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We began our Six Word Wisdom series in June of last year. Since then we have spoken to a variety of thinkers in the field of management and organisational development to ask them to condense for us their advice for business into just six words... It's building up to be quite a collection....we thought it was time for a recap. So what have our contributors said?

They have pointed out the importance of taking account of the individual when trying to build succesful organisations:

Build the Organisation of Your Dreams - Prof. Garreth Jones

Everybody counts - Develop the human now! - Doug Silsbee 

They have pointed out the need for all businesses - of all sizes - to take account of the power of big data and analytics:

Learn to compete with Data. Now. - Dr. Thomas C. Redman

And they have told us that we are not in Kansas anymore and that we have to stay agile and focus on the differentiated value of what we are offering:

Rewrite your playbook for transient advantage - Prof Rita McGrath

Develop a compelling customer value proposition - Prof. John Fahy All in all 30 words that say a lot. We'll be continuing to grow the series as we call on the expertise of those in our network.

[post_title] => 30 words your business needs to hear? Friday Blog Roundup [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 30-words-business-needs-hear-friday-blog-roundup [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 10:58:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 10:58:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => /?p=6304 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4765 [post_author] => 3 [post_date] => 2013-05-30 11:52:37 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-05-30 11:52:37 [post_content] => To coincide with her visit to IMI this week Nancy Kline - the originator and pioneer of  The Thinking Environment® process shares her thoughts on attention and interest in a coaching exchange:

Are You Interested?

By Nancy Kline

 ‘You are so patient.’ I hear this after almost every Thinking Session demonstration. Other people tell me they often hear the same comment about their Attention as Thinking Partners, too. I guess what we do looks like patience. It is still. It is warm. It doesn’t rush. It breathes.

But patience is not what it is. Not remotely. Patience is a kind of waiting, a postponing. It is in reference to the moment when the thing, about which a person is being patient, will stop, and the person can finally act or speak. Patience is a polite dismissing of what is happening or being thought in this moment. It is an invisible drumming of the table. Patience wants the thing to end, but does not fan or act on that wanting. Patience is a cousin of arrogance. It is disengaged.

 Attention in a Thinking Environment is not patience.

 It is interest.

 It is breathless anticipation of what the Thinker will think, and say, next. It wants to know. It wants to hear the Thinker’s creations. It stands ready for birth.

 Patience is nowhere to be found. It is interest people are seeing. And interest does do amazing things.

 It creates thinking.

About Nancy Kline

Nancy Kline created and pioneered the development of the theory and process called The Thinking Environment®. This model allows people to turn their teams, organisations and relationships into Thinking Environments in which people at every level can think for themselves, with rigour, imagination and courage. The process increases the quality of thinking in, and thus of concrete results from, all human interactions, both in pairs and in groups, and decreases the amount of time it takes to achieve them. As well as President of Time To Think, an international leadership development and coaching company Nancy is also a published author and public speaker. Nancy and the other Time To Think Consultants and Coaches do Thinking Environment work in companies, universities, human resource organisations, government agencies and voluntary organisations. Thinking Environment work is active in the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Spain, The United States, Australia and South Africa. Time To Think began in 1984 and grew out of Nancy's consulting and teaching work near Washington, DC, where she had served as a Founding Director of The Thornton Friends School for twelve years and as Director of The Leadership Institute for six years. She is a Fellow of Ashridge College, UK. [post_title] => Are You Interested? - Guest Post: Nancy Kline [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => are-you-interested-guest-post-nancy-kline-6 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 11:12:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 11:12:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 20092 [post_author] => 102 [post_date] => 2017-06-29 13:19:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-29 13:19:17 [post_content] =>


Fixed or growth mindset?

 Employee engagement is a critical factor to maintaining a productive workforce. Given its importance, organisations continuously try to identify ways to understand and increase engagement. One such mechanism that has gained coverage in recent times is the concept of ‘mindsets’.

‘Mindsets are the implicit theories or assumptions that people hold about the plasticity of their abilities’ (Keating and Heslin, 2015). It is generally argued that people fall into one of two mindsets: fixed or growth, respectively.

