Benefits of using psychometric testing in your team

Benefits of using psychometric testing in your team

We recently paid for the team at Optix to be profiled using a psychometric testing system called ‘Insights’. After collating the results and sharing, we then took them on a half day with a trained Insights professional and motivational coach Jack Russell. To say we’re all buzzing about it would be an understatement.

Why did we do it?

We all communicate and like to be communicated with in different ways. Our preference will be based on something born in us as well as key points in our upbringing. Often the challenges seen in team environments comes down to a lack of understanding of this. So often people will assume a lack of respect/disliking when someone is different to them. Often its no more than a misunderstanding or a clash of personalities.

How does Insights work?

The system is based on a coloured wheel. Starting with Fiery Red in the top right, you move to Sunshine Yellow in the bottom right, Earth Green in the bottom left and Cool Blue in the top left. There are various shades and mixtures of the colours as you go round but for ease lets just talk about these four energies. Those in the right hand quadrants are considered extroverts (red and yellow) while those in the left are more introverted (green and blue). Those in the top are more task focused (Red and Blue) while those in the bottom are more people focused (Yellow and Green). If you fall into the Red category you’re likely to be driven, dominant perhaps demanding and sometimes difficult – when speaking to these guys you better know what you’re talking about, don’t give them any fluff, just get on with it. They hate wasting time. The Yellows, as their colour would suggest are bright and bubbly. They are probably the ones standing in the middle of the room chatting or inspiring others. You want to be spending time getting to know these guys and involving them in the big ideas. Greens are calm and helpful. They are driven by strong belief systems and you don’t want to mess with that. Be slow and steady in your communication, don’t rush them. Finally blues are detailed and very task focused. An eye for getting things done exactly and in a precise manner is what drives them. When communicating with them ensure you are precise and have all the facts. 

Why is this important?

We were asked to do an exercise in our groups which involved organising our perfect night out (I’m a sunshine yellow by the way…YAY…according to my colleagues that can also mean ‘annoyingly cringey’ but hey I’m ok with that 😉 The yellows went off bullet pointing a night with laughter, friends, frolicking and drinking, all of which takes place in multiple locations through the evening. The blues went about precisely describing a night out somewhere they have been before (so they knew the consistency) and a pre-booked taxi home. Red and Green were similar distances apart. This was an eye opener for me. Consider this in a work scenario; put these people in an office or team without an understanding of what makes each other tick and its bound to fall over occasionally.

Key Take Aways

Its all well and good understanding Insights, its what you do with it that makes it worthwhile. My immediate takeaways are as follows:

1). You are a mixture of colours. You can’t just pigeon hole someone. This is key when considering the person you’re communicating with because….

2). Its your responsibility to change your communication style to that of your colleagues, not theirs to adapt to yours (although clearly if they do there is perfect harmony!)

3). Working in teams involves skills from all the colours – are you playing to the strengths of those individuals or making them do something they are naturally not good at or where they expend an awful lot of energy doing their best to perform.

I’d highly recommend using the insights profiling in your business – it will change the way you view your colleagues and give you an edge with your communications that lead to a better environment and culture. I’ve not even touched the sides with how it can help your comms with clients – what would that mean to you to have better relationships with them? 

Have you used profiling in your business? How has it changed the way you do things?

photo courtesy of Steve Corey

Meeting Etiquette

Meeting Etiquette

We have a few hard and fast rules at Optix for our meetings. I thought I’d share these in case you can glean something from them. I can’t take full credit for these. I reworked some that I saw at one of our lovely clients – Trinity Fire and Security.

Optix Meeting Rules

First rule of meeting club – do you really need a meeting? They are expensive use of our most important resource – You!

1). Only invite people that REALLY need to be there.

2). Set up and send out an agenda/up front contract in advance so people know what they are being asked to do.

3). Just because Outlook says an hour in the calendar do you really need an hour? If you can do it in ten mins standing up, do so.

