Willpower = Achievement?

One in four new year resolutions fail by January 8th.

Despite what we were told, it seems that willpower is not the golden bullet for getting things done we thought. According to research by Professor David Desteno, (professor of psychology at Northeastern University, USA) rather than driving us to achievement, willpower is actually quite toxic, it creates stress and has long-term negative health outcomes. Remember that child who deferred the gratification of eating one marshmallow now, by waiting patiently to be given two? She seems destined not only for higher long- term earnings, but also for a stress-related coronary!


What is the learning from this? Apparently the solution is not to live a life of complete hedonism, living for the moment with no thought for the future; instead it is to be social in our endeavours. This means working as and for a group or team, rather than for your own ends. Why so? It turns out that we are able to defer gratification and dig deep in our reserves much more easily and with much less stress when we do so with feelings of compassion for others and with pride. Doing something in and for the group is actually easier and more successful than following our individual goals. Working together has the natural pay-off of security, which for social beings like us humans, who rely on others for our survival, is a fundamental need. Doing things for others has a reward in and of itself, as well as driving us on.


Whoever your team is, make sure you plan together, and for the good of the whole; this way you will enjoy a much higher probability of success without the emotional grunt work required for solitary pursuits.



The Author

Fran McArthur is a coach, trainer, action learning facilitator and non-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives who lead organisations with a turnover of up to £10 million or less than 100 employees, and who wish to effect positive change, particularly in the environmental sector. She collaborates to help them achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach.

You can contact her at

enquiries@yibp.co.uk  or  07789520205


Keep trotting on…

‘Life always begins with one step outside of the comfort zone’ Shannon L Alder

During my workshops, we talk a lot about stepping out of your comfort zone to enable learning and To Be The Best You Can Be and for those of us, particularly, who dare to coach, this process really ought to be ceaseless.  We need to get our fix of ‘new stuff’ by reading, observing, attending and participating in experiences of all kinds, learning and making notes so that we can review, reflect and modify our behaviour.  And although our ‘new stuff’ may be mostly cerebral, it is also worth challenging ourselves physically from time to time.  Physicality may be outside your comfort zone but it has a mental component as well: remember that the most successful athletes get to the top by using minds as well as their bodies.

Last week I found myself in a field in Yorkshire with three other people and a horse called Billy participating in a coaching session.  Heidi – horse lover and founder of Glint – has developed coaching based around interaction with horses, a fun, effective and proven alternative to traditional coaching, therapy and learning.  Being so up close and personal with a horse is certainly outside my comfort zone, but the reward I experienced made it worthwhile.  All the participants agreed that there was no hiding your feelings from Billy – he picked up all our emotions instinctively and used them to gauge us and react accordingly.  It was a wonderfully rich learning experience.

As  I am sure many of you know, it takes bravery to step out of your comfort zone; it can be risky and failure might be part of the process.  But when change becomes a habit it becomes part of your identity – and indeed, part of your workplace team’s identity.  A culture of change and learning is an exciting place to be.

So when did you last step out of your comfort zone?

And a couple of relevant TED talks to check out – Caroline Paul encouraging girls in particular to partake in risky play To Raise Girls Encourage Adventure.  And Richard St John’s top talk Success is a Continuous Journey.


Rachel is a business & educational psychologist.  After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation.  Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field. 

Pay It Forward

‘Those best parts of life: little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love’ William Wordsworth

One of my favourite films is Pay It Forward (2000), in which the teacher sets eleven year old Trevor the task of devising a way to make the world a better place.  He comes up with the idea of helping others and encouraging them to do likewise in turn, thereby paying kindness forward. The unexpected bonus was that the giver of kindness gets to feel good as well.

I too have found that by choosing to help others – even in very small ways – a by-product of happiness is generated for me.  This was evident when, as was one of many in the Big Sister mentoring programme supporting teenage girls (some of you reading this were involved – and some still are) we were surprised by how much we gained from it too. Each one of the brilliant volunteers got involved for altruistic reasons – the wanting to give back – but it felt like magic was at play.

