The Science of Business Storytelling

The Science of Business Storytelling

Freya Owen

Freya Owen

Research Consultant

Oliver Woodhead

Oliver Woodhead

Global Consulting Director, Transformation Strategy

Throughout history, storytelling has been the most potent and enduring method of communication, transcending cultures, generations and technologies.

In the realm of business, the power of storytelling is no less remarkable. From engaging customers and inspiring employees to captivating investors, harnessing the art of storytelling can be a transformative force that propels businesses towards success.

In this article, we delve into the striking impact of business storytelling and explore how incorporating business storytelling strategies can foster alignment and collaboration across diverse workforces. We explain why stories are memorable and thus can facilitate effective knowledge transfer and communication, among other things.

Stories are Impactful, Aligning and Memorable

1. Stories have Impact

Stories tap into our emotions and imagination, triggering a profound cognitive response. Neuroimaging studies have shown that when we listen to a story, our brains engage multiple systems simultaneously, creating vivid mental images and boosting both focus and concentration. 1  Stories evoke the release of neurotransmitters such as adrenaline and dopamine, enhancing our attention. 2 Furthermore, as stories unfold, our brain’s default mode as a prediction machine comes into play, keeping us engaged and receptive to plot twists and surprises.

Implication for the workplace: Storytelling is a powerful tool for eliciting the attention of employees and sustaining their focus. Whatever the intention behind the story, increased attention and focus will lead to greater engagement, in-turn boosting productivity and producing business results.

2. Stories Foster Alignment

Humans are inherently social beings driven by a need for belonging, and stories satisfy this need by connecting individuals to a shared purpose within the business. Stories evoke the release of several hormones which are associated with increased trust, empathy and group cohesion. 3

The release of oxytocin enhances our inclination to promote our ‘in-group’, 4 which in the workplace means our colleagues. And endorphins, the principal hormone involved in social bonding, create feelings (among those listening) of safety, happiness and trust.5 Taken together, stories foster alignment, inspire collective action and powerfully elevate social bonding. 6


Implication for the workplace: Storytelling helps foster alignment through greater empathy and trust and greater commitment to shared goals. Stories enable the alignment of people around a vision and create a clear connection between the work of individuals and the bigger picture. Thus, storytelling plays an important role in building and maintaining a culture where employees are engaged, committed and united.


3. Stories are Memorable

The power of storytelling lies in how humans process and retain information. We consider why stories are quickly internalised and effortlessly remembered through the following lenses:

  • Psychology: By presenting information through stories, a shared experience is created; we identify with characters, empathize with their struggles and learn from their triumphs and failures. These emotions explain why stories are more likely to be internalised and remembered, as emotion is a key driver of learning and memory.
  • Anthropology: The human brain is naturally attuned to stories, a phenomenon honed over millions of years of evolution, making the process of storytelling effortless and engaging even at a subconscious level.
  • Neuroscience: Not only do stories tap into our explicit memory system through the evocation of emotion, but they also tap into our working and implicit memory systems. Information in the form of a narrative, rather than standalone facts or disjointed concepts is easier to process within our working memory 7 and a greater volume of information can be stored through our pattern-recognising implicit memory system.


Implication for the workplace: Storytelling helps foster alignment through an effective way to share information which needs to be learned and remembered. Stories are particularly helpful when tacit knowledge (that which is based on experience), intuition and judgement needs to be shared. Scripted and told correctly, stories are quickly internalised and effortlessly remembered.


Why Is This Important?

Business storytelling is particularly important today because:

  1. Information overload: In today’s era of information overload, it has become increasingly challenging to retain learning materials and messages. Stories provide a powerful antidote to this problem by capturing attention, engaging emotions and making information more memorable.
  2. Multicultural and multigenerational workplaces: With workplaces becoming more diverse, the transfer of implicit, cultural knowledge between individuals is crucial. Stories bridge cultural gaps, facilitate understanding and strengthen alignment among employees from different backgrounds; fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose.
  3. Transient workforce and knowledge transfer: Today’s workforce is characterized by frequent role changes and mobility. This poses challenges in terms of knowledge transfer, continuity and alignment. Stories become vital tools for effectively conveying knowledge, training new employees, and ensuring smooth succession planning.
  4. Organizational values and culture: To attract and retain top talent, companies must effectively communicate their values and culture. Stories offer a compelling and authentic means to convey these messages, allowing recruits to connect emotionally with the organization’s mission and vision.


In conclusion, the power of business storytelling cannot be overstated. Stories have a profound impact, align individuals around a common purpose and make information more memorable. By harnessing the art of storytelling, businesses can captivate their audience, inspire action and forge lasting connections in an increasingly fast-paced and information-saturated world.

if you’d like to learn more about StoryTrack, please book a 30-minute story insight session by clicking on the button below.


Sabatinelli, D., Lang, P. J., Bradley, M. M., & Flaisch, T. (2006). The neural basis of narrative imagery: Emotion and action. In Progress in Brain Research (Vol. 156, pp. 93–103). Elsevier.

2 Zak, P. J. (2014, October 28). Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling. Harvard Business Review.

3 Monarth, H. (2014). The irresistible power of storytelling as a strategic business tool. Harvard business review, 11, 250-256.

4 Stallen, M., De Dreu, C. K. W., Shalvi, S., Smidts, A., & Sanfey, A. G. (2012). The Herding Hormone: Oxytocin Stimulates In-Group Conformity. Psychological Science, 23(11), 1288–1292.

5 Camilleri, T., Rockey, S., & Dunbar, R. (2023). The Social Brain: The Psychology of Successful Groups. Cornerstone Press.

6 Sousa, V. (2021). Storytelling and retromarketing: Strengthening brand communication. Redmarka. Revista de Marketing Aplicado, 25(2), 44–62.

7 Cowan, N. (2010). The Magical Mystery Four: How Is Working Memory Capacity Limited, and Why? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19(1), 51–57.

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Growth Mindset & Motivation

Growth Mindset & Motivation

Success is no longer determined solely by talent or intelligence, instead by the mindset with which we chose to approach any given situation. This choice will ultimately determine the levels of success we have in relation to our goals.

Research has shown that people who possess a growth mindset and practice positive inner dialogue are more likely to achieve success than those who don’t.

In this article, we’ll explore what a growth mindset is, the importance of inner dialogue, and how to master motivation to achieve success.

What is a Growth Mindset?

A growth mindset is a belief that our abilities can be developed through hard work, dedication, and persistence. People with a growth mindset view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than as insurmountable obstacles. They believe that their intelligence and talents can be developed through effort and practice, rather than being fixed traits that cannot be changed as is found in the fixed mindset.

People with a fixed mindset believe that their abilities are predetermined and unchangeable. They view challenges as threats to their self-esteem and tend to give up easily when faced with difficulties.

Click on image to enlarge.

The simple message here is what we believe affects what we achieve, with those adopting a fixed mindset following a path of “I can’t” and therefore “I won’t” (inertia/ plateau), whereas those adopting the growth mindset setting themselves on a path of “I can” (with effort) therefore “I will” (opportunity/ continuous improvement).

The iceberg model (our core mindset model at Arcadia) is a way of visualising the idea that people often only see the tip of the iceberg of another person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, while a much larger part of that person’s internal world remains hidden, below the surface.

