Blog

At Peak Recruited for the Armed Forces

At Peak Development was approached last year to help design and deliver a Cultural Adviser Course for the joint force Defence Cultural Specialist Unit.  The course is aimed at developing experienced servicemen from across all three armed services to prepare them for operational duties abroad.  There was currently no training available therefore timescales were very short for a course of this depth.  The programme was designed within a few months and the first two week course has just been successfully delivered at Larkhill in Wiltshire with a further three required each year. 

To be invited to help create and deliver innovative cultural training for teams from all three services is an honour and an experience few businesses get the opportunity to do.  It is also refreshing that the military looked beyond its own training organisation for support and expertise. Lessons for us all!

Posted on 4/19/2019

Morale - A State of Mind

Most leaders understand the desire to build good morale in their teams, yet many can’t define or measure it.  This is because morale is an almost intangible force that can move a whole group of people to achieve a common goal – sometimes at significant personal cost – as they feel part of something greater than themselves.

Morale starts as attitudes to the job or the team.  High levels of morale in individuals or teams can be witnessed by cheerfulness and confidence, especially during hardship.  Collectively morale becomes much more and even defines the spirit or tone of an organisation.

You can buy a person’s time and effort, but you can’t put a price on confidence, enthusiasm, commitment, or loyalty.  These things the leader has to work at to earn for the business.

Posted on 2/14/2018

Remembrance

Whilst many people understand what Remembrance Sunday is about, I did manage to find some additional leadership context in what turned out to be an emotional and insightful day yesterday. 

First and foremost, with my 37 years' service to Queen and Country I am still humbled at the laying of wreaths. Not just by the ultimate sacrifices many service men and women have made themselves, but by the courage, strength, and dignity of the families and friends left behind.

It is therefore important to remember all those who lost their lives, were injured, or whose worlds drastically changed due to conflict. It is also poignant to consider they were ultimately at the sharp end of the decisions made by leaders at all levels. 

If political and military analysts can learn from history, then so too can commercial leaders. If all bosses try to better understand how every choice they make may have an impact on the people they influence, then this alone should help to make more measured and intelligent decisions.

 
Posted on 11/13/2017

Customer Service LEAPS

I used to receive plenty of feedback that I was calm in a crisis - especially in a customer facing role. I thought this was just my character so didn’t really understand how I was doing this and had difficulty coaching others to do the same. That was until one enlightening moment when dealing with a difficult customer. After the issue was resolved the lady congratulated me on my people skills, and said she could clearly see I was using the LEAPS mnemonic. I hadn’t even heard of this at the time but was fortunate that she elaborated. LEAPS she told me was:

Listen, Empathise, Analyse, Propose Solution.

A simple process, but an effective tactic for helping resolve face to face customer service challenges.

Posted on 9/14/2017

Motivation and Morale

The question I am most frequently asked is how to motivate others. Another frequent question is how to motivate yourself!

If you have ever been in a high performing team you will have noticed motivation and morale figured very highly. Great leaders know how to motivate others and can encourage a team to achieve a goal, however to build and sustain a high performing team there must be high motivation and morale from within that team. The same applies to individuals, as any personal performance is also linked to the same two key elements.

Motivation is about what makes people want to work to achieve something. These can be from outside (leadership or coaching) or inside (desire and internal dialogue). Morale is more than just job satisfaction, it should be about attitude, confidence, and fighting spirit.

Irrespective of whether a group or an individual, performance has a relationship to motivation and morale. So in order to achieve high performance in any arena, we must first analyse and utilise what we need in these respects from the leader, coach and ourselves.

 

Posted on 6/1/2017

Influencing others - Lessons from the General Election

Calling the General Election has brought with it the usual split of opinions, taking of sides and a lot of passionate behaviour aimed at influencing other people’s decision making. We see this not just from politicians but also from their supporters. This is most evident on Facebook, where it is typical for posts to force their views on others by regurgitating unsubstantiated stories, biased opinion, or misrepresented facts to win an argument. This is common, not just in politics and Facebook, but in business and everyday life.

Obviously, strongly campaigning a single point of view may be a powerful way to sway a number of people. Though it may not be the best way to challenge rational human minds. Insulting people’s intelligence can also be counter-productive and lead to stubbornness and an even greater resolve not to be open to alternative viewpoints. Finally, telling people what to think may find a few supporters but at the same time increase opposition.