4). When you enter the meeting, read out your agenda/ufc so everyone is clear on why they are there and how long you’ll be

5). Be on time

6). Turn your devices onto silent – don’t look at your phone in the meeting unless there is an emergency in which case let the room know

7). Respect others – don’t speak too much, not enough or even worse, over the top of others

8). Take your own action points yourself – these are now your responsibility

9). If you’re getting nothing from the meeting – let the organiser know

10). Don’t feel bad about calling people out on the points above – they are here for a reason

11). Review all actions at the end of the meeting – circle the room and everyone who has an action tell everyone else


Generational Management 

Generational Management 

If you’re managing more than a few people, there’s a good chance they might cross generations and guess what, those guys have different needs. I believe strongly that its not up to them to change, its up to you as a leader to adapt and understand those needs so you can get the best from all of them.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…generational management.

This week I attended a great talk at Exeter University’s Business Leaders Forum. Guest speaker was none other than successful investor and Dragon’s Den’s Deborah Meaden. Her topic of choice was ‘How business might look in twenty years time’ and her number one challenge; generational management. It certainly struck a chord with me.

We currently have three generations in the workplace:

Baby Boomers – Born from ’46 to ‘64
Gen X – ’65 – ‘77
Gen Y – ’78 onwards

The BB’s are and always have been driven by a competitive, work till you drop attitude – it was a thing of the times. Gen X are a little more cautious and strive for greater work-life balance. Then there is Gen Y – these guys like feedback, have a thirst for learning and are driven by technology.

You can bet that some of the BB’s think the younger gen are lazy and tech obsessed while the younger gen think their elders are stubborn and stuck in their ways. A challenge indeed when you want them to work as a team.

If you manage teams which transcend generations its critical you get them talking and understanding each other. The young guys should seek the wisdom and experience of their elders while the older members of the team must open their minds to the fresh new perspectives from their younger counterparts. Sounds easy doesn’t it 😉

Here’s are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Start measuring by results and not by the way people get there. As a leader you’ll need to adapt to the different styles and work methods of these generations. Your younger team members may be driven by working at certain times of the day, perhaps when they feel most productive. They may prefer new locations (yes that coffee shop down the road really can be a legitimate place to work). They are probably working at their desks less and less (this is the mobile generation). Have you adapted the routines and structure you once had? Do you trust your team if you can’t see them at their desk? These are the changes you’ll need to make if you want to succeed with a Gen Y workforce. Interestingly a lot of the time my guys are now working at our clients because we’re adapting not only to generational changes but industry ones too. Todays work climate is about collaboration and teamwork more so than ten years ago. We’ve taken notice and continue to adapt to our client’s and staff’s needs.

Communication is something that gets written about a lot, probably because it easy to empathise with. Gen X and BB’s preferring email and phone calls compared to the more instant messaging of the Gen Y’ers. One thing I did in my own business last year (being that we’re fairly heavily Y biased) is setup a couple of WhatsApp groups, one for the entire company and one for the sales team. The guys share stories, have banter and help each other out everyday and so far I’d say its been a great success. This is mixed with the more traditional email circulars to the business, regular team meetings and one to one reviews and catchups to ensure everyone is catered for.

Another thing I’ve learnt is the thirst for learning that Gen Yer’s have. We’ve subscribed to, an online video training site where you can find out about everything from how to read google analytics to improving your communication skills. We also have a budget set aside for conferences and training and encourage the team to seek out the ones they feel would provide most value and then make a case for being sent on them. How are you investing in your team’s development because if you don’t, you can be sure they will find someone who will?

One final point – make sure everyone has a voice. A leader needs to listen to their people and make strong decisions, calculating the risk and reward at all times. Your BB’s may have been there before and you should seek to use that experience. Your young guns might challenge the norm, help you innovate and take you to places you’ve not been before. Your job is to make the best of the amazing and culturally diverse world we live in so your business can flourish over the next twenty years.

Your Say

Have you had experiences of managing across generations? Positive or Negative, we’re keen to hear so we can all learn.

How to increase staff motivation – help with their dreams

How to increase staff motivation – help with their dreams

Want to increase staff motivation and loyalty? Then encourage them to pursue their dreams!