What is visible, the tip of the iceberg, represents a person’s observable behaviours, words, and actions that we can easily perceive. However, much of what drives these behaviors is hidden beneath the surface and is not readily apparent. These hidden elements include a person’s beliefs, attitudes, values, emotions, and past experiences and of course their MINDSET, which can significantly impact how they perceive and respond to the world around them. The mindset (growth or fixed) will drive how they feel about themselves and the world, this drives the quality of action that they take which in turn manifests in the results they get. 

How Can I Adopt a Growth Mindset?

Inner Dialogue: Inner dialogue refers to the conversations we have with ourselves in our heads. It is the voice that tells us what we can or can’t do, and shapes our perceptions of ourselves and the world around us. Inner dialogue can be both positive or negative. It is one of the main ways we can shape how we perceive ourselves, and the world around us.

People with a growth mindset tend to have a positive inner dialogue. They focus on their strengths and abilities, and view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. They use positive self-talk to motivate themselves and maintain a sense of optimism, even in the face of setbacks.

Mastering Motivation: Motivation is the driving force behind our actions and behaviors. It’s what inspires us to set goals, work hard, and overcome obstacles. However, motivation can be elusive, and many people struggle to maintain it over the long term. Here are some tips for mastering motivation:

  • Set Goals: Setting clear and achievable goals is essential for maintaining motivation. Goals give us a sense of purpose and direction, and they provide a framework for measuring progress and success.
  • Focus on the Process: Rather than just focusing on the end result, it’s important to focus on the process of achieving our goals. This means breaking down our goals into smaller, more manageable steps, and celebrating our progress along the way.
  • Practice Positive Self-Talk: Positive self-talk can be a powerful motivator. By using positive affirmations and focusing on our strengths and abilities, we can maintain a sense of optimism and motivation, even in the face of setbacks.
  • Embrace Failure: Failure is an inevitable part of the learning process. Rather than seeing failure as a reflection of our abilities, we should view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. By embracing failure and using it as a learning experience, we can maintain our motivation and continue to make progress towards our goals.

Leading with a Growth Mindset

From a leadership perspective, growth mindset means adopting a belief that your team, colleagues and organisation can improve if they are enabled and given a safe environment in which to learn, receive constructive feedback and are not stigmatised when things don’t go to plan. Praising effort, innovation and work ethic whilst not just focussing on the end result is critical here.

Learn not lose – a fail only makes you a failure if you don’t learn and grow from it.

Growth Mindset = Business Success

Growth mindset is essential for business success because it encourages employees to take risks, learn from their mistakes, and strive for continuous improvement. It also helps to create a culture of collaboration and innovation, which are essential for any business to succeed. A growth mindset also helps to foster a positive attitude and resilience, which are key to overcoming challenges and achieving success. Finally, it helps to creates a culture of peak performance and success.

As leaders we need to allow space for people to improve and not always expect perfection first time around. Over praising only can create a dangerous fixed mindset culture that when things don’t go to plan, the strategy of ‘I’m a natural’ is unhelpful, whereas a strategy of “tenacity, curiosity and self-reflection” will be useful as a response when things go wrong.


A growth mindset, positive inner dialogue, and strong motivation are all essential for achieving success. By embracing a growth mindset, focusing on positive self-talk, and mastering motivation, we can overcome obstacles and achieve our goals. Remember, success is not determined solely by talent or intelligence. It’s the product of the mindset with which we approach our goals.

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Leading Across Generations

Leading Across Generations

The world within which we grow up shapes us in fundamental ways. Whilst not the complete picture, understanding how historical moments shape generations will lead to a better appreciation of why an individual thinks, feels and behaves the way they do.

Harnessing this understanding will lead to a more inclusive and better managed workplace and will improve talent retention and recruitment.

Who are the different generations?

While categorizations vary across the globe l, it is generally understood that there are up to four generations in the workplace at present:

*Age in 2023

As of 2023, the majority of the global workforce is made up of Generation X and Millennials, demonstrated below by the workforces of the United Kingdom, United States, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Notes: US data – Bureau of Labor Statistics; generations split as follows: Baby Boomers (60+), Gen X (40-59), Millennials (25-39), Gen Z (16-24). UK data – ONS; Baby Boomers (65+), Gen X (50-65 plus half of workers aged 35-49), Millennials (25-34 plus half of workers aged 35-49), Gen Z (16-24). Hong Kong data – Census & Statistics Department; Baby Boomers (60+), Gen X (40-59), Millennials (25-39), Gen Z (15-24). Singapore data Ministry of Manpower; Baby Boomers (60+), Gen X (40-59), Millennials (25-39), Gen Z (15-24). 

The proportion of the workforce made up by Baby Boomers is enduring more so than previous generations. This is due to both medical advances enabling people to live healthier for longer, and workplace changes allowing people to work with greater ease i.e., remotely.

Meanwhile the proportion of the workforce made up by Generation Z is increasing, with PwC estimating Generation Z and Millennials will make up around 60% of the global workforce by 2030.2

And we can expect the emergence of Generation Alpha in the workforce in 2030, leading to the possibility of five generations in the workplace at one time.

Are generational differences not just down to age?

Difficulties in assessing generational differences are well-known.3 Some observed differences are due to differences between age-groups, rather than generations. For example, some studies suggest that Generation X, who are in middle adulthood, value work-life balance more than other generations do.4 This could simply be a result of differences in life stage, as Millennials might express similar sentiments when they reach middle adulthood. It is therefore important to distinguish between age-related and history-related influences; the latter being the defining influence across generations.5

Age-related influences are tied to chronological age and largely predictable, although there will be some variation across cultures. For example:

Understanding age-related influences is important in the workplace. For example, a young adult may be embarking on a journey into parenthood and in doing so, may need their employer to be more flexible and forgiving when work does not take priority.

Taking the time to understand and appreciate these life events is key to ensuring employees are able and willing to contribute to the best of their ability.

History-related influences explain how the time period in which we live, and the unique historical circumstances of that time affect our development. Economic shifts, social movements and wars are just some examples of historical influences. They are by nature less predictable and show significant variations across cultures.

Historical influences can be local to a neighbourhood, country, or continent; or global (either in nature or consequence). It is important to consider that global events can bring very different localized impacts due to co-existing cultural influences, as we have seen with the COVID-19 pandemic where economic, health and societal impacts have varied significantly across the globe. Regardless of localized differences, historical influences can shape entire generations by shaping the world in which individuals mature. 

In considering how history-related influences might shape your or other generations, we have brought together some key themes and events over the past 80 years. We hope they evoke curiosity: which historical events had the most impact on you? How might recent events be impacting younger generations and their approach to work?

Click image to enlarge and view details.

What do we know about each generation?

Generational research is difficult. Having surveyed the literature on generational differences, we have hand-picked some insights from reputable studies. These are not comprehensive but give a flavor of the observed differential characteristics of each generation. We have also included quotes from a short series of internal interviews conducted here at Arcadia in March 2023.

Baby Boomers

More than other generations, baby boomers are more likely to stay at jobs they do not enjoy due to their traditional attitudes.6 Baby boomers respect authority and tend to favor hierarchal leadership.7

Generation X

Generation X were the first generation to grow up in homes with two working parents – consequently they are often characterized as independent and self-sufficient.8 Generation X are thought to be the first generation to place work-life balance as the highest priority9 and they will typically work for several employers over the course of their career.