Of course it is good to be passionate about our convictions, beliefs or opinions however is it better to have a point explained rather than told. I would argue that it is sometimes better to offer both sides of an argument then explain why on balance you have come to a conclusion.

You decide…

Posted on 5/7/2017

World Class Leadership?

Recent awful events in Syria led to many people holding their breath and watching how some of the world’s statesmen respond. Accusations, denials, use of force and threats seemed to be the currency of our leaders in the immeditae aftermath. The general public may not have inside information nor understand the complexities of political motivation, however many would prefer to see world leaders jointly condemning the atrocity, supporting the victims and agreeing to investigate and prevent reoccurrence. Sometimes leaders have to compromise and work with others they don’t agree with, in order to achieve the correct outcome.

Posted on 4/11/2017

Should leaders Teach, Mentor or Counsel?

Leaders are key to developing their team’s knowledge attitude and skills. They also support their people, however how do we know how to do this and more importantly, when not to?

Coaching is unlocking the potential of an individual, team or organization by helping them to maximise their performance.  This is done by facilitating them to find their own way forwards rather than the coach prescribe the solution. All good leaders will use coaching.

Teaching refers to educating or giving instruction; activities that impart knowledge and skills. It is different to coaching in that you tell and show rather than ask. There are times when leaders will tell rather than ask.

Mentoring is a relationship where one person offers guidance and support to facilitate learning and development of a colleague at an appropriate stage in their career. The Mentor has usually walked the path the Mentee wishes to follow, though it may be an easier relationship if the person mentoring is not the immediate line manager.

Counselling is helping or supporting - often in a social or welfare context so usually requires specialist skills. Most leaders are not trained to enter into such areas - indeed it is often dangerous to do so - however a caring leader can refer people on to specialists.

Posted on 12/6/2016

Obstacles

It's not just overcoming the obstacles on the way to your goals that define you. Sometimes it's the unforeseen challenges that blind-side you as everything seems to be going well that can stop you in your tracks.

We accept and prepare for the obstacles we anticipate; the job interview, the long journey to an exotic holiday or the hard work and hours of practice that leads to personal achievement. However when something we didn’t see hits us, it can seem different and appear more challenging.

Expected hurdles are often leaped over while unexpected obstacles are tumbled over. True we may have planned and be feel able to deal with what we already foresaw, however sometimes the only difference is that our mental and emotional resolve is shaken more when the unexpected hits us.

Some people may see obstacles as bad luck, some as threats. Others may even see obstacles as a sign they cannot move forward or succeed. Some people see such obstacles as a puzzle to solve. Some see obstacles as an opportunity to grow. Depending on how we view all obstacles will determine how we react when the unexpected hits, and ultimately how we move forwards.

If you see obstacles as bad luck, the world being against you or as meaning you failed, then you are likely to be overwhelmed and stumble. You cannot control your luck but you can control how you react to it. If you see all obstacles as an opportunity to review, strengthen and continue then you will find a way – however small – to move forwards.

Character and resilience is not just about overcoming obstacles visible in the light of day, it's sometimes about dealing with the unknowns that spring out from the shadows!

Posted on 9/27/2016

Resilience in Leadership

All leaders will make mistakes, all leaders will face adversity; good leaders need to be resilient to keep the team moving toward strategic goals.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back or to return to the previous state. In leadership terms this means being more able to deal with stress, by having strategies, support, coping mechanisms and being able to draw upon the emotional reserves within.

Evolution tells us that those who can adapt are more likely to survive, those that do not become extinct. So too in business, the companies that are unable to adapt to competition and changing markets cease to exist.  One of the reasons companies resist to adapt or to be flexible, is down to their leadership. Sometimes leaders don’t make the right decisions when times get tough, sometimes it is just fear of change or the unknown.

So is resilience a trait that some people are born with or can it be learned? Whilst some may seem to possess it naturally, it can also be acquired during exposure to challenges faced interacting with our environments for example around the family, in schools, business and life in general. It is about the lessons learned from such opportunities, by being aware and consciously reflecting as we work through stress helps build strength, however we also need coping tools, resources and support to become resilient enough to bounce back stronger than before.

