MatchFit Methodology

MatchFit Testimonial

An Interview with the Governor of HMP Send

The MatchFit CLIMB programme has proven to be extremely successful in environments that, by their nature, have high levels of challenge. In this interview as part of our ongoing series with clients, we talked to Mark Creaven, the Governor of HMP Send, about his impressions of the programme, and why he has commissioned a second CLIMB for his SLT.

Mark has worked in the prison service for almost 25 years. Having started as a prison officer in 2000, he became an operational manager in 2009; Deputy Governor in 2014, before moving into roles at HQ. He was appointed as Governor of HMP Send in December 2021.

What were the challenges that existed when you joined?

“When I joined the prison, the first CLIMB programme had already started. It’s fair to say that engagement probably wasn’t as good as it could have been. There was a lack of attention to it, due to the challenges being faced in a pandemic and trying to run the daily regime. At the time, there was a disconnection within the teams so their initial buy-in was not as good as it could have been. My priorities for Send and the programme were about quickly building middle management capability and in the last three months of the CLIMB. We started to see some real progress and achieved some good successes. When we had the evaluation at the end of the programme, I could really see the value.”

What was it that you think changed attitudes and made the difference?

“I think it was selling the success of the programme and focusing on the achievements it delivered. For example, the process for managing attendance dramatically improved and I started to see managers progressing cases correctly in line with policy. In previous roles, one thing I’ve always done, certainly with HR practices, is ensure that managers ‘own it’. It’s for the senior teams to manage their functions and all the HR within it. So, my messaging around that, with the help of MatchFit, resulted in middle managers being supported in focusing more on their roles and the challenges therein. I’d say 95% of them really accepted it!”

What persuaded you to commission another CLIMB for this year?

“I’ve got a very good, engaged Band 5 and 6 team, who are very forward-thinking, but they needed this support to help build capability; some were new into role, so this program assisted them in understanding and executing all elements of their role. I could see people growing in confidence; I could see ownership of cases. But we were very early on in the process at the end of the last CLIMB, in being able to completely succeed and demonstrate full compliance with everything that we wanted from them. Another CLIMB was an opportunity to reinforce and strengthen what we needed to do in the prison.

My SLT also changed. Three members of my SLT moved, and my focus for this year was therefore to build the team. The investment was very much around the continuation of progress with my middle managers and supporting them in supporting their team, and also managing the expectations around them as well.”

What behaviours have you seen change?

“Taking personal responsibility. Historically, the norm has been to push issues up to the senior team; to get a problem off the desk and give it to a senior manager to deal with. This was probably because of a lack of confidence in being able to actually do the required actions. But having to deal with these day-to-day issues as well was overwhelming the senior team. So, the CLIMB has given middle managers the awareness that they need to take that responsibility, which they’ve been able to do because we’ve given them the tools and built their capability.”

Has the appetite for tackling challenges increased?

“Very much so. They’ve really grown into it. But for that to happen, you have to get the messaging right – when managing people, communication is really important. You’ve got to make people feel part of it. Giving them the tools and building their capability needs to happen alongside the messaging that ‘you’re a really important cog in the HMP Send machine’.”

Do you have an example of a particularly positive outcome?

“Firstly, the attendance management process has been a real success. When I arrived, the processes were really poor, and the cases weren’t being managed adequately. I can say that today, for every absence we have, we know exactly where we are: we know the journey, what’s required, and we’re managing them effectively to a conclusion, whatever that may be.

A second example is around the engagement with frontline staff. So, again, when I arrived at Send, our attrition rate was about 18%. Feedback from staff was that in their time at Send they hadn’t spoken to or had a conversation with their line manager. So, what we’ve done is insist that we, as managers, will meet with our staff every two months in an informal way and just ask how they are; just support them around their day-to-day. There were a couple of managers who were resistant to this, who didn’t see the value, but the feedback from the staff has been overwhelming. The staff now know who their line manager is, they feel that they have a voice, and the attrition has reduced from 18% to 8%! They feel they’re being communicated with and are valued.

I’m seeing staff start to think about their longevity at Send and the wider HMP. Having those supported meetings with them, identifying those future stars and future leaders, and having those conversations, is helping them navigate their next steps through the organisation.

Even thinking short-term, looking to gain promotion to that next step on the ladder, it’s not that they’re just an officer, or a Band 3 admin who is just doing their day-to-day, we’re encouraging people to think about the next journey for themselves. Because HMBPs bring us lots of opportunity. It’s about making sure that managers are having supportive conversations and listening to the staff member about what they want, and then they can help them. Just asking ‘are you OK?’ is really important.”

Culture change takes time, but are you feeling a shift?

“We’ve had a really good staff to prisoner relationship that’s been formed over many years. But where I’ve noticed a change is around the support of our new staff coming in.

What engaging with the staff has achieved, alongside the CLIMB, is that it’s repositioned a mindset. Regardless of the relative challenges of the place new staff have come from, what they feel is real. It’s about supporting them regardless of how you feel because of your own personal experience. That doesn’t mean what someone experiences day-to-day isn’t affecting them; isn’t affecting their mental health and affecting them coming into work.

That ‘How are you? How can we help?’ after difficult days or fallouts with colleagues, having a manager that’s approachable, has reduced a lot of those challenges around people’s mental wellbeing. There were a lot of mental health-related absences when I arrived, but we have seen an improvement in these cases. That managerial support has certainly contributed, but I think it’s also about making sure that staff are supported by their colleagues, too.

What CLIMB has done is to provide a range of tools for my staff and my managers to apply locally. It’s given them the investment they needed, which, from recent feedback, some who have been at Send a long time have never experienced. We’ve invested in them to be better, and they’ve risen to that. And that, to me, is where success has started to come.”

The CLIMB programme is a mix of interventions, group sessions and one-to-ones. Do you think this has contributed to the success?

“Definitely. I think it’s especially that bit around independence. I had a one-to-one with our MatchFit Consultant Catharine in the first quarter of this year and found the process really thought-provoking. It also gives the staff member a confidential forum in which to talk about themselves: what their challenges are; what their development needs are; what they need to do better, without their line manager being there to assess and challenge. It’s that important debrief time just to focus on what things have been like for them.

The last two and a half years have been challenging for everybody through the pandemic, but I have the utmost admiration for my staff who get up every morning and come to work, without fail, and do their job, despite the challenges and risks to their own health. They’re incredible.

I think we haven’t focused enough on how that’s affected everybody. I think we’re probably still running a little bit on adrenaline. So having MatchFit partnering with us has given us time to think, to go away and reflect. I think it was perfect timing for Send and perfect timing for my managers. It’s been really thought-provoking for them, but around the good news stories, not the bad ones.”

What will be the next steps to build on this foundation?