Everyone has a dream. Whether it’s to earn millions, retire early, travel the world, own your own business, become a professional golfer, or have a family…. everyone has a dream.

A number of years ago I read up about Google and the fact they give their staff 20% of their time to work on their own projects/ideas. A few of the Google products you know and love have come from this very mantra. Then a couple of years on I read about a company called MRY. They wholeheartedly encourage their employees to carry out their own projects. MRY realised that employees will devote themselves to their vision if they in turn help them achieve their own dreams. The outcome is that the company has a whopping 75% retention rate of staff.

Whenever I have the opportunity to help my guy’s personal projects at Optix, I always listen with open ears. When a couple of the guys came forward to ask for support with a handmade bracelet business they wanted to setup, I willingly encouraged them. This was a great opportunity for them to learn key business skills and have the chance to develop their careers at the same time.

It’s now a few months down the line and I recently caught up with them to see how the business is progressing. Whilst they told me the business was rolling out nicely, they pointed out how much they had learnt whilst working on the project. As both team members sit on different teams (one is a developer and another is a marketeer), their close collaboration has enabled them to learn a lot from each other, which has not only has been beneficial for them, but by sharing their knowledge has also helped make key improvements within Optix.

It’s been great to see the project unfolding over the past few months, the excitement, ideas, passion and creativity that the guys are getting from the business is certainly proving infectious across the office.

We all want motivated employees in our businesses. Supporting them as they develop their own careers will go a long way to ensuring your people stay happy, loyal, and passionate.

Why ‘I’m really busy’ is a terrible phrase.

Why ‘I’m really busy’ is a terrible phrase.

Go on admit it, you’ve said it yourself haven’t you? I have. I say it a lot. So much so in fact that I’m outing myself in an attempt to curb my use of this horrible phrase. Maybe you’ll join me?

I recently read this except from someone on twitter:

“Imagine there is a bank account that credits your account each morning with £86,400.

It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening the bank deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every penny, of course?

Each of us has such a bank. Its name is TIME.

Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to a good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no over draft.

Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no drawing against “tomorrow.”

‘I’m too busy’ or ‘I’ve got too much on’ are rarely ever the case. We might feel like this but the truth is we make a lot of choices in our lives which dictate the amount of time we have left. In truth, when we say we don’t have time to do something, what we’re really saying is that we’re not prioritising it.

Tell me this (and be honest with yourself) do you watch Game of Thrones or any of the other box sets out there when you get home at night? Do you sit and watch the news everyday? Do you spend time looking at pictures of cats on the Internet or watching YouTube’s endless funny clips? Its important to understand that these stop you doing other things so when your colleague comes asking if you can do them a favour or your boss really wants you to over deliver on something for a looming deadline, saying you’re too busy is perhaps the wrong choice of words.

I really hate hearing those words either at work, or in my personal life yet I say them myself so how can expect others not to? They are so negative aren’t they. How can you possibly deliver that sentence in a positive way without affecting the person you’re delivering it to?

Offer up a better way?

How about trying the following next time you feel yourself about to blurt it out.

“I’d love to help with that. I have a few other priorities that I must deal with now but I can help you tomorrow/later today if that helps”

“I’d love to help with that but I’ll be honest, I’m probably not the best person for it. Would you mind trying xyz and come back to me if they can’t help?” (Obviously make sure xyz is actually a good suggestion – this isn’t shifting things you don’t want to do onto anybody else!)

“Sure, I’ll be able to do that for you later… I just need to get a few other bits done before, is that ok?”

Before you use these though, consider the bigger picture and the excerpt at the top of this post. Do you have the right to say you’re too busy? Are you using your time wisely? Do things distract you when you should be doing work? Do you watch TV when you could be reading or improving your skills in something? Do you play xbox for hours when you get home, when you could be putting that time into planning your next day and making sure you’re as efficient as can be? If not, perhaps you shouldn’t be saying you’re too busy at all, or using one of my suggestions?

