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What Motivates Us

biscuits-line-white-background1 400x265Despite common assumption, money is not the greatest motivator.

And neither are cookies apparently.  So what is it that motivates us?  Research tells us that doing interesting work, knowing how we contribute to a bigger picture and receiving thanks and recognition (not of the financial kind) are what motivate us most.

So clearly we need to understand what drives each individual, as what we assume motivates someone, may be incorrect.

The best way to do this is when a manager asks their team to complete a motivation questionnaire, then the manager spends time with each individual, learning more about what the team needs in order to do their best work.

The key here is to use the motivation profile to tell you, more quickly and easily than hours of interviews, what buttons really need to be pushed for each individual to put in their best effort. Once you have the profile, you can consider what questions you need to ask each person, to know what they need from you.

The motivation questionnaire can also be insightful for selection – helping a recruiter understand what really makes the candidate do their best work, and sense-checking that against the organisation’s culture.

Totem Lollipops

What are Motivation Questionnaires?

Motivation questionnaires ask specifically what makes you work more or less hard at work. Whereas personality might indicate what you like, motivation shows us which buttons you need pushed in order to do your best work. A classic insight from a review of both personality and motivation profiles can reveal for example, that an individual prefers less structured work, but they work harder when someone imposes a little structure or sets a tight deadline.

Motivation research shows us that it is not another’s responsibility to motivate a person. In fact, it is really down to each individual to draw their own motivation internally. But a manager, team or organisation can make this easier, by providing the right motivational environment. If we know what buttons are going to be effective, we can get working on the pushing.

What’s the downside?

As with the personality profile, this tool should only be used as a starting point to a great conversation. Using the tool alone, without added interpretation from the individual, is a poor use of a great profile, which can result in misinterpretation, inappropriate action, and little or no value-add.

How to gain maximum value

  • Be open-minded – what motivates you might not motivate others in your team
  • Use the motivation questionnaire as a starting point to a conversation – ask questions to more fully understand what will best motivate your team
  • Make sure you are clear from the outset on your business objectives. Communicate these to all involved so everyone knows why you are using the profile and what the outcomes should be


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HR Jargon Buster

Let’s bust some Jargon!

We love our industry, we really do.  But sometimes it can get a touch difficult keeping up with all the acronyms and buzz words.  This is especially true for new comers to our industry.  We thought it’d be useful to highlight some of the more common phrases and share our understanding of them.

What follows is by no means a definitive list, and has caused plenty of heated debate in our own office about what these definitions should be.  So much debate that this post should really be listed under research.

But we have come to some consensus on 9 of our industry’s most beloved phrases.  Below we give Totem’s definition of each one, starting with our favourite…


The definition of talent depends on the organisation.  Some companies talk about their “top talent,” and they tend to identify high-flyers based on previous performance and potential to become future leaders.  This definition is usually what is being referred to in “talent development.”  Other companies use a broader definition that the workforce is the talent – the focus of business, the most critical resource.  This broader definition is usually what is being referred to in the term “talent management.”

Talent Development

Keeping hold of our best people is a focus for every organisation.  Talent Development describes the process of identifying top talent or high-flyers, and the development of those individuals.  This usually forms a part of succession planning, which involves planning who will take on critical roles in the business when the current post-holder leaves.  If your CFO were to leave tomorrow, who is ready now to step into that position?  What are you doing to develop your top talent, so that they are ready to move into critical roles?  These are the risks that talent development is designed to avoid.

Talent Pool

Usually a group of individuals in an organisation who have been identified as high-flyers or top talent.  The company will normally invest in this group’s development – see talent development.  Talent pools are also referred to in a recruitment context, when we talk about the talent pool in the market we can select from – i.e. the talent or skilled individuals appropriate for our role, that we would like to recruit from.  Forward-thinking, pro-active organisations will often have a constant view of the external talent pool, using tools like Linked In to keep in touch with individuals they may one day like to recruit or head-hunt.