“I was thinking about this as I was driving home the other night, and it hit me between the eyes – it’s about opening the ‘too difficult to do’ boxes. It’s about taking ownership, and that’s what I’m going to focus on at the prison next.

Send is in a really good place now, but there are still challenges, that previously may have not been the right time to address. There are some things that go on sometimes because they have become ingrained; whether that’s inappropriate behaviour, or somebody just not performing to the required standards. I know we can resolve it with the appropriate support and guidance to those who need it. As managers, we need to manage and support our staff to return the prison back to a normal operating prison. If something’s broken, how do we fix it? If it’s difficult, we’re not going to fix it tomorrow – it may take six months, but let’s put those plans in place to do it. Once we do that, Send will be an incredible prison.

The MatchFit CLIMB has been a super intervention. How it’s pitched, how the MatchFit team engage and allow people to speak up and out— (and there have been some very strong voices at times)—has been incredible. They’ve seen lots of disgruntlement, lots of people who’ve had some difficult weeks, months, years, and to be able to turn all the negative into such a positive has been really quite an astonishing achievement.”

An Interview with Consultant Tim Forman

Having spent 16 years as a freelance management consultant, Tim was looking for a new challenge when he came upon MatchFit. We asked him about the experience he has gained over his career and how partnering with MatchFit has proved to be the perfect fit.

An experienced trainer, coach, facilitator and management consultant, Tim’s initial career choice was actually teaching.

How did your career begin?

“I trained as a teacher,” he explains. “But those were the days when teaching jobs were hard to find, so I decided to move into sales, which I loved. I worked in financial services sales and management, in leadership and national leadership.”

However, when he was made redundant 18 years ago, he felt it was time for a change in direction.

“When I was made redundant, it gave me a chance to reflect and think, ‘What would I like to be doing next?’. I’d met one or two people at various events, working on their own in training, coaching and management consulting and I thought, ‘I’m going to give that a try’.”

Tim utilised the skills gained during his time within financial services and banking to train and advise companies across the financial services sector.

“The demand from businesses was varied” he explains. “From sales skills to management skills, leadership and coaching, development skills and then products, I’d often be brought in as part of a wider team to support learning around particular products or systems.”

He also worked with SMEs on core business skills to support their aspirations for growth.

“For SMEs, I was delivering a wide range of support to enterprises keen on growing their businesses, such as managing cash flow and debt, and developing the business. I would arrange sessions around networking, for example. I also had some specific coaching work.”

Tim has always believed in the importance of his own personal development to enhance his client role and qualified as a Level Seven coach through the Chartered Management Institute in 2009.

“I’d done a lot of coaching in my financial services leadership and management work. As my freelance business grew, I felt it was important to gain appropriate qualifications, such as the Diploma in Financial Planning, which is essential for those working in financial services. I was constantly looking out for things that I could add to my skill set.”

How did you come to work with MatchFit?

“I was looking for a new opportunity in 2020 and MatchFit posted that they were looking for facilitators. I contacted them, spoke to Emily Courtney, who introduced me to Bradley, and then I was introduced to the company’s connections in the Civil Service.

Initially my work was with the Probation Service, HM’s Courts and Tribunals Service and a private sector company. I then went on to work with the Prison Service across four establishments.”

What are you working on now?

“This year, I’ve been working with the Department for Education, and on a number of programmes for the Official Solicitor and Public Trustee. I’m also working with Civil Service HR Casework and, earlier in the year, continued my work with the Prison Service.

In addition, with a private sector client, I am delivering a Leadership and Management Programme for MatchFit of six modules over a number of months, and that will run into next year.”

Tell us about the MatchFit CLIMB High Performance Teams programme you’re facilitating

Tim explains. “If you imagine a senior leadership team, wanting to develop and embed high performance, their goal is to get everyone pulling in the same direction, including the wider management team.

For the whole team to be high performing, it’s all about culture. It is very much about valuing their people, working with their people, and we support them to do that, whilst helping to identify sustainable solutions to issues identified that may block performance.”

He continues: “So it’s about identifying with people, what actions they can commit to, and how committed they are to doing those actions. How they’re going to know they’re delivering, and how they’re going to measure outcomes. And that’s how you begin to measure change. You start measuring both in terms of people’s learning, but also very importantly, in terms of their behaviour. A fantastic example of a public sector area in the Civil Service who absolutely embraced the programme, driven by their senior leadership team, is the work with the Official Solicitor and Public Trustee. The programme was not without some behavioural and historic cultural challenges to overcome, but it has worked exceptionally well.”

Have you experienced any unexpected benefits?

“I have been working with MatchFit for over two years now and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. It is great work, and they are great people to work with.

I have found the work fascinating, challenging, interesting. It’s also quite liberating, because when you go into prison, you can’t take your phone. The removal of your phone means you are temporarily cut off from parts of modern life. You cannot check your emails, for instance.

You quickly get to know about the prison culture, because before you go anywhere you need to prepare. You find out what you can and can’t do. For instance, if you want to take a laptop in, it needs to be registered in advance.”

He adds: “The culture is very hierarchical in prisons, and like a large part of the Civil Service, grade is an important thing.

You are working with senior leadership teams. HMP Bure is a good example of running a three-stage CLIMB where they committed to actions, and they have delivered on actions during that CLIMB. And they continue to deliver, after that CLIMB’s conclusion. As a result of the programme, they’re no longer saying, ‘we’re going to do 20 things’. If you try to do 20 things, you’ll probably do none, because you’re overwhelmed. If you start with two or three and then add another two or three things and you’re committed to them, then you are more likely to achieve your aims. Witnessing these outcomes is very rewarding.“

What is it you particularly enjoy about the work?

“The phenomenological methodology is something that I love and embrace,” he says. “And it’s been a lot of learning for me, because it is so different. But I think once it clicks, you can clearly see the rationale for the steps you are taking.

“I have found the CLIMB programmes tremendous to work on because they are proven to succeed; they do bring measurable results.”

Finally, how do you enjoy your downtime?

“Outside of MatchFit and work, I keep busy with my family, and my support for Newcastle United. Living close to the Yorkshire Dales, I’m a keen walker – the reward of finding a good pub is incentive enough!”

Tim is also in demand as an events speaker.

“I do not see it as work, as, like work, I enjoy it,” he explains. “I speak to clubs and societies and I’m now speaking at events and dinners, which I thoroughly enjoy. But you have to be well-prepared. You don’t want to be in front of a room of 300 people and all of a sudden you think ‘oh my gosh, what am I going to say next? “

Tim also uses the opportunity to raise money for a charity close to his heart – the Leeds-based Candlelighters Children’s Cancer charity, in memory of a family friend who was supported by the charity some years ago.

“When I’m speaking, the fee goes to the charity. I like that because it’s a win-win. I get to speak, the organisation gets a speaker and the charity receives some much-needed funds.”

