In a crisis investment in your workforce is the key to survival

A guest blog by Alex Marshall.

I’ve spent my career working in the not for profit (NFP) sector. For the last five years I’ve also worked simultaneously for commercial organisations and start ups in the sport, business, and technology sectors. I specialise in helping organisations provide an excellent employee experience to their workforce. One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between sectors is in their approach and investment in their workforces.

The arrival of the global pandemic crisis has highlighted this difference to me even more starkly. Where NFPs are stripping back all people-related cost centres, many corporate organisations are doubling down on their people strategies and renewing their commitment to their workforce and employee experience.

Why this stark difference in approach?

It would be easy to argue it’s purely down to money.  NFPs run on a tight shoestring at the best of times, with many funders refusing to support core people costs.

Tech start-ups are equally at the mercy of multiple sets of investor/funder demands. However, they choose to take a more people-centric approach. They believe that ultimately the people they employ and the experience they give them are the key to survival and success, not services or products. These will only ever be as successful as the talent they employ. In times of crisis, they believe you need the best talent to be creative and innovative, as well as different perspectives to fight fires and solve problems.

Research data supports this.  Organisations which invest in their people are more resilient in times of crisis and more sustainable in the long-term. Ultimately they are more successful financially because they are better positioned to attract the broadest range of talent.

Where NFP organisations have an innate advantage in times of crisis is they are built on a strong purpose. This provides a strong sense of direction and inner compass when navigating choppy waters.

Many people dedicate their working lives to NFPs because they want to make a difference to society.  They care passionately about the causes they work for. The sector is built on passion and a culture of going ‘above and beyond’, driven by employees’ innate sense of mission. However, when budgets are tight, this can lead to the development of their people being depriotirised because employees will stay in a role because they are passionate about the cause.

Whatever sector you work in it’s easy in a crisis to have a knee jerk reaction to cutting expenditure. This includes cutting investment in recruitment, training, and wellbeing. It’s easy in a crisis to stick with what you know and look for short-term solutions from freelancers, contract staff and consultants. It’s easy in a crisis to focus on your product and services, forgetting the most important element for long term success, which is the experience you give to your employees combined with the quality of their skills, attitude, and motivation to succeed.

Here are my top tips for quick and cost-effective ways to improve the employee experience for your workforce and therefore your long-term success:

  • Recruitment – If you are about to embark on a recruitment drive, make sure assets like your website and social media channels are up to date and communicate your values. These will help potential candidates get a feel for your organisation, especially now that they can’t do so in person.
  • Onboarding new starters virtually can be daunting for both parties. Consider creating a short welcome film featuring different employees sharing some of their top tips and stories about working for your organisation. This is a great way to connect a new starter to the culture and feel of the organisation.
  • Much has changed for organisations in the last three months, so revisit your organisational values. Your organisational values are core principles, which guide behaviour and decision-making; check they still reflect who you say you are and amend/tweak them accordingly.

Alex Marshall runs Spot The Gap, supporting individuals and organisations to be more inclusive and impactful, through better employee engagement, campaigns, and communications. Twitter: @lexymarshall




If you’re looking for cost effective ways to engage and develop your workforce, check out the Lucidity Network – a friendly professional community, that together with online training and coaching, gives members the tools and support to work remotely, manage uncertainty and achieve success at work.

What assumptions are influencing your decisions?

Every day our brain processes hundreds of thousands of bits of information. It unconsciously categorizes and formats the information into familiar patterns. Someone’s gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality, body size, profession etc., all influence the snap decisions that we make about them and the basis of the relationships we form with them. Unconscious bias is often subtle and unnoticed, and we all do it. 

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level. Our subconscious brain can process information much faster than our conscious brain. Our quick decisions are made in our subconscious based on societal and parental conditioning.

Bias exists. It’s part of the human condition. All of us have it and it colours our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realising.