Perhaps you should be thinking about where you put your time from now on?

Now Your Thoughts

  • Can you hand on heart say you are planning your time consistently and efficiently so you can use it to maximum effect?
  • Have you got any tips/stories to share on this subject? Good or bad please, we’ll learn from both.

Why the young are our future

Why the young are our future

The first high jump event was recorded in the early 19th century. From then until 1964 athletes had all used something called the scissors technique. Essentially they approached the bar and jumped with one leg going over from the side first, followed by the second, all the time remaining bolt upright.

Then in 1964 something remarkable happened. Dick Frosbury went against the norm and performed a completely different technique, jumping and ‘flopping’ over the bar backwards. He shocked (and perhaps you could argue, ‘changed’) the world. Later this technique would be known as the Frosbury Flop and has become the staple move for all high jumpers ever since.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a very good presentation by Marc Astley of Astley Media on the topic of Chaos. Marc and I talk on very similar subjects around our local area and we share a number of the same views. This talk in particular highlighted something I’ve been thinking about for a while now – I’m getting older (35 is practically ancient in my game ;)) The people who will take my business forward are the young guns with the new ideas.

Marc made the point that engaging these guys is critical for business success. The tricky thing is doing it in such a way that doesn’t stifle them. Think about it. For years, businesses have bought kids in and taught them ‘their way’, after all, its got them this far hasn’t it! As these kids have moved up the career ladder they’ve often become managers and taught the same thing they were taught. A recipe for disaster when in todays world, innovation is so critical for business survival.

Sadly I see lots of business who aren’t in the slightest bit innovative or willing to invest in their young guns. They’d rather do things the way they’ve always done and unfortunately this will be their downfall in a world where disruption is the word of the day.

If Dick Frosbury hadn’t been willing to try something different would the sport have moved on? Probably…but who knows how long it would have taken.

We all need innovators in our businesses. Seek yours out, give them a voice and embrace change…..or prepare for a rocky road ahead in the next few years.

6 things that changed my life in 2014

6 things that changed my life in 2014
Yes folks its that time of year again. While I’ve been a little light on posts in 2014 there is one that must be written. This one.

2014 has been an interesting year, one which has seen a lot of change in both my personal life and business dealings. In a year that saw Optix Solutions turn 15 and new ventures being started by my business partner and I (hopefully more on those in years to come) we may just have tried to do a little too much. As you probably know I’m a huge fan of change and believe it completely necessary for success however sometimes it can feel like you’re biting off too much and its important in those moments to take stock, remember what you’ve achieved and maybe even take some time out. So in this post I’m taking a moment to look at what happened this year and how it affected my life.

Don’t forget that if you’re interested in my posts from the last few years, you can find them here: ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13:

So let’s do the run down then…

1). Baby Banks on the way – Well this absolutely has to be at the top doesn’t it :)

I’ll be a father for the first time in Feb this year (well maybe a little earlier if you look at the size of Lizz!). I’m excited and apprehensive at the same time which is an unusual feeling. With everything in business, things are generally within my control. I can make decisions and live by them but here we’re talking about another life, one which I can only hope to guide without pushing too hard. I’m pretty sure I’ll be a good Dad but there are a few moments when I question if I have the skills and knowledge for what’s going to be the biggest change to my life so far.  I’m sure there will be more about fatherhood on this blog throughout the year so watch this space.

2). Re-Focusing is important however big the decisions

Three years ago our business was split about 75% design and build to 25% digital marketing. Now its almost flipped and that’s been a conscious decision based on goals and a vision we set out a few years ago. Steering a company with 15 people in it is not like a startup where decisions can be made quickly. If you get them wrong in the early days its fairly easy to claw back, with a larger company it takes time and effort and you have to get everyone on board taking into account their own individual drivers (which of course may not be totally aligned with your own vision). This year we’ve pushed harder than ever to adapt to the industry and its been an exciting journey which we are starting to reap the rewards for.