Back to Blog

CLIMB Case Study: Building a high-performing global team

In this case study, we describe the challenges faced by a leading Financial Services provider, and how the MatchFit CLIMB model was used to deliver the objective of building a culture of trust and positive team relationships.


Managing a virtual global team of 40 people presents many challenges, even for an experienced leader. The Head of Marketing managed a team of very capable individuals working globally, but there were a number of ingrained behaviours across the team that needed to be addressed.

Lack of face-to-face interaction, together with working across cultures, time zones and with different nationalities created challenges that were difficult to manage. This resulted in mistrust among team members, a lack of team identity, poor collaboration and communication, and not having a sense of control over the collective agenda.

Aware that there were some complex personalities in their leadership team, the Head of Marketing recognised this as an opportunity to develop the team further. She sought a professional development solution that would enhance trust and drive increased collaboration and high performance at an individual and team level.


MatchFit’s expertise in working with global and virtual teams meant we were able to create a bespoke programme (CLIMB – Building a High Performing Global Team) that would deliver against defined success criteria:

  • Engender a sense of trust among the team by exploring and resolving issues
  • Support the development of a team identity which embraces the dynamic of ‘I have your back’
  • Explore individual and team collaboration and identify measurable progression
  • Ensure control and governance over the collective agenda
  • Develop commitment, intensity and motivation towards the above objectives through a development pathway.


Due to the virtual nature of the team, some of the sessions were conducted remotely and materials were available through a cloud platform. The marketing leadership team followed the three-phase MatchFit Development Pathway over a two-year period, which ensured careful analysis, design, delivery and measurement.

No alt text provided for this image


Working with senior leaders and the wider team 

  • Focused on the ‘Identify’ and ‘Innovate’ phases which included:
  • Base Camp team workshop
  • Online survey
  • Interviews with managers and team individuals, including reflective feedback
  • Development of bespoke training modules.

Base Camp team workshop

A face-to-face offsite workshop for 40 people focused on the challenges and good practice of working in global and virtual teams. It generated conversations around some of the challenges and focused on what the team could do to move forward in order to build trust, identity, collaboration and gain a sense of control.

Online Survey

Post Base Camp, we conducted an online survey across the whole team, asking a series of questions relating to:

  • Their objectives and the challenges they thought were blockers to success
  • What support they might need to unlock those challenges
  • What development they might need to take them to the next level of maturity in their career.

Interviews with managers and team individuals, including reflective feedback

A series of interviews at a senior leader and team level were carried out to dig even deeper. This helped identify individuals’ development areas and we were able to reflect back what their line manager thought they were, to see if they were aligned.

Development of training modules

Based on all the research and feedback gained, we designed 10 training modules that could be delivered virtually to address the key development areas that had been identified. Examples included: building trust, collaboration and your role, developing your leadership style, black box thinking etc.


Working with the senior leadership team

Based on the ‘Initiate’ phase of the MatchFit Development Pathway, the key areas of focus below were agreed with the aim of strengthening relationships, collaboration and communication. In particular, unlocking tension between specific individuals within the team was also highlighted as an objective:

  • Leadership team dynamics
  • Individuals within it and their styles
  • Supporting the team through change.

This was delivered through:

  • Leadership team group sessions – setting personal commitments to change
  • One to one coaching including targeted development work with individuals to address behaviours that impact negatively on the team dynamic
  • Sensitive coaching and intervention work with individuals at a lower and more senior level to unlock tensions.


“A lot of the time, this kind of support feels like a ‘nice to have’ when you have a certain amount of budget for CPD. But what I would say now, going into year three, it has to be there. It’s enormously helpful to me as a leader and the people on my team. I don’t think we would want to do without this support. The coaching support I received has helped me navigate some of the complex personalities in my team who all demand a different approach.” Head of Marketing

The impact of CLIMB – Building a High Performing Global Team has been a success story for the Marketing team. The Head of Marketing has seen a dramatic difference across all of the team and in some individuals in particular. In the 2018 company Employee Survey, the marketing team’s Leadership Survey results were the best in the whole business by quite some measure and better than the ‘Best in Class’ external benchmark.

The programme leader and coach, was viewed as an external sounding board and ‘critical friend’ who helped team members focus on their goals and put strategies in place to address their development needs. The Head of Marketing was able to gain an external and independent view of their team.

In relation to the objectives set out at the beginning of the programme, success can be demonstrated in all areas:

Engender a sense of trust among the team by exploring and resolving issues

  • A significant shift is now evident regarding the level of trust within the team. Individuals are instantly more open and honest with each other about ‘work stuff’, so issues can be resolved before they escalate.
  • The team are now more open about sharing accountability across some of the delivery areas and less protective of their ‘turf’
  • The Head of Marketing has gained more trust with their team by empowering staff to manage the agenda on projects.

Support the development of a team identity which embraces the dynamic of ‘I have your back’

  • Most team members have ‘dusted off their sharp edges’ and are now demonstrating collective trust and accountability across marketing projects relating to a number of vendors and internal stakeholders.

To explore individual and team collaboration and identify measurable progression in this area

  • Three team members working together on the customer experience agenda have demonstrated great collaboration, trust and accountability which is delivering benefits to their customers.
  • As a result of the personal one-to-one coaching and intervention work, one individual has made the biggest change in their approach and behaviour, unlocking tensions within the team which has been noticed by the Executive team.

Ensure control and governance over the collective agenda

  • The one-to-one coaching sessions were extremely helpful in enabling team members to have a private space to talk about what was stopping them from doing/achieving certain things, and this has been helpful in guiding the collective agenda.

“There are a lot of facilitators and coaches who run programmes, but Bradley builds trust and engagement. He is not superior towards people, he comes down to people’s levels and that openness is what leads to results. People are not scared of being vulnerable with him – he is independent and not part of a big organisation” Head of Marketing

Do you have a team challenge we can help with?

Please contact Bradley Honnor:

EMAIL: TEL: +44 (0)20 3145 0580

Bradley Honnor talks NatWest and how great it is to see a large organisation supporting a small business

With MatchFit’s strong NatWest partnership flourishing, the end is in sight for the development of an online training app that will not only prove hugely beneficial to organisations looking for inclusivity across their employee base, but has also been used as a mechanism to retrain at-risk staff at the bank.

“The idea of creating an online app for the MatchFit programme came about because of that need for inclusivity,” says managing director and MatchFit owner Bradley. “If you’re going to develop a high-performing culture, and want to engender culture and values that everyone can buy into, understand and play their part in, you really need the right tools to do that.”

With MatchFit’s typical client profile being well in excess of 200 staff members, highly inclusive face-to-face programmes can take significant time and resources to implement successfully. 