Talent Management

This is quite simply good people management, but the new name recognises that people are our talent; our most critical resource.  Talent Management describes a broad area of work that encompasses recruitment, learning and development, engagement, talent development, leadership development, succession planning, critical role analysis and outplacement.

Succession Planning

Planning for the succession of the business and its people.  This is the name for a critical business practice of thinking through who will take on important jobs if someone should leave.  “Where is our next CEO coming from?”  And, “what would we do if the FD left tomorrow?”  Questions like these need to be answered, so we plan by identifying individuals that may have the potential to do those roles, then ‘groom’ them for the position.

Leadership Development

Leadership development tends to be delivered to develop certain skills or behaviours in the senior team.  It can often come about following a change in the business that requires a different kind of leadership style, or a general realisation that things are not as the could be.  It is difficult to develop anything until you know what you’re aiming for and where you are now.  We begin by working with clients to understand what they need from their leadership team.  This can come in the shape of organisational values and competency frameworks or a more specific review of leadership competencies required to meet business objectives.  We then design some way of measuring where each leader is performing now against that benchmark, usually through a development centre, personality profiling and 360 feedback.

Critical Role Analysis

A way of finding out what the most important roles in a business are, and how to plan for people leaving.  Traditionally, succession planning has targeted development for top Director-level roles, but are these the most critical roles in the business?  We identify the truly critical roles and therefore concerning risks in the business, so that high-potential individuals can be targeted and developed for the most important jobs.

Generation X, Y, Z

These terms are used to describe a certain demographic, where trends have been observed regarding communications experience, employee working preferences and career tendencies.  Generation X is the baby-boomer generation, born post World War 2 and generally expecting more of a job for life.  Y is the generation born between roughly 1970 and 1990, growing up with more exposure to the internet and tending to change jobs every 3 years.  Generation Z, born post 1991, has only known a world of the internet, mobile phones and fast-moving information.  Employees from this generation have very high demands of employers, including a focus on work-life balance, and tend to like to move jobs every 1-2 years.

360 Feedback

Essentially means all-round feedback.  We ask for feedback on job performance and behaviour from the individual, their manager, peers, direct reports and sometimes even their clients or customers.  This provides a much broader indication of strengths and development areas than we could get from just self-scoring or manager feedback.  This can be useful for 1:1 coaching, leadership development, skills gap analysis and many more conversations.

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The Games People Play

games-people-play-totemUnderstanding the dynamics of relationships in a way that is truly practical

The Games People Play explains and analyses with pertinent real-life examples, the continual struggle between our inner child, parent and adult to dominate a social situation, colloquially termed as ‘games’.

The book interprets that the outcomes of these games are a fundamental human requirement and by understanding the way these games are played we learn to understand the motivations of ourselves and our peers.

Each chapter addresses various situations and the author lists the multitude of games people partake in where the outcome is win, lose or draw.  The games have names such as: “See What You Made Me Do”; “Ain’t It Awful”; and “I’m Only Trying To Help You”.

Berne introduced some of these concepts in Transactional Analysis and gives lots of examples of the different games played by people.  The book provides a view to pinpoint and categorise people’s behaviour or combinations of behaviours and to think about the origins & continued causes of this behaviour.

The book examines the roles people assume in their interpersonal relationships which foster the subsequent and often repetitive transactions. The description of some of the games such as Alcoholic and Courtroom are incredibly interesting.

On the whole the book is a very interesting study of human behaviour and a good set of “worked examples” for anyone trying to understand Transactional Analysis.

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HR and Social Media

social-mediaA summary of HR & Social Media from our recent walkabout to the CIPD conference.

Having spoken to a lot of people at the CIPD Annual Conference last week who were disappointed to have missed certain sessions, I thought I’d share summaries of those I went to…

“Social media is an opportunity to amplify your leadership message.  If you’re not there, perhaps your message is dampened.”