3). Ben Corbally

I hope adding Ben in here means he doesn’t get too much stick from the rest of the team. They aren’t those kind of people so I’m sure they won’t give him too much :) So why did Ben make this list? Ben is a young gun who joined Optix in late 2013 in our Digital Marketing team. He now works alongside me in the client facing part of the business and helps build the digital strategy for some of our newer clients. The reason that he makes the list is that he’s pushed me to think differently this year, to take a new perspective on things which I’ve made fundamental business decisions with. We’ve bought in new services (which has attracted new clients) and pushed ourselves more than I think we would have done without him. Ben you’ve been a delight to work with and I look forward to doing more along side you over the next few years. Exciting times ahead.
You can find Ben over on Twitter: 

4). Vision for 2020

We re-wrote our vision story for Optix this year and delivered it to the team in September. The statement is our second of this type, the last one being done in 2012 and running out in September of 2015. Its written in the format of a story (from a clients perspective of Optix) and outlines some of the goals that James and I have set for the business. This new vision features everything from turnover figures hitting a million to owning our own building. Better get working then!

5). Finally bringing Project Management to Optix

OK so this is an area I’ll put my hands up and say we hung around too long to sort out. This year we’ve recruited Mr James Cassap, a heavyweight recruit for the business from Cambridge University Press who brings 10 years of project management skills to the business. One well known friend of the company has described the change as likely to look like Optix on steroids. I’m looking forward to seeing that next year. :)

6). Bellroy

Ok so a bit of a light-hearted one to throw in here but hey you need to have a bit of fun don’t you. A man’s wallet is a key item to have around his person. The problem with wallets is they are bulky things. They can affect the shape of nice suits and weigh you down. Bellroy know this too well and have invented a set of wallets which solve this problem. I bought one this year and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that everytime I use it, its an absolute pleasure and puts a smile on my face.

So there were six of my year-changers. I’m looking forward to 2015 for personal and business reasons and I’ve got a feeling that next years post will have some pretty special points in it.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and a prosperous and healthy 2015

Now Your Thoughts
  • So what changed your life this year?
  • Who and what made an impact on your 2014?

Why I love the Ryder Cup so much

Why I love the Ryder Cup so much

Lets face it the Ryder Cup is a sensational event for any sports lover.

Apart from the fact its so different to its standard format of the game and pits the best players from either side of the Atlantic against each other for three days, its neither of these reasons I want to focus on.

The main reason I love the Ryder Cup and especially the European effort is because of the passion and camaraderie that is clearly evident in their team. There is a lesson for us all to take from the way that team work and support each other over the weekend. 

‘Teamwork’ is an often overused term in business, I do it myself no doubt. That said, even if I use it too much and recreate just a small percentage of the togetherness that the Europeans displayed this weekend, I’ll be a very happy man.

Its important to remember that the Ryder Cup players have no monetary incentive to win this coveted trophy. This is all about pride and playing for the team and before any of you tell me anyone would do the same, I’d call in to question the England football team! #coughcough

The European team comes together from all backgrounds and nationalities. You’ve got players in their early 20’s with some almost double their age. You’ve got big personalities and shrinking violets. Paul McGinley I salute you for what you’ve achieved in getting these guys to work so closely together. You’ve built a family!

Just take a look at the camaraderie around the course. The fist pumping when holes are won. The kissing and man-love between Donaldson and Mcginley when the trophy was theirs. The fact the players who’ve finished their rounds always follow the others round to support them on those final holes.

Possibly the most poignant moments for me are those where you see an older member of the team take a younger member under their wing. This weekend, for me, most noticeably were the efforts of G-Mac and Dubuisson and of course Lee Westwood and Donaldson. True team spirit and respect for each others experience.

So its less of an educational post today and more of a hat-tip to the fine captaincy from McGinley. I’m sure we could all learn some very valuable lessons from you when building our teams. I’ll be looking out for any tips over the next few weeks on how you did such a fine job.

Well done team Europe. An inspiration to me and millions of others across the continent.


