Tag Archives: employee engagement

Oxytocin, trust, motivation and employee engagement

By Elisabeth Goodman, 9th March 2017

Introduction and a caveat

There seems to be a real wave of articles and seminars on the relationship between various hormones, mental health, and our performance at work.

I am definitely not an expert in this field, although I did complete a Biochemistry degree some years ago, and have kept generally in touch through my work in and with Life Science organisations.  I would certainly invite those who are more knowledge than me to clarify any aspects of the following article that might benefit from their greater expertise.

The Neuroscience of Trust. Jan-Feb 2017 HBR article by Paul Zak

That said, there is an impressive amount of research (see notes) behind Paul Zak’s article on “The Neuroscience of Trust” in the Jan-Feb 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, pp. 84-90.  And the conclusions echo many points that we have come across and make in our training for managers and teams.

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training, workshops and coaching for managers and teams

His conclusions echo many points that we have come across and make in our training for managers and teams.

oxytocin and trust or motivation?

Zak’s research has established that certain behaviours can increase the level of oxytocin, and that there is a clear link between this increase and trust.

He describes the following behaviours – some of which could arguably be ways to increase motivation rather than trust.  Although the end-result of increased productivity, collaboration, higher energy, happiness, loyalty and engagement could be the same (more on this below).

  1. Recognition (of excellence).  We know that recognition for having done good work can be a strong motivator for people.  Zak claims that this will be most effective if it’s immediate, from peers, is unexpected, personal and public.  My experience is that some people would be very uncomfortable with this form of recognition and would prefer something more low-key.
  2. Introducing a “challenge” stress. This is a stretch but achievable goal for a team.  Again, different people may respond to the perceived level of challenge in different ways.
  3. Give people discretion in how they do things. This echoes the point made by Dan Pink in “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” about how motivating autonomy can be, resulting in important increases in innovation.  Micro-management is the flip side of this.
  4. Enable “job crafting” – giving people a choice of what projects they work on.  This also sounds a bit like “holocracy”: organisations that self-organise, rather that using traditional hierarchical structures.  I read about how the Morning Star tomato company was successfully adopting this approach in a December 2011 HBR article.
  5. Sharing information broadly. We  know that people can perform more effectively if they understand the purpose of what they are doing.  Open and frequent communication also help people when dealing with change. So the same goes for information about company goals, strategy, tactics.  Lack of information will certainly be counter-productive to creating trust.
  6. Intentionally build relationships.  High performing teams are typically those where there is a good balance of attention to relationships as well as tasks.  And for some people, it is the social interaction at work that is a great motivator for them to be there.
  7. Facilitate whole person growth.  Good managers will pay attention to the personal as well as the professional goals of their direct reports.  They will do that through coaching, mentoring and constructive feedback.
  8. Show vulnerability as a leader.  This seems to me one of the most powerful ways to demonstrate and promote trust, albeit within certain boundaries.  Good leaders will have direct reports whose strengths complement theirs – be it in areas of expertise, or in softer management skills.  They can give people the space and the opportunity to demonstrate these strengths, by asking rather than telling them about aspects of their work.

The positive effect of trust on self-reported work performance

Zak concludes his article by citing that greater trust has been found to increase:

  • energy
  • engagement
  • productivity
  • loyalty
  • recommendations of the company to family and friends
  • alignment with company purpose
  • closeness to colleagues
  • empathy
  • a sense of accomplishment

and to decrease burnout.

He also found that people working in companies with greater trust earn more – possibly because these companies are more productive and innovative…

So, however the neuroscience works, this certainly seems like a topic worth paying attention to!


  1. Paul Zak is the founding director of the Centre for Neuroeconomic , Studies, Professor of economics, psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University.  He and his team measured the oxytocin levels of blood in volunteers before and after they completed a strategic decision task designed to demonstrate trust.  They also administered synthetic oxytocin or a placebo in a nasal spray to prove that oxytocin causes trust.  They carried out further studies over 10 years to identify promoters and inhibitors of oxytocin, and created and used a survey instrument in several thousands of companies to measure the constituent factors of trust.  In addition, they gathered evidence from a dozen companies that had taken action to increase trust, measured brain activity in two companies where trust varied by department, and referenced an independent firm’s survey of about one thousand working adults in the US.
  2. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

    RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

    Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

    She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.


