It never gets easier you just get better

Castle Corporate Finance - We know pride and joy when we see it.

Date of original post: 26th June 2020

Easy does it - getting back into your stride without straining something

After any interruption, most people find that it takes a while to get back on track; a few seconds to re-focus on whatever it is they were doing before the interruption.  Perhaps they mutter “Right!” or “Now, where was I?” as they turn their attention back to their original task.

We’ve all been there.  Distractions are all too common in the workplace and, according to researchers, it takes at least a couple of minutes to get back up to speed after you have been side-tracked.  

COVID-19 has been more than a minor interruption or whimsical side-tracking. It has been a major disruption! Common sense tells us then that there will be a period of readjustment as we find our feet, but it won’t be a mere couple of minutes.  The ‘new normal’ (as it’s being called – even while we don’t yet know what it will actually look like) will require a much longer settling-in period.

Let’s compare this to a sportsperson who is about to embark on a hard training session. To perform at their best, they will need to warm up properly. Without stretching those joints, sinews and muscles, something will get strained when they need to give it their all.  If something ‘gives’, then the poor athlete is back to square one – indeed probably minus one if they injure themselves badly!

Different people will have different thoughts and feelings about this next phase of adjustment, coming at it from widely varying perspectives: have they been working full-time from home with minimal impact; juggling the difficulties of home schooling alongside a workload; or completely furloughed and therefore returning from a rather strange extended ‘holiday’?

Apart from the obvious risk-assessments and protective measures, we should be inclined to add ‘Easy Does It’ guidelines to our back to work policies to ensure the full variety of situations that people have experienced over the last few months can be accommodated accordingly, with plans phased in to match individual circumstances.   

Maintaining communication with individuals to get a sense check will be vital: one person’s enthusiasm is another’s disruptive behaviour; you might be young and healthy – or have an underlying health condition; or just want to follow Government guidelines to the letter – but without understanding these individual circumstances, a blanket return to work policy might be counter-productive in the long-term.

Let’s embrace the fact that everyone will need to warm up in their own way, so be prepared to make allowances for that. If this is noticed, encouraged and rewarded, then the journey upwards towards a renewed level of optimal performance will be faster and smoother, and the resulting output will be consistent and reliable.  Above all, too high an expectation of our people hitting the ground running may actually stall our journey back to efficiency and effectiveness.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the quote (often attributed to Abraham Lincoln); “If I am given four hours to cut down a tree, I would spend the first three hours sharpening my axe!”

Let’s allow folk a bit of time with their whetstones.

What Next?

If you want a chat, a human voice, a like-minded owner manager, one that shares that little bit of bloody mindedness we refer to, contact Stuart on 07500 999 541 or Victoria on 07469 140 080

Date of original post: 3rd July 2020

Remind me - why am I here?


“A team is a group of people who are interdependent with respect to information, resources, knowledge and skills and who seek to combine their efforts to achieve a common goal.”*

Other definitions are available, but pretty much every explanation of a team refers to the ‘common goal’ element. 

Without a clear purpose, team members have no direction and potentially embark down different paths, getting confused over priorities and pursuing adjuncts that stray off the beaten track. The end result is that more time is spent putting things right than getting things right first time, and that can take up far more of everyone’s time and lead to wasted energies and sluggish motivation.

Directionless team members are reactive and wait to be told what to do; they have no real commitment because they don’t know what they are committing to.  This results in a lack of camaraderie and a dulling of enthusiasm, focus and loyalty.

If they know WHY, the WHAT and the HOW become easier!

However you describe the mission or aim, what matters is the worthiness of the goal and the degree to which each team member can express what that means to them – and the extent to which their beliefs and passions match or tie into the objectives that business leaders are really striving for.

In the post-COVID workplace, it’s probably an ideal time to challenge all members of the team to reiterate their understanding of the common goal. Does it still align? Has it gone adrift? What does it mean to them and their respective roles in the business? If the feedback is blurred and incoherent at this point, it won’t be their fault, but it will be key to get everyone back on the main path.

Perhaps now more than ever it is an opportune time to remind everybody in the organisation of the team goal or purpose.  Ask for contributions – does it need to adapt to current times so everyone is back in tune with each other?  Collate these thoughts and feedback and work this up into an updated mantra or mission statement; if and where appropriate, add targets, but most of all remember that we are all humans so heap genuine praise and recognition onto those that are proactive and show keen willingness to support the company’s core beliefs.

It will also be important to keep reminding people of the purpose of the team, especially if there’s a personnel change, re-shuffle or different working environment.  Even if there have been no changes to your organisation, communication will still be important to ensure everyone is on board with the team’s purpose on a regular basis.

