Gardening and Training – synergy in nature and nurture


Now the summer seems well and truly underway, we’ve all no doubt had some time outside tending to our gardens, allotments or window boxes.  The proliferation of shrubs, vegetables and the perennial weeds, with the warmth of the sun and the occasional downpours got us thinking about the synergy of the jobs in the garden and the similarities with training…stay with us, it will make sense!

During the winter months, there are lots of preparations, sowing seedlings, preparing the ground, digging in the fertiliser all ready for the following summer displays.  Now some of us are impatient, and want to see immediate results, but the true gardener knows that in order for those spectacular arrays of colour and vibrant smells, we need patience and excellent grounding. Synergy 1: The same is true when you send staff on training.  You need to prepare them for their workshop or training programme.  Throwing seeds onto unprepared ground elicits little in the way of solid, sturdy specimens.  Throwing your staff onto training programmes with no preparation in the hope that they will flourish is equally doomed to failure.  So a bit of nurture, conversations around why they are attending the training (whether for improvement, development, or future progression), if they know and understand the reasons for their attendance, they’ll be prepared to soak up the knowledge and blossom.

Sometimes during the harshest of winters there is deterioration.  Late frosts can scupper the best prepared plants; pesky slugs and snails invade the hard won ground and you can look at your specimens and see nothing but wilting leaves and buds.  BUT with careful tending, taking some extra time to care for the roots and not just digging them up and chucking on the compost, you start to see the spring shoots gradually break through. Synergy 2: It is also true that staff can appear to be withering despite your best efforts with their development.  Metaphorically chucking them on the development compost is a waste of their talents and the time and effort you’ve already invested.  You occasionally need to spend time and effort nurturing that learning so that those training shoots can fight their way to the surface and start to really sprout foliage and strength.

Summer arrives and everything is in full bloom – you can sit back on your garden swing or on your balcony and reap the pleasurable rewards of your hard work. HOWEVER, is that some bindweed lurking in the undergrowth – strangling the plants’ development and suffocating the continuous growth?  You need to nip this in the bud otherwise it will become stronger than the plant it is wrapped around.  Synergy 3: On occasion your staff too can become inured in the day to day pressures of their job….the learning goes out of the window and they revert to what they are comfortable doing.  The struggle to put the learning into practice is just too much and the bindweed of business strangles their productivity and potential.  Regular reviews and face to face chats with each individual means that you keep on top of the business bindweed.  By tackling these shoots of doubt as they form, you keep your team on a development pathway that is well paved and not cracked or uneven, with the potential to trip them up on their journey.

And finally to autumn, you now have the opportunity to discover whether that beautiful buddleia needs moving to a new position in the organisation that is your garden, before the winter sets in.  You want it to establish itself before the cold takes hold and in order to give it the best chance to survive, you again need to prepare the ground, use some food to encourage growth and support it with canes or trellis.  Synergy 4: Similarly members of your team sometimes need moving.  They are stagnating in their current position and in order for them to continue to blossom and perform outstandingly for the business, they need to find a new site.  This might be a different role in your team, a different position in your company, or even, sometimes, taking a new position elsewhere.  Support them, through their 1:1s, performance management, further training, establishing them within the team under a new guise or if necessary by letting their roots spread to another garden.

The only way we can see that this analogy doesn’t work is you can’t take a cutting – well, we wouldn’t advise chopping off a healthy limb and re-planting….and remember in recruitment you don’t always want to a clone of what you had – sometimes a new variety and something completely different brings a different, and healthy change of perspective to your garden and your team!

Encourage the individual “plants” within your team to all flourish and build their strength on the back of their learning, and they will share their knowledge with others, so when their time comes to move to pastures new, they’ll leaving behind healthy shoots in the younger members of the team for you to nurture again.

Taking control of the narrative – the importance of getting your message told & sold


Anyone who saw the Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recent series on Fat Britain dealing with the obesity crisis in the UK, will have seen in the final episode the lengths to which both Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and his Department went to in order to avoid having an interview on camera.  To be fair to Hugh and the producers, they weren’t trying to “catch them out” and had asked for a date and time for a short interview on camera.  Despite initially agreeing to this, the eventual outcome (after several months) was that no one was prepared to take part despite their press release that their results on tackling the obesity crisis were the “best in Europe”. 

Interestingly, earlier in the series Nestle had responded to Hugh’s arrival on their premises and sent a member of the PR team to talk about why they weren’t using the traffic light system of warnings on their cereals.  A discussion ensured both parties put their points across and they certainly came out better than their counterparts Kellogg’s who, like the Dept of Health, refused to engage in the conversation.

Allowing others to dominate your narrative, means that you’re on the back foot and lose control of the story. 

Hugh may well have vocally challenged the “best in Europe” claim, but if you are prepared to make sweeping statements, you should be able to back them up with factual evidence. 