Renowned psychologist Carol Dweck describes a fixed mindset as the assumption that ability is a fixed entity and cannot be changed, i.e. ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. In contrast, a growth mindset assumes that abilities are flexible and can be reshaped and developed through focused effort, i.e. ‘talents are developed, not discovered’ (Dweck, 2006)

What does this mean for organisations?

Research has shown that organisational culture can have an impact on mindsets. More precisely that working in an environment which endorses a fixed view of intelligence (culture of genius) or a malleable view of intelligence (culture of growth) effects employee engagement. A primary difference between the two – in instances of fixed cultures, an employee is normally hired based on a specific skill set they currently possess. In contrast, while still possessing some necessary skills, in growth cultures an employee is generally built rather than bought; through a process of continued learning and development.

What does this mean for employees?

In cases where employees hold a fixed mindset, there is an inclination to avoid challenges that might expose any perceived deficiency in ability. In addition, attempts at positive and constructive feedback are largely ignored. However, employees with a growth mindset embrace and actively seek challenges; seeing setbacks as a chance to learn and develop rather than a shortcoming in ability. Feedback is generally sought and considered.

How can a growth mindset be cultivated?

There are several practical ways to shape a growth mindset in any organisation:

  • When it comes to promotion and selection decisions, give consideration to employees whose performance capability might be most developed by assuming a challenging new role for which they do not yet have all the required competencies (Keating and Heslin, 2015)
  • Focus on the process an employee took to attain a positive outcome rather than the perceived talent that enabled them to achieve it (ibid.)
  • Avoid the use of terms such as ‘star performer’ or ‘gifted’ as doing so may cause an employee to adopt a fixed mindset and avoid challenges in order to preserve this perceived title (Michaels, Handfield-Jones and Axelrod, 2001)

On an individual level, Reid (2017) suggests a simple method of engaging a growth mindset. Use the word ‘yet’, i.e. ‘I have not fully learned how to use the database yet’ rather than ‘I can’t use the database’ and replacing the word ‘failing’ with ‘learning’.

In a world where many people fear failure, it could be argued that not many fear learning!

