“The Answer is Always in The Material”

“The Answer is Always in The Material”

Matt Worsdall

Matt Worsdall

Principal Consultant, EMEA

“The answer is always in the material” – maybe it even saved my life?

Just last week I was delivering a Growth Mindset workshop with a colleague, Steve Ellis. As often happens we were posed with a tricky question from a participant, being reasonably green in the world of delivery I was thankful to have a more “seasoned” professional by my (virtual) side who handles the question in what was nothing short of a sublime fashion, being respectful enough as not to offend but considered and direct enough to quash the question and put all responsibility to take action back on to the participant; I was so impressed by the display I even started grinning (hopefully no-one noticed!). After the session we ran through our usual feedback and debrief and I asked “how did you do that?”, his response was simple – “the answer is always in the material”.

This got me thinking, for those of you who know me, earlier this year I found myself in a spot of bother – I was in a critical condition with a double dose of heart and kidney failure – throughout my adult life I have said “make mine a double” on many occasions, however it looked like on this occasion that I had bitten off more than I could chew! Be careful what you wish for is probably the moral of this story. Anyway, several weeks of laying in a hospital bed really got me thinking, before starting at Arcadia I was a “passive” believer in the sentiment that mindset matters. Having previously worked as Personal Trainer and Recruiter I often would espouse the virtues of mindset without really knowing why – it just sounded good and was certainly fashionable and was an in-vogue thing to say.

So I set myself a challenge, now faced with a life or death situation “let’s see if this mindset stuff really works or is it just a load of fanciful guff”. Some of you may have seen the Arcadia Mindset Mondays series on Instagram where we are currently working our way through 10 winning behaviours, so as I sat in my hospital bed, instead of thinking about dialysis and kidney transplants I focused my attention to working my way through the 10 winning behaviours to see if I could employ any strategies that would assist me in my struggle, my breakthrough was astonishing.

Without wanting to turn this into a written workshop, three things really stood out to me;

Create a Winning Identity (as opposed to a dying one)

I really had to dig deep here to think about what I want to be know for, both personally and professionally and the label of “sick” wasn’t going to do (unless of course made in reference to my “sick” guitar playing”) – I had to consciously create an identity that would get me through this “I am strong and resilient”, “I can get through this”, “I will take better care of my body”. Everyday I repeated these positive affirmations until they became hard wired.

What could be good about this?

Well in the moment of diagnosis, seemingly nothing. But after the initial shock I purposefully tried to seek out the hidden opportunity behind this problem. I was surprisingly pleased with my findings;

  1. I am young enough that I can own this problem and still influence the outcome
  2. I now value my health and will respect my body
  3. This will force me to live a healthy lifestyle
  4. If this didn’t happen now, would I have survived it in 5 years time?
  5. I have a new found appreciation for pretty much everything
  6. I am so over ‘sweating the small stuff’
  7. I have been given a second chance at life – I am blessed…

The list goes on, I may even go as far to say this was potentially the best thing that could have happened to me at the time, certainly the most profound.

Living on "the slight edge"

Playing in a rock and roll band has always taught me to enjoy life on the edge, but how much on the edge I was living, I had become oblivious to. Only when looking back can I see that the small decisions I made every day took me slowly but surely to the cliff edge, then I fell, and boy was it painful! I now have focus and take enjoyment in making every decision count and thinking long term about the sum of everyday. Each day counts, more than I could ever have imagined.

The list could go on and on, but I have a word limit so hopefully that’s enough for today. So back to the beginning, when considering “the answer is always in the material”, I guess we will never truly know the extent of it’s affect, but for me, it is my belief, “that the material that saved my life”.

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Future Leaders

Future Leaders

Vivian Tam

Vivian Tam

Principal Consultant

Last week, Arcadia held our third and final session in our current webinar series. Mark Albas and Matt Lyon discussed how to identify and boost the development of key performers and high potential talent.

When we speak with our clients, we often find that there is a gap between current leaders and the next generation, and that whilst clients want to empower the next generation, they feel that they may not be quite ready yet. Arcadia will therefore discuss some key themes which will help companies upskill the next generation of leaders.