We all have bias

Our bias is made up of all our experiences including our upbringing, those we socialise with and the media we consume. We can’t help but have bias. The important thing is to acknowledge that you, me and everyone has bias and then understanding what that means and how to work with that knowledge. 

Know your biases

The first step is to start to become aware of what your biases are, and where they are most likely to appear. Start to notice your decisions. Challenge yourself by asking yourself ‘What assumptions did I make about this situation that might have influenced my decision?’ Another way is to take a test, for example, Harvard University has carried out research into unconscious bias and has released the Implicit Association Test to help people identify their biases.

We can hold biases about many different things

Biases manifest themselves in a number of different ways. Some of them are more positive than others.

Affinity bias is where we’re more likely to treat someone favourably because they remind us of ourselves.

Safety bias is where we’re pre-programmed to make the choices which feel safest to us. That might be the route we take from the station late at night, or choosing the same recruiter we’ve always used to hire into a role in our team or sticking to innovating. In times of uncertainty our safety bias can be heightened.

‘Halo or horns effect’ is where you let something particularly positive or negative that someone has said to you shape your entire perception of them.

Confirmation bias is that lovely human tendency of filtering out everything apart from the evidence which backs up your existing opinions.

Perception bias is the tendency to believe one thing about a group of people based on stereotypes and assumptions, making it impossible to be objective about individuals.

Group think is the tendency to try too hard to fit into an existing culture and holding back thoughts or opinions, resulting in the loss of identity, creativity and innovation.

What might you do about bias?

Start to notice and check yourself. This isn’t about being judgemental about your bias, just start to recognise them and get into the habit of asking yourself, ‘what bias is at play in the decisions I’m making?

For example, if you’re looking for someone to work on a key project, think really carefully about what that person needs to be able to do. Challenge yourself to think objectively. Write a list of what you’re looking for in a candidate, and then USE that list to make an objective decision about who the right person for the job is, using evidence rather than an unconscious bias snap decision.

A great way of dismantling your biases is to spend as much time as you can with people who are completely different to you, with different skills, experience, background and biases. When you understand more about each other’s approaches it helps you to work together more effectively to make your good ideas happen.

Over the years, I’ve worked with many organisations, teams and individuals to help them develop better strategies for creativity and innovation. What I’ve discovered is that new technology can help facilitate innovation, that a well-considered process can enable good ideas to become reality but the key ingredient to any successful innovation or change programme is people. And having a diverse mix of people matters.

If you’d like a tool to help you bypass your biases and improve your innovation success rate, take this 3 minute quiz with your team to identify your own innovation style and the style mix of your team members.

Did you you know that innovation penguins are special. They are charming team players. They are valuable in helping others to build on ideas.

Are you a penguin? Do you have any penguins in your team?
Do the 3 minute quiz and find out what innovation animal you are.


What do you want your new ‘normal’ to look like?

A lockdown guest blog by Caroline Holt.

As lockdown starts to ease, there’s lots of debate in the media about what the new ‘normal’ will look like. And, you may also have been reflecting on how you want your life to be going forward from here.

I thought I’d share some thoughts along with a FREE Worksheet to help you think about this.

One of the gifts for many of us in these strange lockdown times has been the opportunity to experience different ways of working and living – and some space to reflect on what really matters to us.

Sometimes, it takes a crisis to wake us up to what hasn’t been working in our lives and give us the impetus to make changes.

A question worth exploring

However, what I often see with clients is that they’re very clear about what they DON’T want – e.g. ‘I don’t want to be stressed’, ‘I don’t want to work all hours’. But they can struggle to get clarity on what they really do want.

So, the question I frequently ask is: ‘If you don’t want xxx, then, what do you want instead?’.

If you’re recognising that you want to make some changes, it’s a question worth exploring.

Instead of stressed, maybe what you really want is to be feeling calm and confident, whatever your challenges?

Instead of working all hours, is what you really want to switch off at 18.00 and have time in the evenings for other priorities outside of work?