Bren Bataclan in his TED talk Kindness Can Truly Be Paid Forward speaks about the life changing impact – turning around his life from one of redundancy to one of permanent fulfilment – created by a simple act of generosity: he gave away his paintings, bringing happiness and hope to many, including himself.

An Australian outfit the wakeupproject has created some kindness cards to act as prompts to remind you to help others regularly – buy someone a coffee, leave some flowers on a colleague’s desk – all done anonymously, while leaving a card to ask them to do the same for someone else.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a world of givers where this is the norm?

Are you a giver or a taker is the question Adam Grant explores in a TED talk. He promotes the idea that ‘the most meaningful way to succeed is to help others succeed’ and includes a test you can take to see whether you are a giver or a taker.

So are you a giver or taker?



Rachel is a business & educational psychologist.  After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation.  Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field. 

What Is Action Learning?

Action Learning Sets are one of those concepts that we think we know about, but when we really think about it we are often a bit vague – this in turn suggests that the benefits are also poorly understood. It was with this in mind that I recently ran an Action Learning Set for a mixed group as a demonstration of the value in creating new and deeper thinking among the set members.


The room had its fair share of sceptics, added to which we were in a false situation, in that we effectively had an audience, which does little to engender the safe, trusted space needed for truly creative thinking; but not to be defeated we pressed ahead.

The set was made up of eight volunteers – in my opinion the maximum number for an effective set – facilitated by myself and observed by a further dozen or so people. We sat in a circle with all members able to make eye contact with one another. After agreeing which member of the group would ‘present’ their issue, we listened carefully as the Presenter laid out the facts of their situation as they saw it and the various factors affecting or preventing him from moving forward. Members of the set listened intently and in silence, after around 5 minutes the scene was set and I, the Facilitator, invited any clarification questions, this completed, we went into open questions.


A critical aspect of Action Learning is that it is not advice giving – all questions are open and are in no way ‘leading’. Participants come with a sense of curiosity and an understanding that the right solution is the one the Presenter works out for themselves. As a new group, it was no surprise that they found it difficult to resist giving the benefit of their extensive experience and several times we had to pause and reframe questions to be truly open. Well-timed and short questions usually have the greatest impact, as was the case with this group – we watched the presenter’s facial expressions in response to “and what else?” – the question drew him up short and then he went first into deep thought before a real light bulb moment.


Of-course, Action Learning is not just about thinking things through, the clue is in the name – it’s about taking action. From our short session of thoughtful, open questioning our presenter went away with a number of very practical actions on which he will report back to the group. His reaction – “totally immersive, a powerful way to become unstuck”.


This is a learning experience not just for the Presenter, but also for the whole group. And the naysayers? Everyone declared themselves on-board, with the exception of two, who declared themselves scientists only interested in facts!

For the 90% plus the BENEFITS OF ACTION LEARNING include: –

  • Actionable outcomesHow to grow business
  • Long lasting problem solving competency
  • Enhanced creativity & curiosity
  • New questioning & listening skills
  • Increased resilience/ability to deal with stress
  • Improved leadership
  • Team building
  • Heightened emotional intelligence



If you would like to experience the benefits for yourself, we will, (subject to demand), be running two FREE ACTION LEARNING SETS in Manchester during July and September 2017. If you would like to be involved please drop us a line at enquiries@yibp.co.uk for a chance to be included – first come, first served – good luck.


The full PROCESS, (not all of which is covered above), is made up of a number of steps:

  1. Arriving Round
  2. Bidding
  3. Presenting
  4. Questions
  5. Action
  6. Reflection
  7. Process Review


About the Author: Fran McArthur is an  ILM accredited action learning facilitator, business coach, trainer and no-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives, who lead organisations of up to £10m/100 employees and who wish to effect positive change. She collaborates with them to achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach

Managing My Anger

Alternatives to losing your temper (John Hegley) 

Sit on your hands. Visit the Hebrides. Knit.  Unknit your brow. Build a model of your anger out of matches. Catch a falling star and put it in a poem. Watch a soap. Make some soap. Send the world a message of hope. Coil up in a medicine ball. Call a nurse. Reverse. Close your eyes and do the washing up. Sing. Pray. Have a fig roll. Have a nice day.