Millennials are recognized for their social consciousness and open-mindedness. These characteristics are likely due to the exposure to widely available travel and social media, enabling encounters from an early age with diverse cultures and lifestyles.10 The result is that millennials value the world beyond their own spheres and prioritise diversity and inclusivity. Millennials look for these values in a workplace.11

Generation Z

Generation Z are adapted to life in a digital age and a world that operates at speed, scale and scope. They are pragmatic due to being accustomed to utilizing ever improving tools and technology. Generation Z, like Millennials, are especially drawn to companies that make positive social impact.12 Gen Z value flexibility, relevance, authenticity and non-hierarchical leadership.13

Spotlight on Generation Z

A large-scale study by Stanford conducted between 2017-2021 found the following attributes of Generation Z.13 Findings were based on interviews, focus groups and surveys of >2k adults aged between 18-25yrs (Generation Z) as well as the ‘iGen corpus’, a 70million item strong repository of spoken and written language of people aged 16-25yrs.

Generation Z…

  • Value flexibility, relevance, authenticity and non-hierarchical leadership.
  • Do not necessarily want to communicate via digital means (a common assumption) – nearly every Generation Z interviewed said their favorite form of communication was ‘in person’.
  • Often question rules and authority due to being so used to finding what they need on their own (e.g., through the internet). They can also become frustrated by what appears to them to be outdated and often irrelevant ways of doing things.
  • Have a greater appreciation for diversity and the importance of finding their own unique identities as a result of growing up in a world where it is easy to learn about/meet/experience different people and cultures from across the world.

Why is this important?

  1. Recruitment: Generation Z are either in education, entering the workforce or in the early stages of their career. As the generation of ‘sensibility’, wanting to solve humanity’s greatest issues, ‘unity’, seeking a better more equitable world, and of ‘truth’, craving authenticity in an era of fake news and information overload14; Generation Z have new requirements of the workplace. Understanding these and adapting recruitment strategies accordingly is key to successful talent acquisition.
  2. Retention: Understanding how to lead across generations is key to successfully motivating and retaining talent; and has been evidenced to promote cooperation and unity in the workplace.15 A failure to engage employees across all generations leads to inadequate working environments and can cause breakdowns in workplace relationships, leading to quiet or actual quitting.
  3. Training: As Generation Z become a greater proportion of the workforce, there are important implications for training in the workplace. Generation Z and Millennials, as generations of ‘choice’ growing up in a world of abundance, need to be persuaded of the value of training; they need the ‘why’ before they engage. Younger generations require instant gratification – training techniques need to capitalize on technological advances and they need to be fast and rewarding. Training strategies need to account for younger generations switching jobs more frequently, to ensure that training offers remain valuable to both the employee and employer. 
  4. Shift-change in leadership: As Baby Boomers gradually leave the workforce, leadership positions open for Generation X and Millennials to progress into. We expect over the coming decade a resulting shift-change in leadership, with implications for how employers handle the transition. Research shows that Generation Z value non-hierarchical leadership, at odds to what Baby Boomers value and Generation X have been accustomed to. This shift-change may offer opportunity for new leaders to change the structure of organisations accordingly.
  1. Opportunities: With increasing advances in technology, it is arguably vital for success to have an intergenerational workplace to harness opportunities created by artificial intelligence, data science and automation. Generation Z are considered ‘digitally fluent’16 and consequently, they are the most likely to be able to help navigate opportunities presented by exciting technological advances. Companies need Generation Z.

Can / should we generalise?

Understanding diversity in the workplace is paramount, whether diversity by generation, gender, culture, age or career stage.

“Appreciation of generational differences is simply another form of diversity in the workplace, and as such, should be prioritized to create the space for understanding those who have different experiences and perspectives.” – Generation X, Female, US

As described, there are historical influences which distinctly shape a generation, resulting in common tendencies distinct to that generation. These tendencies need to be understood and appreciated to enable successful talent recruitment, retention and training.

However, as with other diversity domains, generations are not necessarily homogeneous.17 There are age-related influences common across generations; and there are cultural factors which lead two individuals within the same generation to have different values and working preferences. There are also individual differences which lead to different motivations and attitudes in the workplace. It is important not to over-generalise: stereotypical beliefs can be problematic, they can get in the way of how people collaborate with their colleagues, and have troubling implications for how we people are managed and trained.18 The important thing is for employers to consider reasons for why an individual thinks, feels and behaves the way they do.


  1. Companies need to understand their workforce and the sub-groups within – these subgroups might not necessarily be by age or generation; the important thing is that the workplace is a safe and productive place for all.
  2. The workplace is becoming increasingly generationally diverse, with expectations of up to five generations in the workforce in 2030 and with Generation Z and Alpha demonstrating significant differences to older generations which need to be understood.
  3. It is important not to overgeneralise: stereotypes can interfere with workplace behaviour. Across generations, cultures and age groups, individual differences must always be considered.

We’d love to hear your perspectives on and experiences of leading and managing an intergenerational workplace. We have a range of training as well as seminar-style offerings on understanding generations which we’d love to discuss with you and, where relevant, tailor these to your company’s needs. Get in touch here:

This article was written by a female Millennial and a male Baby Boomer, both members of Arcadia’s Research team.


1 In China, generations are considered by decade – for example, the ‘post 50s’ generation were born between 1950 and 1959.

2 PwC – How prepared are employers for Generation Z? August 2021 – (link).

3 Pew Research Center – The Whys and Hows of Generations Research. September 2015 –  (link).

4 Whitney Gibson, J., Greenwood, R. A., & Murphy, Jr., E. F. (2009). Generational Differences In The Workplace: Personal Values, Behaviors, And Popular Beliefs. Journal of Diversity Management (JDM), 4(3), 1–8.

5 Kuther, T. L. (2022). Lifespan Development (3rd ed.). SAGE Publications US.

6 Abate, J., Schaefer, T., & Pavone, T. (2018). Understanding generational identity, job burnout, job satisfaction, job tenure and turnover intention. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict22(1), 1-12.

7 Gursoy, D., Maier, T. A., & Chi, C. G. (2008). Generational differences: An examination of work values and generational gaps in the hospitality workforce. International journal of hospitality management27(3), 448-458.

8 Jiang, S (2019, April 2). The ABCs Of Generations X, Y and Z. Forbes.

9 Gibson, J. W., Greenwood, R. A., & Murphy Jr, E. F. (2009). Generational differences in the workplace: Personal values, behaviors, and popular beliefs. Journal of Diversity Management (JDM)4(3), 1-8.

10 Pew Research Center (2010, February 24). Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.

11 Smith, C and Turner, S (2015). The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion The Millennial Influence. Deloitte University.

12 Deloitte (2022). Striving for balance, advocating for change – The Deloitte global 2022 Gen Z & Millennial survey.

13 Katz, R (2022) Gen Z, Explained: The Art of Living in a Digital Age (University of Chicago Press, 2021) – referenced here:

14 Edelman – The Power of Gen Z – Trust & The Future Consumer, December 2021 (link).

15 Becton, J. B., Walker, H. J., & Jones‐Farmer, A. (2014). Generational differences in workplace behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology44(3), 175-189.

16 Leslie, B., Anderson, C., Bickham, C., Horman, J., Overly, A., Gentry, C., … & King, J. (2021). Generation Z perceptions of a positive workplace environment. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal33, 171-187.

17 Rudolph, C. W., & Zacher, H. (2017). Considering generations from a lifespan developmental perspective. Work, Aging and Retirement3(2), 113-129.

