Category Archives: Training & personal development

Subtle ways to p*** off your colleagues

Neuroscience is providing some interesting insights into why we behave the way we do at work. 

An example is the SCARF model devised by David Rock. Amongst other things, it gives us a better understanding of why people get fed up, cross, uncooperative, stressed etc.

The underlying idea of SCARF is that our basic flight/fight/avoid mechanism kicks in when we are in various work situations. It suggests that the way we respond is subconscious – it’s automatic, not reasoned and we often don’t realise what we’re doing! Sometimes people get p***ed off but don’t know why.

SCARF (it’s an acronym) suggests that we react badly (we fight, flee or avoid) when we perceive a threat to our:

Status – when our standing, position in the pecking order, seniority etc. is or seems to be challenged or undermined. At work this can happen when a responsibility or task is taken away, and it can happen when someone has a younger manager.

Certainty – when something we believed was fixed, certain, stable etc. is or seems to be changed. At work this can happen when a new system is introduced.

Autonomy – when the degree of control we have over our work is or seems to be lessened. At work this can happen when someone is micro-managed.

Relatedness – we naturally bond and form tribes, teams, groups and don’t like it when there’s a real or apparent shift in the internal relationships. At work this can happened when someone is expected to work with a new colleague, or when there’s a restructure to a team.

Fairness – we don’t like to be treated unfairly or to be disadvantaged. At work this can happen when a colleague receives a reward (perhaps performance related pay) or is or seems to be getting favourable attention from a manager.

There’s lots of possible overlaps, nuances and subtleties in the above categories. However, they can help us to understand why people sometimes get p***ed off when seemingly trivial things happen. They can help to identify some of the causes of low morale.

What have you done today to p*** off a colleague?

If you want to know more about SCARF see


If you want to know about what I do and how I might help you, your colleagues or your organization, contact me on 07932 657925 or

The three factors of time/task management

I’m not happy with the term time-management. We don’t manage time, time is fixed, we manage what we do in a given time period. It’s more accurate, and I think productive, to talk of task management. We’re rather stuck with the term time-management, so sometimes I compromise and use time and task management (and in a moment I’m going to tell you the phrase I really think we should use).

There are three factors that affect time and task management.

The first I call ‘operational factors’. Broadly it means that in order for someone to undertake their tasks (in the right order at the right time etc.) they need to be provided with the right equipment, peace and quiet, the right information etc. These are factors that come from the broader operations of the organisation.

Let’s just focus on ‘the right information’ for a moment. In any organisation the flow of information (instructions, commands, news, specifications etc.) needs to reach the appropriate people at the appropriate time. Organisations don’t have to be very big before the issue of information flow becomes quite a complex one. Getting it right is often difficult, and there’s a tendency either to over compensate (everyone gets everything and gets invited to all the meetings) or under-compensate (people are left in the dark).

The second of the factors affecting time and task management is what I call the organisation’s culture. I once did some work in a company where (everyone admitted) there was a culture of demanding attention, of shouting across the room, of interrupting people without thought for what they were doing etc. Can you imagine how difficult and inefficient, it must have been to work in that place.

A good organisational culture is respectful, in the sense that people consider when they communicate with others (is it a good time for the person you’re communicating with, as well a good time for you?).

The third factor effecting time and task management is the individual’s skill. This, of course, is the area where the individual has most control. And it’s the part of time and task management that is most written about. Simply stated, most books on the subject advise you to work out what you need to do (divide projects/jobs etc. into tasks), create a list or allocate tasks to slots of time in a diary or calendar.

Let me finish with two points. One – if you’re trying to be more efficient at work and are attempting to improve your productivity, bear in mind all three factors. Focusing on the last one is fine, but if the other two are acting as negative forces, you won’t make much progress. Two – it’s my belief that to be efficient and productive at work you also need to take a deeper look at yourself. In particular, you need to understand your personal work goals and the motivation that flows from having them. It’s simple, if there isn’t much of a personal reason for doing your work (perhaps because it doesn’t pay enough, or it’s not what you really want to do) then you’re never going to be very efficient.

I’ll come back to personal goals at work in a future post.

If you want to know about what I do and how I might help you, your colleagues or your organization, contact me on 07932 657925 or

What can we learn from David Hockney?

You can’t open a newspaper or magazine at the moment without David Hockney’s boyish good looks staring out at you, or without seeing one of his ultra-colourful Yorkshire landscapes.

Hockney’s career now spans more than fifty years and has been characterised by a constant and ongoing artistic development. His artistic ‘periods’ include the early 1960s pop paintings, the Bigger Splash and Californian work, the photographic ‘joiners’, and the recent multi-canvas landscapes. Parallel to this development has been his changing status, in the public eye he’s gone from enfant-terrible, to Californian exile, to the UK’s most popular painter.

Hockney has constantly changed, developed, and re-invented himself. So, what can we learn from him?

Firstly, we can learn the pleasures and benefits of curiosity. At the heart of everything he does is a restless questioning, a fascination with new ideas, and a search for new possibilities. Nowhere is this more obvious than in his use of different media. He’s employed the traditional artistic media of pencil and paper, paint and canvas, he’s been an accomplished print-maker, he’s used both film-based and digital photography, made art with faxes and photocopiers, championed the ipad as a serious artistic medium, and in the new exhibition there are multi-camera film pieces too.

Secondly, we can learn that moving on to new ideas and interests need not involve a rejection of the past. For Hockney, moving on has always been a process of adding, of combining old and new skills and interests, of building on achievements. He’s always been striving to create something new that gains strength, meaning and interest from the inclusion of what has gone before.

Sir Isaac Newton said that he achieved what he did because he ‘stood on the shoulders of giants.’ This is the third lesson from Hockney. He has stood on the shoulders of Picasso. For him, Picasso has been a role model – think of Picasso’s lifetime of experimentation and breadth of work, from painting and drawing, to prints, to sculpture and pottery. At times Hockney’s work has shown the stylistic influence of Picasso, but this was never a slavish imitation. What Newton and Hockney share is the ability to absorb, rework and improve the ideas that have come before them.

When we put these aspects of Hockney’s character and career together – the restless curiosity, the constant learning and improvement, the absorption of ideas – we perhaps go some way towards explaining his permanent boyishness, his childlike passions. Hockney has shown us how to grow and mature while staying forever young.

If you want to know about what I do and how I might help you, your colleagues or your organization, contact me on 07932 657925 or

Training and development are not optional extras

Training and development are not optional extras. Nor are they:

After thoughts or added extras.

Rewards 0r second thoughts.

Last minute or annual events.

Treats or privileges.

Sometimes or maybe.

The work you do is changing all the time, sometimes in small and almost undetectable ways, sometimes in big and very obvious ways. To stay on top, to keep ahead of the game, you need to change and develop with the work.

Even at those times when there is little change in the work you will still be changing, you’ll be learning new tricks and techniques, gaining experience, learning on the job.

This is good because a job that doesn’t change is repetitive and sooner later you’ll get bored. And it’s good because it means that you are getting better at what you do and staying ahead of competitors.

So, training and development are happening all the time.

Sometimes the need or opportunity for learning is small, sometimes it’s big and you’ll need to get help from a colleague or do a training course.

Here’s a great thing – work becomes more interesting and rewarding if you are mindful of these changes and opportunities, if you can see the gain in knowledge and experience, if you can plan your development, and if you can get help, support and guidance from others with more experience.

What have you learnt today?

If you want to know about what I do and how I might help you, your colleagues or your organization, contact me on 07932 657925 or