Coaching can help leaders assess and build their ability to bounce back and adapt at work. It can also be the support needed to tackle the professional and personal challenges we all face in life. Strong leaders are very self-aware and seek development, so find ways to continue to build their resiliency skills.

Posted on 8/11/2016

Leicester City - What Money Can't Buy

Leicester City Football Club are now crowned champions of the Premiership defying all expectations. Winning the title by beating off the high spending clubs says a great deal about the power of leadership and team work.

Leadership is influencing others to willingly follow and to achieve more than they would normally have done. Therefore good leadership skills are essential for working with any team of people in order to accomplish their goals and the goals of the team or organisation. Money can buy talent but cannot always guarantee results, whereas leadership seems to be the differential that unleashes potential. Why?

We can buy a person’s time, we can buy a person to be at a given place. We cannot buy a person’s enthusiasm or effort, we cannot buy trust or loyalty; the leader has to work to develop these.

Once leadership is established and accepted, then common understanding and unity builds within the group so team work starts to add still further value.

Leicester City’s achievement this season proves that skilled leadership and solid team work are still the key ingredients in any recipe for success. 

Posted on 5/12/2016

Skill versus Will

When recruiting or promoting it is common for the leader to set out to attract top talent and the perfect fit, however the reality on many occasions is that candidates do not meet all the desired criteria.

When taking on an employee who is under-skilled then it is implied the leader must help develop that person to acquire the necessary skills. It is possible though, that a business could intend gapping those skills because the individual brings other attributes of equal or greater value. In this case another member of the team may step up or across to successfully fill that skill gap.

A second and possibly even more important consideration alongside lack of skill is lack of 'will' - which is harder to mitigate. A leader can accept ability shortcomings if the person is keen to learn, however staff who do not have the right attitude, with enthusiasm and commitment for their own development, are unlikely to be a good fit or to contribute to business growth.

A good leader will be keen to understand both the ‘skill and will’ of potential employees.

Posted on 4/26/2016

Leadership and the Living Wage

This week the Government’s Living Wage becomes law. Generally it means that all employees aged 25 or over are legally entitled to at least £7.20 per hour. For some that means an immediate pay rise of an extra 50p per hour, however also worthy to note ­­- this is likely to increase every year.

Forcing companies and organisations to increase their wages means they increase their costs, so they need to increase their productivity just to maintain financial status quo.

For many UK businesses, this change alone may reinforce the law of ‘survival of the fittest’. As in evolution, the companies most able to adapt and absorb change will survive and thrive, whilst those that see this as an additional cost may be lost!

If you pay the extra money for each member of staff affected by the new law, will you also invest in training to get your money’s worth? If so how?

You can direct more cash into training of affected staff. This is often a short term approach, considering how receptive lower paid staff may or not be. Additionally people naturally move roles or leave the company meaning the employer continually throws cash into a bottomless pit without necessarily getting the return on investment.

In such times, the smart decision identifies leadership as the long term productivity focus. Rather than just spend on short term specific training, the strategic leader will also invest in leadership development to influence all employees for years to come. This approach should provide at least the same immediate uplift, in addition to a more sustained improvement.

Don’t just absorb a cost to your business; ensure you review your strategy and invest wisely in leadership to ensure a long term benefit to your business. 

Posted on 4/2/2016

The one question we could stop asking

A question I am frequently asked is “what is the difference between management and leadership?” This is also a frequent topic in many training sessions I have attended. A question that can be answered in many different ways.

One common way is to create a long list of functions or behaviours that are then debated and credited to either a manager or a leader. This approach is useful for identifying attributes and encouraging thought and debate, however to easily distinguish between a manager and a leader this way is complex as many people are both. Some people may find definitions more straight-forward to interpret, such as;

“The main difference between leaders and managers, is that leaders have people follow them while managers have people who work for them”

“You manage things, you lead people!”

Perhaps the time has come to stop asking the question or trying to define the difference between a manager and a leader, as it's more beneficial to recognise the relationship between management and leadership.

Posted on 3/14/2016

Lessons from football

Now the football season reaches half way, focus on managers seems to intensify. Jose Mourinho has already left Chelsea, some maybe surprised, some not so. As leaders we observe football management and may congratulate ourselves on not being in such a high profile cut throat business. So are there lessons we can learn for the commercial world?