18 Harvard Business Review – Just How Different Are Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers at Work? August 2019 – (link).

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Sales Success – The 3 Daily Habits that Make a Difference

Sales Success – The 3 Daily Habits that Make a Difference

Len Patane

Len Patane

Principal Consultant

When markets take a hit, it can be challenging for sales teams to make their numbers. Yet many do; how is that possible? They understand that success takes dedication and hard work. It’s not just about having the right product or the brightest idea, but also about developing daily habits that set them up for long-term success in any market condition. So which key habits are essential for sellers of all levels and disciplines during economic instability and volatility?

The difference between average salespeople and exceptional salespeople can often be boiled down to their daily habits. Exceptional salespeople tend to be more organised and methodical in their approach, setting aside time each day to make sure they are reaching goals and maximising their potential. They use this time to identify key areas of improvement, develop an actionable plan to take advantage of opportunities, and refine their communication skills. Not only do they have a keen eye for details and trends, but exceptional salespeople also have the discipline and focus to stay on task until all objectives have been met. Furthermore, they understand the power of networking and foster relationships with both clients and colleagues that are beneficial for mutual growth.

Average salespeople don’t necessarily lack ambition or motivation. They may be less organised in their approach, not taking the time to continually work on personal growth or strategic planning. They may also lack confidence in reaching out to peers or customers, which reduces opportunities for success.

Based on our experience working with thousands of sales professionals in multiple industries and geographies around the globe, we have identified 3 core daily habits that we believe drive sales success:

  • Building relationships with prospects, clients, and industry specialists.
  • Prioritising continuous self-improvement through research and study.
  • Maintaining an attitude of self-motivation.

Daily Habit One:

The “5 A Day” habit: Build relationships and sales fitness.

Connecting with stakeholders via LinkedIn is a great way to build relationships and open up new sales opportunities. As such, it is important to have a strategy for how you want to approach the connections you make. A mentor once introduced me to the “5 A Day” habit to build sales health. Just like consuming 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day is great for your physical health; identify and focus on cultivating five new business relationships each day.  That’s 25 new connections each week, 100 a month or 1,200 a year. If you were able to convert just 5% of these new connections to paying customers, that’s 60 new clients a year! 

When targeting these five relationships each day, make sure you do more than just send a connection request — personalise each message so that it speaks specifically to their interests and needs. Additionally, when connecting don’t just promote yourself., Instead provide them with value by engaging with their content, offer genuine compliments, and share valuable articles and thought leadership assets.  

Once you’ve nurtured a connection and want to open up the account, a great way to understand the dynamics of relationships within this connection’s organisation is by creating a Power Map. Building a Power Map  can be easily achieved with a simple three-step process that creates a visual representation of the decision-making landscape:  

a) Plot each stakeholder’s INFLUENCE in the decision-making process against their ATTITUDE to you and your organisation onto a four-quadrant model. Each quadrant categorises the stakeholder and describes how best leverage them to increase your chances of success.

Protestors – (Low Influence/Low Attitude) do not have much sway, yet can take up significant amounts of our time asking for additional information. Recommendation: Don’t ignore them, but be judicious with responses to their queries as they can be time thieves.

Enemies – (High Influence/Low Attitude) should raise red flags as they are not supporters yet have the power to award the business. Recommendation: Try to understand why they don’t want to support you, maybe they’re very happy with their existing supplier; were they burned by a bad past experience with your organisation? As a minimum, try to neutralise their attitude towards you with the help of a Friend or Ally whose opinion they value.

Friends – (Low Influence/High Attitude) can’t say yes to our proposal but they can open doors for us and provide valuable organisational and competitive intelligence. Recommendation: Make a point of getting to know the personal assistants of all the relevant senior executives in your accounts.

Allies – (High Influence/High Attitude) are your internal champions and most vocal mouthpieces for the promotion of you, your solution and organisation to the powers that be. Recommendation: Word up your Allies with everything they need to do an internal sale on your behalf.

Unknown Zone – If you’ve recently acquired a new account or proactively expanding into new business units within an existing account, there will more than likely be a number of stakeholders that you haven’t met yet. That’s totally fine, plot them onto the UNKNOWN zone and use the later stages of this exercise to plan how to best reach out and build a relationship.

Neutral Zone – Alternatively, you may have some fence sitters who don’t have a strong opinion about you or your company, they can be plotted in the NEUTRAL zone. This is a fantastic opportunity to get to know these stakeholders and their worlds, and then provide them with value and insight to move them into Friend or Ally territory.

b) After plotting each stakeholder, annotate each stakeholder with their role in the decision-making process. Role types are either:

  • Decision Maker – decisions don’t get made without their sign off
  • Key Influencer – This is someone who can change the mind of the decision maker/s
  • Influencer – their opinion is sought but would rarely change a decision
  • Supporter – Someone who likes you and is prepared to help with information and guide you. 

c) Then draw lines to visualise existing relationships by connecting stakeholders that know each other and value each other’s opinions. Now you know who to ask for introductions and who can put in a good word for you.

By mapping out these relationships, you will better understand each connection’s influence on your desired party and how best your efforts can be leveraged. This could be through leveraging Friends and Allies for introductions or providing influencers with content or services that will appeal to your target stakeholder. Additionally, if done correctly, it can give insight into potential weaknesses in relationships that need to be strengthened or new contacts that may need to be cultivated in order for certain objectives to be met.  

Remember that connections don’t always have to be professional in nature; look for common ground like your children’s schools, church groups, sporting and volunteering associations that you both may be a part of, as these are a great way to make a connection and quickly build rapport and start forging a relationship. 

Overall, building relationships with prospects, clients and specialists isn’t easy—but a Power Map can make it much simpler by helping you visualise complex connections between individuals in an organised manner. That way, you know exactly how best to use those relations for maximum impact. 

Daily Habit Two:

The Learning Hour Habit: Make time for self-improvement to build sales success.

Continuous self-improvement is essential for success in the modern business world. To stay ahead of the competition and build opportunities, salespeople must dedicate themselves to a regimen of research and learning. Block out an hour in your diary each day to read industry articles, complete online courses, or research. This simple habit will provide invaluable insights into industry and market trends, developments, and challenges which you can use with clients and prospects throughout the sales process. Not only does this practice allow sales professionals to keep up with market and industry advances, it also gives them the necessary knowledge they need to effectively understand the needs of their customers and provide innovative solutions that drive valuable outcomes. 

Self-improvement activities can help sales professionals gain valuable insights into customer behaviour and learn how they can create personalised experiences that align with the client’s unique needs. Through consistent research and learning, sales professionals can further refine their account strategies by learning about new resources available as well as any market changes that could influence their performance in a positive way.   

In today’s increasingly complex environment, continuous self-improvement has become an absolute necessity for those looking to succeed in sales. By taking an hour out of each day to conduct some kind of research or learning related activity, salespeople are not only able to improve their skills but build confidence in what they do and set themselves apart from the competition. With a commitment towards lifelong learning and development, sales professionals are able to better understand customer needs and create meaningful relationships that lead to long-term success in their field. 

Daily Habit Three:

The power of cultivating resourceful mindsets in sales.

When we say resourceful mindsets, we’re talking about how well we can endure and triumph over pressure. This is often what separates exceptional sales performers from the rest; it’s actually the difference that makes the difference! Exceptional sales performers have strong self-belief, determination, coping, focus – and above all else, demonstrate positivity and mental strength. In essence, exceptional performers consistently see the positive in every situation despite how bleak it might initially look.