Creating the conditions for growth at work

By Elisabeth Goodman, 16th February 2016

It’s performance review and appraisal time

It’s that time of year again: performance appraisals were either completed just before the end of 2015, or are in full swing. Objectives are being set for the year ahead. Managers and those being managed may be feeling ‘stressed’ by the challenge of finding the time or the skills to do it properly: to ensure that people are feeling valued and/or fulfilled in their work. Performance review time is surely the time to ensure that the conditions are right for the growth of the individual, the team, and the organisation.

Creating the right conditions for growth

Creating the right conditions for growth

Is stress getting in the way of growth?

My attention was caught this week-end by the cover story in The Observer’s New Review “Is there too much stress on stress?” (14th Feb 2016, pp. 8-11). I was fascinated to learn that the term ‘stress’ was coined as recently as 1946 by Hans Selye, an Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist, who was intrigued by the common symptoms experienced by humans to all sorts of diseases and “diverse noxious agents”. The Observer article quotes statistics from the 2015 “WorkStress” annual conference of the UK National Work-Stress Network. Apparently there were 440,000 cases of work-related stress in the UK, and 43% of all working days lost due to illness in 2014/15 were due to stress. And these are just the reported cases.

I remember when I was an employee, before I started running my own business, hearing about the difference between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ stress. The argument went that we needed enough positive stress to ensure that we were achieving our potential. Apparently Selye also referred to ‘good stress’ or “eustress”, and ‘bad stress’ or “distress” but the article suggests that this distinction never really caught on. I am no physiological or psychological expert, but I know, from discussing motivation with delegates in our RiverRhee management training courses, and from my own experiences, that not enough of the right kind of challenge, as well as too much of the wrong kind of challenge can lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness, and other symptoms of stress.

Motivators and demotivators

I’m currently reading Caitlin Walker’s “From contempt to curiosity” in my exploration of ‘clean language’ as a tool for creating exceptional managers and teams. She references the ‘triune brain’ from Eric Jensen’s “Brain-Based Teaching and Learning”. It’s a reminder that our reptilian brain origins are those for which physiological safety is important. Our mammalian brain thrives on social belonging. The neocortex is the focus for cognitive thought: our centre for creativity and learning. There are echoes of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs here: only if we feel safe, secure, accepted and trusted can we free up our brains to grow as an individual and so benefit the team and the organisation.

the major contributors to stress

Back to the Observer article, which suggests that the contributors to stress at work include:

  • emails – too many, too frequently and intruding into home life
  • level of demand on people’s time / long hours
  • reduction in personal control over work
  • poor relationships
  • lack of clarity of roles and responsibilities
  • inability to adapt to change
  • generally insensitive management practices

managers as role models

Again, back to our management training where we put a lot of emphasis on skills to understand and support individuals within their teams, as well as role modelling working practices to better manage their time.

Managers also have a responsibility to see that change is initiated and implemented in a way that addresses our basic need for information and involvement, so that we feel better able to cope. (More tips on the RiverRhee Managing Change page.)

Performance appraisals are an ideal opportunity to review and nurture the conditions in which every individual, team and the organisation as a whole can reduce (negative) stress and focus on thriving and growth.

What will you do to create these ideal conditions?


Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

A celebration of change with One Nucleus and Taylor Vinters

By Elisabeth Goodman, 30th April, 2015

Our host, Patrick Farrant from Taylor Vinters, opened yesterday’s proceedings at the One Nucleus Network Meeting in Cambridge on Managing Change with this quote from Richard Branson:

“A company that stands still will soon be forgotten”

A show of hands from the floor confirmed that those present were almost unanimously either experiencing change, had recently done so, or were anticipating it. So on that evidence alone, they and their organisations are continuously looking for ways to improve and therefore will not be forgotten!

(* I know that I am making at least two potentially erroneous assumptions here but I hope you’ll overlook them for the sake of this blog!)