New Leadership Personas

The new generation of leaders emerging embody the new economy and are digitally savvy and innovative, but are perceived to complain too much and often unsupportive of ideas with which they are not engaged.

The best way to develop this individual is to embrace them and try to connect their personal purpose with their corporate purpose. As they are often a “first follower” they can become an important culture carrier within the business. Making them feel part of a project moves them from questioning and complaining to advocate. Importantly they also bring other colleagues into line with the company vision too.

How Do We Identify Talent?

To identify high potential, CEB highlight three key factors:

Aspiration – ability to rise to senior roles

Engagement – the ability to commit to the organisation and remain in challenging roles

Ability – to be more effective in more responsible and senior roles

At Arcadia we take a strengths-based approach to developing future leaders, using Zenger Folkman’s Extraordinary Leader and Extraordinary Performer assessment tools. These tools start with result first, including engagement and profitability, and then works back to identify competencies. As a result, Zenger Folkman have recognised which leadership competencies have the greatest and best correlations to business outcomes. There are 19 competencies in total across five main groups – personal capability, leading change, interpersonal skills, character and focus on results. However, one of the differences about this tool is that it identifies what people are great at, rather than finding out what the average leader is.

The concept is that an organisation is defined by its exceptional people rather than its average people, so it seeks to find out who has extraordinary competencies. Therefore, by identifying what people are extraordinary at and similarly what makes them so successful, we can help build these key competencies further. On the flip side, the tools also surface where your fatal flaws so these too can be addressed.

Leadership Development

Arcadia has identified four critical development needs in high potential / future leaders. By focusing our development programs around these four areas, we ensure that participants develop the right mindsets, skills, knowledge and agency to be seen as future leaders.

1. Mindset

We want to move people away from a “fixed mindset” where individuals have a fixed amount of knowledge and their abilities have plateaued. We move them instead towards a “growth mindset” where the individual believes that they can continually increase their abilities and improve at anything they want to. This can be manifest in challenges, obstacles, effort, skills, criticism or success of others. Ultimately our goal here is to move people out their comfort zones and challenge them.

2. Visibility 

Often people think that when it comes to creating an impression as a future leader, that you take all of your competencies and you promote how good you are at all of these things as part of your personal brand. However, research from our partner Zenger Folkman has shown that this is not the case. Instead, individuals should focus on what is known as the “halo effect”, here you really capitalize on an “F Trait”, which is one where you are very proficient in one certain area. If you are able to do this, then you create a really positive halo effect which will help you develop your brand, enabling those around you to see you as a potential future leader.

3. Organisational IQ 

There are two parts to this. Firstly: how well do you know the organisation? Do you know all the different departments, do know what all the products and services are, and do you know where all your offices are etc. The second part is do you know someone who you can reach out to and connect with in each of these areas. You don’t have to know everyone, but you need to know someone who can connect you to a key person. Over time as we have focused on this subject, we have found that the concept of organisational IQ has expanded and now we find there is an extra element. It’s not only what you know and who you can connect to, but who would connect with you? Who would put you in their organisational IQ? How many people would think of you when they want to connect with someone in your area.

4. Purposeful Leadership

One of the key trends in purposeful leadership is increasing people’s cultural intelligence. Cultural intelligence is the capability to function effectively across various cultural contexts whether these be national, ethnic, organizational, generational, gender, race or sexual orientation. Indeed, a survey by the Economist found that over 92% of leaders found that their biggest challenge was finding enough leaders with the CQ to navigate multinational firms. As such, the ability to be able to flex your value system, create psychological safety and demonstrate cultural intelligence in your actions is a huge driver for making people feel connected to the values that an organisation proposes.


We see future leaders coming from many different backgrounds – local talent, female talent, professional and specialized talent or just straight up high potentials. However, all these future leaders can benefit from development of their mindset, their visibility, their organizational IQ and their overall connection and sense of purpose to the firm. By developing these critical areas they are able to positively contribute to their future and the success of the organization.

If you would be interested in attending future events or would like further information on this topic please get in touch with Vivian Tam at vivian.tam@arcadiaconsulting.com.