“The app is a way to bring some of what we do face-to-face to a wider population whilst keeping the content tailored and unique for each individual.”

Accessibility is key and the app will allow participants to consume content that is relevant to them in their own time, in bite-sized chunks. The high-flexibility infrastructure will also enable a client organisation to select what subjects are available to which groups, so the training can be very tailored, yet with everybody being involved and having their own specific journey.

“NatWest’s agenda was to reskill and redeploy a number of at-risk staff into IT roles. And for them to work on a live project of this complexity from start to (almost) finish has been fantastic,” said Bradley. “In the process, NatWest has been able to support my small business, which I personally think is a brilliant thing to do and something larger companies should do more of.”

The app in action

“One of the things I think the app does very well is enable measurement. Managers can see how far their team members have transitioned through their personal development journeys and that’s incredibly useful,” Bradley continued.

With the app driving users to content they need to know more about, managers can see metrics on individual journeys. This provides insight into what developments are necessary for teams and how far each member has progressed.

“The app has been built such that any content can be added, so it’s really flexible, right from the top to bottom. Clients can use the tool to address any concerns their particular organisation has,” he concluded.


Ready to ‘go’?

“Right now we’re in a position to go completely end-to-end. So we’ve got all of the content in for the CLIMB with GRIT programme as proof of concept, and clients can start right at the beginning—at Basecamp—and work all the way through to the summit,” according to Bradley.

With the main functionality up and working, including the ability to see where you are in the journey and what you’ve completed, the MatchFit team needed to convert content that was used in a face-to-face environment to work online.

“Now that we’ve been through that difficult process once, we know exactly what the developers need so uploading content for subsequent modules will be that much easier,” said Bradley.

In fact, implementing a technical solution for a non-technical team has been a challenge for MatchFit.

“There were lots of iterations of the content and lots of backs and forth with quite a few lessons learned. But we started to work pretty effectively as the project went on,” said Bradley. “I think what we’ve ended up with is very innovative and market leading, and it’s been great to work with such a supportive partner in NatWest all the way through.”

A forward-thinking reskilling project with NatWest

There is no doubt that technology-driven changes to working practices can cut business operational costs, increase efficiency and deliver incredible benefits to customers. However, this can come at the cost of employment as automation replaces jobs, and the loss of intangible human skills and knowledge built up by employees over many years of experience.

This has been an area of focus for the NatWest Group, where a number of employees were at risk of redundancy due to the closure of branches and increasing digitisation of functions. The Group were interested in testing whether some of these employees could be reskilled and redeployed as software engineers within the organisation, thereby avoiding the loss of talented staff with customer-facing knowledge, as well as supporting staff at a difficult time. The third phase of this reskilling programme—and the point at which MatchFit became involved—entailed developing a suite of learning resources via an app, to develop the software engineering skills of the reskillers.

Heading up this project on behalf of the bank was Damian Sellers, Head of Tech/Change Workforce Capability at NatWest Group. We spoke to him about the project, whether he thinks it’s been successful, and what it means for the future.

Firstly, we asked Damian how and why he became involved.

“My role involved heading up the tech capability stream of our workforce enablement in our services space. Services in NatWest covers a broad area, but it comprises most of the system support functions; so mainly tech and change. It employs 30,000 people—half the bank—and what we were trying to do is look at what today’s skills are, and then, in this rapidly changing world around us, what skills would be needed in the future and what the gap will be.

Banks are also changing massively and instead of being these big grey monoliths, we are all trying our best to be agile, digitally savvy, and digital-based across everything we do. Everything is changing around us and the workforce needs to change too.  

NatWest are a purpose-led bank as well. That’s the strategy under new CEO, Alison Rose, the first ever female CEO of a ‘big four’ bank. Climate, enterprise and learning are the focus of our purpose, which is to champion the potential of people, families and businesses.

What we were looking at in our capability stream was ‘how can we align everything so that we’re doing the right thing for our people’, because NatWest don’t want to be a bank that hires and fires.  They want to take the talent out of those parts of the organisation where roles are being automated or digitalised and retrain those people.

So one thing we did, amongst others, is to pilot an upskilling programme. We invited at-risk colleagues—people that had already been told they were going to be made redundant— to apply for one of 20 software engineering training places.

Applicants were assessed and interviewed, and then the successful candidates became a cohort of 20 to be reskilled into software engineering roles within the bank. It’s quite an investment for the bank, because it takes roughly nine months to train people and place them in the businesses. We started with a three-month software engineering bootcamp, which trained them in the fundamentals of software engineering, then another three months of self-led tailored learning, with access to learning materials. Then crucially—and this is where MatchFit came in—we also suggested the idea of the reskillers actually doing a builder project.

A builder project is a recognised term within this kind of learning space and within technology. In this instance, it was to work on an external application build for one of our customers on a ‘no regrets’ basis. So essentially our customer, MatchFit, potentially benefits from the app build, and the bank gets a risk-free training area to test the project participants’ skills and develop their confidence.”

What have been the outcomes?

“The actual outcome is that the reskillers have been brilliant. They’ve built the app, with full front to back coverage and it is going to be great!

There have been some terrific stories! I would get a presentation from the reskilling cohort every week, where they reported on what they’d done; how the sprints went. There are some amazing stories, and for some this has been life changing. People have been really worried about the way forward, but we had no age cap on the project and some people in their 50s have taken the plunge and decided to try and re skill as a software engineer, which I think is so brave!

And now the bank also benefits from the fact that all of these customer-savvy people who know the products, know the customers, demonstrate great behaviours and are about to be deployed into the mix with quite a homogenised group of software engineers. In general, this is still male-dominated, still very tech-focussed, they’re all come from the same STEM university background. We’ve added in some people with very different backgrounds and that is really going to shake things up in a positive way!”

How does the app work?

“The MatchFit CLIMB model itself starts with a review across all the workforce which looks at ‘how good are you at: commitment, leadership, intensity, motivation and belief’. There are similar lenses for the HUMAN and TEAM models as well. This is explored via a questionnaire, produced as an analysis and then recommendations can be made according to any issues highlighted, with the appropriate intervention delivered. This is usually done face-to-face, with whiteboards, and people in a room.

The task was to translate this to an app. We coded it so that teams can be set up within the app, team members can answer all those questions in the app and grade themselves one to 10 on the answers.  It then produces a result and gives tailored learning based on any development areas, in all of those different categories. A matrix calculates which learning content a person should be directed to according to their score, and that content might be a video, recommended reading or a task.

There’s also a manager view, so a manager can get an anonymised aggregate score for their team in each of those categories within the CLIMB, HUMAN, or TEAM model. That manager can then see whether there is an area of weakness, and MatchFit can be called in to do some targeted leadership training, for example.”

What have been the challenges?