What drives a mindset of resourcefulness? What makes you feel customer-obsessed, competitive and results-driven? Is it the things that happen around you, or does it come from somewhere else? 

There will always be things that could impact your behaviour and therefore your results. There will always be problems, failure, and rejection. If the events around you determine your level of motivation, we call that the ‘outside-in’ approach to motivation. The key to staying motivated is to proactively decide – irrespective of what happens on the outside – that you will choose to feel good and resourceful on the inside. This is the ‘inside-out’ approach to motivation.  

So how do you develop ‘inside out’ motivation? When it comes to challenging external events like not being shortlisted for an RFP or losing business to a competitor; we cannot control the event itself, we can however control our response to this event. What’s within our gift is how professional, calm, and resourceful we stay when we deal with the situation.  

Rather than reacting emotionally, you can stay resourceful in difficult situations by using this simple process developed by Jack Cranfield (Author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul”) called E+R=O

Imagine your client has requested an urgent meeting because there is a serious complaint she needs to share with you. When describing the situation, she becomes visibly agitated, she raises her voice and then starts aggressively pointing at you and proceeds to blame you for the situation. When confronted with such an external EVENT (E) it’s easy – in the heat of the moment – to take this personally, get defensive, lose control and then REACT (R) in a highly emotional way. In a worst-case scenario, this could result in you raising your voice at the client, bashing your fist on the table or even storming out of the room. After such an outburst you’re left with a highly undesirable OUTCOME (O) where the problem remains unresolved and you’ve damaged the client relationship. 

In the future, when confronted with a similar situation, why not try this approach? Before you do anything rash, remember you have zero control over the EVENT (E), so stop, take a big deep breath in and then: a) Start with the end in mind or the OUTCOME (O). Ask yourself, what is it that you want to achieve in this situation? Ideally understand more about the client’s complaint, try to fix it and ultimately, preserve the relationship b)Then go backwards to the RESPONSE (R). Think about what the most resourceful response would be to ensure you achieve your desired Outcome? Why not demonstrate some empathy by firstly acknowledging and apologising for the situation, and then requesting if you could ask some questions to help you better understand the issue so you can attempt to resolve it. This approach enables the client to vent her frustrations whilst diffusing any emotion as she sees you attentively listening and genuinely wanting to solve the issue resulting in a more collaborative and constructive conversation. Following this E+R=O process to totally own your R (which you have 100% control over) will help you to diffuse emotionally charged situations and collaboratively reach a solution by cultivating a more resourceful and positive mindset.

Finally, it’s useful to highlight the cyclic nature of the E+R=O formula as each OUTCOME (O) becomes the next EVENT (E). For example, if this meeting was an absolute disaster where both parties lost their cool, then the next time you connect with the client will probably be quite tense and uncomfortable. Alternatively, if the meeting ended positively with an acknowledgement of the complaint and an agreed way forward to solve it, such an outcome can have the effect of building an even stronger relationship, smoothing the way for more open, collaborative and trust based future meetings. 

In conclusion, it is evident that sales success requires more than just good intentions; those who truly want to thrive must be willing to put in extra effort each day by consistently practicing habits including nurturing their “5 A Day” relationships, allocating 1 hour each day to invest in self-improvement activities and learn something new as well as bouncing back from adversity by staying resourceful and self-motivated. 

So, in the words of James Clear (author of Atomic Habits), why not try introducing some, or all of these habits into your daily routine to help drive quality inputs and see what impact they could make on accelerating your outcomes and overall sales success! 

”The edge is in the inputs.

The person who consumes from better sources, gets better thoughts.

The person who asks better questions, gets better answers.

The person who builds better habits, gets better results.

It’s not the outcomes. It’s the inputs.”

James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits

If you would like further information on this topic please get in touch with Len at

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8 Strategies to Drive Employee Engagement

8 Strategies to Drive Employee Engagement

Steve Ellis

Steve Ellis


According to Gallup’s latest ‘State of the World Workplace 2022’ report:

  • 60% of people are emotionally detached at work and 19% are miserable.
  • 59% of these are stressed on a daily basis, 56% are worried, 33% are working with physical pain and 31% are angry
  • Only 21% of the workforce are engaged at work
  • 45% of employees said now is a good time to find a job, up slightly from last year, but less than the record 55% in 2019.
  • The regional outlier for this item is the United States and Canada, which leads the world at 71%, up 44 percentage points from the previous year. The next closest regions are Australia and New Zealand at 59% and South Asia at 50%.
  • The regions with the least promising job opportunities are the Commonwealth of Independent States (35%), MENA (28%) and East Asia (27%).

If you are struggling to attract and retain talent or if you are experiencing evidence of quiet quitting, then these 8 leadership strategies can help.

1. Onboarding shouldn't be boring

First impressions are crucial. Leaders need to build relationships and trust quickly with time spent building intimacy, empathy and understanding. Make the onboarding experience a personal one and ensure that they experience as much about the total company as possible and not just the division they have joined. New starters want to believe that their future is wide open with lots of choice and opportunities.

2. Lead with purpose

Leaders can inspire their team members with purpose beyond making profit. As Simon Sinek says, ‘start with why’. Leaders need to connect daily activities and outcomes to a bigger picture for customers, communities, the planet. When we see how our work contributes to that purpose, we get a huge sense of value and meaning.

3. Build fun into work

Work should be fun. Build fun into the work, the day, or week. Enable the team to create their own ‘fun.’ ‘Forced fun’ can be cringey and disengaging. Fun doesn’t just mean after work drinks but can mean games, competitions, activities, experiences, connect to society. Be prepared to spend money on having fun, it will save you money in the long run.

4. Show care and curiosity

‘I don’t care what you know until I know that you care.’ If we want our team to care for their work and care for their outcomes, then leaders must show they care for them. This interest and curiosity must extend beyond conversations about their performance and onto care for their lives.

Zenger Folkman identified 3 critical characteristics that was associated with colleagues being prepared to ‘go the extra mile’. Zenger Folkman analysts looked at 360 leadership assessments since 2020 and compared 13,000 employee ratings of 2,801 leaders who ‘balance getting results with a concern for other’s needs’, and the extent to which their ‘‘work environment is a place where people want to go the extra mile’. Those leaders with the rated highest on balancing results and relationships saw 62% of employees willing to go the extra mile and only 3% ‘quietly quitting’. The worst leaders had 14% of colleagues quietly quitting and only 22% willing to go the extra mile.

HBR Graph

5. Build trust

‘I couldn’t trust you as far as I could throw you!’ Trust binds people together. It makes them want to stay.

3 critical drivers of trust:

  1. Positive relationships. This means you look forward to connecting and enjoy talking to them. Common interests bind you together, while differences are stimulating. Some team members make it easy to have a positive relationship. Others are more challenging. This is often a result of differences (age, gender, ethnicity, or political orientation). Look for and discover common ground with these team members to build mutual trust.
  2. In addition to being totally honest, leaders need to deliver on what they promise. Most leaders believe they are more consistent than others perceive them.
  3. Do you know your job well? Are you out of date on any aspects of your work? Do others trust your opinions and your advice? Experts can bring clarity, a path forward, and clear insight to build trust. This is especially true in technical divisions such as IT, Finance, R&D, Engineering where technical expertise is given huge significance and attention.