Henry Ford had teamwork in mind when he said: “Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

*Source: definition of a team, Professor Leigh Thompson, Kellogg School of Management


Date of original post: 10th July 2020

Why should I? Motivation – your team’s and yours!

Why does anybody do ANYTHING?  Well, the simple answer is that people do things because they want to.  This also includes doing something to avoid the consequences of NOT doing it.  Motivation is literally the motive that moves you towards something (desire/goal) or away from something (fear/problem).

But, when it comes to people, you can’t forcibly motivate someone – however, you can tap into their existing self-motivations.  This is why it’s so important to get to know your team members on an individual basis.

As business leaders, we might often ponder on how we could motivate our people more: motivate them to be more productive, more loyal, more efficient; more, well… MOTIVATED!

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, at a physiological level, we are driven to breathe, drink and eat because of the discomfort that a lack of oxygen, water and food create in us.  Shelter, warmth and safety are next on our ladder, followed by a desire to belong to a group, tribe or family.  Only once all this is in place can we work on the more esoteric elements like self-respect, accomplishment, status, recognition, and autonomy.  And it is largely in this latter category that business owners and leaders can tap into the motivation of their staff.

But to be clear, as Maslow’s model suggests, all the expected needs must be in place before higher levels of motivation can occur.  Needs like safe and comfortable working conditions; suitable equipment to do the job; appropriate salary; good relationships with teammates and managers; apparent job security.  Maybe the list should now include “new norm” factors –such as feeling safe at work, having the appropriate PPE to operate without the fear of coming to harm, or feeling reassured that the bosses are leading by example and investing in protocols and measures to protect the staff accordingly.  Let’s be clear – an absence of these ‘hygiene’ factors is de-motivational, so at the very least having all the basic elements in place creates a foundation for satisfaction – just think of these factors as the ‘minimum operating requirements’ a business must attain to provide an environment for people to be energised.  However, once the hygiene factors are in place, let the motivation begin!

According to the psychologist, Frederick Herzberg, these are the factors to address motivation:

  • Achievement: generating pride in the job;
  • Recognition: employees are motivated by praise and recognition;
  • The work itself: must be interesting, varied, and provide enough of a challenge to maintain employees’ high level attention;
  • Responsibility: individuals who ‘own’ their work hold themselves accountable and don’t feel micromanaged;
  • Advancement: having a clear promotional pathway;
  • Growth: the opportunity to learn new skills.

It’s important to understand what motivates others but equally important to take this time to re-ascertain what gets you motivated in the morning?  After all – you need to motivate yourself first in order to inspire the same in others.


Date of original post: 17th July 2020

Yes, but are YOU happy?


The state of happiness is an ultimate life goal. When asked what we want out of life, many say a version of: “I just want to be happy.” But what does this mean, and how will we know when we have got there?

Of course, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to happiness because each of us holds different things dear.  What makes one person happy might be another’s worst nightmare…

So, is there any point in giving advice about the pursuit of happiness?  Well, it appears so because there seems to be five fundamental principles about happiness of which we should all be aware.


This is the big one!  Perhaps surprisingly, there is no blanket correlation between material possessions and lasting happiness.  Apparently, more than half of all lottery winners surveyed report being LESS happy two years after the win than before it.

And household income… A study in 2010 by Princetown University shows that you become happier the more you earn – but only to a point.  Translated into sterling, and adjusted for inflation, earnings BEYOND approximately £75,000 pa do not contribute to actual happiness at all. 

So, what are the other principles that should be considered outside of financial security?

  • Happiness is a journey rather than a destination.  It is often the feeling we enjoy when taking positive action, and progress is being made towards a worthy goal, be that at work or at home.
  • Happiness is generated within – not externally.  The ball in the net makes eleven players happy and the other eleven sad.  It depends on what you decide an external event means to you and how that is reinforced in your mind as a positive experience or a negative one. 
  • Happiness precedes success.  Many think that success ‘causes’ happiness.  This is the wrong way round.  The happier you are in yourself the more successful you are likely to be.
  • Happiness is boosted by positive experiences rather than possessions.  A meaningful event is enhanced by remembering it.  A new possession may feel good at the time – but quickly becomes the ‘norm’, resulting in the never-ending chase for the next temporary high.
  • Happiness is earned by people who find a balance between being happy now – and investing in future happiness.  As business owners and leaders – we need that balance!

So, we believe it is best to explore how these principles apply to ourselves, rather than follow other people’s dreams and desires in the hope that we achieve their happiness. As the late great preacher, Charles Spurgeon once famously expressed: it is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.”

Next steps

If you would like to speak to someone that puts the client first, then please contact Stuart on 07500 999 541 or Victoria on 07469 140 080