“The matrix is quite a complex algorithm to actually figure out – it’s really intermediate training rather than beginner. So the challenge was whether our trainee software engineers could build something that was getting more and more sophisticated. There were the security elements of it, as well as things from a functional perspective, such as password resets, and ‘what happens if I want to take someone out of my team; someone leaves; I add someone to the team? How does someone actually get access to the application in the first place?’  

It was also a challenge for me, in a small team, and I had to ensure I could translate the MatchFit brief accurately, and consider all the complex technical scenarios.”     

What would you consider a successful outcome from this project?

 “From a NatWest perspective, a successful outcome is that their reskillers benefit from it. If they’ve learnt key skills, keep their skills fresh and develop themselves through building this app, then that’s all I really care about. There would be a sense of pride for them, however, if it goes live and they can log on as a user and see what they built.


Although the cohort are now being placed in their new business units across the bank, they will continue to work on the MatchFit for a minimum of 30% of their time for at least another three months, because they won’t all start coding straight away due to the critical nature of the systems they’ll be working on.

The internal goodwill that was generated off the back of this has been fantastic. NatWest CEO Alison Rose heard about what we were doing, and sent each of our reskillers a personal email. The feedback was great – everyone recognises that it’s brilliant that the bank is supporting their people in this way, and it aligns with NatWest’s strategy and focus.

It’s not been without cost, but measured against the financial—and human—costs of redundancy, it has proven to be a very sound investment.”

When Team Opinions Divide

One of the key themes that emerged from our recent interview with MatchFit consultant Alison Phelan was how much divergence of opinion there could be within a team during the initial research and analysis phase of a MatchFit programme. Whether it’s thoughts on the culture; day-to-day experiences; or leadership, there are often wide-ranging opinions. 

Even within the individual there can be conflict – a person might absolutely love their job, and yet still have strong criticisms about things that they perceive to be going wrong.

This is actually fairly typical and illustrates just how complex company culture can be. It’s also why the phenomenological element is really important, because we can all experience a culture completely differently from one another, and even that is fluid.

“Do you like your job” may seem like a binary question, but actually, it’s more complicated than that. There may be aspects of my job that I enjoy, and others I find challenging or frustrating. But that might also depend on my frame of mind at the time.

Within any team, there will be polarities and that’s why we look at group dynamics. Because it’s a dynamic, it moves and changes, and that’s OK. That phenomenological aspect addresses this by looking quite literally at the here and now. There are similarities with what I often found in my psychotherapy work: an individual could be really consumed by a particular issue one week, and yet by the next session it wasn’t as important anymore. This was either because something else had taken priority, they felt differently about it, or had worked it through.

So it’s really important to think about the sort of assumptions that we might make, how they would impact the conversations we have, and how this will steer those conversations and the types of questions we might ask. Part of the skill of the facilitators, when we move on from the analysis phase, is to navigate those ever-changing dynamics for the individual and group. We look at how the individual can move towards having more of those components that they’re satisfied with, more often, and then how the team can unify themselves with a shared direction and joint objectives. We also have to appreciate that this is not always going to be cohesive, comfortable and positive for everyone all the time.  That’s the definition of dynamic.

The first thing a leader needs to do to help address some of these issues is to recognise individual experience, and not make assumptions about how someone should be experiencing the culture, and therefore categorising people into groups.  The most effective way to get to the bottom of what’s happening is by listening to the experiences people are having, but not asking leading questions to direct those conversations.

For example, in designing in a survey for a certain programme, we were asked why we hadn’t referred to a certain category of people and their experiences specifically. This was interesting, because there were many different identities of people that we weren’t asking about. Our response was that if those employees were experiencing the culture in a negative way specifically because of membership of that category, then this would be emerging organically, without bias, in the conversations.

Ultimately, it’s all about ‘how do you impact on the individual experience of people, their interpretation of their environment and culture, and how do you then collectively deliver across teams to try and unify people’s working alliances?’.

That isn’t really happening as much as I believe it should.

MatchFit Interview Series – Sarah Castle and Janet Peel, Ministry of Justice

The professional development of employees can be a sizeable financial commitment for organisations, and it is all too easy for budgets to be spent on short-term benefits that quickly fade away. Core to our MatchFit values, we work in partnership with our clients to facilitate the development process that drives real change, and empowers participants to embed this change in organisational culture.

As part of our ongoing series of interviews with clients and participants of our MatchFit CLIMB programme, we spoke to Sarah Castle – Official Solicitor and Public Trustee and Janet Peel – Deputy Public Trustee & Head of Operations and Private Office, of the Offices of the Official Solicitor and Public Trustee (an Arm’s length Body of the Ministry of Justice) about their experiences of this process so far.

What were the challenges that you were facing before working with the MatchFit and HRCT consultancy team?

Sarah: Janet and I have felt for some time that as a senior leadership team, we needed to start thinking cohesively as a unit, instead of in silos. We wanted to maximise our potential in working together as an SLT, so that was certainly a primary motivation. We have a lot of people who manage others in the OSPT (Official Solicitor and Public Trustee) team, with a lot of staff progressing up through the grades system. I wanted us to really help our managers to manage performance, guide progression, and have a better, more informed, understanding of what management actually means; how to manage difficult conversations et cetera. So it was both a senior leadership piece and also an opportunity for the general management and leadership path that we have for staff.

We felt lucky to be chosen for the MatchFit CLIMB project, as we know that not everyone has yet been offered it within the MoJ. Janet and I really grabbed it with both hands and wanted to maximise the input. We have genuinely loved and benefited from it – we’ve engaged with Bradley (Honnor) and Tim (Foreman) from MatchFit and we’re making real progress. Some of it has challenged us! We’ve used MatchFit as a sounding board, and been provided with really helpful feedback and advice. They’ve challenged us to push our vision through, and given us the confidence to move it forward.

We work closely with Tim and feel that because of his experience, he’s able manage things in quite a subtle and sensitive way, which has been of real value. He has great emotional intuition – some of our challenges are not straight forward, and he’s navigated this really well!

I don’t think we would have made that progress in quite the same way, at the pace we have, without that support and intervention from MatchFit.

Janet:  I agree – I think one of the big challenges has been around our vision and moving the organisation towards that and how it needs to be. A real sticking point was the fact that even at  SLT level, we were having difficulty moving forward and getting on board with the vision collectively. So to have this opportunity has been invaluable. We’ve had two of the CLIMB sessions so far, and there was a tangible shift in mindset from the first to the second. It feels like we’re making progress, and I don’t think we would have made that progress in quite the same way, at the pace we have, without that support and intervention from MatchFit.

So what changes have you seen?