Dweck, C.  (2006) Mindsets. New York: Random House Keating, L. and Heslin, P.A. (2015) ‘The potential role of mindsets in unleashing employee engagement’, Human Resource Management Review, 25, pp. 329-341 Michaels, E., Handfield-Jones, H. and Axelrod, B. (2001) The war for talent. Boston, MA.: Harvard Business School Press Reid, R. (2017) Reeling from a failure? Perhaps an attitude change could help. Available here [bctt tweet="Learn about Fixed versus Growth Mindsets and what it means for your organisation. Find out more" username="IMILibary"] Click here to register for access to the IMI Knowledge Centre.
Ronan CoxRonan has worked in the role of Assistant Librarian with the Irish Management Institute since 2011. During this time, he has completed both the IMI Diploma in Management and IMI Diploma in Marketing and Digital Strategy. Of particular interest are the subjects of motivation, engagement and marketing. [post_title] => A Fixed or Growth Mindset? What it Means for Your Organisation [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => fixed-growth-mindset-means-organisation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-04 16:18:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-04 16:18:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21835 [post_author] => 111 [post_date] => 2018-01-29 15:12:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-29 15:12:20 [post_content] =>   pexels-photo-374631 Have you ever had this experience? You arrive at the office with a clear plan for the day – before you know it, the day is over and you are on your way back home. Nine or 10 hours have passed, but you’ve accomplished only a few of your priorities. More worryingly, you can’t remember exactly what you did all day. If this sounds familiar, don’t worry. You’re not alone. A 2010 study by Harvard University psychologists suggests that people spend almost 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing: we are spending almost half our time on autopilot. We have now entered the ‘attention economy’. In the attention economy, the ability to maintain focus and concentration is every bit as important as technical or management skills. We need need to absorb a growing flood of information in order to make good decisions. However, our brains have not been designed to cope with this and hence we suffer from stress, which impacts both our mental and physical well-being. The good news is that you can train your brain to focus better by incorporating mindfulness exercises throughout your day. Based on our experience with thousands of leaders in over 250 organisations, here are five easy tips to help you become more focused, productive and effective: . 1. Practice 10 minutes of mindfulness training each day Most people find mornings the best time to practice mindfulness, but you can do it any time of day. Close your eyes, relax and sit upright. Place your full focus on your breath. Simply maintain an ongoing flow of attention on the experience of your breathing: inhale, exhale; inhale; exhale. To help focus on your breathing, count silently at each exhalation. Any time you find your mind distracted, simply release the distraction by returning your focus to your breath. Most importantly, allow yourself to enjoy these few minutes. . 2. Avoid reading email first thing in the morning. Our minds are generally most focused, creative and expansive in the morning. This is the time to do focused, strategic work and have important conversations. If you read your email as soon as you get up, your mind will get sidetracked and you’ll begin the slide toward ‘reactive leadership’. Making email your first task of the day wastes the opportunity to use your mind at its highest potential. Try waiting at least 30 minutes, or even an hour, after you get to work before checking your inbox. . 3. Turn off all notifications . leave-phone-alone-android-ambient-display-setting_5-100611521-orig The notification alarms on your phone, tablet and laptop are significant contributors to reactive leadership. They keep you mentally busy and put you under pressure, thereby triggering reactionary responses. They cause damage far more than they add value. Try this: For one week, turn off all email notifications on all devices. Only check your email once every hour, or as often as responsibly needed for your job. But don’t compulsively check messages as they roll into your inbox. . 4. Stop multitasking It keeps your mind full, busy and under pressure. It makes you reactive. Try to focus on a single task and then notice when you find your mind drifting off to another task — a sign that your brain wishes to multitask. When this happens, mentally shut down all the superfluous tasks entering your thoughts while maintaining focus on the task at hand. . 5. Team-up to stay on track Consider engaging one of your peers to do the same thing. This gives you a chance to assess each other, which can be both helpful and motivating. Schedule a check-in with yourself and your buddy – every two weeks for example – to assess how well you’re doing and to share experiences and differences you have noticed. Mindfulness is not about living life in slow motion. It’s about enhancing focus and awareness both in work and in life. It’s about stripping away distractions and staying on track with individual and organisational goals. Take control of your own mindfulness: test these tips for 14 days and see what they do for you.   This article was originally published on Rasmus Hougaard will be speaking at the IMI Membership Launch Day on 30th January. The IMI Membership Launch Day is invite only for IMI Members. If you are interested in becoming a member, please contact the IMI Membership Team.   [post_title] => 5 Top Tips for Being Focused in Work [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => 5-top-tips-focused-work [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 09:31:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 09:31:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7017 [post_author] => 32 [post_date] => 2014-05-08 15:28:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-05-08 15:28:31 [post_content] => [post_title] => 3 slick selling techniques you should take from the Time-share Salesperson [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => can-learn-selling-street-vendors [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-13 12:36:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-13 12:36:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4802 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2014-02-21 15:38:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-02-21 15:38:11 [post_content] => Have you noticed that so many of the great managers – and leaders – are really odd? Steve JobsThis can be seen not only in business with enigmatic leaders like Apple's Steve Jobs (described by Bill Gates as "fundamentally odd", but also in some of the more eccentric characters we see in sport - take for example football managers like José Mourinho, Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough. While there are indeed managers like Manchester United's David Moyes, who are ..  average, reasonable, uninspired: just the sort of manager that might make the grade on paper in a recruitment process, the great leadership is seen from managers like Mourinho and Ferguson, neither of whom would have stood much chance of making it through to the interview stage! They weren't even great football players! Odd, isn’t it? But is it enough just to be odd? Unlikely... Perhaps there is good odd (Mourinho) and bad odd (take your pick of the world’s despots). In my experience working with organisations, I have found that the great leaders, despite their seeming oddness, have at least 3 things in common: 1. They are clever – especially with people. They know whose buttons to press – and when! Who to kick and who to hug! They know the game – they know their business inside out. 2. They have more than just one style – they hold their principles constant but adapt their own style to the situation in hand. Mourinho famously let his kit man give the motivational speech to his players last week (in indecipherable “Scottish”, too!). Ferguson could tell his Beckhams from his Ronaldos, his Van Persies from his Rooneys - and found the right words for each. 3. They reach for the stars, and hold themselves – not just their staff – to the highe st standards.  They are unrelenting in their quest for success. Their self-belief is unshakable. Failures are used as opportunities to learn. Success is inevitable – the only question is when. So perhaps there is something to be learned from seeing past what might seem like strange personalities and assessing our potential leaders instead for intelligence, a flexibility in style and an unshakable self-belief and ambition.  It may be that these characteristics are more important to success as a leader that meeting any definition of "normal". Dermot Duff is Programme Director of the ManagementWorks IMI Diploma in Management and the ManagementWorks IMI Diploma in Strategy & Innovation - programmes specifically aimed at developing management and strategic capability in SMEs.  His expertise is in the area of SMEs, project management, manufacturing and supply chain management and he is the author of Managing Professionals and Other Smart People. His work focuses on developing practical implementable solutions founded on sound theory.   If you are interested in honing your skills as a leader in your organisation speak to us about the IMI Diploma in Leadership starting this Spring. The programme is aimed at dramatically enhancing leadership skills, awareness, impact and judgement. To know more check out the brochure or watch this clip.     [post_title] => Are You Odd Enough to Lead? What do Steve Jobs, José Mourinho and Alex Ferguson have in common? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => are-you-odd-enough-to-lead-what-do-steve-jobs-jose-mourinho-and-alex-ferguson-have-in-common-6 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 10:59:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 10:59:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 12562 [post_author] => 71 [post_date] => 2016-10-25 10:26:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-10-25 10:26:33 [post_content] =>