6. Active and conscious inclusion - ABIDE

Leaders need to ensure Access, Belonging, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity. Build a psychologically safe environment for everyone. A place where it is easy to express yourself. Most leaders believe themselves to be fair and unbiased. This may be true but ABIDE demands active and conscious inclusion i.e., working hard to bring people in is a different mindset to avoiding exclusion.

7. Inspire others

Leaders need to make the team feel feelings about their work, their company, and their career. Inspiring others includes making me feel proud of the company (its contribution to ESG, society, communities), feeling excited about the future (the company direction, vision, and strategy), challenged and passionate for innovation and new products, markets, and opportunities. Feeling involved in the future by feeling valued and part of the company’s future.

8. Grow others

There is a commercial exchange of value between employer and employee. The employee completes tasks between 9am and 5pm and the employer pays the employee a salary. But if the employee wants future growth in their salary, and the employer wants future value in their tasks, so both need to priorities growth, skill development, training, and responsibilities and opportunities where the employee can prove and improve themselves.

Quiet quitting is a real opportunity cost to the business. For leaders, it is not about getting employees to do more than contracted hours for nothing in return. It is about creating the right environment in which there is a ‘value-added’ exchange. The team member receives and experiences growth, development, empowerment to experiment, fun, loyalty, care, recognition, and joy. The company gets loyalty, ideas, innovation, discretionary effort, advocacy, and a collective culture that builds a reputation in the marketplace.

Leaders must lead and find their own passion for the engagement agenda. It does not just happen. Engagement demands conscious planning and execution.

If you would like further information on this topic please get in touch at

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Trends in Learning and Development 2022

Trends in Learning and Development 2022

Vincent Romano

Vincent Romano

Executive Client Director

The training landscape in 2022 has been largely shaped by the effects of companies returning to the office following lowering of COVID-19 restrictions. Employees are mobile, both physically returning to the office and moving organisations as part of The Great Resignation, impacting training needs and the delivery format. Learning and development as a result is very much front of mind for business leader as they seek to engage and retain their employees.

This article sets out the main trends and themes we have observed during 2022, drawing upon feedback from our clients (either anecdotally or from our surveys), as well from our network of Associates, Partners, and Consultants.

Delivery Format

There has been some debate over in-person training versus virtual training, with the consensus being that in-person training generally is more impactful, while virtual training is more convenient.

In-person is particularly more effective for higher value topics, such as high potential development, leadership, and diversity & inclusion programs. Not only are skillsets enhanced but character is built, and closer, long-term relationships are formed. Employers also have observed the broader benefits of in-person training being able to help build company culture and embed purpose and inclusivity. As a result, in person training has become the default where possible, but for training involving individuals across wider geographies, virtual training can be more economical and accessible.

Companies can adapt digital training for purpose using technology to help digital learning be more engaging, however, there is a lag in what learners expect compared to what companies are offering.

Top 3 Reasons Why In-Person Training is Preferred

  • Reward and incentivize employees to return to the office.
  • Develop core company values and culture.
  • Enhance employee engagement and team building.

Top 3 Reasons Why Virtual Training is Not Working

  • Zoom fatigue and low engagement (not switching on cameras or microphone)
  • Technology difficulties and connectivity
  • Not fit for purpose (limitation of physical activities).

Impact of Technology

This takes us nicely to the subject of technology and its impact on learning and development.

We note that hybrid training can be an extremely tricky mode of learning with lack of equity between in-person learners who are typically more engaged and virtual learners who are often isolated. The solution has been the creation of dedicated hybrid training facilities, with Singapore seeing the opening of Catapult which is Southeast Asia’s first leadership training hub designed to groom Asia’s next-generation leaders through immersive, experiential, and impactful learning journeys. All training rooms are hybrid enabled with cameras tracking facilitators movements, while other facilities include recording suites, and 180-degree and 360-degree immersive studios.

Although they have been around for a while, it is worth while noting the growing popularity of online resources such as LinkedIn Learning, Coursera and Udemy where employees select courses and learn at their own pace. Gamification, meanwhile, can provide a wrapper around these resources to help engage learners by rewarding completion of programs with points, badges, or redeemable vouchers.

Furthermore, there is a move towards Digital Certification of learning where learners will receive accreditation of programs they have attended in a digital wallet, verified by blockchain technology. As the accreditation is unique and verifiable, learners can use the accreditation to help with reimbursement of training costs or demonstration of programme completion to new employers. At Arcadia, we are proud to be working with one of our key partners to co-create our own digital certification – watch this space!

Virtual Reality is also moving into the learning arena as well with VR environments such as such as Oculus where you are exposed to a fully immersive virtual experience. Training takes place on a more individual basis but can achieve high level of engagement which can be useful for getting a specific message across as well as for events such as Executive Away Days, or for energising an audience.

Learning Topics

With in-person training returning, the demand for learning topics has also changed, however, we continue to see several themes persisting which continue to be topical. With teams, particularly regional teams, being able to come together in the one location, we have seen a demand for in person training as part of either Leadership Offsites or Sales Kick Offs, with more engaging and energising topics being requested, particularly from our Communication Suite

High Performing Teams – as leadership teams come together, often for the very first time due to changes in management personnel, the need to understand and build relationships with peers has meant that High Performing Teams was in significant demand, as was shown in our Singapore survey earlier this year.

Presentation Skills – with the return to the office, there has been a return to face-to-face presentations and as such there has been a noticeable uptake in demand for presentation skills programmes, specifically from sales teams for Pitching Skills training.

Executive Presence – like Presentation Skills, with fewer meetings taking place virtually, Executive Presence skills has continued to prove to be in heavy demand, particularly as part of Leadership offsites as a motivational and engaging segment.

Strategic Thinking –demand for Strategic Thinking training in 2022 has been by the need for employees to focus on problem solving skills and increasing employee’s connection to strategy. However, we expect this programme to continue to be popular in 2023 as companies deal with the fall out of the anticipated global recession and the need for companies to implement strategies to survive.

Diversity – unsurprising Diversity, Inclusion and Unconscious Bias training continues to be popular amongst multinationals whether to address specific issues or as part of corporate strategies to present the company as employers of choice.

High Potential Leadership Programmes – this includes both First Time Manager Development Programmes and Female Leadership Development Programmes. There is a strong need to create and maintain a strong bench of talent, particularly following the Pandemic where several senior expatriate leaders returned to their home countries leaving gaps in senior leadership teams. Furthermore, the lack of women in leadership continues to raise its head as a key area to address.

Innovation – innovation has been a key business topic in 2022 and we have seen this translate into demand for training programmes at both the employee and leadership level. We also anticipate this need to grow in 2023 with the anticipated recession as companies seek new market opportunities. Consequently, Arcadia is in the process of building a Leading for Innovation programme which will be available from Q1 of 2023

Imposter Syndrome – this is another popular topic trending in the business world and a phrase guaranteed to be included in year end lists of new words and phrases appearing in our vocabularies. The need to define what this means for companies and how we address this has meant that this is another programme scheduled for release by Arcadia later in 2023.

Executive Coaching – coaching has been in high demand for 2022 and the reasons for this are many and varied. Often coaching assignments have been requested to help individuals prepare for the next rung on the leadership ladder, sometimes for specific presentations, townhalls or media interviews. Other times coaching has been selected as an additional resource for support for individuals experiencing high pressure situations.

