Change

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HR and BIG Data

Big-Data2-400x265We get that it’s Data, but why is it BIG?

There’s a lot of talk about big data, and some have talked about the opportunity for HR to make use of greater analytics for workforce data, but we believe there is also more HR teams can do to support the pace of change business is facing.

In case you’ve not come across the term, “big data” is the title given to the simply jaw-dropping amount of information that is being generated, stored and could be analysed across all the systems out there.

From a customer perspective, you’ve got all the data on how someone moves around your website, how they got there, what other sites they browsed, what they buy, how they talk about you on social media, what feedback they then give on your service feedback capture – and the list goes on.

There’s no doubt there’s an opportunity for HR teams to take a good look at the big data available on the workforce.  What questions do we have about our employees, their behaviour, performance, activities etc?  What data is available or could we be capturing to answer those questions?

Beyond HR analytics

Aside from following the trend of analysing data, we see the role of HR – or specifically Talent and OD as one of building up the organisation to be ready for this seismic shift in how business works.  What are we doing in the Talent and OD space to make sure we are attracting and retaining the kind of talent that can take our businesses to the forefront of these changes?  What are we doing to build awareness and develop skills across all departments, so that people can make their own intelligent decisions on what to do with all this change and data?

Building awareness of what big data is and how it is changing the nature of business, could mean an unlocking of new opportunities: To have more people thinking of how to analyse the data available – and use those insights to make informed decisions.

Totem Gummi Bears

As the inspiration for this came from Sir Ian Cheshire’s Retail Lecture, let’s look at particularly what this could mean for HR teams in retail.  What do people across departments and out in stores know about the digitalisation and mobile shift in retail – and the big data that comes with that?  What does that mean to us in our jobs in retail?  How do we need to adapt?  Imagine roadshows where with this knowledge and understanding, your entire workforce can suggest ideas on how the company better respond and lead the way.

Although we’re all customers, shopping online and getting frustrated when the experience is not smooth – or when the app on my phone says something’s in-stock and we get into store and it’s not – that has not meant we have quickly grasped what this means to our work and businesses.  Big changes in the world are communicated throughout businesses to enable people to make choices and decisions – and this is one thing they definitely need to know about.

What could you do?

It’s easy to hold our heads in the sand when the world is changing and we’re not sure what that means or how to keep up.  We recommend exploring with your team – what do we know about shifts in our customer and employee digital behaviour, what big data that may be providing, and what that might all mean to our jobs and business?

Realising you don’t know the answers to these questions can be a great starting point to finding out, challenging the rest of the business to do the same, and seeing where you can go from there.

Happy exploring!

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Manager-Led Learning

How do we encourage managers to take a more active role in learning?  And why is that important?

We recently had the privilege of working with a role model learning leader.  That’s a term we’ve possibly made up, learning leader.  What we mean is, a manager who leads their team in learning and developing constantly, attending workshops with them and/or holding each individual to account for applying the learning they have taken from any intervention.

In contrast, another organisation we worked with recently sent out line manager briefing webinars. The message was, “you asked for this development for your team, but now that means losing this person from your team and the day job for a whole day.  You can’t afford for that to be wasted time, so how can you ensure you get a return on that investment?”

Sadly the L&D team received reports from a few managers that their peers were bragging about not having watched the webinar, as though they had somehow got out of doing something boring and annoying.  Whilst one or two of the managers followed the advice and guided their people through a positive learning experience, most showed a lack of interest in the idea and many delegates complained that they had not been supported to use what they learned.

Time and time again, we see that the line manager’s role in learning is more important than any other factor.  CEB first reported on this decades ago and every paper on the subject since has revealed the same findings: well-designed, brilliantly facilitated learning in line with business objectives is useless without the support of the line manager.

Theories as to why the line manager is so important vary from the sense of support, “how can I help you apply what you learnt yesterday?” to challenge and accountability, “show me how you have benefited the business with new skills and actions since you went on that training.”  Even more simply, we know that what gets measured gets done and what gets talked about gets done.

So if a line manager is not measuring, noticing or talking about changes in behaviour following development, then why would anyone bother about it?