Telling your story and taking control of the narrative can have a tremendous impact on getting your message across. 

Journalists and indeed campaigners like Hugh may have challenging questions to ask, but fundamentally they want to hear what you have to say and by having that conversation with them, you can put across your points allowing your audience to understand more about your organisation and the decisions you make. 

Whether you are making a presentation about your firm or a specific product to a large group of investors and shareholders, or would like to get your story into the local press, TV, and other media, our Associate, Steve can help.  A working journalist he knows exactly what you need to do to get noticed, and to handle those challenging questions with confidence and enthusiasm.  Email for more details.

7 Top Tips to Test How Well Your Company Culture is Embedded


Athelbrae Associate Sophie, who previously held the role of Directorate of Workplace Culture writes:

The workplace culture is often defined by the values that your organisation has and the associated behaviours – the way in which you and your people conduct your business. Often it is perceived that your organisation lives and breathes these values, because they are pictorially displayed around the offices/workspaces, but a well embedded culture is so much more than that.

Here’s 7 top tips to see if your culture is embedded in your organisation:

Recruitment and Selection processes and decisions are based on your values and behaviours, in equal measure, if not more importance, than skill.

Performance coaching and discussions is in line with the values and behaviours – discussions should be around “how” you did it, as well as “what” you did.

Your Learning and Development plan supports and develops your values and behaviours

Your Health and Wellbeing practices should not just be good intentions, but fully aligned to your values and up to date with best practice

You ask your staff regularly (perhaps through the means of staff surveys etc.), what is happening for them. You align this feedback to your values and behaviours, and act on it.

Your working environment reflects your values and behaviours. If innovation is featured in your values and behaviours, don’t expect that to happen (or as happen as well as it could) if you have closed off offices/cubicles, management by email and no creative areas for discussion.

Your customers should have a good feel for values and behaviours even if they aren’t told them – ask them and find out what they have to say about you and your staff, your products/services and processes.

Take a look around your organisation today, and see if you can see these things happening. One small change in any of these areas could start to make an impact in how your company and staff perform towards your values and behaviours, how they feel coming to work, and how your customers feel about who you are, and your products/services.

If you would like to discuss any options to proactively manage your organisations culture in more detail, do email

Holistic approach to serving the customer

Gandhiji Customer is king


Met with an international client this morning who has a blueprint in their company – the really interesting and satisfying element of this, is that at the top of their list is their customer experience.

Everything feeds down from the customer.  Employee engagement, the culture of the organisation and finally leadership.  In order for the customer service element and the customer experience to be the key component, all the other elements must feed into it.

So often companies think about what’s important to them internally and put leadership and management at the top of the list, with everything feeding down to finally the customer experience.

Having a holistic approach ensures that the customer remains king and is at the forefront of everyone’s thinking and actions.


Don’t take our word for it!

Delighted to have had the feedback from the recent delegates on the Spring programme of Getting to Grips with Management.

Designed to aid new and inexperienced managers navigate their way through the maze of challenges they face in their role, these endorsements are much appreciated and prove it “does what it says on the tin”


“I’ve loved this programme.  It’s been a huge help to build up my confidence in my role and Keith has been a fountain of knowledge for all of the extra questions I’ve been asking him.  I cannot recommend it enough!  Thank you Keith”.

“I loved the module with the actor.  This was so interesting and really helped me build confidence – especially giving and receiving feedback from other members of the group”

“Great course which is hugely helpful if you are involved with management.  All subjects are relevant and I have taken useful knowledge from each module which will change the way I manage going forward”

“I have enjoyed the activities as they’ve helped develop my skills and communication.  The resolving conflict and negotiation module helped me defuse difficult situations and the onion diagram in the recruitment module was a great example of getting detailed answers and finding out more about the candidate’s answers”.

Our next programme starts on 7th September at Brandshatch Place and Spa Hotel.  For more details or to discuss whether an in house management programme would benefit your supervisors and managers, email or call us on 01892 832059.

Assertive communication – 11th July at Brandshatch Place and Spa Hotel



Assertiveness-Training-ImageDue to demand, we have put on another date for this one day course – looking at personal communication styles and how to handle those who are more challenging in their behaviour.

A day packed with  fun and  practical advice, guidance and solutions that enables delegates to return to the workplace with techniques and tips on having the confidence to address all aspects of assertive communication.

If you would like more details, or to book yourself or a member of your staff on the 11th July course at Brandshatch, please email   – the course fee is £299 per person + VAT which covers all the training, materials, delegate manual, certificate, catering and refreshments.

Recent delegate feedback includes:-

 “It has opened up many ways to approach situations.  The day went really quickly and I came out feeing I have gained knowledge”.

“Really fun, knowledgeable and Leanne really got the group to open up and interact.”