Someone told me, years ago, that I am too emotional.  I knew at the time this was intended as a criticism but I decided to interpret it as a compliment.  I am glad to be so emotional because it means, among others things, that my feelings run deep and true. Emotions also help to embed memories – in my case mostly good, although some are bad or sad – which all add up to make me who I am.

However, as a child my emotions often got the better of me, especially my anger which frequently spilled over into disruptive behaviour – shouting, screaming and general nastiness which made things very uncomfortable for me and even more so for those around me. Today I still get angry – there is a lot to be angry about in this world, injustice, poverty, violence, lies etc. – but I have learnt,   as part of my resilience training, how to prevent that anger from turning into negative behaviour.

To manage your emotional responses, start by recognising the feelings and giving them a name to acknowledge what is going on. Suppressing emotions is the wrong way to go as it stops us from being authentic with ourselves and hinders our ability to learn from experience.  Instead, aim to channel emotions into something positive to help yourself – and others – benefit from the outcome. You may find that anger, for example, is an irresistible reaction, but the power of its expression does not have to be destructive: try using the adrenalin it creates as a stimulant to mobilize you into action to overcome obstacles instead.

Here are some tips I have learnt to help me manage my anger:

  1. Use the STOP model:


………Take a deep breath

……… Observe openly and gently

 ………Perceive positively

  1. Give yourself a few moments for the anger to subside: “Right now I know I am feeling angry, but I know it will pass. I am not the emotion”
  2. Go and do something else, turn away from the trigger, engage in something you know makes you happy (for me it would be to go for a run).
  3. Recall a happy memory: make it specific, re-live it in your head.
  4. Look after yourself: engage your senses – touch, taste, sound, sight, smell – and focus them on beautiful things.

Life would be so very bland without emotions, we simply need to be in control of them, rather than allowing them to control us.

A couple of ‘emotional’ links to check out:



About the Author: Rachel is a business & educational psychologist.  After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation.  Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.

Implementing Brilliant Strategic Plans


So you have spent your summer devising the most brilliant new business strategy, carefully taking into consideration the changes in your sector, the impact of Brexit, the plummeting value of sterling, skills gaps, disruptive new technologies, plus those which could create competitor advantage. You have locked yourself away for painstaking hours and huge dedication to hone and polish you brilliant strategic plan. So why is successful implementation so incredibly difficult, (according to the Gallup Business Journal, only 2.5% of change programmes are fully implemented)?

Superb plans are only the first small step in creating successful and sustainable change, and going it alone without buy-in can be like pushing water uphill – your people will either move heaven and earth to make it happen or will undermine it at every turn. How can you make sure it is the former?

My first observation is that you have locked yourself away instead of involving your team in the planning stage. How much more committed are you to a plan that you helped to formulate, rather than one, (however brilliant), that has been imposed upon you. Human nature is such that we are far more likely to iron out the flaws along the way to make the plan a success rather than highlight the shortcomings if we have personally been involved in its formulation. There is an adage that suggests a mediocre plan, actually executed is better than a perfect plan in limbo, so get your people on board early, ‘perfect’ plans frequently get no further than the planning stage. Consult widely, provide the relevant data and then listen to feedback – be prepared to amend your plans to reflect input – gaining buy-in is more important than a strategically brilliant plan.

Communicate, communicate, communicate: Now let’s think about dissemination: Remember how many blind alleys you went up before you came to your ‘perfect’ strategy? Try not to present the final plan, but take them on the journey, so that they can grasp the logic– remember how long it took you to create the plan, don’t expect everyone else to grasp it a the first airing. Let them question it – this means more heads on the same problem while you are also gaining buy-in and getting people to work out for themselves what their own/their teams imperatives are to deliver the overall objective. It’s also hugely important that everyone knows not only what you are trying to achieve, but also their part is achieving success.