In the classic wisdom of less is more, our experience tells us that the L&D team investing in 1:1 conversations with delegates’ managers makes the biggest difference.  Rather than focusing on getting more people through more development programmes, these L&D teams invest in supporting fewer people to a higher level of quality.  And of course if this happens first at the top, then the cascade effect can work its magic.

With leaders at the top role modelling support and challenge for the application of learning, then ultimately the business can end up with the holy grail of a learning culture.

So if you’re struggling with engaging line managers on a mass scale, why not start small?  Find a couple of managers who are doing this pretty well and work with them to make it even better.  Find another few managers who might be open to trying something new, and guide them on how to coach their people to share their learning and put new skills into practice.  You’re likely to see greater success with that than anything designed to engage the masses.

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Small Change?

If a butterfly flaps its wings…

On a recent workshop focused on personally coping with and adapting to change and uncertainty, the point was raised that we often don’t recognise small change in our lives as significant. 

When we get made redundant or join a new company or buy a new house, these ‘big ticket’ items stand out in our memories as significant. 

We might give ourselves time to consider the effects of that change and wonder how to accept the new normal.  But what about those smaller changes in life that can have equally big impact? 

Getting a new boss or colleague or losing a close colleague as they choose to leave the business or are made redundant?  Realising an aspect of our work has changed or that our expectations of something have changed.  These things can cause emotional turmoil and upset our routines, but do we recognise them?

You may have come across the concept of ‘The Change Curve’ before?

It provides an overview of the emotions that people go through when faced with change. It considers the impact of change over time in terms of self-esteem and morale and identifies four broad, common responses to change:

Denial, Frustration, Experimentation and Integration

This is a fluid curve and people will go through each area at different rates.

Dealing with resistance to change is often a case of understanding where someone is in the process of responding to change – and then helping them move towards a more positive response.

Recognising where people are, is an important first step to having the impact you desire – what might it be like to be in each of these four areas? What would you hear people saying? What would indicate someone was in this area of response to change? Thinking this through will help you recognise the signs through behaviour – then how can we help people move forward towards Commitment?

Denial—clues How to move on
Shock, anger

Fighting the outcome, saying why this should not happen

Claiming the change will not go ahead

Confront with evidence of the reality: what will change and what will stay the same

Create awareness of what will happen when

Describe the problem / reason for the change & discuss the implications for the future

Take time to listen and understand concerns

Resistance— clues How to move on
Pulling back from work, doing the minimum

Stating how they will not engage with the change

Showing frustration or going quiet

 

Take time to listen and understand concerns

Look for quick wins—help them see how the change could benefit them in the short-term

Remove barriers to change

Challenge assumptions: what do we know vs what is opinion or a guess

Listen to understand

Be supportive

Exploration—clues How to move on
Suggesting ideas on how the future might work / feel

Trying out working with aspects of the “new normal”

Asking questions about how things will work and how to make the best of the situation

Explore solutions: how could you help this work better?

Focus people on priorities

Set short-term goals and give feedback on progress

Get people involved

Commitment—clues How to help people stay here
Talks less about the way things used to be and more about making the new normal work

Shares ideas on getting the best out of the new way of working

Talks openly about both successes and challenges, focused on finding ways to make things better

Focus people on results

Look towards the future

Set clear goals, adding in some longer-term aspirations and giving regular feedback on progress

Acknowledge and recognise / reward progress and achievements

The focus with these tips is to help people accept change and recognise their new normal, so that they can adapt and make the most of it. So what is going on in your life that may not be a big ticket change item, but still requires you to go through this journey?

How might it help you to consider where you are experiencing frustration or even denial and work towards acceptance and adapting to this new life?

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Understanding Conflict

totem-donutIf you stole some of my doughnut, we’d have a problem…

From time to time we all experience a little disharmony and discord with others.

Managing at these times can be taxing, but with some techniques and practical tools for handling conflict, it is possible to be equipped to confidently deal with these difficult situations and find a positive outcome.

Now we’re not suggesting that we can cover everything about conflict in a single article, but we can certainly cover the basics in terms of where conflict comes from.

Research suggests that managers spend around 25% of their time managing and handling conflict in their teams. Conflict isn’t always necessarily a negative thing – it can often mean that people are passionate about their work and it can encourage creative thinking. Conflict, can however mean that teams become ‘stuck’ when an impasse is reached so finding ways to resolve conflict is important.