This quote from Nokia’s Matthew Hanwell really sums up the spirit of this session.  Rather than trying to control use of this new medium, we are far better to embrace the fact that this is where people are going.

The speakers from Nokia and Random House emphasised the benefits of using social media for business.  For example Nokia has project groups set up on its own internal facebook-style platform, so rather than having to search through email trails to find recorded progress and issues on projects, it is all in one place.  This has made communication more effective and efficient.

Neil Morrison, HR Director for Random House, talked about the value to him personally of sharing his views with the social media world, receiving feedback and gaining further ideas.  This is a great network for all professionals to be keeping in touch with thought leadership and shared goals or concerns.


This comment from a fellow delegate summed up where social media currently sits within the HR mindset – “I thought they’d talk about the issues and how we can control the use.  I’m really pleasantly surprised.”

A comparison was drawn to the fears we had when email was introduced, and even to when the telephone landline was first introduced to the workplace. Ultimately in spite of all our fears and wants to control usage, the telephone and email have stuck and become a critical part of daily business.

How will social media become a part of daily business?  How are we embracing that now in our organisations?


  • Social media is here to stay – the numbers show this is not a fad
  • Our focus on controlling use of it is quite pointless – like trying to control what people say or email to their friends and peers
  • Embracing social media and using it to benefit our business is the most useful response and offers great benefits to individuals and the organisation

Further Reading

If you’re on twitter, you can follow @neilmorrison and @matthew_hanwell to keep track of their views.

If you’re not on twitter, give it a go, or search for HR blogs and see what useful ideas you gain from the experience.

Register at and have a look at a user guide.

You can also read Neil’s own blog reflections on the session and how it really all comes down to trust.

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A Competency Based Evolution

competency-evolutionWhat’s new in the world of recruitment?

As we closed the year with two big recruitment projects, there were themes emerging about where recruitment might go next.  On the one hand, not much has changed in a long time – businesses want to find people quickly and make sure they’re people who will get off to a great start.  But something is stirring – and perhaps there is a shift on the way about how we recruit.

Focus on the outcome

This is becoming a consistent theme for 2015.  High performing businesses, those looking to grow, those looking to respond to a downturn in revenue – all have had the common theme of wanting to move their recruitment activity more toward the outcome of the role.  This is a change from the common knee-jerk reaction to assume the recruiting manager knows what they want and so then ask what salary is available and what kind of experience is being sought.

We can be far more effective in our recruiting and ongoing performance management when we move towards asking key questions like:

  • What business problem are you trying to solve?
  • What will this role deliver?
  • If you had to ask the bank manager for the money for this role, how would you explain the value of the role and show potential ROI?
  • How would you know someone had done a good job in 12 months’ time?

Competencies are getting tired

Whether it’s the fact that we’re tired of listening to candidates’ pre-rehearsed answers to the “tell me about a time when” questions or simply that all the competencies are starting to sound the same and blend into each other – there is a growing noise of dissatisfaction with competencies.

Quite often we find as well that too much is being pushed into a competency framework.  Some read more like values and others are a more technical requirement of how a job is completed.

Competencies work best for a business’ interests when there is clarity on what they are and what they are not.  For example one business we works with makes clear you are not expected to be great at everything – nobody could be!  So the focus is on finding out where you have strength and matching that to the highest priority needs of the role.

Strengths and values could be an alternative

There has been a lot of interest in strengths ever since the 2005 publication of “Now, Discover your Strengths.”  Increasingly as we notice the link between people doing what they do best, energy levels, happiness, health, employee engagement and performance – strengths display their importance in the workplace.

Add values into that – the deep-rooted things that each of us find important about life, work and relationships, and we start to see something else very important.

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The Brand Called You

PB 400x265Branding is more important today than it ever has been.

A very clever chap called Tom Peters argues that the interesting developments in brand management are not happening at a multinational scale, but at the individual end of the scale.