As part of the process, get each team, (cascading through the organisation), to consider their own two or three lead measures, (activities predictive of the lag measures), ensuring that they are SMART. Each team should create their own targets, decide on the relevant lead measures, then log them on their own scoreboard, so that they can quickly and easily see exactly how they are performing at any time. Get them to meet weekly for a brief review of progress, clearing away obstacles for one another and amending activities, (lead measures),as necessary in light of the results being achieved.

Come together more widely on a regular basis to share results more widely, learn from one another and celebrate successes.

A quick checklist for any change project:

  • Involve your people from the start – more perspectives on the issue and gaining early buy-in.
  • Communicate your vision widely, taking them on the journey rather than describing the destination.
  • Invite them to decide how they can best contribute to the overall objective.
  • Measure lead measures & regularly review to calibrate activities as required.
  • Keep communicating
  • Success through iteration: learn from failures and celebrate successes on the way.

Be bold, but focused!


If you would like some practical assistance in implementing change in your organisation give us a call (see top right for number) or drop us a line – we would be delighted to meet for a free of charge, no obligation discussion of your situation and explore how we can help or if appropriate refer you to someone who can



Fran McArthur 1

About the AuthorFran McArthur is a business coach, trainer and no-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives, who lead organisations of up to £10m/100 employees and who wish to effect positive change. She collaborates with them to achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach

Taking The Pain Out of Recruitment


This week I have been working with a client on a recruitment project. I’m delighted for both of us that he didn’t make the sort of knee jerk reaction so often seen when a member of staff leaves, i.e. call a recruitment consultant and ask them to send a pile of CVs in the likeness of the recently departed individual. Instead he decided to think carefully about what is one of the most important decisions any business owner can take – who should be on the team.


Sadly, the business world seems to expect us all to just know innately how to go about recruitment, despite the fact that incredibly few business people have received any training in this field at all. The result is that most SMEs (and many corporates), make poor hiring decisions, which severely hamper their ability to grow and cause endless grief in managing the resulting employee.


Back to my client – we started by

  • looking at the business’ needs, not just today, but in 2 -3 years’ time – where were the gaps?
  • From this we designed a job description and started thinking about not only the skills required, but also the behaviours needed, (skills can be taught, behaviours are notoriously difficult to change).
  • Considered where we might find the right sort of people
  • Worked up a compelling advertisement and application form
  • Compiled an objective assessment tool
  • Wrote our interview questions and practiced an interview technique completely new to him.


He is now ready to deal with responses as they arrive and I have left him to get on with ‘business as usual’ for ten days, after which we have our next session, which includes; –

  • More interview practice
  • Legal bear traps
  • Referencing
  • Negotiation
  • Offer letter & induction.


The end result is that for considerably less than the cost of a pile of CVs he has a blueprint for identifying the talent required all the way through to appointment. A replicable process which the business can use for all their future recruitment, supported by a manual with examples and check lists. Added to which we have managed to fit in quite a lot of laughter too.


If recruiting the right team is also thwarting you then why not give us a call or CONTACT US?


Fran McArthur 1

About the Author: Fran McArthur is a business coach, trainer and no-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives, who lead organisations of up to £10m/100 employees and who wish to effect positive change. She collaborates with them to achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach


Free As A Bird


Nothing’s impossible I have found

For when my chin is on the ground

I pick myself up, dust myself off

And start all over again.


When he sang those lyrics Nat King Cole was giving us sound advice: he was urging us – ever so persuasively – to muster our powers of resilience.


I know: sometimes it’s easier said than done. One of the fundamentals of resilience is the ability to maintain an optimistic outlook, but that doesn’t come naturally to everybody. If our confidence is dented by a setback, say, or our energy levels are low because of poor health then our outlook can become quite negative. So what do we do at times like that?


