Stress (huh)…What is it good for…?

There are so many articles on stress and poor mental health in the press, that you can be forgiven for being overwhelmed.

The Damaging Cost of Stress

According to the centre for Mental Health, stress and mental health problems cost UK business costs an estimated £34.9 billion a year through staff absence, turnover and reduced productivity. On an individual level, according to the American Psychological Association, as well as the short term effects, stress can contribute to longer-term health issues including Chronic Pain; Respiratory diseases;  Cardiovascular disease; Diabetes; Gastrointestinal problems; reproduction problems and even cancer. So it is absolutely critical that we do something about it.

Most articles try to do this by raising the awareness of the public to mental health. Advice encourages us to adopt coping mechanisms to reduce the effects of stress and urges us to make changes to our lives to reduce the amounts of stress we are subjected to.

A Better Way: Harnessing Mental Toughness

This awareness and advice is important, but the main issue with most of the current debate is that it actually increases how stressed people feel. By raising the awareness of stress it can actually make people focus on it more and increase how stressed they feel. Whilst asking people to make fundamental changes in their lives might feel impossible and thus debilitating.

What most articles fail to talk about, because it is not widely understood, is resilience, more robustly described as mental toughness.

According to the work of Robert Yerkes and John Dodson, the relationship between the performance and pressure of an individual can be represented in the diagram below.

Up to a certain point, pressure is an enabler. It gives us a reason to get out of bed and has a positive effect on performance. However, at a certain point this reaches a peak and if pressure continues to build, it starts to have a negative effect on our performance.

Most of the advice stems from the assumption that this curve is static, that to reduce the negative effects of pressure on me, I need to reduce the amount of stress in my environment, or care less about things so that I don’t put pressure on myself. Whilst, in the short term, this is a helpful form of ‘first aid’, it provides no positive path to develop an ability to perform under pressure. 

Using Mental Toughness to Build Resilience

Recent understanding and research has shown that mental toughness can erode and can be developed, meaning that over time the size of an individual’s curve can shrink or grow. What this means is that we can develop the ability to perform well under, and enjoy, a level of pressure we currently find too stressful, we just need to build our resilience.

This provides a much more positive and enabling path to self-development for those who are currently suffering with stress and the effects of poor mental health. As a result, they can build their resilience and enjoy the pressure they are currently struggling with, without having to make fundamental changes to their lives or their values.

In the next article, we will spend more time understanding mental toughness and explain how individuals can develop their own levels of resilience.

Introducing Yeast

After a number of requests following our rebrand, we thought we had better introduce Yeast.

Yeast are the experts in applying mental toughness and using a range of psychometric assessments and measures to help organisations grow.  We provide a full range of training, learning and development and coaching services to help you make the most of the existing talent within your business, and to help you identify the people to recruit who will make a difference to your organisation.  We work closely with AQR International, one of the world’s leading-edge international test publishers to ensure that our clients have access to the latest psychometric measures.

Our clients come from a wide range of sectors: from small privately owned businesses to large corporations and public sector organisations; from well-established brand names to innovative start-ups. But the one feature common to all our clients is their ambition to perform better; they also recognise that their performance is dependent upon the ability, mindset, motivation and performance of their people.

Constantly informed by the academic research coordinated by AQR International and their research partners, and lead by three Senior Partners, Peter Wortley, Jason Skelton and Chris Davis and , Yeast have a large team of exceptional coaches who have a range of experiences gained at senior levels across a wide range of sectors. Together, we have built an impressive portfolio of projects, helping our clients transform their people and their organisations. You can see one of our case studies here.

At the heart of everything we do is our knowledge and practical experience of coaching, combined with the experiences gained through our successful careers. We use our skills to develop the knowledge, skills, mindset and performance of the individuals we work with, producing teams and organisations which work communicate and perform more effectively.

If you want to find out more about what we do and how we can help you to transform your organisation and its people, click on this link and, fill in your details. A member of the delivery team (we don’t employ salespeople) will get in touch as soon as possible and start helping you. Alternatively, call us on 0330 133 133 8 and speak to one of our Senior Partners.

You can also download our product brochure here and see how we can help your business grow.

Enabling change in the NHS – a case study

We have recently completed a piece of work which we are proud to shout about. We were approached by a large NHS Trust which was going through a period of significant and rapid organisational change.

Part way into the organisational change programme, the staff were struggling to keep up with the pace of change and were having difficulty assimilating all the information they were receiving. As well as slowing down decision making across the organisation, this was increasing the stress in the organisation causing high levels of sickness and absence.
A significant amount of Senior Management time was being consumed solving staff appeals and disputes rather than focussing on what needed to be done to achieve best outcomes for the future of the organisation.
Alongside all of this, the organisation’s service delivery against it’s objectives was starting to erode.

