadership, make a massive difference to your business.  If you’d like to know more about the Team Performance Engine and how it can impact on your bottom line get in touch on


Familiarity Breeds Contempt  

Have you heard that expression – familiarity breeds contempt?  Have you ever thought about what it really means?  Well the obvious interpretation is that what you are familiarity with becomes less important.

For example – if you are the new girl/boy in the office, the last thing you want to do is upset anyone, am I right?  And so you would go to great pains to understand who sits where in the office, whose coffee cup is whose, that kind of thing.  Because you don’t want to invoke the wrath of khan (oh no that’s a star trek movie), well the wrath of anyone – especially the boss – by nicking their coffee cup on day 1.

However, fast forward to day 730.  Perhaps by then, understanding the lay of the land, you have worked out that the boss is a big softie and you can use his coffee mug for your guest without worrying about it.  Perhaps the boss isn’t very happy about it but he won’t say anything.

Familiarity breeds contempt.

However, there is another interpretation of that phrase, and it’s this.

Familiarity breeds contempt of the unfamiliar.

So, what does that mean?  Well, it means that it feels safer and therefore ‘better’ in the comfort zone of familiarity.  What is new feels uncomfortable and therefore ‘wrong’.  Just as someone coming in on day one with no concern for anyone else’s feelings, and using YOUR coffee cup, would feel wrong.  Sometimes anything ‘new’ is put in the same category.

And that’s when business’s often miss a trick.  The familiar might have been the best thing since sliced bread last year, but that doesn’t mean that this year, it still WILL be. And sometimes that something or somebody new will be the best thing that ever happened, if you can just take off your blinkers of familiarity.

Try not to see anything new as automatically ‘wrong’ and not ‘how we do things around here’.  Because, let’s face it, ‘how we used to do things around here’ included sticking a leech on you to drain your blood anytime you got ill, and we don’t still do that anymore!  Change is necessary, change is inevitable.  You can be ahead of the curve or behind the curve, but change will still happen anyway.

If you look on change with contempt, you will miss opportunities.  And just because someone is new, doesn’t mean their ideas aren’t valid or even the best idea.

Look at what happened to Yellow Pages when the internet came in.  I know someone who used to work there, and they tell me that voices within Yell at the time were pushing Yell to open up and be the new Google (before Google existed), but other voices thought that they could maintain the status quo but just online rather than in the real world.

Have you seen the size of a Yellow Pages directory now?  It’s like a leaflet.  And online?  Well, I don’t know their figures but they are not the new Google.  And they have had to change direction and become more about websites and SEO.

As a leader your job is to challenge the norm constantly and to listen to your people – new or established.  Not ALL change is perfect, but not changing, not adapting, not looking at things in a different way – well that is really the meaning of familiarity breeding contempt.

Human Calculator

They Call Me The Human Calculator

Actually that’s not true.  No-one calls ME the Human Calculator.  That is what some of the kids at school call my son.   It is because he is so flippin’ good at mental arithmetic.  Which is great.  And that’s only one of his many talents.  (I would say that because I am his Mum – but it is true).  And actually – we all have talents which to us seem easy but to other people might be a struggle.

For example my Mum – she is an expert at grammar and she is a fantastic proof reader whereas I… not!  I have a friend who is brilliant at just throwing together a delicious meal out of a carrot, a babybel and some herbs – well not exactly – but you know what I mean?  She can take any sparse “day before the Tesco delivery” fridge, and make a delicious meal from it.

I have another friend who is a techie Wizz kid, she can solve any IT problem you might have – problem-solving is her joy in life.   I will have been scratching my head for an hour and will eventually solve the problem (usually) but I know if I ring her it will be sorted in 48 seconds!

You – as a manager or an entrepreneur probably have a good old raft of things you are pretty good at, but there will be some you are absolutely genius at.  These are the things which come so easily to you that perhaps you undervalue them, or think everyone can do that.   Or perhaps it is the opposite, perhaps you think no-one else can do the stuff you can do and so you fail to utilise the skills on your team.

If you look really closely you will find that there are hidden skills in the people you have on your team.  One of my clients the other day was talking to their team about an issue around social media and during the course of the conversation she found out that person was an absolute genius at Instagram.  The team member had her own little business that she ran in the evenings and the weekends which used Instagram as one of her main sources of leads.  And so – a potentially thorny problem was solved, just by talking.

So – how do you find out what genius lies within your team?  Sometimes you need to uncover it, sometimes you already know it but aren’t really leveraging that to the fullest extent.