Peters suggests that individuals should think of themselves as a brand and that their approach to differentiation in the world should be exactly the same. Individuals should look at themselves and try to identify why they stand out in relation to those around them. If they do not stand out, they should start trying to find ways to do so.

He argues that every individual should be addressing a series of questions to find out if they are selling themselves effectively to prospective employees:

  • What makes you different?
  • What is the pitch for you?
  • What is the real power of you?
  • What is loyalty to you?
  • What is the future of you?
  • What makes you different?

Individuals should start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that distinguish them from colleagues. Peters suggests using a standard model from the world of corporate branding, the feature-benefit model, which ensures that every feature that they communicate to potential buyers has an identifiable benefit. For example, an individual that is able to solve any problem quickly and efficiently will provide considerable value to their internal and external customers. Individuals who do this will quickly gain a reputation, and in doing so, build a brand for themselves.

Jelly Bean Diversity

So what is the pitch for you?

The first stage in the corporation branding process is developing visibility. However, instead of glossy campaigns, individuals must enhance their profile in different ways. As a starting point, Peters suggests that individuals should introduce themselves to colleagues by signing up for extra projects within the organisation, and getting a reputation for contributing. Alternatively, Peters suggests writing a column in a local paper or teaching a class in a community college.

Peters argues that communicating a brand to others is all about style as well as substance. This involves communicating efficiently with others at all times, whether it is during meetings, giving a presentation, writing a letter or sending an e-mail.

Essentially this amounts to what advertisers call ‘word of mouth’ marketing, and it involves using personal and business networks to cultivate a presence in the marketplace.

Attention Grabbing

Not only should individuals advertise themselves; they should also concentrate on developing power in their chosen area. In other words, they should attempt to cultivate a reputation for using their expertise intelligently. Just as consumers are drawn to powerful product brands, individuals should attempt to develop a powerful brand to draw in external and internal customers and at the same time creating customer loyalty.

Your answer to the ‘what do you do?’ question will either limit relationships or give them life. It’s your choice. What’s crucial is that you take every opportunity to deliver an ‘elevator speech’ that makes a positive rather than negative impact. Here’s how.

Here are two types of Elevator Speech (ES) that are only going to induce yawns…

‘Hello, my name is Joe Smith, and I’m a banking manager with XYZ Bank.’

Or: ‘Hi, I’m Mandy and I’m an accountant.’

If you forget everything else when crafting your ES – remember to focus on what you can do for the listener. Now, if Joe and Mandy changed their ES to this focus, here’s how they might come out:

‘Hello, my name is Joe and a big part of my role is building local businesses’

‘Hi, I’m Mandy – my job keeps our multi million pound business in the black’

Aren’t those more likely to get people’s interest? Might they prompt a follow-up question from you along the lines of ‘Really? How do you do that?’ They’ve got your permission to tell you more rather than assuming you want to know more.

Totem Lollipops

When you walk into a situation where somebody is going to ask you what you do, you have time to plan what you are going to say. By planning ahead, you’ll be ready with an impactful, credible and relevant Elevator Speech (ES). Here’s how:

Determine Your Audience

Who exactly are you going to be speaking to? If you don’t know, you need to ask. Will it be board level, senior management, or someone lower down the hierarchy?

Define Your Objective

What exactly do you want to get out of this interaction, meeting or phone call? It could be as simple as leaving a favourable impression, or as difficult as getting a sale on the day.

Define Your Content

Once you know your audience and your objective you can decide what will work best for getting the attention of your listener.

Deliver with Style!

Your ES must roll off your tongue with ease.  Practice saying it.

Decide on a Call to Action!

Finally, think through what you want them to do once they’ve heard your ES. Book you? Meet with you one-to-one? Connect you to someone? Refer you? Ask for further information. Begin with the end in mind.