The Road Ahead

Even before the world was waking up to the pandemic, back in January 2020, the World Economic Forum said that in the next two years – by 2022 – 42% of core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change. With the advent of the pandemic, change has accelerated this requirement even further (now 50% by 2025).

The demand for technological skills has mushroomed while younger generations are demanding not only training but practical opportunities to practice and demonstrate those skills. Throw in the current economic recovery providing massive opportunities in the job market for employees, companies are turning to learning more than ever to engage and retain employees (now potential Global downturn with a war for talent).

Organisations must be nimble and must listen to the demands and needs of its employees and learning is one of the main tools where organizations can deliver on those demands.


As companies struggle to retain and attract staff, training has had a renewed focus, after being somewhat neglected during the initial stages of the pandemic. Furthermore, training is key to companies reskilling as they innovate to survive in the post COVID business world, particularly with the anticipated Global Recession in 2023.

To conclude, there are four key trends organisation should consider:

  1. In-person Training – where possible, in-person training is the preference for companies, to engage employees and encourage face to face interactions. It is seen as having a higher value than prior to the pandemic and as a reward to employees.
  2. Virtual Training Convenience – as much as companies want in-person, the realisation is that people have got used to virtual formats and with the disparate APAC geography, virtual training is just easier and allows us to cover off larger amounts of participants.
  3. Technology – technology is always as at the forefront of training, and with immersive training options coming online, the possibilities for remote, engaging content are limitless.
  4. Leadership – the biggest demand we see continues to be for leadership programs – whether that be at Executive levels, for High Potentials/First Time Managers or for Women in Leadership and Asian Leaders Programs.

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Attracting and Retaining the Best Talent in Singapore

Attracting and Retaining the Best Talent in Singapore

Joe Goddard

Joe Goddard

Senior Consultant

As the dust settles and hybrid work-life is acceptable, flexibility acts as the cornerstone of any working culture. Coming into the office for 2 or 3 days per week is commonplace; it finally feels like this could be ‘the new norm’ for many years to come. 

However, at Arcadia, we like to dig deeper — not to just assume but question the change in behaviour and understand what’s making the workplace tick. And crucially what aspects of work-life require in-person engagements for everyone to get the biggest benefit.

A great place to start is to understand where leaders and individual contributors are spending their time and effort training and learning new skills.  There has been a seismic shift in how people participate in training programmes, with offerings that include a range of formats: face-to-face, e-learning, gamification, podcasts, and research papers, but which one of these has the greatest impact on building culture?

Survey Findings

We asked some of our senior leaders across 65 organisations1 in Singapore what their thoughts on the subject were.

Here's What We Found

In-person training still forms a key part of the broader training roadmap, as these activities do more than just teach new skills.

Although most organisations now have the capability for digital training, with obvious benefits associated with this method (e.g., accessibility to more people across multiple locations), it appears that the outlook for planned training across the remainder of 2022 is a mixed bag. 90% of organisations are implementing hybrid training (combination of in-person and digital) as opposed to all digital or all in-person.

  • The data suggest that there is a recognition that although in-person training could come with extra effort and cost, it still forms a key part of the broader training roadmap, especially as some skills are more impactful to learn in person.
  • In-person training forms a key part of building and maintaining closer bonds between teams, which is essential to drive purpose and culture. This is due to the nature of activities in workshops being more engaging and rewarding for attendees.
  • Training providers are now in a sweet spot, where different delivery methods are understood and accepted. The corporate world is now primed for innovation to maximise learning further. New ideas such as peer-to-peer (e.g., juniors coaching leaders) or digital innovations, like gamification, could feature heavily in future roadmaps.

Business-critical subjects are worth the extra spend and effort.

After 2 years of COVID, nothing beats face to face! We need to take as much opportunity we possibly can to meet, train, and bond face to face and not only make virtual the default.

We found that there is a clear trend towards certain subjects preferred for in-person training vs. virtual. These subjects are considered business-critical, not only for decision making but also for building culture, and therefore justify the extra spending and effort, often delivered with smaller group sizes.

With an emphasis on overall employee wellbeing, it’s essential that employers offer their teams an opportunity to properly engage in activities to help them to continue learning new ideas, beyond the traditional subjects of workplace training, into meatier subjects such as Resilience and Growth Mindset. If this need isn’t met, then it will be no surprise to see employees seeking an organisation elsewhere that satisfies this.

The key areas that these critical topics fall into are ones: 

  • With an aim to elevate the performance to exceptional (High performing teams, Executive Presence).
  • That are debate- and discussion-critical (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion), which gives all individuals an opportunity to shape company culture and process, e.g., steady performers as well as high performers.
  • That have direct implications on the direction of the business and develop strong leaders, essential for future growth (Strategic Thinking, Presentation Skills).

Virtual training brings great benefits such as bite sized learning, the ability to follow up with application and coaching labs, having the team together across multiple locations, inclusivity, and equity of learning opportunities. There is something unique and special, however, that supersedes this in a face-to-face environment. People are more present, less distracted, more human. It’s more organic. Participants can apply things in the moment, ask a question, interrupt, chime-in real-time. There is a certain energy in the group that allows for more.

Digital learning could have a negative impact on mindset, attitudes and culture, if not tailored to suit the audience

In addition to leaders’ desire to ensure that core topics are ringfenced for in-person engagement, there is also evidence to suggest appreciation that it gives to the overall workplace, where softer measures are essential, e.g., company values and purpose, team building, and engaging all individuals into shaping process. Too much digital learning that has not been tailored specifically for the audience could have a negative impact on mindset and attitudes.

To Summarise:

  • Organisations and leaders must work a lot harder to attract and retain talent, with employees wanting a greater emphasis on well-being and purpose. Individual contributors have reframed their attitudes to how they want to spend their working hours. It is therefore critical for leaders and trainers to observe the broader benefits of building company culture and the long-term payback of embedding purpose and inclusivity, often initiated whilst engaging in company activities such as in-person training.
  • Digital learning is still essential as the backbone of quickly upskilling employees, providing delivery is adapted to the digital environment, i.e., presenter-led programmes are still effective, but could also be complemented with other means where necessary, such as a combination of e-learning (self-paced, podcasts, videos, or gamification). Check out The Mindset Advantage podcast here. There is an interesting space to watch out for in the future here. The entire education sector has been waiting for a shakeup for decades, like how technology has shaped so many other industries.
  • For training, in-person will always be the most beneficial, impactful, and worth the extra effort for important topics, such as developing peak performers, diversity, equity and inclusion, and leadership. Not only are skillsets enhanced but the character is built, and closer, long-term relationships are formed.

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Why is Critical Thinking Important?

Why is Critical Thinking Important?

Matthew Crome

Matthew Crome

Senior Consultant

This article explores 3 questions

Why is critical thinking important?

What is the mindset required for critical thinking?

How can a critical thinking culture be nurtured in the workplace?

Why is critical thinking important?

The modern-day definition of critical thinking is widely attributed to the American Philosopher John Dewey. In his book ‘How Do We Think’ (1910), he defined critical thinking as ‘(the) active, persistent, careful consideration of a belief or supposed form of knowledge in light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends’ – Heavy stuff!

More simply put it is the process of analysing information in order to make a logical decision about the extent to which you believe something to be true or false.

It involves collecting and analysing relevant data from many sources so that we can make informed decisions based on logic. And therein lies the challenge, despite our best efforts to exercise clean logic we are all governed by our emotions. (Your emotions have just influenced your reaction to that last sentence!).