Totem Gummi Bears

When conflict occurs in the workplace, it can reduce morale, lower productivity, increase absenteeism and cause confrontations. Reynolds and Kalish (2002) found that managers spent at least 25% of their time resolving conflicts.  This obviously has an effect on the productivity of both managers and employees.

But conflict in work is not always so destructive. It can lead to new ideas and an increased interest in dealing with problems as it facilitates bringing to the fore issues, providing opportunities for people to develop their communication and interpersonal skills.

Stulberg (1997) identified a pattern common to all controversies. He termed them the Five Ps of Conflict Management:

Perceptions: Our negative perceptions of conflict impact our approach in resolving conflict as we strive to eliminate the source of these negative feelings.

Problems: Anyone can be involved in a conflict, and the amount of time, money, and equipment needed for resolution will vary according to its complexity.

Processes: There are different ways to go about resolving disputes: Suppress the conflict, give in, fight, litigate, mediate, etc.

Principles: We determine the priorities of all resolution processes on the basis of an analysis of our fundamental values regarding efficiency, participation, fairness, compliance, etc.

Practices: Power, self-interest, and unique situations are all factors relating to why people resolve disputes the way they do.

A good understanding of these causes is a great first step towards recognising conflict and actually turing it to your advantage.  Conflict is healthy and advantageous when it’s aim is to improve the outcomes for the team.  It’s certainly healthy when it’s respectful and not personal – which is easier said than done!

Healthy conflict requires openness and an ability to entertain others’ ideas. Team members need to set aside ego and avoid becoming defensive in order for conflict to be healthy.

Jelly Bean Diversity

The benefits of creating a team atmosphere that embraces healthy conflict are numerous and profound. These five benefits are just the tip of the ice berg:

  • Healthy conflict leads to better decisions.
  • Healthy conflict is a sign of trust and security.
  • Healthy conflict invites diverse points of view.
  • Healthy conflict surfaces potential issues.
  • Healthy conflict builds commitment.

One book we highly recommend to learn more about conflict is Conflict Communication (ConCom): A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication by Rory Miller.

He explains that our reactions to conflict are subconscious, scripted, and for the good of the group.  And that we have three brains:

  • Lizard brain (survival)
  • Monkey brain (emotion / social status)
  • Human brain (reason)

With each “brain” having a different priority and having evolved to deal with different kinds of conflict. They work using different scripts and have a very clear seniority system.

Although the course that generated this book was originally developed for police and corrections officers, it has now also been taught in hospitals and factories and in a total of eight countries.

What’s great is that these conflict-resolution principles should be applicable to most situations and relationships, including with spouses and coworkers as well as strangers. As Miller concludes in the afterword,

“almost everything in this book is stuff you live with every day. … But now you see it.”

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Diversity of Thought: An Introduction

What does diversity of thought mean, how do we encourage it and how can it positively impact your business?

We were delighted to be invited to speak at a client’s Diversity Month in March. Built around International Women’s Day there was a wide range of events looking at diversity and inclusion, unconscious bias and people’s leadership journeys.

We were invited for the finale event: Diversity of Thought

The idea behind this event was simple: how do we encourage people to think of diversity not just in terms of ethical and fair focus in recruitment and development, but also as a personal focus on achieving greater innovation and results?

When people quote studies showing that teams and business boards with greater diversity make more money or achieve better results, this is not some magical effect of having more women or different ethnicities involved: it is the result of different ways of thinking.

Why is Diversity Good?

Based on our gender, ethnicity, genetics, upbringing, education and so many other factors, our brains are wired in different ways. You know when you’re working with someone and you wonder how on earth they have come to x conclusion or gone about that task in x way – you never would have thought or done it that way (and you probably believe your way is better!)

That’s the thing with different brain patterns: we like our own because we only know our own ways of thinking and working. Everyone who thinks differently – more often than not we think of as wrong, misguided or weird. Yet there are great benefits to challenging our comfortable ways of working: we might find a better way.

We can harness these benefits by challenging ourselves to think differently, engaging people we would not usually go to for advice and encouraging disagreement. Let’s face it, it is easier to work with people who think like we do, agree with us, come up with similar ideas and we achieve consensus far quicker.