As in sport, any leadership position you hold you will be primarily judged on results; you are only as good as your last team performance. When things are going well, analysts will comment on your people skills, your strategic mind or your opportunist vision however when results decline, any chink in any facet of leadership may quickly become exposed.

Often in football the fans are the first to vocalise their displeasure. So too in business, when customers become vocal you had better listen and review your short to medium term plan and be proactive in answering their questions.

Additionally when the team itself also start to doubt, you better do something about it quickly, otherwise derision can quickly lead to division.

Managers in any field who ignore the above points and carry on regardless during bad performance, may give the impression they have run out of answers which will be scrutinised by the executives who could then feel it is a time for a clean out!

Posted on 1/31/2016

The one resolution leaders should make

It is natural at the end of one year people want to make positive changes in their lives, so many will be making New Year resolutions. Selection of a personal goal or goals may feel intuitive and correct at the time, however as the year advances an increasing proportion of people will fail to achieve the target they themselves set. The most common reason for people failing New Years' resolutions is setting themselves unrealistic goals.

Some goals may be too demanding and are betrayed right away; whilst others may be unclear or non-specific that invite procrastination which then becomes a constant reminder of failure to do something. 

Even those who pick a single goal and break this down into a series of manageable steps may enjoy some feeling of success however for most it could also result in underachievement.

When asked about my New Year resolutions, I often joke that I don’t need one resolution as I use goal setting throughout the year. Whilst this may be a tongue in cheek response, there is an essence of truth that may be helpful for leaders and managers to consider.  

Imagine if one resolution you make is to review your targets every month or even every week. Yes, you can still have all the longer term aims however you also build in a contract with yourself to keep on track by reviewing your goals and plans regularly. This approach also allows you the flexibility to modify them to reflect your changing circumstances, priorities and needs.

As a leader and manager goal setting will be no stranger to you in your business world, so why not also use this skill and experience to help bring about those positive changes you desire in your personal life.

Posted on 12/31/2015

Why We Need Leadership Development

We see in today’s business world companies and organisations are continually being challenged to achieve more with less. Often the initial focus for efficiency is on cost cutting however how often is leadership identified as untapped potential? It is unreasonable for us to expect a business to grow when we don’t grow the people in the business. We don’t see this in other areas where excellence is achieved, such as with front line military units, or successful sporting teams. All rely heavily on training, coaching and leadership to develop and maintain high performance.

The basics of sound management and effective leadership such as correct goal setting, clear communication, honest developmental feedback, performance evaluation and coaching are often assumed though can actually take new managers a long time before they get them right. Training for their first leadership role is very cost efficient as it will enable to them to be more effective at the start of their management careers.

Leadership capability is often variable across medium and large organisations. Whilst individual flare of managers may not be a bad thing, inconsistency of approach from the leadership team certainly is. Leadership development across the management team sets the benchmark for all and still allows for individual progression.

An employee’s relationship with his or her direct manager is probably the most important factor in employee engagement. Respected well-trained managers help morale; the knock effect being that improved morale supports retention. Recruitment costs can be very expensive so with leadership development you are likely to keep your best leaders and the teams that work for them.

It is leadership that shapes business success, therefore leadership development should not be viewed as a cost but be seen as an investment.

Posted on 12/3/2015

Leadership Development - No one size fits all

At a recent business forum I was part of an encouraging debate on leadership development. Whilst the business leaders present all identified the need to take time to develop themselves, many were unsure of the best way to do so. I introduced a simple perspective on leadership training and development for managers that I will share below.

In large organisations there are often many managers, team leaders or supervisors so their effect will be felt throughout every level of the business. This makes it important that their leadership and management skills are developed sufficiently to have a positive overall effect. Here even a small positive step for all the management team will lead to widespread business improvement. In this case leadership and management training packages are often an efficient and cost effective way of getting everyone up to the same benchmark standard, from which further development can be achieved. This training still needs to be tailored to meet the company mission statement and core values, then follow up is also essential to ensure behavioural change has a positive and lasting effect on the business. 

For medium sized businesses that may only have a handful of managers it is obvious that each will have a very significant impact on the business. It therefore makes sense that every manager has ongoing leadership development to get the most from their teams and to ensure the business keeps moving forwards. In this case the preferred approach may be to have bespoke leadership development that is tailored to their development needs and those of the business.