The afternoon / evening event consisted of three case studies and a panel session, with the participation of Jacqui Alexander and Margaret Huggins from GSK, Madhuri Warren from Pathology Diagnostics introduced by Tony Jones from One Nucleus, John Burt from Abzena and Chris Mayo from the London Stock Exchange, and Edward Hooper from Taylor Vinters. I had the pleasure of introducing the first session with GSK, and chairing the closing panel discussion.

It was a very enjoyable event, with a richness of content and some great discussion. This blog does not attempt to cover all of the content, but rather to explore some of the key themes that emerged in what felt like almost a celebration of change and how to make it a more positive experience.

Our attitude, having access to information and involvement in the change will make the difference between a positive and negative experience of change

I asked the delegates what would make the difference for them between experiencing change as something really positive and constructive, as opposed to something negative and really rather awful. The answers that came back included attitude, knowing what was going on, and being in control – a nice lead-in for my slide on enabling navigators rather than victims of change (a theme that I’ve previously spoken about in my capacity as committee member of the APM Enabling Change SIG).

Enabling navigators of change

I’ve added in the survivor image to illustrate a point made later by Jacqui Alexander about people’s reactions to change programmes involving long roll-out plans where they might just lie low and wait for it to blow over!

Effective change is about leadership attitude

Jacqui Alexander and Margaret Huggins used a four-box model for leadership belief and change, taken from Rowland & Higgs’ book on Sustaining Change that really resonated with the audience and the other speakers.

Change Leadership Approaches

It seemed that whilst the tendency of many leaders of change is to be very directive, it may sometimes be more appropriate to take the masterful approach, and that the most effective may well be the emergent one.

The masterful approach engages the people who are doing the work and so will have the best knowledge as to what will be effective.

The emergent approach is about creating the conditions for creativity and innovation, mixed with a culture of continuous improvement so that change is incremental rather than evolutionary. It also has echoes of Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Tipping Point’: when sufficient people have bought into (a) change for it to gain a momentum of its own.

At the same time, there are some situations, as in John Burt’s case study with Abzena’s transition in its corporate mission and to a public company, and Madhuri Warren’s case study on relocating and growing their business, when those leading the change have to be more directive, at least at first. Both speakers recognised, and Madhuri elaborated on the fact, that there comes a point when the masterful and emergent approaches are essential for fully engaging their staff.

A strong management team is essential during periods of significant change

Both Madhuri Warren and John Burt reflected on the qualities of their management teams and how their wealth of experience supported their companies through their periods of significant change.

The ability to articulate and communicate their vision for the change to employees and external stakeholders / shareholders, turn it into a sound business plan, project manage that plan, and minimize the negative impact on day-to-day productivity is a complex mix of challenges for any team.

Pathology Diagnostics’ and Abzena’s ability to do so are a credit to the quality of their management teams.

Both experiences have led them to reflect on their change management strategies, and there was much that GSK shared about their ADP approach (Accelerating Delivery and Performance *) that provided food for thought on this.

(*The link is to Jacqui and Margaret’s previous webinar for the APM which was attended by more than 300 people.  The link includes an audio recording from the event.)

It is important to communicate the right things, to the right people, at the right time

John Burt referenced the challenge of managing the company’s shareholder based when transitioning to a public company, and the changes in communication strategy that this entails. Chris Mayo elaborated on this further.

Managing the internal communications is also an important, as Madhuri reminded us: people want to know the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) – how the change will directly impact and benefit them.

In the panel session we discussed how it is in some ways easier to manage that communication in smaller companies. Jacqui’s suggestion for larger companies is to take a cellular approach to change leadership to achieve this communication more effectively than waiting for the more traditional top-down cascade to happen.

Jacqui also suggested tailoring the language for different audiences so for example, in an R&D environment, we might describe a change programme as experimentation!

Focus on skills and motivation and you will get the results you want

Graham Robb’s book ‘Influencer’ suggests that the best way to influence people is through a combination of skills development and motivational factors, and these suggestions also came through from all the speakers.

Robb suggests that effective change depends on identifying the key behaviours that need to change, and then providing the support (skills and motivation) to make that happen.