A good way is to just talk to your people – maybe go back to their CV’s if they are recent hires, and have a look over what they said there.  There could be things you had forgotten about that they could bring to the table in their current role.  Or perhaps you could put out a message at a team meeting or by email or in a one2one, outlining a project and asking who would be interested in getting involved, or who might already have skills that would be useful to the project.

You never know what might come up.  And remember – hidden talent is of no use to anyone, and as a Leader, it is your job to uncover those hidden talents in your team and allow them to develop them.

And if you are having trouble either with identifying the skills in your team or devising ways to use them fully and free up a bit of your time – then drop me an email to and let’s have a coffee and talk about it!




If You’re A Leader, Don’t Do This!

Most of my blogs share what you should do to be a great leader, how to be a better leader for your team, how to motivate your team.  But there are things that you as a leader – whether of a team or an organisation, or even a family – should also be aware.  There are things that you should NOT be doing as someone that other people look up to. As a busy executive, it’s easy to make these mistakes and not even be aware of the impact on the performance and development of the people that we manage.

So here are the top 3 things NOT to do.

Do not insult or blame your people. Ever. 

With all the pressures and stress that you carry on a daily basis, you may be unconsciously insulting your people by blaming them for the business’ shortcomings or poor performance. But remember – your people’s performance reflects yours. If your team isn’t doing their job well, you are to blame and not them.

As a leader, you should be working with your team, finding out about their challenges and giving them constructive feedback, help or training, that would help them improve what they are doing. If a mistake has been made due to negligence, it’s okay to point it out and give a warning that such mistakes will not be tolerated going forward especially if it has had a serious effect on the business. However, always deal with the behaviour as unacceptable, and not the person.  The thing that was done might have been incorrect, or unacceptable, but never insult the person.  Calling someone “sloppy” or “stupid” should never happen.

Instead, find out what went wrong.  It might be that there was a lack of understanding about what outcome was required or what method should be used (your fault).  It might be that they have never been trained to do that (your fault).  It might be that they were trying to solve a problem that was not theirs to solve (your fault for not setting the boundaries clearly enough). It might be a personal issue impinging on their performance at work (this one is not your fault but you need to be aware of it so you can support the individual, or potentially redistribute workload).

And remember – when you point the finger at others – at least 3 fingers are pointing back at you (If you don’t know what I mean – point now and see where your index, fourth and little finger are pointing).

Do not fail to set clear goals. 

If you, as a leader, are not aware of what you want and need to achieve, how do you expect your team to meet their goals too? Goal setting is one of the important tasks of a leader because it is your basis for coming up with strategies to drive your team’s performance Remember to assign S.M.A.R.T. goals to your team which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound.

Check back that people have a clear understanding of the goal.  Sometimes what seems obvious to us, has a different meaning for someone else.  And remember to get agreement and commitment from your team.  It is also a good idea to set in place some check in’s on larger goals.  Don’t wait until the day the task is due and then realise there is a problem.  This is especially important on new projects / new goals.

Do not lead to impress people or to make friends. 

You are a leader and it is not your job to make people like you. Most leaders feel that they are an effective leader when people like them—which is not the case. You need to know when to be lenient and when to be a little firm.  Too much of either is not good.

Your decisions as a Leader must be made for the greater good.  The good of the organisation comes first, not your own personal gain, though if you do the first right the second is almost guaranteed to happen.  But never the other way around.  If you approach leadership as a way for you to benefit, to impress others and to make friends – you will be sorely disappointed.  If you lead for the good of your company, your people and your clients – well then you cannot fail to benefit, impress and make friends!

The leader’s job is not to be everyone’s friend, though that doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly.  Your job is to lead, to inspire, to set the direction and adjust the course when things go off track.  It is not to be everyone’s mate.  Think Alan Sugar!

Do you need down to earth strategies and toolkits for developing confident effective leaders of high performing teams which will transform your business? Shoot us an email or

You can also follow us on Twitter @julie_hutchison @jan_sargenthr.

old Junk

Are You Carrying Around A Load of Old Junk?

Exciting times here at Transforming Performance Towers (OK I made it up… there is no such place) – but seriously – the Hutchison family moved house this week.  And apart from being fun and stressful, tiring and exciting, all at the same time, what has also been interesting, is to realise how much stuff we have that we really don’t need and never did. We were carrying around a load of old junk!