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EmPOWERment in a Hybrid World

EmPOWERment in a Hybrid World

Steve Ellis

Steve Ellis

Senior Consultant

Dictionary Definition - Empower

To give someone official or legal authority, or the freedom or confidence to do something:

  • to encourage and support the ability to do something
  • to empower is also to give legal authority for something

Some useful synonyms for us to explore:

control, authority, influence, command, ability, capacity, faculty, property, resources, authority, right, licence, privilege 

When do you feel you have the power to act? What conditions create the confidence for you to take action, move forward, make decisions?

Flatter structures demand more decision making without seniority or hierarchical based authority. Hybrid working has resulted in increased independent work patterns (notwithstanding the demand for collaboration) that in turn means more independent risk taking, decision making and action taking.

What can leaders and organisations do to ensure that increased independent accountability/ responsibility is matched with empowerment?  After all accountability without empowerment is simply abdication or worse.

5 Strategies to Empowerment:

  1. Information
  2. Capability
  3. Authority
  4. Feedback
  5. Relationships

1. Information

Many commentators are now talking about ‘Truth to Power’. Leaders will need to share as much truth as they can within parameters of risk and not status or ego. The absence of information and feeling ‘in the dark’ reduces the confidence to act. Be transparent with vision, strategy, data, finances, implications, risks. Leaders cannot always be around to share the information especially in a hybrid environment, so it is important to do this systematically and at scale. Create information sharing and knowledge sharing environments and management systems.

As Louise Hay stated: ‘People are doing the best with what they know’ and ‘if they knew better, they’d do better’.

2. Capability

People are confident to take action when they trust themselves and their own knowledge, skills and process for execution. In a hybrid world where social learning, learning from colleagues sitting next to you and where waiting for the next training course is not always an option, the Learning and Development team and business leaders will need to provide the necessary knowledge and skills on an on-demand, asynchronous and in a personalised way. Organisations will need a coaching culture where leaders are proactive and agile in their support and responsiveness to the capability needs of the team. Being on the receiving end of great coaching will also teach employees to be great coaches too.

3. Authority

What are the rules? What is legal? Am I allowed to do this/ that? Permission to act needs to be very visible and overt. Bureaucracy, red tape, inconsistency and excessively complex processes of decision making is only made more challenging when the team of people are across multiple sites. Providing the team with clear descriptions of the Legal and risk framework will go some considerable way to reducing the fear. Adopting an agile and adaptive approach where people take action and apologise / learn later will further reduce that fear of failure and reprisals, Authority is real and perceived. Perception is a cultural thing.

4. Feedback

Feedback is the food of champions! It is also the food for empowerment. The more data I have about myself, my actions, behaviours, direct and indirect outcomes the more choices I have. Awareness drives understanding, choice, control and performance.

The things I am aware of I can control. The things I am unaware of control me.

Leaders would be well served to institutionalise a ‘Win, learn, Change’ culture where colleagues reflect on ‘what is working well’, what is not working that we can learn from’ and ‘what can we change’. Continued affirmation of the wins drives confidence whilst focusing on the learns and the changes drives proactivity, accountability, awareness, insight and ownership of issues. Leaders need to focus on coaching + feedback rather than being directive.  Being directive increases dependence.  Coaching drives independence. Once established the culture of feedback can and arguably must work both ways with juniors providing feedback to seniors.

5. Relationships

Everyone should feel empowered to make decisions for the good of the business, its employees, customers and society.  Why would you not want that? It’s difficult to provide that value living in splendid isolation.  Relationships are key and broker the development of interdependence fostered through individual empowerment and collaboration.

Underpinning relationships is:

  • Trust
  • Psychological safety
  • Respect for diversity

When this is achieved, we witness the behaviours of:

  • Collaboration
  • Networking
  • Ideation and creativity

Collective Empowerment

Strategies 1-4 create independence. It is the building of relationships, connections and belonging that builds interdependence – collective empowerment.