For small businesses, possibly with a single Owner, Director or MD or perhaps just a couple of managers, good leadership becomes even more intrinsic to team performance and company success. Leadership skills will be seen by and influence all within the company. Of course it may be that the key owner or manager cannot take too much time away from the business and probably doesn’t have a team that will all benefit from the same development. In this case it may be more appropriate to have private coaching sessions at a time and place of your choosing.

So in summary, leadership development is fit for all, however consideration should be given on how best it can be applied to individuals and the business.

Posted on 11/5/2015

Challenge in the Mountains

I have the opinion that human beings are able to achieve a lot more than we think possible. I also believe that strong willpower and mental resilience are very important factors that can help immeasurably in the face of physical challenge. It was a couple of months ago I had this conversation with a triathlete who threw the gauntlet and urged me to prove it in a 110km ultra-marathon in the Lake District. A challenge I had to take up.

Well, it's all over now so a big thank you to everyone who sponsored me. It was not a straight forward affair and I learned a lot from the experience. If you would like to read how I got on then go to the resources section and look at the article 'Willpower and Resilience - A Personal Story'.

Then maybe have a think how you may challenge yourself!

Posted on 7/17/2015

Leadership - What Money Can't Buy

In a recent article for a local newspaper, I had 300 words to explain the key differentials between management and leadership, then also give a brief overview of the leadership process. So here it is:

Management and leadership are two key components to business and organisational success, however it is often the case that many people in these roles confuse or merge the different attributes of management and leadership. British business may be sleepwalking into a leadership crisis if we fail to distinguish between management skills and the qualities of leadership.

Management is the ability to achieve objectives with the resources available (human, material, financial and time). Management skills are essential for making decisions, organising and controlling activity. Leadership is influencing others to willingly follow. Leadership skills are essential for working with people to accomplish their goals and the goals of the organisation. Clearly both management and leadership are necessary for any organisation however leadership seems to be the differential that adds value and unleashes potential. Why?

Well, we can buy a person’s time, we can buy a person to be at a given place. We cannot buy a person’s enthusiasm, we cannot buy trust or loyalty; we have to earn these. This is leadership; if managers are also leaders, their employees:

  • Feel less stress in the organisation
  • Are more receptive to new ideas, innovation and change
  • Feel their manager is interested in their growth and development
  • Perceive their manager is skillful
  • Have higher morale
  • Feel more empowered
  • Are more efficient and effective

You can be a manager, but you are not a leader until your position has been “ratified” by those who follow. There are four basic functions of leadership:

  1. Goal setting
  2. Feedback
  3. Problem solving
  4. Recognition

How you achieve these speaks volumes about your leadership style. What is important and vindication for a leader is not what happens when you’re there, it’s what happens when you’re not there.

What are your experiences and thoughts - why not let us know through our website contact page?

 

Posted on 6/19/2015

Leadership & Experience

I was recently asked how much I thought experience was relevant or important to becoming a good leader.

Learning about leadership happens when managers have an experience with which they can then relate to the appropriate theory or concepts.  Merely having an experience is not developmental in itself, especially if the manager does not view it as an opportunity to learn. A bridge of relevance must be established between both the experience and the theory for the two to be linked.  Without this bridge both elements are isolated and remain as vague memories and useless information.

I believe leadership is not learned in a classroom, neither too is it learned only through experience. 

Leadership can be learned by having an experience followed by a period of reflection which questions what has worked well and what could be improved upon, this then produces informed guidance for more positive future action.

Posted on 4/21/2015

Welcome

Hi welcome to At Peak,

My name is Andy Walker, owner of At Peak. I am passionate about leadership and the positive effect it has on individuals, teams and business performance. I know from experience that managers and teams are often unaware of their true potential, however if we are helped to catch a glimpse of what we can achieve we can confidently aim - and plan - to reach new heights. By developing leadership and team working we very quickly benefit from increased confidence and a positive shift towards 'peak performance'. 

I have been fortunate to be involved in training, coaching and mentoring for the armed forces and the business world - learning much along the way! 

I am very keen to continue sharing this experience with the wider business community, so please dont hesitate to contact me if you feel I can help you or your business in any way.

Posted on 2/19/2015