The language has changed

Sarah: Our senior leadership team is partly made up of senior operational staff and partly senior lawyers. They are very different in terms of experience and approach! I think one of the changes I’ve seen is that there has been more receptiveness to seeing matters through a different perspective, and a move away from thinking that if someone is having a hard time, it’s purely their problem. I’m seeing a shift to a more supportive and understanding circle of colleagues. It’s hard work to get to that, but I really think we are making head road.

Janet: The language has changed as well – what was really interesting at the last CLIMB session was that there was a lot more talk in terms of ‘we’ rather than ‘me’ and ‘my team’. That was a nice shift and I was really pleased to hear it.

Was there a pivotal moment that you could identify where you could say ‘this is actually making a difference’?

A relationship of trust has developed

Sarah: We have had a crisis in our work, to be honest, and as a result of that we had to have some very difficult conversations. The result of those conversations has been a positive shift. It wasn’t an anticipated crisis and it was painful at the time, but I think, now we’re coming out of it a little, it’s moved us on a lot in terms of relationships.

Janet: It has – but that is with the support of Tim and his colleagues. They really waded in to provide that assistance.

Sarah: They did – Janet and I trialled our plan with them and they said, ‘there’s nothing in there that doesn’t make sense’. They gave us the confidence and the push to go for it, which we did. They also helped in the background, having conversations with colleagues who had been affected by the plan and providing that independent support.

What’s happened subsequently is that a relationship of trust has developed, and I think that has enabled team members to be quite open and honest about what they’re feeling. There’s been this confidential sounding board that plays back what they’re saying and pushes them in the right direction, in a non-confrontational way. So I think this has helped a lot. This combination of interventions has moved us on, and some of it is quite subtle. I’m a bit worried for when the framework disappears!

I think you have to commit to the programme, there’s no point doing it half-heartedly. To do that, to buy into it and to trust the process, the personalities involved are really important. If you gel with the consultants who are chosen to work with you, then it’s a win-win. It feels as if there is a lot of science behind the programme. When you’re dealing with highly experienced professionals, the consultants also have to have experience and professional depth to work with them. Participants need to be challenged – they are in a position of leadership, and while Janet and I can keep reiterating the point, having that external professional presence has made a big difference.

How do you see the relationship developing?

I would have the consultancy here indefinitely

Sarah: We want to consolidate the progress we’ve made, and push it as far as we can go within the life of the programme. I would have the MatchFit and HRTC consultancy here indefinitely. I think we would really benefit from having ongoing input, because I’m hoping that over time, the senior leadership composition will change and there will be new faces, new ideas and more diversity in the leadership group.

Why would you recommend MatchFit?

It’s been one of the best things we’ve ever done.

Janet: The flexibility that they’ve shown has been a big factor for me, because we have been able to bounce ideas around with Tim, David and the others, and we hadn’t expected necessarily to have them as informal advisers. They were really happy to be responsive to our needs and flexible about what being on the programme meant for us.

Sarah: I’ve also been very impressed with how they’ve taken the time to really understand our business. You can’t work effectively with people if you don’t understand what they do, and they’ve really taken the time to do that. Because of that, it’s developed a trust and a respect that has truly helped senior colleagues buy into the process.

It’s been one of the best things we’ve ever done.

Janet: Without a shadow of a doubt. Especially given how short a time we’ve been on the programme so far – just six months. And of course the first three months really are about interrogating the data and getting information to inform the rest of the programme, so we’ve actually only been doing this in a meaningful way for three months. What we’ve derived from that three months has just been so impressive!

Sarah: Yes! And MatchFit don’t dictate to you, they work with you, and I think that’s really important. They want to set realistic goals with you. I found the analysis they did at the beginning and the report that they produced, holding a mirror up to our service, both a scary place to be and fascinating at the same time.

We will use that information, all of it, good and bad. It got under the skin of our organisation in a way that other interventions haven’t.  

I found it personally very supportive and I don’t want them to go! I don’t think you can make a better recommendation than that. I can see a place for them indefinitely as part of our ongoing leadership and management training. 

Alison Phealn

An Interview with new Consultant Alison Phelan

A recent addition to the team, Alison Phelan has a background and degree in Educational Research, which is proving very useful in the 360 Analysis element of her work with MatchFit.

We asked her about her background, her impressions of the MatchFit programme, and how her skills add value to the offer.

“I’ve worked in a number of management and professional roles in further and higher education in relation to workplace learning across a wide variety of industry sectors. Much of this involved engaging with employers in developing responsive training and development programmes. In order to build relationships and support the delivery of training, I had to become quite adept at quickly tuning into each industry’s unique challenges, developmental needs and culture. This experience has helped me, when interviewing people during the analysis stage, to understand and consider their comments within the context of the sector they are working within, their own workplace and their individual perspective.

Having experience of leading teams through restructures, evolving strategic aims and changing government priorities provides me with an insight into how we emotionally respond to change and uncertainty in the working environment. This has been very useful for my work at MatchFit, as I talk to a wide range of people throughout the analysis process, including managers and team leaders.

I started my career as a training assessor for government-funded vocational training programmes delivered by private training companies. The recipients included disadvantaged young people and adults who were very vulnerable and had a range of social problems and barriers to employment and further education.  I undertook a lot of one-to-one reviews and individual training plans with this group, some of whom were suffering from trauma and extreme anxiety.

Then for a couple of years I worked in recruitment, specialising in headhunting sales executives and managers within the IT and reprographic industry. This was for a small company that worked nationwide, so I got really good at doing remote interviews by telephone. I had to be able to draw out from potential candidates what they had achieved and the value they could bring to their next role.  

In my spare time I’m involved in supporting education and the NHS. I’ve recently been an advisor and one of the co-authors on an academic journal article which has just been accepted for publication in the British Journal of General Practice.”

How did you become aware of MatchFit?

“I met Bradley many years ago when I was consulting for a training company he was working for at the time. We kept in touch over the years, so when I was looking for some consultancy work recently I asked him if any of his clients might have something. He said that he was looking for someone to help with the MatchFit programme, so here I am!”

What do you think is different about the MatchFit approach?

“It is different from other kinds of staff development and leadership training because it doesn’t just provide a short-term solution. It’s a very personalised approach to each client and it’s a long-term proposition.

I also think that by involving staff at all levels, not just management, it provides a more inclusive way of working and a continual development framework. This supports improved performance and a better culture. A lot of training and development is about compliance; about the way things must be done.  The MatchFit model is more about developing a high-performing culture, and I just think it’s the right kind of offer for people right now. People are looking for something a bit different, that’s going to work long term. We’ve all seen staff development training programmes where someone comes in, delivers a great training session, and everybody goes back to their jobs fired up. But then nothing actually changes.

The way we work with our clients is via partnership, rather than the client just saying ‘here’s a problem, let’s pay someone to come in and make it go away’. The organisations we work with are really invested in the long-term vision of how the MatchFit model is going to work, how it’s going to be kept on track, revisiting it and checking in with the people involved. It’s a really good approach!”