Empowerment is a cultural outcome. It depends on a particular leadership style adopted by the organisation from sales and marketing, operations, supply chain, manufacturing HR, IT and Finance.  Any business area that is disempowered by controlling directive leaders will create a bottle neck of decision making and action taking that will affect the rest of the organisation, it’s agility and delivery to customers. The C-Suite must explicitly align and communicate the empowerment leadership model to the team and role model the behaviours themselves. This needs to be met with a ‘ready’ workforce – ready to act, be entrepreneurial and innovative and needs to be reflected on recruitment, onboarding, KPI’s/ measurement, rewards and recognition.

Empowerment isn’t a sentence “you are empowered” but rather a culture borne from a leadership model and leadership capabilities.

If you would like further information on this topic please get in touch with Steve at steve.ellis@arcadiaconsulting.co.uk.

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2021 Trends in Learning and Development

2021 Trends in Learning and Development

Vincent Romano

Vincent Romano

Senior Consultant

Learning and development, like all other corporate functions, has experienced enormous upheaval since the pandemic struck. This has required a complete rethink, not only regarding the topics that organisations need delivered, but how these programs are structured, how they are delivered and how the role of the company’s leadership team in learning and development is viewed.

With all this disruption taking place it can be difficult to make sense of what is happening, especially as the pace of change has increased dramatically since the pandemic began with organisations consistently evolving and implementing new solutions to manage the change. Therefore, to establish what the latest trends and best practice in Learning, Arcadia surveyed a sample of our clients and our network of Associates, as well as conducting our own research and receiving input from our Partners and Consultants across our Global offices. Here is what we found –

The Role of the Business Leader

The role of the business leader is becoming increasingly important in all learning and development activities. We are used to leaders being involved as program champions to help kick off or close out longer, over arching programs by providing business insights, setting goals, and motivating the program participants. However, learning and development is receiving a much higher profile during the pandemic, particularly as it is often seen as a vehicle to help bring employees together and supporting entrenchment of the organisation’s culture.

As a result, business leaders are increasingly looked upon to role model capability and help embed a culture of continuous improvement. It is expected that leaders demonstrate that they are open and share how they too are evolving in their personal leadership style. Central to this, is the expectation that leaders should show their human sides, by sharing personal anecdotes that their teams can understand, empathise, and relate to.

Structure of Learning Programs

With increased focus on learning and development, there comes more scrutiny on the structure of programs to ensure they are a success. Learning programs cannot simply be a tick box exercise to ensure that organisations can be seen to be developing staff. Instead, learning programs must be structured to help create and support a culture of learning. They need to be more customised to the individual learner’s capabilities and they must provide practical opportunities to implement the skills learned – this is particularly important to younger generations of employees who are looking for hands-on opportunities to demonstrate their capabilities. We are also seeing learning outcomes being tied to tangible improvements in performance such as revenue growth and quality improvement or to employee satisfaction scores.

Meanwhile, there is a definite trend for learning to become more bite sized and modular based so that learners can consume the content anytime, anywhere. Typically, we are seeing learning programs being structured so that initially the learner reads and watches content or completes an assessment before moving into an instructor led program containing individual or group-based exercises, receives coaching and/or mentoring and then applies the skills learned with work based projects, simulations or case studies.

The Purpose of Training

Not only are leaders at the top expected to champion learning programs, but the purpose of the learning program also starts at the top. Increasingly we are seeing training programs being linked directly to the mission or the purpose of the organisation itself. Also, programs are expected to embody company values and will relate to the development of the core competencies identified by the organisation to achieve success. Specifically, we are seeing a focus on the development of digital competencies.

Meanwhile there is an increasing emphasis on learning outcomes that will increase productivity, particularly where there has been cost cutting measures implemented or budget freezes.

While learning programs are frequently quoted as one of the principal “use cases” for returning to the office, the pandemic has also led to a general renewed commitment to upskill or reskill employees. Learning is also being used as engagement tool, either to excite or indeed retain employees, which is a particular issue in the current climate as organisations battle “The Great Resign” where resignations are blighting attempts by companies to revive their businesses.

