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Story by Desire – it’s in demand… 

Our storytelling session at the Brighton Summit last month was completely sold out!  We even had a waiting list and people hustling at the door to get in as the session went live. In the end we had over 30 entrepreneurs join us, there were facilitators, trainers, business owners, managers, comedians and even professional storytellers. How did the session begin? 

‘Once upon a time…’ 

And from there we entered the world of story. We explored what a story can give you as a leader and business person, people spoke about how good stories can create connections, build motivation, provide insights, and help people see the invisible aspects of our work. Everyone agreed it was a vital skill and art form for any business. From this agreement we spent the rest of the session exploring the ‘how’ of storytelling. To do this we weaved a story into the session and punctuated it with moments of discussion followed by small group work. 

By the end of the session, in just one hour, everyone had identified, crafted and shared a story of their own. And they were right, those stories created a real energy in the room, new connections, people spoke about how much more insightful it was to hear a story rather than a description of ‘what I do’, it also had people light up as they came to understand the value of what they do in a whole new way. 

“people were raving about your Storytelling session” Emily Jones, Events Manager, Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce.

“this workshop was extremely enjoyable and very valuable – reminding me how very important our stories are in our lives, I’ve been using this awareness in my work since the session, thank you.” 

It was an inspiring workshop which was practical and will stick in my mind”

“How to connect to anyone through emotive visualisation via stories we all have. Awesome.”

Gerry Thompson, Lead trainer, Positive Comedy award-winning training and coaching.

We were delighted with the session, it was great fun to deliver and we would love to do more. If you have a need to create new connections, build motivation, or to make the value of your work more visible to others then please be in touch. 


Steve Creffield:

Anne-Marie Harrison:

Supporting cultural change: how Action learning can help …..

Development Squared are big fans of Action Learning and incorporate it into the Leadership Development Programme placement week during the facilitated group evening sessions. Here our guest blogger, Lynne Butler from Pashley Learning, talks about the importance of Action Learning in supporting cultural change…..

There is much talk of the need for organisations to have the ‘right’ culture in place so they can sustain high performance in fast paced world.  But what if you have a new cultural vision for your organisation but struggle to actually realise it and make it ‘stick’?

Organisational culture may be simply expressed as ‘the way we do things round here’.  There are many factors that impact on the development of organisational culture [for example: as suggested by Charles Handy in Understanding Organizations (1993)].  Culture builds up over time and permeates every aspect of an organisation’s ‘being’.  This includes its structures, systems and processes as well as the employees who work within it and how they then choose to behave at work.

Unless employees are used to learning and are very practised in the art of successful change, ensuring a permanent shift from one way of behaving to another is likely to take considerable time and effort.  Culture change may well meet with resistance. Leaders and managers can find tackling this both challenging and time consuming. Providing a suitable forum to help employees understand what cultural change will mean for them is key to overcoming barriers and promoting greater ‘buy in’ to a new culture. Without this ‘buy in’, further action by employees to take forward change and embed different working practices in a new culture may be difficult and prove challenging to sustain.

Action Learning (as developed originally by Reg Revans in the 1940s) provides a practical and dynamic learning method which can be used to effectively support cultural change programmes.  It is suitable for whole teams, groups of managers or with groups of individuals across an organisation.  The flexibility of Action Learning means it can be run as:

  • A stand-alone programme
  • Alongside a face to face training programme
  • Part of a ‘blended’ development programme (for example: with developmental input and 360 degree feedback).

Its core principle is that people learn best when reflecting upon and resolving their own work problems with support from a group of colleagues in what is known as a ‘learning set’.

A typical Action Learning ‘set’ in this context has groups of five to eight people with a facilitator. It meets regularly over a period of about six months to consider current working practices, what will need to shift in the new culture and how this might best be done.  Set members challenge and ask each other questions about work issues, but they do not give each other advice.  Instead individual set members reflect on their own work issues, come to their own conclusions and then commit to taking practical action.  This helps promote emotional engagement in the change being made. The role of leadership in implementing culture change successfully is a critical one. Action Learning can be extremely useful for line managers in translating for team members what the new culture will mean for them.

Of course, certain things need to be in place to help ensure an Action Learning programme is successful.  Aside from what would normally be associated with any successful learning intervention, there are three particular points to bear in mind:

  1. Senior and line managers, as well as learning set members, must understand and show strong ‘buy in’ to the principles of Action Learning and what this will mean in practice.  Action Learning is not just another type of training course and it is extremely important that there is trust in it as a process.
  2. The programme needs a clear purpose with agreed dates and timescales to ensure that it does not ‘drift’ or become a vehicle simply to voice employee problems and grievances with no follow up action.
  3. Set members must commit to attend set meetings regularly and actively participate in them.

Action Learning offers many benefits for the organisation and the individual.  For organisations Action Learning promotes group reflection on current working practice, what should be kept and what needs to change.  It encourages set members to take ownership of practical ways to tackle work problems and offer each other support in doing so.  Potential for learning is considerable through greater understanding of what happens in other parts of the organisation and by reflecting on what works.  As well as preparing for cultural change, set members may also increase their self-confidence, their ability to give and receive feedback and constructively challenge others – all very useful skills to enhance organisational performance.