MatchFit Consultants all come with unique skill sets. What does your experience bring to the programme?

“I think my experience of extensive one-to-one interviews and discussions with a wide range of people from different settings is extremely useful in this role. Often this has included sensitive information, which people have trusted me enough to share. Being able to accurately reflect in writing what has been said, whilst retaining both the important details and the anonymity of the person, is essential.”

Your work with MatchFit CLIMB involves the 360 Analysis – can you expand on this?  

“The 360 Analysis interview section is a range of open-ended questions which bring out people’s views about the culture and place where they work; about how they perceive their work within the team and how the team sees them. It also looks at how they feel about wellbeing within their organisation – is it good, bad, indifferent; are they supported? It examines perceptions of management and senior management and whether teams feel they are approachable; can they talk to them; do they feel respected by them.

There are also some questions about HR which are more about efficiency, and whether people are treated fairly and consistently. Clearly, it’s important that I ensure interviewees feel completely safe and comfortable talking to me, which is where my background comes in extremely useful. People need to feel assured that I’m conducting the interview from a position of absolute objectivity and will write it up in a way that is completely anonymous. People have been speaking very openly indeed about how they feel about certain issues, and it’s very interesting, as many of them have a lot to say, and there are some very different and mixed views!

This analysis is usually conducted after the organisation’s HR team have performed their own staff survey and analysis and reported their findings to us. Of course, what people will say to their organisation’s HR department might be the same, or slightly different to what they tell us. It’s important to get these two different views because then we can start to triangulate the findings and identify the similar themes and/or disparities.  One of our consultants will then speak to the Senior Leadership Team and see if their perceptions match what the staff are saying in terms of how things are run, how good or bad things are going.

I write up the analysis and include a number of the comments in order to give a balanced view and a feeling of what people are saying. I then make some recommendations for interventions that I feel the SLT would benefit from focussing on based on their short, medium and long-term goals. This is then added to the HR and Senior Leadership teams recommendations. The MatchFit CLIMB programme then starts from this point on.”

Have there been any surprising elements?

“What’s been surprising for me is that there can be such an assorted range of perceptions! Some people say everything about their job is absolutely fantastic, and then someone in the same department will give a completely different view.

What’s also very interesting is that people can have very mixed views within themselves – they might say everything is terrible; they never get to hear about anything; people don’t respect what their team does; and then in the same breath say ‘my job is the best job I’ve ever had, I love it!’ So there might be many reasons why they think their job is great, such as the camaraderie they have with the team, but on the other hand they’ll be listing all the things that are wrong, such as not having any resources.”

How do you see things progressing in the future?

“I’m really motivated by helping people, and for the work I do to help them fulfil their potential in both their organisation and their personal lives. People are more interested and aware now about emotional intelligence as well as just being good at specific elements of their job.

So I think the MatchFit approach is absolutely the right one for our times, and I look forward to helping build on this success.”

Wellbeing and the challenges for leadership

Wellbeing and the Challenges for Leadership

by Bradley Honnor

A topic that comes up frequently lately is how to make workplace wellbeing more than just a tick box exercise.

One of the issues at the forefront of this challenge for organisations is that we live in a commercial world. Our economic system is built around making money and long hours, which doesn’t necessarily fit naturally with the work-life balance. The complexity for a lot of businesses is that ultimately the goal is performance, so we want people working hard, engaged and smashing their targets.

Historically, we’ve associated hard work and long hours with commitment and performance; you could argue that someone like Elon Musk who’s worked extremely hard with really long days for many years—and insists on the same ethic from the people around him—has become successful and wealthy because of it. That obviously doesn’t take into account the personal sacrifice or the support system he must have had in place to achieve it, but the perception is still one of supreme success.

What’s come to light more recently, with more employees experiencing mental health concerns, is that there is a correlation between our physical and mental health, and our performance. There is evidence through psychology and neuroscience to suggest we think and perform better if we’re well-rested. There are lots of studies of athletes, for example, that show how performance and sleep are linked. There are even studies in the wider population which show that habitually sleeping less than seven hours a night increases susceptibility to respiratory infection!

Businesses are embracing the concept that looking after staff wellbeing is important for performance, but at the same time, the competition and the pressure to generate revenue has not gone away. The big challenge for leaders is how to make these agendas compatible.

This takes a leap of faith – it’s not necessarily something you can prove or immediately measure. The mixed messaging around working long, hard days versus how a work-life balance makes you a high performer and a more rounded individual just add to the challenges. As leaders, we have a responsibility to look after our team. It’s about saying ‘no, we want to be the type of organisation and culture where people are actually happy’.

Part of this responsibility is in modelling these behaviours ourselves. If an organisation is saying ‘we value wellbeing, there’s more to life than work’ but the leadership is still putting in those hours and not taking breaks, the subliminal message is still one of presenteeism; hard work, not smart work. So it is really important for leadership to do two things: to give people permission and make it clear that it’s okay to prioritise their wellbeing and, when they notice people aren’t doing that, to gently challenge it.

A leader needs to look for the signs that someone’s under pressure and getting stressed, and be prepared to take some work off them for a period of time, or find a way for them to get that space they need. It’s going to be different for everybody, and does require openness and trust.

A healthy culture is one where no-one feels guilty about having to pick up the kids, or has to pretend they’re not actually walking the dog when the boss rings after 5pm. And it’s not hard for leaders to foster this – there are techniques that can are quite easy to build into the day. For instance, I generally don’t book any calls on Wednesday or Friday afternoon. There are obviously things that sometimes creep in that may be too important to put off, but people do respect this and try not to book into that time.

It’s one of the tips we recommend to leaders on our CLIMB programme, because having time to think, reflect and strategise is invaluable. If you don’t block that space out it will naturally fill, like water in sand.

If leaders are walking the talk, it becomes much easier for their teams to follow.

An Interview with Consultant Heather Rayfield

The MatchFit team have been expanding rapidly over the last year, and have been fortunate to welcome a number of highly experienced consultants with diverse range of skills and credentials on board.

One of these is Heather Rayfield, a facilitator and coach who not only has a leadership and management background spanning 40 years in retail and finance, but also brings valuable perspective from her experience as a holistic practitioner.

We asked Heather how her management experience and focus on wellbeing inform her work.

“I was just 18 when I joined the House of Fraser Group as a management trainee” she says. “Retail was starting to buzz and things were really happening, so I had the most amazing time. I was out of my comfort zone every single day, but it was wonderful as I moved through all the operational sides of the business: from buying through to merchandising, logistics, day-to-day operations, finance, budgeting and, of course, leading a team.