How to stop getting more of what you DON’T want

Until you shift your focus away from what you don’t want towards what you do want, very little is likely to change. In fact, what I see, time and time again, is that focusing on what you don’t want just brings you more of that i.e. what you DON’T want. More stress, longer working hours etc.

Let’s test this out. If I ask you not to think of a pink elephant, what comes into your mind? Yes, that pesky pink elephant that I told you NOT to think of! The mind has a funny way of ignoring the negatives.

I know this from my own experience. Nine years ago, the crisis that had me questioning what I wanted was burn-out. I had what looked like the perfect life on paper – founding partner and Director of a successful consultancy, a beautiful home in London, enough money to finance an enviable lifestyle – holidays, clothes, eating out. I didn’t want for anything materially.

But, I wasn’t happy. Self doubt and my fear of being found out a fraud (the Imposter Syndrome) had me piling on the pressure to work harder, go faster, do more. I was exhausted and miserable – and, all I could think about was that I didn’t want THIS.

Shift your focus to make changes

I woke up and went to bed with that thought. It accompanied me through my day. It was only when I shifted my focus and made up my mind that I wanted to find a different way of doing success and started to explore what that would look like that things started to change.

I looked at every aspect of my life. My career, my home, my social life, my health and well-being, my relationships (with myself as well as with others), my skill set, my financial situation and more.

Working out what I wanted in each of these areas was the first step in making the changes necessary to create the richer and much more fulfilling life that I now enjoy.

Focusing on what I really want has become a regular practice for me and one that I encourage with my clients.

FREE Worksheet to help you work out what you really want

So, if you know that you want to make changes after lockdown and create a different sort of ‘normal’, spend some time thinking about what is it that you really want.

Click HERE for a Worksheet to help you with that. Go ahead and download it now, put some time aside in your diary and take the first step in creating the future that you really want for yourself.

Caroline Holt is the go to person in the UK specialising in Imposter Syndrome and helping people get what they want. She is the Imposter Syndrome expert in residence at the Lucidity Network. 

Customers generally don’t care about your story; they care about their own

‘Building a Storybrand’ – This is not a book about telling your company’s story. A book like that would be a waste of time. Customers don’t generally care about your story; they care about their own.

Such was the overarching message of the Lucidity Business Book Club’s book of choice for the June meeting.

Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller teaches readers how to simplify a brand message so customers can understand and act on it, be that for websites, brochures or social media. Although it is clearly a book written for a corporate audience, do not assume this means its content is not relevant for other sectors. Whether you’re a charity, a business, public sector or even a global movement – no matter who you are or what you are trying to ‘sell’ there’s something useful for you within its 207 pages.

The book is packed full of useful insight and gives readers a seven-part framework to follow. There’s also a very helpful section at the back of the book that helps readers apply the principles to web design.

The Building a Story Brand seven-part framework:

  1. A character…
    The customer is the hero not your brand.
  2. .…has a problem…
    Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems but customers buy solutions to internal problems
  3. …and meets a guide…
    Customers aren’t looking for another hero; they’re looking for a guide
  4. …who gives them a plan…
    Customers trust a guide who has a plan
  5. …and calls them to action…
    Customers do not take action unless they are challenged to take action
  6. …that ends in a success…
    Every human being is trying to avoid a tragic ending
  7. …that helps them avoid failure.
    Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them.

Making your customer the hero of the story is easier said than done. A couple of our book club members said they felt a little overwhelmed with the recommendations in the book. Plus there was some debate among the book club members who work for charities about who should be the hero – the donor or the beneficiary. It depends on the type of fundraising and level of gift, said one, who suggested that perhaps the beneficiary should be the hero in low level asks and the donor in legacy and major gift fundraising. Another suggested that perhaps both should take on a leading role within a charity’s story, creating a loop that starts with the beneficiary and ends with the donor.

Likewise, there was discussion about the challenges of simplifying brands, particularly when an organisation has many products and services that offer many things to many people. However, as one reader pointed out if you focus on one message and communicate that successfully to a customer, and you’ll get plenty of other opportunities to talk about the other aspects of your work with them in the future.

