Scratch Post ARCHIVE



How do you keep and incentivise key people who won't necessarily make it to the top?

  1. Be honest and constructive in your feedback about where your people are now and the likelihood of them getting to where they want to be

  2. Draw up a realistic development programme of what is achievable over an agreed timescale – this may not simply be a case of upward progression

  3. Set goals and targets and regularly review progress against these

  4. Expectation management at an early stage is important - be realistic about what aspirations are really achievable in relation to timescale, skill sets and opportunity. Few organisations can guarantee definitive career paths now, so people may have to be more flexible in achieving their aspirations

  5. Don't assume that all your managers want to be MD - some may think it's expected of them but won't actually want to make the sacrifices involved

  6. Consider whether executive coaching could have a role to play in career management, i.e. helping to identify and develop necessary skills, whilst exploring aspirations and how (else) these might be achieved

  7. Could your organisation recognise career progression in other ways? Sometimes the route to senior management is seen as the default option because there are no apparent alternatives for recognising the individual’s value.

  8. Don't let tradition and convention cloud your creativity - competition for talent is intense, so your thinking should be too

  9. It is usually much more expensive to bring new talent into the organisation than it is to retain those you already have – especially at more senior levels. Common sense suggests it’s about realising the value of the investment you’ve already made, although honesty is the best policy if you’re to avoid disillusionment and ‘present in body but not in mind’ syndrome

Meekest and Mightiest make worst leaders

Too much assertiveness - or not enough - are the traits most likely to stop someone from becoming a great leader, according to Stanford Graduate School of Business. Organizational behaviour experts Frank Flynn and Daniel Ames found the social costs of in-your-face management - hurt feelings and damaged relationships - were seen to override the positive aspects of the Mighty's ability to get the job done. Conversely, the inability of the Meek to move projects along and achieve goals was what stuck in people’s minds, not their ability to preserve social harmony. Moderate assertiveness is best, plus plenty of charisma, intelligence, drive and conscientiousness. “The analogy we use is that assertiveness is like salt in a sauce: Too much spoils the dish, but too little is equally distracting,” Flynn says.. »

Wildcat's view: Although the culture of an organisation has much to do with overall management styles, this does seem like common sense. Whilst some work environments are not for the ‘shrinking violet’, there is no excuse for steamroller management. On the other hand, weak and wet is unlikely to get results. A fair and balanced approach is generally best - oh, as well as all that leadership stuff!

Silence derails mission-critical projects

Fact-free planning, skirting around priorities and being afraid to admit to problems are three of the five critical failures that undermine major business initiatives. The Silence Fails study by US training company VitalSmarts and professional services firm The Concours Group found that conversations about five key issues were routinely avoided, leading to failure in 85% of product launches, restructures, IT projects and other initiatives. 'Project chicken' and 'absent without leave sponsors' - unchallenged lack of support from leaders and team members - were the other two stumbling blocks. "Most senior leaders don't realise the full impact of not addressing these often overlooked human elements until it's too late," said study co-sponsor Andy Shimberg.»

Wildcat's view: There is nothing more deafening than a loaded silence. The metaphor that springs to mind is that of everyone trying to ignore the elephant in the middle of the room. Avoidance of key priorities and failing to highlight problems, for whatever reason, can have a serious impact on the ultimate success of a project. Additionally, promising projects can be completely stalled by the sponsor who goes AWOL and the project leader who fails to give a lead – perhaps ‘project chicken’ alludes to the headless variety.

Rehearsing the world of work in 2016

Businesses that adopt a flexible approach to information ownership and where and when work takes place will be best placed to cope with organisational change over the next ten years, according to the Orange Future Enterprise coalition. The telecoms-backed think tank said business change was happening at its fastest rate since the industrial revolution and would create four distinct future scenarios, dubbed 'Disciples of the Cloud', 'Electronic Cottages', 'Replicants' and 'Mutual Worlds', where businesses operate as cooperatives of independent contractors and intellectual property is owned by workers. "The challenge is asserting some control so businesses can use the situation to their advantage," said OFEc founder Robert Ainger.»