Touching back on my last blog I mentioned that culture needs to become a strategic business priority (like sales, profit, etc.) and not just a HR priority.

boat with leader Source:

Leadership teams can start the creation of high performance cultures by implementing the following 6 steps:

1. Establish a sense of urgency

They need to make it clear that the current culture needs to change, articulate the vision and business case, and describe the opportunity (as John P. Kotter states in his book The 8-Step Process for Leading Change) in a way that appeals to the hearts and minds of people.

2. Develop a set of strategic beliefs

These are the beliefs senior executives have about their organisation’s environment that enables shaping business strategy e.g. Dell believed that customers would, if the price was right, buy computers from a catalogue rather than go to computer stores as the conventional wisdom dictated they would. They created a $7 billion business.

3. Develop a set of values

Values enable the organisation to act on its strategic beliefs and implement their strategy the right way. Values shape the culture of an organisation, define its character and serve as a foundation in how people act and make decisions. Dell’s values supporting its strategy and strategic beliefs include: Delivering results that make a positive difference; leading with openness and optimism and winning with integrity.

4. Capitalise on quick wins

Capitalize on and honour your cultural strengths and act quickly on any critical behaviour changes required.

5. Challenge those norms that get on the way of high performance

Norms are informal guidelines about what is considered normal (what is correct or incorrect) behaviour in a particular situation. Peer pressure to conform to team norms is a powerful influencer on people’s behaviour, and it is often a major barrier affecting change. It is always easier to go along with the norm than trying to change it…. Common samples of negative norms in some organisations: Perception that it is ok to yell at people, ignore people’s opinions, etc.

6. Role model and recognise the desired behaviours

As Gandhi wonderfully put it “Be the change you want to see in the world”. This empowers action and helps embed the desired culture you are trying to create. Behaviour is a function of its consequences. Behaviour that results in pleasant consequences is more likely to be repeated, and behaviour that results in unpleasant consequences is less likely to be repeated. According to B. F. Skinner and reinforcement theory “future behavioural choices are affected by the consequences of earlier behaviours”. The argument is clear; if you want people to be brave and challenge the status quo, you shouldn’t make them feel awkward or like difficult employees when they do. Furthermore, if want people to contribute at meetings make sure you actively listen to them and act on their suggestions and ideas.


On his famous article “On the folly of rewarding A while hoping for B” Steven Kerr argues that the way in which we reward and recognise people doesn’t always deliver the desired results. We all have being in situations where we are told to plan for long-term growth yet we are rewarded purely on quarterly earnings; we are asked to be a team player and are rewarded solely on our individual efforts; we are told that the way in which results are achieved is important and yet we promote people who achieve results the wrong / in a Machiavellian way. A friend of mine was recently at a hospital and he complained to the ward manager about the doctor’s bad manners and rudeness. The answer he got was “do you want to be treated by the best heart doctor in the country or a not so good doctor but with a really nice bed manner?”.