Photo courtesy of:

Inbound Marketing – A few key takeaways from IMUK13

Inbound Marketing – A few key takeaways from IMUK13

Wow – firstly just need to say this is my 100th post! Boom! It makes writing to thin air in the early days seem worthwhile when you hit milestones like this. Thanks to Dave at Optix for pointing this out to me!

So last week I attended Inbound Marketing 2013 in London with my digital marketing team at Optix Solutions. A great day put on by Deeply Digital and Hubspot. The various speakers covered everything from the basic principles of Inbound Marketing (more on that to follow), to how your sales team needs to adapt to an inbound world, to an excellent presentation on conversion rate optimisation by Will Critchlow of Distilled.

As with all these events, they often leave your mind whirring and if you’re not careful you can write down so many things you want to implement, that you don’t end up doing anything. In order that I don’t fall into that trap myself I thought it may be useful to share a few key takeaways with you.

1). Inbound Marketing is more of a philosophy than I’d realised. It all starts with working out your buyer personas (you can have a few). These are not generally demographics but behaviours of your buyers. What makes this persona tick, how do they feel about working with you, what problems do they have that you can solve. The next stage is to create your content plan based on these personas. The next and possibly most technical stage is bringing context into play. Inbound marketers are constantly learning about their users and offering up different experiences online depending on these. A user viewing a website for the first time will see different landing pages than one who has perhaps already downloaded your latest ‘best practice guide’. According to one of the speakers a great example of this was demonstrated by the Wall Street Journal who were able to work out their influencers, lower the pay wall for this group and in turn drive more traffic to their site. True Inbound Marketing at work.

2). Sales (and in fact your entire team) must engage very differently in an inbound world. Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot believes that in today’s social world, prospects of B2B companies are anywhere upto 70% down the purchasing funnel before they even pick up the phone to you. They’ve done their research on your company and products. They’ve read reviews, looked at your social media presences and probably looked up your staff. By the time they pick up the phone to call you they’ve made up their mind about the type of company you are so it’s vital your sales team understand this and treat them with the respect they deserve as an informed buyer. This needs to cascade down the entire ‘inbound organisation’ says Brian. Once the sale is made, the whole team need to be consistent in the type of relationship your company has built with them. The message was clear: Sell with integrity, sell with trust, listen more than talk.

3).  My final takeaway was around how much management of staff has changed in the last 40 years and how this impacts anyone who employs a team. Brian showed us this fascinating table of his take on culture change in the last 40 years.

Culture 1973 1993 2013
Mantra Management Leadership Inspiration
Desire Pension Salary Learning
Mentality OCD Anxiety Disorder ADD
Hours 9-5 9-6 Whenever
Workplace 4 walls Openplan Wherever
Tenure Whole Career 6 Years 18 Months






For people who have lived their lives managing employees from one of the other generations (probably a large proportion of board level directors I’d guess) this leaves an interesting challenge. They must seek to understand their younger workforce and consider the overall makeup of their business if they are to continue getting the most from their team. So what does your staff benefit list look like? Does it impact across the company or just one sub-set of your team? When was the last time you even looked at it? I’m off to look at mine now!

Some great takeaways, some of which I have action points on already. If you can make it to next year’s conference I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. 

Express & Echo Entrepreneur and Employer of the Year Awards!

Yesterday I learnt that I’ve been shortlisted for the Entrepreneur of the year award at my local paper’s business awards, and my company, Optix Solutions has been shortlisted for the employer of the year award. A proud moment for both the company and me personally.

Now the personal award is in the lap of the judges but the other award is being put out to public vote and is being judged on number of tweets received in support.

It would mean a lot to me if you’d just take a minute to vote for Optix Solutions here:

I try not to ask for much from you, so that when things like this do come up, you’ll consider reaching out and helping me :)

What would be even sweeter is if you’d consider sending a tweet to your followers asking them to vote aswell. I’ve even written something for you here:

“Please follow and vote for @optixsolutions in their local award for employer of the year. They really deserve it :)”

If you’re in any doubt, we’ve backed up our claim to glory with a blog post here

Thank you all. I promise I’ll be back with educational content again soon.