(You can read more about this in an earlier blog entitled: Why thinking in terms of burning platforms and tipping points is not sufficient to drive change)

Our speakers certainly demonstrated the awareness, and the approaches that will enable their organisations, and hopefully those of the delegates to continuously change for the better and so not be forgotten!


Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

One of RiverRhee’s areas of expertise and courses for One Nucleus is on Managing Change – which was part of the impetus for yesterday’s event.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the recently renamed Methods and Standards theme for the Enabling Change SIG.



Difficult people are not necessarily being difficult!

By Elisabeth Goodman, 31st March, 2015

How to work with difficult people is a subject that many managers struggle with

How to work with “difficult” people is one of the topics Janet Burton and I explore in RiverRhee Consulting’s 3-day Introduction to Management course , and in our tailored in-house supervisor and line manager courses. I also previously referred to this subject in one of our newsletters on the subject of creating exceptional managers.

Elisabeth Goodman presenting the Introduction to Management course

How to work with “difficult” people is one of the most popular aspects of our courses, being one that many new and even more established managers can find quite challenging. I wonder whether it’s because the whole area of managing interpersonal relationships, dealing with conflict, emotional awareness and intelligence is something that is largely neglected in our educational system. We are so focused on academic achievement, that this essential aspect of work and indeed home life can be under-developed, unless other people in our lives have helped us to learn about it, or we have taken the initiative to explore it ourselves.

Difficult people may just be being different – we should take time to understand them

As I wrote in the newsletter, difficult people are not necessarily being difficult, but just different! Our different personalities, perspectives on, and beliefs in life will lead us to approach our work differently, communicate differently and generally act differently. At any moment in time, there will also be other circumstances happening in our lives that might be influencing how we think, feel and behave.

When faced with what seems to be a difficult situation or person, we would do well to step back and reflect on why they seem to be difficult, and to also step forward into the other person’s shoes. It may indeed be some aspect of our own behaviour that is creating or at least contributing to the situation.

We all make assumptions and try to mind read. One of the most obvious solutions, but also the one a lot of people will avoid, is to actually have an open conversation with the person concerned, to understand their perspective as well as communicate our own. Several of the managers we’ve worked with have dared to have those conversations as a result of what they’ve learnt on our courses and have been greatly relieved by the outcome.

Other strategies and tools to help us understand “difficult” people

There are various other strategies at our disposal, such as active listening, coaching and assertiveness that can help us to better understand what is leading to people being “difficult” as well as helping us to influence any associated behaviours and situations in a positive and constructive way.

We use various psychometric tools in our training ranging from Honey and Mumford’s Learning Styles, to NLP representational (or communication) styles, Belbin’s Team Roles and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator). These can be very illuminating in terms of understanding our different perspectives and approaches to life and work.

I’m in the process of reading “Working Together”[1], a book about transactional analysis (TA) in the workplace. TA, and the “OK corral”[2] originated with Eric Berne in the 1970s. It’s about understanding our beliefs about ourselves and how we believe others view us – often something we have inherited from childhood – and how that influences our behaviour and interaction with others. It can lead to individuals being generally passive or aggressive rather than assertive in their behaviour, or to responding passively or aggressively in certain situations.

The OK Corral - based on the work of Eric Berne

The OK Corral – based on the work of Eric Berne

In an organisational setting, the nature of the “OK” dynamic between individuals can influence the dynamics within teams and make a difference between a dysfunctional team and one that thrives on open discussion and attains high performance. The open and positive behaviour of senior and middle managers can make a difference between engaged and ‘empowered’ individuals in what Wickens (1995)[3] calls an “ascendant” organisation, and one where people are alienated, acting in an anarchic way, or where there is total apathy.

In conclusion – it’s worth spending the time to understand people, to create a more positive working relationship

As one of my own exceptional managers once told me, the work of a manager can be as much as 80% about people, and only 20% about tasks. If people are being “difficult” we should take the time to understand why they appear to be so. The root cause may be something that we can do something about or otherwise influence.

As Mountain and Davidson point out: people working together don’t have to like each other to still be able to work effectively together. In my own experience, better understanding can lead to something that is more akin to liking (if that was not there already), and certainly to a more positive working relationship.