The Impact of Technology

The current pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on learning and how this is delivered. Technology has been central to this and has accelerated the use and impact of technology accordingly. Clearly technology has been an enabler of remote learning, but it has also enabled micro learning – where learning is delivered daily in modular, bite sized chunks.

Indeed, research has shown that microlearning has 17% more efficient knowledge transfer by focusing on the bare minimum learning. Even with Arcadia we have found technology indispensable as we quickly pivoted our programs to digital formats which has been typical across all training organisations converting traditional instructor led learning into online accessible modules.

Technology has also supported the gamification of training and interestingly, studies have shown that 100% of employees will undertake take the microlearning if there is a game involved. Meanwhile, other technological developments in learning include virtual or augmented reality to immerse the learner and adaptive learning, where the curricula unfolds differently depending on how the participant performs.

Learning Topics

Undoubtedly, we are experiencing a strong demand for learning and development solutions and given the wide variety of reasons for these demands, whether COVID-19 related, transformation based, or technology related, there is also a wide variety of topics that companies are requesting. Some of the programs are a continuation of trends we saw before the pandemic while some are a direct consequence of its affects.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Programs – this has probably been the area we have seen the greatest increase in demand. Unsurprisingly, the US and then UK have been the locations where we have seen the most requests, however this is making its way to Asia and increasingly is coming under into the spotlight. There is a realisation that DEI training will not be a quick fix and will need to form part of a broader culture change project. Therefore, such DEI topics are also making their way into the themes of other learning programs such as leadership or hybrid working solutions.

Leadership Development – this is taking various forms, from general High Potential Leadership Development Programs to Asian Leadership and Woman in Leadership programs. One very particular area which is refreshing to see is the demand for Women in Leadership programs specifically for STEMs (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Hybrid Working – this is another topic that is in high demand, and again we are seeing interest levels increase in the Far East. Initially demand was in US an UK given these locations returned to the office sooner, while Asia is very much in the planning stages.  This topic also references how to collaborate with organisations and includes culture and wellbeing programs.

Change Management – given that so many companies are transforming themselves, there is a high demand for change management learning looking at everything from internal processes to the employee experience and the customer experience. On a related note, companies are increasingly conducting design thinking workshops or courses on innovation.

Resilience – predominantly because of the pandemic, resilience training has been growing in demand. This can also include including adaptivity, wellbeing, and mental fortitude topics.

Communication – this has been a staple of learning curricula for a long time whether this is presentation skills, personal branding, or executive presence programs. However, one of the most popular programs at Arcadia has been for Digital Presence learning as companies quickly pivoted to Zoom meetings. Meanwhile, we have also seen an increase in data driven story training programs.

Executive Coaching – although this could be defined as coaching in general as it is no longer only senior executives who are receiving coaching sessions. Meanwhile, as organisations seek to embed learning to ensure knowledge transfer and demonstration of skills, we are seeing coaching workshops become an integral part of wider overarching leadership programs and can be conducted on a one-to-one basis or as a “coaching circle” with a small group.

Strategic Narrative – these programs involve strategic thinking, aligning leadership teams and creating high performing executive teams. Again, demand for these programs are a consequence of organisations transforming themselves as a consequence of the pandemic.


The current global pandemic hijacked the business world and exposed it to major disruption and increasing the levels of uncertainty. We all had to quickly adapt to newer and challenging ways of working, mostly from the confines of our homes!

Four key trends, technologies, and strategies for to consider include:

Learning is Culture and Culture is Learning – learning is one of the main tools organisations are using to build culture, and this is being embedded top down, with leaders championing programs and programs reinforcing the mission and purpose of the organisation

Technology – while some countries are opening up, travel is still complicated to say the least. Tech enabled programs will continue to be a necessity while organisations are embracing more sophisticated uses of technology in all facets of programs

Leadership – probably the biggest demand we see is for leadership programs – whether that be at Executive levels, for High Potentials or for Women in Leadership and Asian Leaders Programs.

Change – the other main theme for programs is change related, whether instilling Agile methods of working, supporting innovative practices or creating change mindsets

If you would like further information on this topic please get in touch with Vincent at vincent.romano@arcadiaconsulting.com.

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