Being a bit busy work-wise at the moment, the packing started well, and then at the last minute with boxes still to pack – everything got thrown in.  And when I was unpacking one of those last minute boxes today I found a plethora of “interesting” items.   For example – there was an old sling, kept from when my son had an injury to his arm (I’m trying to think why I kept it?  Sentimental reasons?).  There was an empty bottle of sun lotion.  Oh My!!   And – fantastic find – a pair of rubber gloves……with a hole in them!!

All of this stuff – along with a load of other useless stuff – went in the bin.  And it made me wonder what I carried it from one house to the next for.  The answer is, of course, that I didn’t (for whatever reason) deal with it all at the time.  Which brings me to my question for you, which is….

What are you carrying around that you just need to deal with?

Because the thing is – as a Leader – you need to deal with stuff.  If you don’t deal with it, and you just put your old junk away in your metaphorical attic, to deal with another day, then it just festers and rots and becomes so much nastier to deal with.

This relates to both physical stuff, psychological stuff and other people’s stuff. So here is what to do about all those 3.

1.Physical Stuff.  Deal with things once.  This mostly relates to paperwork / letters and emails.  When a new email / a new request or a new bit of paperwork comes your way, deal with it (or get someone else to deal with it).  If you are going to keep something for ‘future reference’ then reference it.  File it somewhere you WILL be able to find it again and get it off your desk.  The go through that filing cabinet once every 6 months or a year and bin everything you haven’t used or referred to that you kept ‘just in case’.

2.Your own ‘stuff’. There are times when we all have things that prey on our minds.  But as my mentor always says to me – either you can do something about it or you can’t.  If you can do something – then stop thinking and DO IT.  And if you can’t do something about what is worrying you then STOP worrying and move on.  Don’t clutter your own head space up with stuff that you can do nothing about.

3.Other people’s stuff. My honest opinion on this one is – give it back to them.  However, I accept that sometimes your job as a leader is to deal with OPS (Other People’s Stuff).  In which case – you need to get on with it a deal with it.  Leaving problems is rarely a good option.  The exception might be where you have a colleague dumping on you – what I mean by that is – you KNOW they are capable of dealing with it but, for whatever reason, they don’t want to.  In this case, you might say something like – “well – I’d like to help but I may not have time to get around to this”.  And then make sure you don’t ‘get around to it’.  You may find that the person will go away and do it themselves or it suddenly becomes less important to them and it doesn’t get done.  In either case, you haven’t had to do it.

If it is a member of staff with a problem then you will have to deal with it or help them deal with it.  Because leaving stuff that is a real problem does not make it go away, and it just gets bigger and takes up more of your time and mental and physical energy.

So, my message this week is – deal with your old junk.  Deal with it straight away.  Stop dragging it around with you.  If you need any help with this – then register for my complimentary webinar on  March 23rd, at midday,  entitled “Putting Your Own Oxygen Mask on First” which covers a few areas essential for all leaders, including dealing with your stuff.  IN fact, the less stuff you have hanging around – the less you need an oxygen mask anyway!    Click here to book your place on this complimentary webinar.



The 5 Behaviours Of A Cohesive Team – Part 4: Accountability

Sloping shoulders.

We all know people who have those. Their shoulders are so slopy that you’re in danger of suffering an avalanche! These people don’t stand up to the plate. They won’t make eye-contact and avoid having to explain their, or their teams’, part in something that didn’t go entirely right……

So. Do we care about that? Does it matter if someone refuses to take responsibility or Accountability? Look at our face, ‘are we boverred’?

Chances are you are ‘bovvered’. Chances are that you are pretty annoyed by people who avoid their responsibility and Accountability for either doing things or not doing things. And those things end up with you or your team having to do them. Or it means that you or your team can’t get the things you need to get done properly because you are waiting on someone or another team to do their stuff. Except, they aren’t doing their stuff, or not properly at least. Standards of performance start to decline and everyone begins not to care. The ‘others’ lack of Commitment and Accountability is undermining decision making and causing declining standards. Eventually, or maybe not so eventually, that’s going to have a negative impact on business performance and then on to the bottom line. Not good. Very not good.

So what should we do about this? Teams that Commit to decisions and standards of performance do not hesitate to hold one another accountable for adhering to those agreed decisions and standards. They don’t rely on their team leader as the main source of Accountability because they go directly to their peers. They don’t wait for the interminable time it takes to keep going up and down the ‘chain of command’ to discuss areas of concern. They feel comfortable talking to their colleagues themselves.