[1] Mountain, A. and Davidson, C. (2015) Working Together. Organizational Transactional Analysis and Business Performance. Farnham, England, Gower

[2] Eric Berne’s 4-box matrix matches the various combinations of “I am OK”, “I am not OK” and “You are OK”, “You are not OK”. The “healthy position” being “I am OK, You are OK”.

[3] Wickens, P. (1995). The Ascendant Organization. Basingstoke, England, MacMillan Business


Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Capabilities & Methods pillar for the Enabling Change SIG.

Engaging staff in operational excellence – a case study on the visual workplace

Managing cargo shipments in the Port of Felixstowe

I’ve been catching-up on my business reading.  I always find something fascinating when I do….

True to form, my efforts were quickly rewarded this morning, with a case study on digital signage at the Port of Felixstowe in the August 14th issue of Business Weekly. This article caught my attention for two reasons:

  • I’d been impressed, whilst sketching* on the beach during a late summer trip to Felixstowe, by the size and frequency of the cargo ships going across the horizon.
  • I’m always intrigued by how organisations engage their staff in a commitment to operational excellence.
Cargo ship and operational excellence in Felixstowe

Cargo ship on the horizon and operational excellence in Felixstowe

(*I’m a very recently initiated amateur! More about this for anyone interested in the July-August RiverRhee Newsletter.)

Collecting metrics is a step towards operational excellence

Most business teams collect metrics or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) on their performance.  It’s a requirement from management.  Variations on cost, time and quality – often expressed as frequencies, quantities, timings etc. – are dutifully collected and included in monthly reports.

We talk about these metrics during the RiverRhee training courses that I run on Lean and Six Sigma, and on Change Management.  Questions that are often raised are:

  • Are the right things being measured: will they give us meaningful and useful information on how we are performing in relation to our customers and our goals?
  • Is anyone paying attention to the metrics and using them to make decisions, to improve performance on a continuous basis, to monitor whether anticipated  benefits are being delivered?
  • Have we in fact got too many metrics?

‘Stand-up’ meetings and a visual workplace can make a real difference to engagement and results

One of the things I enjoy about working with multiple customers is witnessing the diversity of their approaches and hearing about examples of operational excellence.

One company uses ‘stand-up’ meetings at the start of the day and at lunch time (to catch people working on different shifts).  They update a white board in a narrow corridor with their key targets and up to the minute metrics on performance in relation to customers and operations.  The local manager or supervisor runs through the figures, celebrates achievements, asks for comments and suggestions.  One or two members of staff might also share an item of news or a good practice.  The narrowness of the corridor and the absence of chairs help to ensure that the meeting is very brief – it lasts 15 minutes at the most. Everyone is engaged, informed, energised and committed to the organisation’s aims and their roles within it.

Other organisations have more sophisticated white boards or electronic displays in more spacious locations that can be viewed as people go by as well as in similar ‘stand up’ briefings at key points of the day or working week.

Using ‘media screens’ at the Port of Felixstowe

The case study in Business Weekly features Anders+Kern (A+K) PADS (www.anders-kern.co.uk) and the Port of Felixstowe’s decision to use their ‘media screens’ to provide ‘real-time and relevant information’ to the approximate 75 per cent of their staff involved in operational roles and delivering services to their customers. (The Port of Felixstowe A+K case study is also available online.)

The article describes how the information communicated includes ‘progress against customer service targets’ and ‘changes to operational procedures’.

This is all very good to hear about.  It would be wonderful to get an inside view on the impact that this approach to the visual workplace is having on employee engagement and operational excellence.

How are you engaging your staff in operational excellence?  Do you have some form of visual workplace?

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We using coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), APM (Association for Project Management) and is also registered as a Growth Coach and Leadership & Management trainer with the GrowthAccelerator.

Reflections of a team facilitator

By Elisabeth Goodman


Summer is a wonderful time to reflect and play with new ideas.  I’ve been having a lovely time exploring Pinterest for new insights to inspire the teams I work with in workshops.


Pinterest has only been going since 2010 and although it already has more than 70 million users it is still not widely used by people in my community, so I was surprised at how much I have started to find in the way of pictures, annotated diagrams, mindmaps, and increasingly popular infographics to inspire and illustrate some of the ideas that I use for facilitation.