But what if consensus was not the goal? What if achieving something brilliant were the goal – and we might not always agree but we could make decisions and take concerns into account? Trying new things, making mistakes, learning fast and trying again. If you want to achieve something different then try thinking differently and engaging with different people.

Challenging your Thinking

One of the greatest ways to find new ideas for yourself is to simply notice and increase your awareness of the way you do something. Take something that comes up a lot in your day job, maybe the way you run meetings, make decisions or solve problems.

You will not usually take time to think about how you do that particular thing, because you do it all the time, maybe many times per day. But taking time to stop and consider the way you do something can help you challenge that approach and consider other approaches. Try out these questions as you consider your way of working:

Which Questions Do You Find Helpful?

How would someone more extroverted than me go about this? Someone who relied on thinking out loud and involving other people?

How would someone more introverted than me go about this? Someone who took time to process their thoughts alone and then came to a conclusion?

What would a more logical, structured, fact-based approach look like?

What would a more intuitive, spontaneous, gut-feel-based approach look like?

As you consider how other people might go about your task, you will most likely find you don’t like most of the ideas that come up, but look out for the golden nugget of an idea: something you could tweak in your approach that might give you a better outcome.

In our next instalment on this subject we look at how you can engage others who have different ways of thinking, and embrace the disagreement that will follow, to achieve better results.

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Centennials

The generational divide just got a lot more complicated…

Just as we begin to understand how we integrate millennials into our workforce (see our tips here and here) a new generation of young people, eager and ready to join the world of work is beginning to present itself at interviews and job fairs.

Are Centennials that different from the generation before them?

Centennials are about 2 billion strong worldwide and represent close to 26% of the worldwide population, and importantly – are the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in our history.  And whilst most of them are still tapping the Bank of Mum & Dad for pocket money, they already have £5.1 Billion in annual spending power (in the UK)…

As a rough guide, Centennials reached eighteen in about 2016, so most are well through college this year and are beginning to think about their future careers. This presents an exciting opportunity for brands and employers seeking to connect with them.  But there are a few things to be mindful of when reaching out to this young cohort.

Do you remember the challenges of being a teenager?  Exactly. 

These challenges haven’t gone away per se, the context of those challenges remains the same, even if the content has changed slightly.  Acknowledging and understanding these significant life changes can help in better preparing you for your first contact with Centennials in the workplace.

A key difference between Millennials and Centennials is technology – both generations are tech savvy, but Centennials acknowledge the ill effects of technology, too.  A study by agency Sparks & Honey found that Centennials are aware that their screen time may be excessive, and nearly 59 percent of them admit to spending too much time online – the way they use tech is changing too…

“With millennials, we’d started dumbing down content from 60 seconds to 30 seconds to 15 seconds and then 10-second snaps, six-second Vines and 140-character tweets,” said Gayle Troberman, CMO at iHeart Media. “With this generation, we’re telling clients to flip that model and make storytelling longer and more engaging.”

Here you can find more on personal engagement and storytelling

Another quality that characterises Centennials is their commitment to open-mindedness, inclusivity, and tolerance. This often expresses itself in an attitude of “oh you do, do you.”  A statement without judgement or pre-conception, but almost a blasé acceptance of difference.

On the one hand this represents a fantastic opportunity for the HR profession.  Imagine a demographic within your workforce actively pushing for inclusion and equal representation for all – not simply because it’s the ‘right thing’ to do, but because inclusion is part of their world view and an inherent value.  How can we use this enthusiasm?

However, on the other hand… We’ll have to improve the quality and the transparency with which we communicate business decisions to this group.  This will be especially challenging for businesses that work in traditional functions or find themselves spread across subsidiaries.  And we can’t emphasise enough the importance of communication here – and lots of it.

Both generations opt for flexibility on the job but above all Centennials, like their Millennial counterparts, value constant communication with their managers.  Both generations will have grown up with the ability to give and receive feedback instantly, frequently and whilst mobile. They don’t simply want a star or thumbs up on a yearly rating form, they want to see constructive feedback.