A customised approach takes effort and preparation. That’s why few people do it. But it is a powerful tool in business and personal arenas.

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Emotional Intelligence

intelligenceHow to improve your Emotional Intelligence.  The Totem Way.

Improving an individual’s emotional intelligence is a journey.  We start with developing a keener self-awareness of emotions and progress to the managing of others’ emotions.

We take individuals or teams on that journey using master classes, workshops and 1:1 coaching, and we’ve found that a combination of those three methods provide the most dramatic results.

We start with self-awareness.  Being aware of our own emotions can sound strange – surely we know what we are feeling?  Yet becoming more conscious of these auto-pilot reactions can help us noticing the effect of emotions on our behaviour.  Sharing principles from Steve Peters’ The Chimp Paradox (the best-selling book from the man behind the GB Olympic Cycling team), we encourage individuals to reflect back on their reactions to situations, noticing themes if possible.

Discussing these themes with others and hearing how certain behaviours can come across grows awareness of the impact of behaviour. Some useful questions to begin with are:

  • What emotions am I experiencing?
  • How are they affecting my behaviour?

Jelly Bean Diversity

We then aim to move towards self-management.  How can I manage my emotions consciously and take control of my emotional responses?  At this point we encourage the use of use practical tools like the locus of control, mindfulness techniques and concepts from cognitive-behavioural therapy that can be applied to everyday work and life.

Building on the self-awareness, individuals learn how to notice emotional reactions, take control of them and choose a different reaction.

And finally we address the awareness of others.  What emotions are others experiencing?  How do I know that?  How is that affecting their behaviour?  How am I affecting their emotions and behaviour?

Again there can be an assumption that we all instinctively know how to read others’ emotions – yet it is something many of us do not spend time focusing on

In a busy restaurant or office, with customers or colleagues, we can miss the cues people are giving us to their emotional reactions.  Often we simply need to remind ourselves us of what we instinctively know – how people display their emotions and how those feelings can affect their behaviour.

If you’d like a little more information on Emotional Intelligence and its importance follow me!  Alternatively, check out The Chimp Paradox by Dr Steven Peters…


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The Importance of Feeling Earnest

s040163 400x265Why bother with Emotional Intelligence?

Who do you think of when asked about great leaders from the past?  Nelson?  Churchill?  These leaders were bold, brave and tough.  They showed a great sense of purpose and resolve.  There was no messing with them!  But I imagine that they were quite difficult to get along with.

Today the qualities required of leaders are very different.  They are required to lead a workforce that expects to be empowered and consulted.  They must provide opportunities for growth, challenge and development.  All the while, leaders must be ready to take full responsibility when things go wrong.

Clearly success requires more than traditional skills & intelligence (IQ).  This is true of leaders, managers and every member of the workforce.  Each person needs to deal with the emotions related to their work, both their own and others.

“The greatest ability in business is to get along with others & influence their actions.” – John Hancock

This is where the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) comes in.  Originally coined by two American psychologists, John Mayer & Peter Salovey, they defined Emotional Intelligence as:

The ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.

According to Daniel Goleman, competency research in over 200 companies and organizations worldwide suggests that about one third of the difference in job performance is due to technical skill and cognitive ability while the remaining two thirds is due to emotional competence.  In top leadership positions, over four fifths of the difference is due to emotional competence.

There are 4 main elements of Emotional Intelligence:

  • Perceiving emotions – the ability to perceive emotions in oneself & others as well as in objects, art & events.
  • Using emotions – the ability to generate, use and feel emotion to communicate feelings or employ them in thinking or creating.
  • Understanding emotions – the ability to understand emotional information, how emotions combine and progress and to reason about such emotional meanings.
  • Managing emotions – the ability to regulate emotions in oneself and others so as to promote personal understanding and growth.

The key thing is that each of these elements can be developed.  Knowing your strengths and weaknesses now enables you to decide which areas need further work.  You have the ability to improve your EQ.

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