If you would like to follow me on my journey of exploration, please see my “Inspiring Learning” board.

But is Pinterest’s use of visuals for everyone?  One of the posts I found is a mindmap stating that we all think in pictures.  And yet the NLP (NeuroLinguisticProgramming) representational styles are all about our different ways of representing and communicating information, suggesting that some of us prefer auditory, and others kinaesthetic (touch or feel) or auditory digital (‘self-talk’) representations.

Pinterest does include YouTube videos and audio files such as on this “youtube tips and tricks” board, but will that be enough to appeal to those whose preferred representational style is other than visual?  Pinterest statistics suggest that female users outnumber men by 4 to 1.  Perhaps we could get a demographic study by NLP representational styles?

Facilitating teams to help them achieve high performance

My colleagues and I have been facilitating a lot of team workshops – in fact that is at the heart of RiverRhee Consulting’s work for enhancing team effectiveness.  The goals and approaches that we use have been evolving as our clients ask different things of us, and as we’ve been developing our own expertise in the options available for helping teams to achieve high performance.

Team members benefit from additional insights on their own and others’ personalities.

Whether the team is relatively new, or has been around for a while, there is no doubt that gaining additional insights on people’s strengths and preferred ways of behaving will enhance relationships and build a stronger team.

A 1-hour icebreaker around the NLP representational styles, or a more in-depth 2-hour exercise based on MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) can be powerful ways to kick off ½-day, 1 day or longer workshops.  The overall event might be focused on team building, managing change or overall team effectiveness.

People enjoy finding out new things about themselves and those they work with, and take away insights that they continue to reflect upon and add depth to as they apply them not only at work, but also in their everyday life.

The importance of articulating the strategic context: vision, purpose and goals

Certainty and control: these are the two key enabling factors that team members identify when asked what would help them move more positively through their personal journey of change.  Understanding the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ – the strategic context of their work – gives them certainty about what will happen and clarity about what they can control or at least be involved with going forward.

Encouraging senior and line and managers to articulate their strategic goals in terms of key messages grounds them in the practical reality of what they want to achieve.

Sharing these key messages face-to-face with team members also makes the managers more approachable and opens up opportunities for dialogue.

I’m excited by how working with managers on their strategy is becoming an increasing component of my role as a coach and team facilitator, both independently and with the government sponsored GrowthAccelerator initiative for SMEs.

Facilitating discussions for improving team working

Managers often wish that members would take more of an active role in improving how the team works.  The answer is to give them the opportunity to have their say, and to then shape the way forward.  A pre-workshop diagnostic on the different aspects of team working, as described in “Team development, pre-requisites for success and temperature checks” can be very powerful for surfacing what’s going well, and what could be improved, especially with an outside facilitator collating the results anonymously into key themes.

It then takes only a little encouragement in a constructive workshop environment for team members to identify the priorities to focus on, along with suggested next steps and the roles they can play to address them.

Finding ways to make more of your team’s time and resources

Leaders and managers often approach us because they are looking for new ideas to address the nitty-gritty of how the team goes about its day-to-day work.

Their impetus may be a realisation that they need to do things differently in order to take on all the new things that their strategic goals entail.

There’s been a recent flurry of discussion in the APM LinkedIn group about the value or otherwise of Six Sigma and its focus on processes.  We use principles and tools taken from Lean as well as Six Sigma in our work with teams.  The opportunities these give for an open, constructive and fact-based discussion on how the team goes about its business has proved invaluable.  Contrary to what some protagonists claim, there is lots of scope for creativity, not only in the form of incremental improvements, but also for breakthrough innovation.  And yes, these workshops do make use of visual tools too!

More reflections to come

I’ll be continuing my explorations of Pinterest to expand my facilitator’s tool-kit.  I’m also looking forward to becoming qualified in MBTI Step II during the summer, so that I can further enhance team members’ insights into their own and others’ strengths.  Meanwhile, if you missed RiverRhee Consulting’s summer newsletter, and would like more food for thought, why not take a look at “Summer and the 3 Cs” now.