If a manager is unable to give them this guidance and coaching – in real time remember – then the manager is no better than a troll on YouTube…

And finally (for now!) perhaps the most interesting difference to be emerging between Millennials and Centennials…  Millennials seek freedom to develop their work and personal projects; they are innovative, question authority and are experts at using technological tools and social networks.

Centennials are beginning to exhibit characteristics of loyalty, creativity, and favoring financial security from their employer.

But in stark contrast, Centennials are beginning to exhibit characteristics of loyalty, creativity, and favoring financial security from their employer.  The HR profession has spent many years working with generations who exhibit some if not all those characteristics. Whilst that doesn’t mean engaging with Centennials will be easy, we will have done the ground work and with a little preparation – the introduction of this new generation won’t come as such a shock to our business.

To find out a little more on Centennials, the awesome folk over at Kantar Futures have put together a little infographic

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Disruption in L&D

Has Disruption begun to take place in our industry?

We’ve written elsewhere on the general definition of disruptive innovation, but what does this mean to us in L&D?

Well, for a start, there is a live example of disruptive innovation in the world of learning and development.

Training companies have sold expensive, residential courses for years and whilst these have been challenged before, it is only in more recent years with a better understanding of how people learn and with the introduction of better technology, that these companies have been disrupted.

The people who were not happy spending so much or sending out people for 5-day residential programmes are now enjoying the benefits of online learning – a cheaper and more convenient alternative.

This has also been an example of breakthrough innovation, as the existing customers of the residential training courses are investing more in their LMS and using e-learning in place of the big multi-day course.

So e-learning has both provided a new market for development and stolen business from the old market of long courses.

Love it or loathe it, we now have e-learning well established in our development world – whether it’s an intelligent, interactive or even gamified system or simply someone’s voice recorded over PowerPoint slides – this has opened up a new world of learning just when you want to, in a far more cost-effective way.

Of course there is a downside, if we think about the goal of most learning, it is to create a change in behaviour.

For example, watching a video or playing a game that teaches the importance of how to run performance management conversation, might give some interesting tips and increase knowledge, but these tools alone do not create the change in behaviour we are usually looking for.

To change our behaviour we need knowledge, skill and habit.  We need to know what we should be doing, we need to have the skill to put that into action, and then we have to actually do it.

So whilst we have seen disruptive innovation in L&D in the form of e-learning, the question is now how to achieve the outcomes we really want from learning?

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What is Disruption?

What does disruption really mean, should we be afraid? 

Well the short answer is that it is disruptive innovation – a new idea that changes things or creates a new market.

An example could be Netflix, who took the customers that didn’t like the fees and inflexibility of renting videos from Blockbuster and introduced them to all online content.

This became disruptive because all Blockbuster’s customers then realised the benefits of Netflix and switched over.  A new market of online movie streaming was created.

This is different to breakthrough innovation, which simply takes an existing idea, market, product or service and makes it better.  Through these definitions then, Uber – which is often quoted as an example of disruptive innovation, is in fact just a breakthrough innovation.

Uber have taken an existing idea of catching a cab and made it better.  A new market of cab users has not been created – it’s the existing market using Uber, more than the cab company they used to call.

It’s helpful to be aware of this difference between disruptive and breakthrough innovation because every business needs to protect itself from both types of risk.  How do you go about this?

Every business must make sure it is offering the best version of its product and service for its particular market – so Ryanair must stay the cheapest and BA must stay high quality to maintain their positions with their particular customer bases.

This protects the company from breakthrough innovation – that is, another company working out a way to do it better.  If a new airline appeared that offered the prices Ryanair publicise, at the same level of profitability for the company owners, but with far better customer service, comfort and overall customer experience, then Ryanair would be at risk.

We can protect our businesses from the risk of outside breakthrough innovation by making sure we are the breakthrough innovators.  Let’s stay focused on offering the best version of whatever we do for the particular people we do it for, so we cannot be beaten by others.

Then we need to protect ourselves from disruptive innovation.  This means looking at the markets we don’t go after.  Often disruptors will go for the people that nobody else is going after.

With Blockbuster as an example, the original Netflix customers were offered old movies at a low price – whereas Blockbuster was all about the newest releases.  What is the lower end of your market, or the people you don’t really service?  What risk could there be to your business if someone offered something they liked, which in turn could create a new market?