My argument is why can’t we have both?

Pedro Angulo is the Programme Director of the IMI Diploma in Strategic HR Management starting on 16th November 2016. Pedro is an Organisational Effectiveness Business Partner in AIB and Chairperson of the Irish EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council). He is a motivational speaker and regular presenter at HR, coaching, change and business conferences / events. _____________________________________ [post_title] => 6 Steps to start the creation of high performance cultures [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 6-strategies-start-creation-high-performance-cultures [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 09:57:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 09:57:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
Mary Lynch

Mary Lynch

19th Mar 2019

Related Articles

30 words your business needs to hear? Friday Blog Roundup
Are You Interested? - Guest Post: Nancy Kline
A Fixed or Growth Mindset? What it Means for Your Organisation
5 Top Tips for Being Focused in Work
3 slick selling techniques you should take from the Time-share Salesperson
Are You Odd Enough to Lead? What do Steve Jobs, José Mourinho and Alex Ferguson have in common?
6 Steps to start the creation of high performance cultures

FeedForward – A new direction in giving effective feedback

Feed back has a problem - it's always looking at the past. (Picture Source)
Feedback has a problem – it’s always looking at the past. (Picture Source)

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”– Bill Gates

Giving effective feedback is an essential skill for coaches, managers and leaders but also one that is regularly dreaded. Employees need to know if their performance is what their leaders expect from them and, if not, they need suggestions on how to improve it.

Many leaders have used techniques such as the classic “sandwich” approach which formed the core of many training and feedback sessions in the past. A feedback approach that begins with a positive comment, followed by a negative comment and closed with another positive comment.

The fundamental problem with feedback is it focuses purely on the past.

Overcoming the Fear of giving feedback

Managers regularly report a fear of giving feedback. If feedback is poorly delivered it can be detrimental to employee engagement and motivation and only certain people can use this negative or critical feedback to develop. Employees regularly report not hearing very much at all in a feedback session once something negative has been said and also not recalling very accurately what was said.

In truth when receiving feedback people often hear their own negative judgements, internal criticisms and filter what is being said through personalised feelings of hurt pride.

A Gallup survey found that 67% of employees whose managers focused on their strengths were fully engaged in their work, as compared to only 31% of employees whose managers focused on their weaknesses.

Sheila Heen, Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School and a Founder of Triad Consulting has spoken extensively about the need to understand the experience of the feedback. Feedback is difficult because it stands at the juncture of two human needs – the need to be loved and accepted for who we are and the need to improve and be better than we are.

When you’re giving feedback we first need to think about your experiences of receiving feedback and then about what the other party is experiencing. Our beliefs, values and ultimately our skill as feedback givers is influenced and shaped by how we have received feedback.



Feedforward is based on giving future suggestions rather than focusing on the past. In this way, it is about developing people and helping them to work on what they can change in the future. It is an objective description of what must be done in the future.

One of the issues with feedback is that, while it outlines what someone did or didn’t do, it lacks specific information about what the person can do to change and improve. Feedforward provides a constructive outline of the skills or behaviours which are required for successful achievement of a goal.

Feedback can also instil feelings of failure and inadequacy and prevent people from moving forward whereas feedforward can inspire someone to action with confidence.

Feedback invites reaction as with the best will and intention in the world the giver of feedback tends to include personal judgement, reaction and feelings. Feedforward describes something which has not happened yet, making it objective and depersonalising it.

Marcus Goldsmith has written extensively about feedforward and I would agree when he says that feedforward works because it is a positive focus on solutions for the future rather than the mistakes and shortfalls of the past. Similarly, Managers and Leaders working with high achievers can benefit from using feedforward because as Marcus says, “feedforward is especially suited to successful people”.

High achievers benefit from clearly understanding their goals in specific ways which help them to achieve and this is exactly what feedforward does, as when it is done well, it serves as a clear description of how to excel.


Mary-Lynch.jpgMary Lynch is associate IMI faculty on the Coaching for Business Results short programme. Mary specialises in the areas of Organisational Development, Change Management, Diagnostic Design and Interpretation, Performance Management, Leadership and Coaching.