Elisabeth Goodman is the owner and Principal Consultant of RiverRhee Consulting and a trainer, facilitator, one-to-one coach, speaker and writer, with a passion for and a proven track record in improving team performance and leading business change projects on a local or global basis. 

Elisabeth is an expert in knowledge management, and is accredited in change management, Lean Six Sigma and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).  She has a BSc in Biochemistry, an MSc in Information Science, is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Information and Library Professionals (CILIP) and of the Association for Project Management (APM) and is also a Growth Coach with the GrowthAccelerator.

Elisabeth has 25+ years’ Pharma R&D experience as a line manager and internal trainer / consultant, most recently at GSK and its legacy companies, and is now enjoying working with a number of SMEs and larger organisations around the Cambridge cluster as well as further afield in the UK and in Europe.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

By Elisabeth Goodman

Last night I heard Sheri Kershaw & Band at the Royston Folk Club – our favourite twice-monthly music venue.  She introduced her first song ‘Colours of Life‘ with the observation that we will all suffer at some time in our lives, and the suggestion that we embrace rather than resist this experience, as it is what adds colour to our lives.

One of the reasons that I write these blogs is the opportunity this gives me to share the insights that experiences like hearing someone like Sheri gives me.  Combine this with a Harvard Business review blog by Peter Bregman ‘The unexpected antidote to procrastination‘ that I spotted in my twitter feed earlier in the day, and some magic happened that I wanted to share!

Not being afraid to fall

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

Bregman writes of his experience of watching surfers, who dare to ride the waves in search of that epic experience, with the full knowledge that they will always end by falling.  Some fall gracefully, others resist it for as long as they can.  But inevitably, they do fall.  He suggests that the reason we put off doing a lot of difficult things in work or in life, put off taking risks even if what we might achieve might be epic or wonderful, is the fear of what might happen, of failing, of falling, of being hurt.

However, if, like Bregman, like Sheri Kershaw, we accept that the intensity of what we might feel, of what we might suffer, is an integral part of life’s rich tapestry, and of what we can achieve and succeed at, then it’s going to be about feeling the pain, and doing it anyway.

The link to engagement, empowerment and change

This brings me to why I’m writing about music and surfing in a business blog, and why I do the work that I do!  I had the pleasure to experience a one-day course on coaching, organised by the Cambridge Network‘s Learning Collaboration, and led by Sue Blow from Management Learning & Coaching.

Listening to Sue and hearing about her approach as a coach reminded me that my work with teams is all about giving the individuals within the team the time, environment and skills to deal with the pain that they have been experiencing.  As a result, the members of the team can become more engaged with their organisation’s goals, and also feel more empowered to do something about the challenges that they are facing.

I was talking with David Bance and John Moore earlier in the week, in our nascent Melbourn Business Association Special Interest Group for Operational Excellence. We were comparing experiences of how empowered people had been to raise suggestions for improvement as a result of participating in Total Quality Management, or Lean and Six Sigma initiatives.  The best outcome was that it gave them the permission, the courage, the skills, the data and reasoning to dare to change situations where they had previously been feeling the pain.  Of course, a successful outcome is also dependent on the management and organisational support to make the resultant changes.

The fear and the pain can be large or small

I definitely do not wish to minimise or trivialise the fear, pain or suffering that people might experience in their working or home lives, and the courage and the risks that they take to overcome them.  I recognise that these can be very great and some of the situations that I come across can seem relatively small.

For example I also recently attended an excellent seminar by Janet Burton, of The Training Manager, where we explored how to develop, prepare for and deliver  presentations.  Even these kinds of situations can feel challenging and require effective mental preparation, a good stretch and taking a deep breath before beginning!

I’m also a trustee of the Red Balloon Learner Centre in Cambridge, and admire the courage of the students who come in to tackle their personal challenges of recovering from bullying and other traumas that they’ve experienced, so that they can come back to learning again.

The main thing is, as Sheri Kershaw and Peter Bregman suggest, to embrace these experiences and to also remember that there are people out there who will help you if we can.


  1. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge management, change management and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator)
  2. Follow the links to find out about other ways in which Elisabeth Goodmanand RiverRhee Consulting can help your team to work more effectively for greater productivity and improved team morale.