You might be thinking ‘why does all this matter’? What benefit would this have on me and my business? Well, it matters because avoidance of Accountability means inattention to Results. By feeling comfortable with discussing areas of concern with colleagues, positive and wanted Results are far more likely to be the order of the day.

If you’re thinking that your teams need more accountability and you’re not sure how to achieve that, then drop me an email at and grab one of our free strategy monthly sessions. You can also have a free seat on Julie’s webinar



The 5 Behaviours Of A Cohesive Team – Part 3. Commitment

Commitment – a scary word for many people on all kinds of fronts. Why? Because it means that they have something to live up to. To sometimes have to put others before themselves. To promise things that they are then accountable for doing or providing. All scary stuff. It might mean doing something that we don’t really want to do but we do anyway for the ‘greater’ good.

Commitment is generally at least two parties agreeing do something for each other and being accountable for that thing.

Without commitment, people believe that they don’t really have any responsibilities or accountabilities. That they can duck out of those things or difficult decisions because they didn’t commit to them. But, of course, apart from not being fair (many don’t want to commit but expect others to do things for them…. weird how that works…), if there is a wishy-washy, ‘maybe I will, maybe I won’t’ approach then nothing will get done. Or at least not get done properly. Or on time. Or within budget. Because people weren’t committed then you’ll, at best, get a half-hearted, half-baked outcome. You won’t achieve the best possible outcome you could have achieved if you’d had, Trust, Conflict and Commitment.

Teams that Trust each other and engage in unfiltered and positive conflict are able to achieve genuine buy-in around important decisions – even when those teams initially disagree. Why is that? Because they’ve ensured that all opinions, thoughts and ideas are brought into the open for discussion and consideration. This gives confidence to the team that all avenues have been exhausted. Decisions can then be made in the knowledge that everything relevant has been considered; that all parties have been heard and that the best decision that can be made in the circumstances, has been made. Team members feel involved and able to commit themselves to the final decision and standards of performance even if, initially, they didn’t agree.

We’d love to hear from you. We’d love to hear your challenges and what approaches you may have tried, or be thinking of trying, to improve commitment and decision making and to bring the wisdom and creativity of all employees into the business of running your business. We’d love to hear your success stories too. Email us on or tweet us @jan_sargenthr and share your stories with us. Go on. You know you want to.



The 5 Behaviours of a Cohesive Team. Part 2 – Conflict

All businesses need conflict. I can already hear the gasp of disbelief from here! Conflict, I hear you cry?! Surely that is a BAD thing? People don’t thrive on conflict, do they? People get upset with conflict and there’ll be tears at bedtime if there is conflict. There’ll be pistols at dawn in the quad if we have conflict.

But. I don’t mean the destructive, throwing plates at each other kind of conflict. Not the kind of conflict that leaves open wounds, scabs and scars. That’s not the kind of conflict we want. No. We want healthy, vulnerability based conflict. ‘Eh what’, I hear you say? What is ‘vulnerability based’ conflict?

Vulnerability-based conflict is based on Trust. And we’ve already discussed how Trust is the foundation upon which all relationships MUST be based.

Without the ability to Trust, an individual is unwilling to speak up and give their opinions; and those opinions might give the business the vital idea which will support a breakthrough. Or it could easily be, that ideas which are put forward aren’t positively challenged to get the best outcome through iterative, positive and challenging discussion and ‘conflict’. That’s how the Emperor ended up with no clothes on, with everyone telling him his new suit was wonderful…. Because people were afraid to give their opinions and tell the truth. Vital information was withheld and it all went horribly wrong.

Options can’t be explored properly if people don’t Trust that they can fully play their part and be heard without rejection and humiliation. Humans naturally feel very vulnerable if they are rejected and seek to avoid it at all costs. They need to Trust that they can engage in healthy debate (positive conflict) without fear of retribution and rejection.

So. How does YOUR team or business approach positive debate? Do people engage truthfully and give their open and honest opinions or are there a lot of nodding dogs? Lots of ‘Yes’ people? Are you getting enough information and debate to enable the decisions to be made with the most optimal information to hand? Could your team or business achieve more if only people felt they could make their full, honest and open contributions to the business of ‘running the business’?

We’d love to hear from you. We’d love to hear your challenges and what approaches you may have tried, or be thinking of trying, to improve decision making and to bring the wisdom and creativity of all employees into the business of running your business. Email us on and share your stories with us. Go on. You know you want to.