Then I became a technical specialist, as I was asked to join a PR consultancy who were covering a lot of the expansion of retail parks and shopping centres modelled on the American-style malls. I specialised in the retail side, covering the launches with all the celebrities and ‘ra ra’; dealing with the media etc. But I also handled the other side, so dealing with the planners, developers and investors to actually get the shopping centre started.

From there I moved into financial services, where I spent 10 years working for a number of building societies and European banks. That was my doorway into training and people development, and that’s where I found my love of coaching. I took my ILM Level 7 in Executive Coaching and Mentoring and never looked back. I had found my passion, my purpose in life!

For the last ten years I’ve been working as an independent consultant, supporting organisations with leadership and management development, coaching assignments, and some customer service programmes. I’ve worked for a whole range of clients ranging from British Airways, Morrisons, American Express; worked in the third sector with charities and here I am in the public sector with the Ministry of Justice.

The connection with Bradley from MatchFit was made last March via LinkedIn. I think we just clicked, he liked my background and ethos, I liked the MatchFit approach, and I’ve been doing a lot of work for him ever since, which is really exciting and interesting.”

Is there a a specialist skill that you bring to the table?

“I think number one would be my deep understanding of management and leadership, having performed that role in blue-chip companies” she explains. “It gives me the credibility to walk through the door of an organisation and be able to cite the work I’ve done and the experience I have; demonstrating my understanding of a business’ operations.

Because I’m a facilitator and a coach, I’m able to bring the best of those two roles to any client I work with, looking at the bigger picture and then focussing in.

I’m also a holistic practitioner: I’m a clinical reflexologist and have certification with We Focus in corporate mental health and wellbeing. I’ve always been interested in mind/body/soul or spirit coming together to help people perform to the best of their ability, so this really informs my approach to my work.”

Are you finding that a holistic focus is becoming more important?

“It’s so interesting you said that. It comes up all the time and what I find is that people might come to me and say ‘I need some help with presenting’, so we start with that, and then we go deeper to understand what else is going on in their lives. That is where you can make real behavioural change.”

Looking at the work MatchFit are doing within Government Departments, what do you think have been their main development challenges?

“The first thing I would say is what a great group of people! They are really committed and passionate, and very clear on the organisational ‘why’. There’s always change coming of course, but they have real depths of technical specialism and take pride in what they do.

The main challenges I’ve noticed are actually quite common: they are very clear on the ‘why’ and the ‘what’, but it’s the ‘how’ where they need a bit of extra help. For example, areas such as prioritisation, energy management, and time management, particularly around hybrid/virtual working. We’ve had some good conversations about ‘what’s making you book meetings back-to-back? What’s stopping you from building in some breathing space?’.

I’ve also noticed this ideal of perfectionism. This resonates with me because I know that when you’re a technical specialist, you want perfect all the time. But we know that way lies madness, so we have to convert this from ‘practise makes perfect to practise makes permanent’. Stepping away from that need for perfectionism, which you don’t want to be carrying with you all the time, is OK. It’s OK to make a mistake. It’s what enables a growth mindset.

The final area is around autonomy. That’s the next move in terms of ‘OK, so now I know how to manage my energy and know how to prioritise myself, I know practise makes permanent. It’s about me now, stepping into leadership – how can I manage myself, lead myself more effectively?’

The ‘how’ of achieving this is something we are working on through the MatchFit CLIMB programme.

You mentioned energy management – can you expand on this?

“The first CLIMB Programme I ran was around impact, and being your best self. We did some work on being present and having presence, and found that while a lot of people had some experience of practices like yoga and mindfulness, they were unsure how to apply the concepts to their day-to-day work. The common problem is ‘how do I bring that into my daily practise when I’ve got 75 tasks on my To Do list?’

This is where my experience from the mental wellness programme comes in. It’s about introducing practical tools, tips and techniques such as the ‘constructive pause’. This is where you take a three-minute micro-break just to write down all the thoughts that come into your head; a process of clearing the clutter from the mind so that you can look at that those thoughts and observe ‘that’s really interesting, I don’t know why I was worried about why the windows need painting, let that one go. But actually, there’s something – I haven’t spoken to one of my colleagues for a couple of days, I need to give them a ring’. “

That’s not something that gets addressed very commonly in the workplace, is it?

“No, it isn’t. Sometimes we see these big wellbeing initiatives which talk about having fruit, doing yoga, having reflexology (which I would definitely recommend!). But it’s really about what that means day-to-day: what can I do to set myself up for success? It’s about senior leaders doing the same thing, and everybody bringing it into their daily practice.

Challenging this gently is also important. For example, where we see people booking back-to-back meetings, saying ‘what about having a 50-minute meeting instead of an hour? Can you achieve what you were going to do in 50 minutes rather than 60? Yes? Do it!’.

It’s a bit of a ‘permission piece’ as well.  We need that behaviour trickling out so that everybody’s doing it, or gently challenging each other to do it. If you can’t model the behaviour yourself, you can’t expect your teams to be modelling that behaviour.

Bradley has really encouraged the MatchFit team in this area, so we can always reach out and say ‘what’s top of our mind right now? What’s going well? What’s not going so well? What can we help you do, or your teams do differently?’ Having a curious mindset is not just important for consultants have, but for everyone to have.”

So how do you assess the results, whether the behaviours are embedding?

“As part of our MatchFit approach, we measure our work at four levels. From Reaction through to Behavioural Change. We also have a number of tools, such as psychological spacing and follow-up activities, as well as the coaching. How I would assess outcomes on a one-to-one basis is by looking at whether the person has achieved their goals, whether they’ve done something differently, and what impact that had.

With one of the current senior leadership teams I’m working with, an actual business project was part of the programme. This was really important, because that’s where you can really evidence new understanding and deep behavioural change. The results have been incredibly positive: the feedback was that when the group presented back with their findings and the results, there was real change – the needle had moved.

It’s wonderful when that business challenge element is woven through.

Other projects might be improving communication and team engagement, or setting up and training internal consultants. When projects are embedded within a development programme, it’s music to my ears, because then you can see things really working and getting tangible results.

Another way of validating whether what we’re doing is making change is when people come back on a workshop and report back what has happened since the last time. It might be something as simple as 4-7-8 breathing that they’ve used, found helpful and passed on to a partner.

How similar or different are people’s experiences of the programme?

I think there are some common similarities, but also some key differences. There are common threads which ensure everybody is aligned, and I love the phrase ‘freedom within a framework’. The framework is the CLIMB, the approach, the topics etc. so that people are all travelling along on that journey together. But there is also a huge opportunity to bring that back to ‘my why’.

This is achieved through coaching of course, but also through building in opportunities for reflective practice. We might discuss a topic in a workshop, but we then give people time to reflect on what that means to them personally, so they can see what it means in terms of the bigger ‘why’ for the organisation.

It’s really important to allow for both of these