We live in a complex world and are saturated with information and data from multiple sources, many claiming to offer the definitive truth justified by the expertise of the author. These sources are often contrary, and we rarely have the luxury of time to wade through all the data before making a decision.

The stakes can be high. Careers and businesses live or die by the quality of the decisions made. The need for critical thinking is more important than ever when navigating the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world we operate in. We are expected to juggle many tasks at the same time within tight deadlines and demanding stakeholders all of which conspire against us when we need the time and headspace to apply critical thinking to our decision making.

What is the mindset required for critical thinking?

We, at Arcadia, are great believers in the importance of Mindset. It lies at the heart of everything we do, and a critical thinking mindset is key to being effective with this discipline.

There are many applied problem solving and decision-making processes that can be used. We also need to have a healthy, conscious awareness of the influence that our mindset plays in our ability to reason and assess the available data and information.

A simple and useful approach to keep your mindset in check might include asking critical thinking questions, e.g.

  • What do I already know?
  • What do they already know?
  • How do I know that?
  • How do they know that?
  • What am I trying to prove/understand?
  • What are they trying to prove?
  • What is my motivation?
  • What is their motivation?

Deliberately ask ‘What if…?’ questions that challenge common sense, current beliefs, and assumptions.

Be aware of your biases – 3 of the most common cognitive biases are:

Confirmation Bias – We like to be right and subconsciously align to people and ideas that agree with our thinking. It’s a tribal thing and cognitive diversity is called for.

Action Bias – Business drives us to swift action rather than ‘wasting time’ thinking something through. Invest time in the process and defend that time.

Association Bias – People have a tendency to connect the unconnected based on experience and folklore, e.g., Expensive means quality – you get what you pay for. Is this always true?

How can a critical thinking culture be nurtured in the workplace?

For critical thinking to work, it is essential that the individuals involved experience a sense of psychological safety in their team. They need to feel free to share ideas, without fear of ridicule. They need to feel safe to challenge the ideas of others without fear of negative consequence.

Without this fundamental feeling of safety, even the most well-intentioned leaders will struggle to gain the full benefit of the collective brain power of their teams. The question is how to create and nurture that environment.

In my voluntary work as a primary school governor, I recently observed a class of 6-year-old children practicing their critical thinking skills to help and support each other with their ideas. They each had the opportunity for their idea to be reviewed and critiqued by their peers and to a child, each experienced a positive and constructive evaluation of their idea, ultimately leading to better outcomes.  In turn, each child presented their idea to their classmates and then they followed a simple 5 step approach.

Step one – Stop, look, think, and notice the idea being shared. Significantly without judgement or comment. Just a few quiet moments being fully present with the idea.

Step two – The owner of the idea would explain their idea and their reasoning behind it.

Step three – Wondering. Others are encouraged to ask questions to help them understand further. Interestingly the questions were prefixed with ‘I wonder…’  e.g., ‘I wonder why you took that approach?’ or ‘I wonder how you saw that working?’.

Step four – The group now actively come forward with their suggestion and ideas to add and build upon the original thought.

Step five – Recognition. Speaking with the teacher, they commented that the successful embedding of this approach hinges upon this last step of praise and recognition of the behaviours demonstrated by the pupils throughout the exercise. 

I share this approach in this paper for the simple reason, it is simple.

There will be enough complexity with the issues being dealt with without making the process overly complicated. And whilst my example comes from primary school children, I was able to observe first hand how powerfully it impacted the class dynamic supporting an environment where individuals felt safe to share and challenge.

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Why Trust Matters in Leadership Communication

Why Trust Matters in Leadership Communication

Cachet Prescott

Cachet Prescott

Client Director, People Experience

On any given day, leaders find themselves communicating with others in a variety of ways (verbally, nonverbally, body language, written, etc.). Communication lines flow between them and the receivers of their messages on a multitude of topics ranging from everyday communication to feedback to managing conflict to communicating change, and each connection provides an opportunity to either build up or chip away at the trust between all involved in the conversation.

Trust and communication have a reciprocal relationship. Your ability to communicate with others relies on how much they trust you (and vice versa), and how you communicate also impacts that trust. Trust bridges the gap between the words being said and how one perceives and receives your message. It makes the difference between simply hearing what is being expressed vs. finding the intended meaning in your words.

Trust in communication enables leaders to:

  • Build bridges and relationships
  • Establish rapport
  • Build consensus
  • Create feelings of belonging
  • Find common ground
  • Navigate conflict
  • Achieve goals
  • Gain buy-in
  • Inspire loyalty

The Impact of Trust (and Mistrust)

Some leaders believe that people will simply listen to, follow, or buy into an idea because of one’s title or level of seniority. But above and beyond who you are, people need to believe in what you say, and trust plays a vital, non-negotiable role in creating that understanding.

Without trust, what you communicate may be dismissed and ignored, creating a culture of mistrust, disconnection, disloyalty, exclusion, division and even fear.

Each instance of communication provides the opportunity for the person (or people) on the receiving end to determine how much they believe what you say as they mentally assess the answers for following questions for themselves:

Can I trust:

  • You as a person?
  • Your intentions?
  • That you will do what you say you will do?
  • That my thoughts matter in this conversation?
  • That how this conversation might impact me matters?

Measuring Trust

Take a moment to think about the leaders that you trust. Why do you trust them? What is about them that makes them trustworthy in your mind?

Many of the questions above are explored in the book, The Trusted Advisor where readers learn about the Trust Equation (which measures how much someone trusts you) and the four vital elements that contribute to one’s level of trustworthiness:

  • Credibility: How much someone trusts who you are (including your credentials) and what you say
  • Reliability: How consistent are you with your actions and words
  • Intimacy: How safe and secure does one feel with you
  • Self-Orientation: How selfless or selfish you are in the relationship

Think about and consider where you stand with your trustworthiness with those around you, and keep in mind that where you stand with one person may not be where you stand with another (and thus, equating to differing levels of trust in each of those relationships).

For the relationships that you feel you’ve developed a firm level of trust, ask yourself: what were the contributing factors to building trust with this person and how might I be able to apply them in other relationships to build and nurture trust?

Those relationships, however, where there may be weaker levels of trustworthiness present an opportunity to build that trust and ultimately, strengthen the communication bonds.

Communicating with Trust

When you think about your future conversations, consider how you can plant and water the seeds of trust each time you communicate with others.

Each interaction provides the space to proactively think through (and address as needed) the following questions:

  • Have I established the proper rapport with this person?
  • In what ways have I built trust with this person?
  • How can I continue to build and nurture trust with this person?
  • What does this person need from me to see me as trustworthy?

 You can also fortify your trust goodwill through:

  • Active listening
  • Clarity, transparency, and empathy in your messaging
  • Flexing your communication style to your audience
  • Showing interest in your audience and asking open-ended questions

Your Challenge: Choose one stakeholder that you communicate with and assess where you stand in terms of trustworthiness with that person and how that has impacted (positively or negatively) your relationship. Look for ways to either continuing growing or cultivate the trust between you.


Laundry, L. (14 Nov 2019). 8 Essential Leadership Communication Skills. Harvard Business School Online. Retrieved from

Maister, D.H., Green, C.H. & Galford, R.M. (2 Feb 2021). The Trusted Advisor: 20th Anniversary Edition. Free Press

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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

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