The organisation approached Yeast to understand how we could support. The overall brief was to provide support to the organisation to:
• Accelerate the speed of learning and decision making of individuals at all levels
• Demonstrate to staff that management had listened and responded to their need for support
• To reduce absence levels
• Free up management time to focus on the future by supporting individuals through complex issues
• To enable the organisation to hit its delivery objectives without further recommendations from consultants (which would occupy more management time)

Yeast supported the organisation by providing a Coaching clinic for the Managers at all levels across the organisation on an optional ‘drop-in’ basis for 4 months. We called the solution “Coaching Clinics” and staff would book 1:1 sessions in advance so that our coaching team would be fully utilised on site all day.
The clinics were used by almost all of the Senior team, a significant cross section of Middle and Junior Managers. In addition, coaches were made available to support some staff with specific complex issues.

The outcomes from the programme of support were:
• All key performance objectives and cost targets for the organisation were achieved through the period of support and immediately afterwards
• The energy and speed of decision making in the organisation significantly increased
• Levels of absence due to sickness reduces considerably
• The staff forum was regularly used to praise the fact that the service had been provided, the quality of the coaching and the impact it was having on individuals

Some of the feedback from the organisation was amazing, including:

“This service is of the highest quality and meets the VFM (Value For Money) criteria however you measure it.” Finance Director

“Thanks for helping with the difficult cases it helped all of us get to a good outcome.” Chief Executive

“I feel I can make a positive decision, having seen Chris, which I never thought was possible.” Senior Manager

“This is the best support this organisation has provided me with in the last 30 years.” Staff

If you want to find out more about what we do and how we can help you to transform your organisation and its people, click on this link and, fill in your details. A member of the delivery team (we don’t employ salespeople) will get in touch as soon as possible and start helping you. Alternatively, call us on 0844 357 7350 and speak to one of our Senior Partners.

Forget what you thought about Learning styles – Part 2

In the first part of our blog on learning styles and the learning cycle, we looked at the theory underpinning this approach to learning, highlighted the issues with rigid learning styles and started to explore how to apply Kolb’s theory of the learning cycle.
The next step is then to look at the different learning styles and provide some practical guidelines around enhancing the learning experience for the 4 distinct types of learner.
The 4 Learning Styles:
Activists – who prefer doing, tend not to want to understand the theory of why things work as they do. They tend to get stuck in a cycle of action after action, and solve problems through trial and error, without looking or questioning why. They can have a tendency to ‘reinvent the wheel’, and can repeat mistakes without capturing the learning. To help an activist around the learning loop, models, concepts and theories need to be introduced to explain the results of their actions to move them round the cycle.
Theorists – who prefer to understand theories, models, concepts and facts, tend not to get past these and experiment with them to test them out. Theorists prefer to remain in research mode, pulling more and more information in and analysing what they find and draw in information to form new or enhanced theories. To help a theorist around the learning loop, they need support and encouragement to understand when they have enough knowledge and move them on to test what they think and whether it works in practice.
Pragmatists – who prefer to experiment to test out theories to see if they work in practice, tend not to reflect on the results and draw conclusions from the experiments. Pragmatists tend to prefer to continually experiment, gathering more and more data and observations, with a tendency not to draw any conclusions. To help a pragmatist around the learning loop, they need support, the right environment and time to think about what the results of their experiment mean to them.
Reflectors – who prefer to observe and think about their observations, can have a tendency to over-think and over-complicate solutions. Reflectors tend to get stuck in the planning phase and may never take action. They could even paralyse themselves due to over-thinking the potential repercussions of taking action. To help a reflector, they need support and to draw their thinking into an action plan and challenge to hold them accountable to implement it.
Helping individuals achieve learning, therefore, isn’t solely about presenting the material in a way which fits their preferred style and attracts them into the cycle. It is more about taking them past their preferred style, past their internal roadblocks, to the next stage of the cycle and beyond. Only when the cycle is completed, according to Kolb, can true learning take place.
Well designed training may be able to appeal to individuals who fall into all four learning styles, however, it is almost impossible to move individuals past their preferences during training. Therefore, training rarely leads to learning, and therefore has little impact on action and results.

About Yeast
At Yeast, we specialise in delivering Leadership and Management interventions which take participants through the learning cycle. We only provide coaching based development programmes which are tailored to the needs of the organisation.
We compress the time we spend delivering information during our programmes as much as possible, instead concentrating on the element which adds the most value – coaching participants to move past their preferred learning style to understand theory; to experiment with it; to think and plan; or to take action. This is how we help our clients to learn and as a result transform their organisations and culture.
If you like what you here, click on this link and, fill in your details. A member of the delivery team (we don’t employ salespeople) will get in touch as soon as possible and start helping you to transform your organisation. Alternatively, call us on 0844 357 7350 and speak to one of our Senior Partners.