For individuals Action Learning offers employees ‘time out’ to help make sense of the complexity and the nature of cultural change in their organisation.  The learning set provides a confidential and supportive environment to express feelings and help each member appreciate what change will mean for them and their teams. It is a safe place to begin to change behaviour and put in place new skills being learnt. Best of all, learning is at the individual’s own pace.

Action Learning helps employees to address the ‘What’s in it for me?’ side of successful change management.  It also aligns neatly with promoting employee voice and employee engagement, both of which are associated with high performance working in organisations.

All in all Action Learning could be a very sound investment that will enable you to build greater organisational capability, not only to successfully implement your current cultural change programme but also for future change which is probably not that far round the corner. Why not give it a try?

Lynne Butler of Pashley Learning is joint author with Nigel Leach of Action Learning for Change: a practical guide for managers.  Published in 2011 by Management Books 2000. 

For more information please contact Lynne by email or visit the website:


Decoding leadership: What really matters….

New research from McKinsey suggests that the secret to developing effective leaders is to encourage four types of behavior.

Telling CEOs these days that leadership drives performance is a bit like saying that oxygen is necessary to breathe. Over 90 percent of CEOs are already planning to increase investment in leadership development because they see it as the single most important human-capital issue their organizations face…..

….A big, unresolved issue is what sort of leadership behaviour organisations should encourage. Is leadership so contextual that it defies standard definitions or development approaches?

McKinsey’s most recent research suggests that a small subset of leadership skills closely correlates with leadership success, particularly among frontline leaders. Using their own practical experience and searching the relevant academic literature, they came up with a comprehensive list of 20 distinct leadership traits. Next, they surveyed 189,000 people in 81 diverse organizations around the world to assess how frequently certain kinds of leadership behavior are applied within their organizations. Finally, they divided the sample into organizations whose leadership performance was strong (the top quartile of leadership effectiveness as measured by McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index) and those that were weak (bottom quartile).

What they found was that leaders in organizations with high-quality leadership teams typically displayed 4 of the 20 possible types of behavior; these 4, indeed, explained 89 percent of the variance between strong and weak organizations in terms of leadership effectiveness.

The 4 leadership behaviours that account for 89% of leadership effectiveness are:

  • Solving problems effectively. The process that precedes decision making is problem solving, when information is gathered, analyzed, and considered. This is deceptively difficult to get right, yet it is a key input into decision making for major issues as well as daily ones.
  • Operating with a strong results orientation. Leadership is about not only developing and communicating a vision and setting objectives but also following through to achieve results. Leaders with a strong results orientation tend to emphasize the importance of efficiency and productivity and to prioritize the highest-value work.
  • Seeking different perspectives. This trait is conspicuous in managers who monitor trends affecting organizations, grasp changes in the environment, encourage employees to contribute ideas that could improve performance, accurately differentiate between important and unimportant issues, and give the appropriate weight to stakeholder concerns. Leaders who do well on this dimension typically base their decisions on sound analysis and avoid the many biases to which decisions are prone.
  • Supporting others. Leaders who are supportive understand and sense how other people feel. By showing authenticity and a sincere interest in those around them, they build trust and inspire and help colleagues to overcome challenges. They intervene in group work to promote organizational efficiency, allaying unwarranted fears about external threats and preventing the energy of employees from dissipating into internal conflict.

McKinsey are not saying that the centuries-old debate about what distinguishes great leaders is over or that context is unimportant. Experience shows that different business situations often require different styles of leadership. They do believe, however, that their research points to a kind of core leadership behaviour that will be relevant to most companies today, notably on the front line. For organisations investing in the development of their future leaders, prioritising these four areas is a good place to start.

Here is a link to the article

Swazi Swimming Gala

Here at Development Squared we are not only extremely proud of the fabulous work our delegates achieve mentoring local Swazi businesses but also to be part of the bigger picture in our partnership with

Their work within the local community is fantastic and it was wonderful to see so many people in Brighton last month support Tim & Loretta in their sponsored swim event.


The Swim project was set up by Tim & Loretta along with the amazing support of


Learning how to swim is one of the most important life skills a child can conquer in a country filled with rivers. WHO (World Health Organisation) state drowning as one of the major hidden killers in the developing world, a child in Africa is 13 times more likely to drown than a child in Europe.  Our qualified instructors teach young children the basic concepts of entering the water, being comfortable in the water and then learn swimming techniques along the way.


Along with saving lives the aim is to develop early skills and swimming abilities, generate interest in the sport for future opportunities, while at the same time have fun and enjoy the benefits of being physically active.

The swimming program is completely self funded and they are constantly sourcing funds to upgrade equipment, buy new swim costumes and much more. While the program stems out of Swaziland they also run a swim school in Mozambique working with vast amounts of young children in and around project sites in Tofo.

They had a really successful swimming gala day with the team achieving an impressive 8.4km in an hour.

See below for more details.