Another message that hit home for one book club member was the need to have a clear and strong call to action. ‘If we sell passively, we communicate a lack of belief in our product’, Miller reminded us, telling us that we shouldn’t be shy but to make direct asks.

All in all, Lucidity Business Book Club members felt it was a useful book that was easy to read and digest. As one reader said, ‘I read in the bath as it’s the only place where there are no other distractions, and it didn’t require too many baths to finish it.’

Overall, there were three key takeaways for readers of Building a Storybrand:

  1. Your customer should be the hero of the story, not your brand.
  2. Keep it simple.
  3. Don’t be shy: make the ask.

Becky Slack
Becky is the lead for the Lucidity Network’s Business Book Club, a role she loves as it gives her an excuse to geek out on all the books she wants to read but would never normally get time to do so. When she’s not got her nose in a book, she can be found writing her own stories, starting conversations between interesting folk, or teaching people how to craft their own words that will inspire change and motivate action.

The Lucidity Network Business Book Club is one of the member benefits of the Lucidity Network. The Lucidity Network is a friendly professional community, that gives its members confidence to manage uncertainty, practical training, learning and development to improve everyday performance, as well as insight, inspiration and connection to help them stay resilient even on the toughest of days.

Building a Storybrand: Clarify your message so customers will listen by Donald Miller is published by Harper Collins Leadership.

Innovation for introverts

Innovation for introverts

I know it might be surprising that I’m an introvert and that I feel like this, given I run training on networking and I lead the Lucidity Network (which involves networking). Perhaps the reason I do both of these things is because I know how important networking is to pretty much everything and also how difficult it can be, so I just want to make it as easy and pain-free as possible for people.

I define introversion and extroversion as where you get your energy from. As an introvert, I get my energy from being by myself. Extroverts get their energy from other people. You’re not stuck in an introvert or extrovert box though. It’s like a spectrum. I sit towards the middle of the introvert side of the spectrum, and I can switch on my inner extrovert when needed, for example, if I’m at a conference, running training or presenting. I just have to go home afterwards and be on my own to refuel.

One isn’t better than the other, it’s just useful to understand your own preferences and those of the people you work with so you can adapt your communication to get the best out of both introverts and extroverts.

Here’s what I learnt over the years of working on innovation:

When it comes to innovation introverts come into their own.

  • They have no need for external affirmation
  • They make order out of chaos
  • They are the best listeners
  • They connect disparate dots that may save the business.

It’s estimated that between a third and a half of the population is introverted. However, there’s a cultural bias towards extroversion. This means that workplace cultures and practices are often set up in favour of extroverts, the people that speak up first or loudest, the people that are seen to be participating and who are well known in an organisation.

To get better results make sure you are engaging both introverts and extroverts.

Here’s how;

Often it’s just the loudest people that get listened to. If you manage a team make sure you make space for introverts to be heard. This takes the form of great facilitation and good planning, for example, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to speak in meetings and structuring ideas sessions with some tasks that people can do on their own.

  • A web-based platform or community is a good way to solicit ideas from everyone. 
  • Offer quiet zones at work especially if you work in an open plan office.
  • Encourage introverts to lead, chair meetings, present on topics, lead projects.
  • Become aware of the loudest voices, encourage them but do not allow them to be the only voice that is heard.

Let me know how you get on and if you want to learn more about this, then join us for this upcoming online networking event.

On Thursday 9 July, Helen Denny from Not9to5 and I, we’ll be hosting a learning and social experience on how to succeed as an introvert in an extroverted world. We’ve invited Emma Taggart, a leadership coach for introverts to help us understand the different needs of introverts and extroverts. She’ll share how to succeed as an introvert as well as support the introverts around you.

Reserve your place for this online networking event. Tickets are £10.
introvert networking event

Here’s the link to buy your ticket