Well, the good news is that resilience can be built, and the tools to build it with are readily available. Here is one that I use, a list of what I call staples: it consists of prompts – remembering times when I felt good about myself, and actions – a few simple activities designed to boost those positive neurons:


  • I think of the day I passed my driving test and felt as free as a bird.
  • I remember the sun setting over the islands in the west of Scotland and am inspired by beauty.
  • I recall fun times – like when I went skiing with my nephews – and smile.
  • I call a friend and arrange to meet for coffee, a chat, a laugh.
  • I go to the cinema or to an art gallery and am inspired by other people’s imagination, ambition and vision.


The list could go on but any or just a few of these staples will bring me swiftly back to a positive mindset. What could be on your list?



The Author: Rachel is a business & educational psychologist. After working for many years both in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.


7 Tips for Becoming a More Resilient Person


Freedom from stress

How is it that some people can face a major setback and simply bounce back, while others are completely floored and disheartened by exactly the same set of circumstances? I have marveled at Richard Branson, whose failures are numerous – Virgin Cola, Virgin Megastores, Virgin Flowers and Virgin Express – was he disheartened? It seems not, as he got right back on the proverbial bike and found another opportunity. I marveled until I started to pay a little more attention and actually research the subject – what I found was not really anything new, it’s basically common sense, but despite knowing the basics we all too often fail to implement. Here is a taster of what I have found:

Values: Probably our greatest stressor is to fail to live our own values. While there is no right or wrong it is important that we live to our own values and not to that of others or those to which we perceive we should live. If you care about your loved ones and then spend 15 hours a day hunched over your laptop and arrive home grumpy, eventually you are going to cost your soul dearly. Think about the things that are important to you and design your life accordingly – maybe the potential negative impact on your income will pay you back in spades, maybe your lighter soul will make you far more creative and increase your income, maybe your income is not important?

Good relationships are indeed critical for human strength, a good social support network can both bolster us when we are down and enrich our lives when we help others. Being present in the moment for others around you, (not thinking about the next thing, or how to solve some problem), but actually paying full attention to the other person. As a business leader surround yourself with good people and avoid the energy sappers – we all know them, the ones who drain the room of energy the moment they step over the threshold

Being aware and in control of our emotional state is very important. Recognising when we are losing equilibrium and logical reasoning as the ‘red mist’ descends for example, and removing ourselves, even momentarily, from the stressor before it takes you over. There are many simple techniques to achieve this. In addition, having a positive outlook, alert to the constant possibilities and good that surrounds us is also helpful in bolstering us to face adversity when it arises.

Connection to something greater: Since we are social animals, most human-beings feel the need to be connected to something beyond themselves – simply taking without thought to others does not tend to lead to satisfaction. Whether it’s volunteering, doing something for your team or simply making time for others without thought to your own benefit, all help to make us more connected and resilient people.

Look after your physical well being – much like any moving thing, we need to be maintained well, in the case of humans this means; –

Getting enough sleep, (the macho idea of four hours is enough is outdated and plain wrong – fatigue kills creativity, as well as relationships).

Eating well – rubbish in, rubbish out. We all know that plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and water keep us healthy and alert, so why do we go for the quick McDonalds fix and expect our bodies and mind to perform for us?

Taking regular exercise. Again, use it or lose it; our body is our transportation vehicle, and a whole lot more besides – we don’t get to trade it in for a new one when we’ve abused this one.

Make time in your schedule for relaxation – take some downtime, where you don’t have to achieve anything, but simply slow down and enjoy. Take a relaxing bath, wander in the woods, stroke your cat or dog – whatever slows your heartbeat and relaxes you.

Finally, don’t forget to have fun – nothing recharges the batteries like a really good belly laugh and connecting with others for no useful purpose beyond the activity itself.

If you would like to become a more resilient person arrange to have a chat and a coffee with Fran McArthur (07789 520205) or sign up for our Resilience – Fitness Training for Business Leaders workshop.



Article by Fran McArthur from Your Ideal Business Partner. Fran has been a successful business growth coach since 2009 and has helped business leaders to expand their businesses fourfold, while experiencing less stress. She also runs a number of training workshops and is a non-executive director

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