The 5 Behaviours of a Cohesive Team. Part 1 – Trust

There’s a massive industry out there focused on ‘Employee Engagement’. But without Trust in a relationship, there is no employee engagement. Without Trust between you and the team members and between the team members themselves, there is no employee engagement.

Trust is rarely talked about at work. We pretend it doesn’t matter. But it does. It matters hugely. In fact, really, it’s the foundation of everything in your business. Without it, the whole business edifice is on shifting sands. Shaky foundations. You have to have Trust in your people and your teams. And they in you.

If your employees don’t Trust you and you don’t Trust them, you’ll be forever wondering why you aren’t achieving your objectives. If your workplace is seen to have a heart and be human and you Trust people won’t  have to talk about your goals very often, other than when you’ve surpassed them and you’re inviting people to celebrate the achievement with you.

So often, businesses seem to believe that they can motivate their employees with the carrot and stick approach. That it’s all about punishment and reward but that rarely can works – in fact, it probably never does, at least not for long. At best, by using the ‘stick’, you get cowed and grudging compliance but you also get minimum effort. You lose the creativity that people inherently have within them – they keep their heads firmly below the parapet. No-one wants to take the risk of sharing a creatively brilliant idea which might, just might, change your company’s fortunes for the better. Have you ever seen a team achieve anything wonderful by giving the least they can?

You can give people money or new and shiny objects, but the ‘engagement’ leap that might occur is likely to be a short-term result. Within a short period, people will believe that they are ‘owed’ those rewards because you’ve shown them that that is true. And it becomes all about the money. If it becomes all about the money then as soon as someone else offers them more they are likely to follow that. Because it’s become ALL about the money.

And actually, isn’t it degrading to people if they are treated like Pavlov’s dog? That if they do the wrong thing they get a shock or a ‘stick’ and if they get it right they get a doggie choc? People are not dogs! People have boundless expertise, passion, creativity and inspiration to bring to a company’s problems, but they won’t be able to bring their talents to work until they’re treated like humans when they get there. Something to ponder perhaps……

We’d love to hear from you. We’d love to hear your challenges and what approaches you may have tried, or be thinking of trying, to improve Trust between leaders and team members in your business. Email us on and share your stories with us. Go on. You know you want to

Fed Up

10 Super Simple Ways to Demotivate Your Team

Here are 10 super simple ways to de-motivate your team – just in case you need to know! 

  1. When you talk with the people in your team, talk to them about their objectives or targets but don’t ask them how they’re doing. Never ask them what they need from you or how they want to prioritise their tasks.
  1. Don’t share the company’s or department’s plans with your teammates. After all, knowledge is power.
  1. Cause divisions in your team by playing favourites. Randomly change who IS the favourite so that no one knows whether they’re doing a great job or on the verge of getting sacked.
  1. Use punishment as a tool to get people to work harder. Always say, ‘there’s plenty of people out there who want your job if you don’t’.
  1. When your team does something well, don’t say anything. Tell them what they can do better next time, instead.
  1. Stay in your office with the door closed and ignore your employees’ email and voice mail messages.
  1. Make it hard for your team members to build relationships outside your department. Create an  ‘us and them’ mentality.  Because you know that everyone else is a threat to your empire.
  1. Overload your employees with vast amounts of work so that they’ll never have nothing to do.   You know the truism – time is money!
  1. Make rules and policies a cornerstone of your management philosophy.  Always make sure you are looking for errors, and make sure staff know that their jobs are at risk all the time.
  1. Finally, tell your employees that they are easily replaceable so none of them gets complacent. 

I bet you’ve experienced at least one thing on this list, if not more. And I’m betting that you hated being treated in this way. Why wouldn’t you?

The above ‘management techniques’ are treating people as though they are slaves or widgets – that they don’t matter at all. And if people are treated like that they soon learn to keep their head down and just do the minimum they need to keep their jobs.

Because, after all, if they aren’t cared about and looked after, then why on earth should they care about you / your business or go above and beyond, to achieve what the business wants to achieve. And if that happens, where will the business be?

If you would like to achieve the opposite of the above and you have time for a sandwich and a coffee tomorrow at 1pm, then register for our Learn at Lunch Webinar on ‘Coaching Your Way to Your Best Year Yet’, presented by Julie Hutchison, Transforming Performance Creator and co-Director.  It’s free, and you will come away with real strategies you can implement tomorrow to make 2017 your best year yet! Register here.