Wildcat's view: I think we probably all know ‘disciples of the clouds’ types! Seriously though, scenario planning is a powerful technique for organisations - helping them to envision potential futures, the implications for their industries/businesses and how they might respond to the potential challenges and opportunities alike. The flexibility inherent in this process also helps counter the dreaded ‘planners droop’ - often the result of more traditional long range planning approaches, which become out of date quickly in fast moving, complex business environments.

Coaching Section Added to Wildcat One Website

Wildcat One has significant expertise in coaching. Find out more in our new section.

Avert merger disaster by ensuring all the pieces fit

The Scotsman, 18 October 2006

A staggering 70 per cent of mergers and acquisitions typically fail to deliver the synergies and shareholder value they promised - an alarming and expensive margin of error which is attributed variously to poor systems integration, clashing egos, flawed intentions, insufficient planning and bad - or non- existent - communication.

Leap of Faith into Soft Skills Development (PDF)

Scotland on Sunday, 8 August 2006

Managers are getting in touch with their feelings to get ahead according to executive coaching specialist Wildcat One.

Without clear objectives it can all end in tears (PDF)

Press and Journal, 23 February 2006

"Roughly two-thirds of mergers and acquisitions historically fail to achieve the benefits they expected - and that's a big margin of error," says Pat Tomlin, director of M & A integration specialist and troubleshooting consultancy Wildcat One.

View from the icecap

Wildcat One was delighted to support Karen Darke's successful attempt to become the first paralysed woman to ski across the Greenland icecap. Our pictures are from her amazing journey, which involved a 600km marathon on a special "sit-ski" in temperatures of -30°C and below.

First Camp, Through the Tent  Flaps

Across the Ice, Icy Landscapes

From left to right. Top: First Camp, Through the Tent Flaps
Bottom: Across the Ice, Icy Landscapes

More tea..?

Too much tea is crippling the nation's productivity, according to new research. A staggering 53% of respondents to printing group Lexmark's survey admitted spending more time making a brew than on business. In fact the average British worker wastes nearly a quarter (22%) of the working day making tea, gossiping and planning for their next holiday. Other distractions include surfing the internet (51%) and looking for a new job (11%). As a result, a fifth of British office workers now say they work just as productively at home. Smashing. Cuppa, anyone..?



  1. Build a compelling picture of where you're going

  2. If it's difficult to see short-term positives, be honest

  3. Be clear and straightforward

  4. Explain why it's so important – if you're not convinced, your staff won't be either.

  5. Avoid using numbers, jargon, legalese or meaningless "froth"

  6. Explain how the change enforces your organisational aims and/or values

  7. Be accessible and visible - walk the floor and talk to people

  8. Let staff know they can ask tough questions any time

Wildcat One is to sponsor a pioneering polar expedition

Designed to help disabled people overcome life-changing challenges in the outdoors. The journey into the wilderness – ‘Hands and Feet Across Greenland’ – is led by intrepid Highland sportswoman Karen Darke. Karen was paralysed in a rock-climbing accident near Aberdeen in 1993 and now uses a wheelchair.

The first inclusive attempt to cross Greenland by a British woman will involve gruelling conditions and temperatures below 30ºC. “I love challenges, especially physical challenges, and I also love the wilderness of the outdoors,” Karen says. Wildcat One is sponsoring Camp One. The team is seeking charitable donations of £40,000 in total to make the venture possible.

Contact Interventure for more information.

Half of staff never speak to their MD

Almost 50% of UK employees have never had a conversation with their managing director and a quarter don't even know his or her name, according to new research by HR consultancy RightCoutts. The gulf is particularly wide in Scotland, where 30% of workers are clueless about the name of their managing director or chief executive, compared with only 19% of employees in London.

Wildcat's view: Hopefully another nail in the coffin of the ‘ivory tower’ executive. Clearly large, geographically dispersed organisations will face more challenges in this area (especially where there might be important market benefits to boosting local management profile). However, with all today’s sophisticated media and communications tools, there’s really no excuse for people not knowing who you are.