Many companies have been too slow to respond to breakthrough and disruptive innovation, make sure you’re not the next Kodak or Blockbuster story by educating your teams on these risks and helping them stay commercially alert.

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Brexit: Resilience through Uncertainty

breixt2Continuing to assess the impact from the referendum

The past few weeks have brought new meaning to leading through uncertainty.  With changes in government, low confidence in the UK economy, fluctuating share prices and the appearance that we are talking ourselves into a recession, how can any of us cope and perform at our best?

Recent research carried out by Credit Suisse suggests 49% of FTSE 350 boards in the FT–ICSA Boardroom Bellwether survey did not put a plan in place to cope with a Brexit outcome.  So what can we do to help?

In this article we’ll explore the ways different businesses are responding to the current situation, offer some tips from the research on resilience and leave you with the reminder that your mindset is critical for your success and mental health.

Jelly Bean Diversity

Many anecdotal stories emerged from the last two economic contractions, indicating that the strongest surviving companies were those who maintained focus and continued to invest in advertising and people development.

In a Harvard Business School study of three recessions, it was found that “firms that cut costs faster and deeper than rivals don’t necessarily flourish. They have the lowest probability—21%—of pulling ahead of the competition when times get better.”  “Companies that master the delicate balance between cutting costs to survive today and investing to grow tomorrow do well after a recession.”  You can read the whole study here.

If you’re not in a position to make or influence decisions about the direction the business takes post-Brexit, what can you do?  Developing your resilience or ‘bouncebackability’ can be critical for staying effective and focused no matter what life throws at you.

One of the critical aspects of resilience is self-belief – slightly different to self-confidence, self-belief is the sense that you can cope, you will survive and life goes on.  Why is self-belief important for resilience?  Without self-belief we can feel helpless in the face of difficult and challenging situations that occur.  We can be afraid of the future, worry that things will be impossible to overcome and feel frozen into inaction.

Totem Lollipops

However, if we believe that we have the skills and resources to deal with these situations, we will be willing to tackle the challenge head-on, focus on the outcomes we want and persist towards that outcome even when things get difficult.  So how can people develop self-belief?

Remember where you have coped before

We have all faced challenging situations before – and we’re still here, still breathing, still getting on with things.  Think back to the difficult things in life you have overcome.  When has life been hard and you have managed to survive and maybe even thrive afterwards?  Remembering that we have coped before can boost our confidence that we can cope again – building that belief in our ability.

Set goals and achieve them

A key way to develop self-belief is through ‘mastery’ experiences, ie setting yourself goals and achieving them.  In relation to resilience this means learning you can cope with unexpected situations.  By putting yourself in situations where you have to use your coping resources, you will learn that you are capable of dealing with these situations.

Identify and observe role models

Identify people who are able to cope with challenging and difficult situations easily.  What do they do and what can you learn from them?

Find a supportive coach or mentor

A key element of building self-belief is being encouraged by others and having them acknowledge your achievements.  Identify someone who can support you and mentor you.

Challenge your own limiting beliefs

Our belief in our ability to cope is often limited by our beliefs about ourselves and our own capabilities.  It is important to challenge and question these beliefs, as it is often only these beliefs that hold us back. The first step is identifying them: what statements do you tell yourself over and over?  Things like “I could never cope with…,” “I’m not good enough for this job,” “I can’t do this” and “I could never do this job if…” are common limiting beliefs.  We state them in our minds like they are facts.

Make a list of the most common things you tell yourself that fit into this category of sounding like facts, yet are really more beliefs about your ability.

The second step is to challenge these statements.  Are they facts?  For each one, ask yourself whether this is true, false or cannot say.  What evidence do you have that this statement might be false?  When we say things like “I always fail” or “I never do well at…” the fact is that we will have evidence to the contrary.  We will of course sometimes fail, but we sometimes succeed too.  Challenging these limiting beliefs and creating new beliefs for ourselves can be critical to our self-belief.

What if we changed “I always fail” to “Sometimes I do well and I want to do everything I can to make sure this time I do well too.”

Each business is reacting differently to the changes the UK is experiencing at the moment and that uncertainty will continue.  Looking at building resilience and self-belief – for yourself and your people, is a critical step towards surviving and thriving today and tomorrow.

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