Forget what you thought you knew about learning styles – Part 1

In our last blog, we explored why training is a waste of money. This is essentially because training does not lead to learning.
We have therefore decided to spend the next few weeks exploring what learning is in a series of blogs on the topic. We will cover a number of areas, including Organisational learning, Androgogy – the theory of learning in adults. However, we kick the series off by looking at Kolb’s learning theory and the myths surrounding learning styles.
Based on Kolb’s learning cycle theory, Kolb D. (1984), Honey & Mumford developed learning styles have been a popular concept presented to us in numerous training courses.
The simplified version of the theory we are presented is that we each have a preferred learning style, based on four styles:
Activists – who prefer to learn by ‘having an experience’ or doing. Activists tend to prefer to ‘get their hands dirty’ and involve themselves fully in new experiences or opportunities to learn without bias or prejudgement.
Theorists – who prefer to understand the theory behind the actions in the form of models, concepts and facts. Theorists prefer to analyse and draw in information to form new or enhanced theories.
Pragmatists – who prefer to put learning into practice and draw action from them. Pragmatists like to experiment to test out ideas, theories and techniques to see if they work in practice
Reflectors – who prefer to observe and think about their observations. Observers prefer to stand back and view experiences from a number of perspectives, collecting data and taking time to reach a conclusion.
This theory provides us with some fantastic, useful insight into how people prefer to approach learning, and we are told by a whole range of training providers that they accommodate and adapt their training so that it is accessible and attractive to learners from each of the four learning styles.

Unfortunately, this approach completely misses the point of learning styles. Kolb’s theory tells us that in order to learn, we have to go through the learning cycle:
effective-coaching-learning-cycle
The important factor about learning styles is that not only do individuals with a particular style prefer to enter the cycle at different points, but that they also have a tendency to get stuck in this preference and not move onto the next stage of the cycle.
In the next part of our blog, we’ll explain how to overcome this resistance to effective learning to ensure that individuals with any particular preferred style can access the learning cycle and thus make progress.
About Yeast
At Yeast, we specialise in delivering Leadership and Management interventions which take participants through the learning cycle. We only provide coaching based development programmes which are tailored to the needs of the organisation.
We compress the time we spend delivering information during our programmes as much as possible, instead concentrating on the element which adds the most value – coaching participants to move past their preferred learning style. This is how we help our clients to learn and as a result transform their organisations and culture.
If you like what you here, click on this link and, fill in your details. A member of the delivery team (we don’t employ salespeople) will get in touch as soon as possible and start helping you to transform your organisation. Alternatively, call us on 0844 357 7350 and speak to one of our Senior Partners.

Training is a waste of money!

Most of us have been sent on numerous training courses and programmes throughout our careers, but how much of this training has actually led to our behaviour changing when we return to the workplace?

The answer, according to research, is very little. Training has been shown to be as low as 7% effective at changing our behaviour in the workplace. It is fine at delivering knowledge but we generally don’t ever apply it.

Let’s face it – we’ve all been there!
I remember being sent out on a fantastic Time Management training course – the trainer was engaging, enthusiastic and knowledgeable and the tools and techniques were fantastic. We had a great day and I was keen to return to work and put them into practice, knowing they would make a huge difference.

When I got back to work, I faced a mountain of emails and meetings to catch up on, so didn’t get round to putting it into place immediately. The file went onto the end of my desk to remind me to do something about it, but something else always came up which demanded more attention. Eventually the file was put on a shelf –I’m not sure where it is anymore.

I’ve got a certificate, but apart from that, nothing changed. I’m still rubbish at managing my time! Sadly, the same is true of most training – it is a complete waste of money as nothing really changes as a result.

UNTIL…you add coaching.

If you provide effective coaching support alongside a training intervention then, according to the same research, the effectiveness of the training programme could be increased to as much as 83% at changing the behaviour of participants back in the organisation.

Coaching, if it is done correctly (see our blog on Effective Coaching), can help complete the Kolb learning cycle:

effective-coaching-learning-cycle

A simple way of getting more out of the training you carry out would be to coach the participants yourselves:

  • Before the participant attends the course, sit down with them and establish some real objectives of what they want to get from the training and what they want to change
  • Following the training, coach them through to deciding what action they will take to implement the learning from the course
  • A couple of weeks later, coach them again to ensure that the action is taken and review the results, outcomes and learning from it.

All this isn’t that easy, which is why we provide support to enable organisations to transform their people.

About Yeast

At Yeast specialise in delivering Leadership and Management interventions which will make a real difference. We only provide coaching based development programmes which are tailored to the needs of the organisation.

We compress the time we spend delivering information during our programmes as much as possible, instead concentrating on the element which adds the most value – coaching participants to do something with the information, knowledge and skills they learn. This is how we help our clients to transform their organisations and culture.

If you like what you here, click on this link and fill in your details. A member of the delivery team (we don’t employ salespeople) will get in touch as soon as possible and start helping you to transform your organisation.