CEOs rank new markets above cost-cutting in global push

As companies expand across the globe, especially into the “BRICs” economies -- Brazil, Russia, India, and China -- finding new customers and markets - not just cost cutting - is now their primary goal, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers' 9th Annual Global CEO Survey. Nearly two-thirds of the 1,410 CEOs surveyed are confident that globalisation will have a positive impact on their business over the next three years. But they warn that increased overseas commercial activity and geopolitical forces are also making their operations more complex. »

Wildcat's view: There’s no question that ‘doing business’ globally is increasingly challenging and complicated. Although the BRICs markets offer phenomenal opportunities, these are set against a backdrop of complex socio/political demands and expectations, which have to be managed effectively. Establishing strong networks and building stakeholder relationships is pretty critical to all this – whoever said all this ‘soft skills’ stuff was easy?

Corporates ignore staff at their peril in IT overhauls

Mission-critical IT projects are regularly failing because companies don’t consider how they will change the way people work. Research by IT specialist Changefirst based on a study of 56 organisations found that even the best-intentioned IT projects can go pear-shaped because executives become so engrossed in the new technology they forget about the “human” factor. »

Wildcat's view: It would be disappointing to think this is still a true reflection of some major IT projects, after the millions that were spent (and one would hope, lessons learned) on supposedly all-singing, all-dancing IT solutions in the 1990s. Working with the ‘customer’ at both strategic and operational level is key and early input from end users critical. New systems can have implications on work processes and jobs - and implementation can be a difficult and confusing time. It’s important to understand and plan for these, as well as provide ongoing, effective training and support…in a language that users will understand.

Toys for the Boys

Forget ActionMan and Barbie. A Toronto toy company has launched a range of “everyday superheroes” for “Big Kids”, featuring GeekMan, BossMan & MoneyMan. Each comes with their own biog, factfile and secret passcode. BossMan is described as “Leading a crusade to reach objectives, he empowers, implements change and captures mindshare”, while MoneyMan is “focused on ROI and the bottom line, he fights for free enterprise and keeps working capital at work”. Sound like anyone you know…? »


Meetings can slice huge chunks out of your working week - sometimes to very little obvious benefit. Could you manage them more effectively? Here are our top tips.

  1. Start with a clear idea of where you want to finish – and how you’ll know when you get there

  2. Consider both long and short term outcomes – this gives flexibility for compromise and win-win opportunities

  3. Have an agenda to provide structure and give people advance notice of the issues

  4. Don’t get caught by the unexpected ‘broadside’ or, worse, ‘friendly fire’. Find out what the main objections to your proposal are and lobby key decision makers/influencers

  5. Those invited to the meeting should have the information, expertise and authority to make the required decisions – if they aren’t available, don’t hold the meeting

  6. State your desired outcome for the meeting early in the proceedings and, wherever possible, get agreement to this

  7. Challenge issues that arise that are not relevant to the agreed outcome, so – use your agenda

  8. Summarise regularly so everyone knows what’s been agreed and what’s still outstanding

  9. Stay vigilant as to what others are doing – body language and tone of voice offer useful clues to engagement, support or opposition; incongruent communication can mean lack of agreement

  10. At the end of the meeting, summarise and record what was agreed, any action points and who is accountable. Confirm this in writing to all relevant parties as soon as possible.

  11. Avoid impromptu meetings. Ask whether a meeting is the best way? Do you have to be involved? Does it have to be now?

M&As still not delivering value

Fewer than half of mergers and acquisitions achieved their hoped-for cost-savings and barely half deliver their expected revenue or value, according to management consultancy Accenture. Only 45% of the 400-plus US and European corporate executives in its survey believed their most recent deals achieved expected cost-saving synergies, while only 51% met expected revenue synergies. IT integration - particularly in cross-border transactions - was cited as a major stumbling block. The firm said missing synergy goals by even a small percentage could mean losing hundreds of millions of dollars of shareholder value. »

Wildcat's view: Signing the M&A deal is just the beginning of what can be a tortuously long process, especially if the marriage involves different corporate, as well as geographical and legal cultures. It is important to have real clarity about the objectives of going for the deal and the value to be realised, right from the earliest phase – sometimes companies can lose sight of this in the cut and thrust of negotiations. These objectives should highlight the anticipated synergies to be achieved, which then directs the implementation plan for a successful integration. Failing to devote sufficient time early enough in the process to these fundamentals can have a negative impact on the overall value of the deal, once all the dust has settled.

Leaders don't listen, don't manage and don't have a clear vision

It's official - the biggest mistake business leaders make is not communicating with or listening to their workforce. In a new study of more than 1,400 leaders and managers by global consultancy the Ken Blanchard Group, 41% felt inappropriate use of communication or listening was the biggest mistake leaders made when working with others. Conversely, the most critical skill a leader could possess was communicating and listening (cited by 43%), followed by effective management skills, emotional intelligence and empathy, values and integrity, vision and empowerment. »

Wildcat's view: Leadership is all about communication – all of the time. You can have the greatest strategy on the planet, but that’s not much use if you can’t get it across to others in a way that will win their commitment and call them to action. Vision and strategy can’t be absorbed through osmosis – you have to talk to people. It’s a no-brainer.

Women support, men solve

Stereotypes about the different leadership styles of men and women are contributing to the gender gap across Europe, according to Catalyst, an organisation that supports women at work. Managers think women are better at supporting others, while male leaders are more effective at problem-solving. Anglo men were the only group in Western Europe who believed women were relatively ineffective at inspiring others, which was also the most valued leadership attribute. The research questioned 935 managers across ten European countries about their boss's leadership style. »

Wildcat's view: So, Anglo men believe women are relatively ineffective at inspiring others eh? There are a plethora of surveys, which suggest the demands of leadership are shifting to a greater emphasis on empathy and emotional intelligence (reportedly more female traits), rather than charisma. But let’s cut to the chase – inspiration is about vision, passion, integrity and belief – and following through on that belief. It’s these qualities that stimulate others to follow and there’s nothing gender specific about them. There are lies, damned lies and gender stereotypes.

Malawi school inspires Wildcat support

Nanthomba Orphan School in Llongwe, Malawi, where at least a quarter of the children have been orphaned by the Aids pandemic, has purchased food and uniforms for the children and a bike for its teachers (who are all voluntary) after an impromptu donation by Wildcat One director Pat Tomlin. She visited the school and donated all the cash she had in her pocket at the time, amounting to £50, when in the country on a speaking engagement for the Annual Conference of the Institute of People Management Malawi. Wildcat One now plans to make more regular donations to the school: "When you see what they can do with so little, even a relatively small donation would go a long way for them. The parents were lacking in food and basic supplies, because droughts have devastated the crops and many of the orphaned children are caring for the younger children in their villages, because of the impact of Aids among adults. Despite all this, what really struck me was how enthusiastic and keen the children were to learn and how thrilled the parents were with the school."

Apprehension - Pupils of Nanthomba Orphan SchoolNanthomba School Assembly





The children of Nanthomba Orphan School, Llongwe, Malawi

Picture: ©Charles Everitt

World first for pioneering sportswoman

Intrepid Highland sportswoman Karen Darke is back in Scotland after successfully becoming the first paralysed woman to ski across the Greenland icecap. Her amazing journey, which was sponsored by Wildcat One, involved a 600km marathon on a special "sit-ski" in temperatures below minus 30°C and heights above 2000m. "Sometimes we can let our fears stop us from doing things," Karen says. "I almost did with this, but with the right planning and a dose of determination, then I see now that just about anything is possible." »


Speaking of meetings, are yours full of tedious management speak? Buzzword Bingo (we had to avoid the name it normally goes by, because of spam filters!) could be just what you need. Draw a grid with a different piece of management jargon in each square and take it into your next executive session. Here are some popular phrases, just to get you started:

The first player to score off an entire diagonal, vertical or horizontal line wins! Your meetings will never be dull again! If bog standard gobbledygook is too tame for your office, try Transaction Legalese Bingo or Marketing Bingo. Some of our favourite (awful) phrases from the public and private sector include:

  1. Recontextualise the issue —this has to be a favourite! Translates to ‘fudging a target that's at risk of being missed’
  2. Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes — eh? Translation - let's see who supports it
  3. A smorgasbord of options — why can’t people just say ‘a range of options’??
  4. Mind shower —for which read ‘brain storming’….maybe with a bit less vigour
  5. So last century —fingers down the throat for that one. Basically, something’s a bit outdated
  6. Singing from the sea —this is so obtuse that no one knows what it’s supposed to mean. Sirens? Rocks? Shipwrecks? Who knows! Who cares?

A game of ‘say it as it is’ bingo would probably be more challenging – and take longer to play!