From zero sum to win-win with positive influencing.

PDA’s Sarah Vogel says influencing is not an adversary sport with winners and losers. Organisational change means you need to demonstrate an influence that is positive for you and your colleagues.

Individuals can no longer rely on what we would call ‘position power’ within organisations as businesses become flatter.

Job titles that may have conveyed authority have either disappeared or often don’t carry their past aurora of power.

But we still need to get things done. And so we still need to have influence.

And to have long-lasting influence in an organisation, we need to bring people along with us.

"your influencing will diminish if you indulge in  fake consulting "    -Sarah Vogel PDA

"your influencing will diminish if you indulge in fake consulting"    -Sarah Vogel PDA

This is a mindset thing: if you aim ‘to win, no matter what, at all costs’, it may affect your style, may impact aggressively and damage your relationships in the long term.

If you always press your agenda and aim for win-lose people may comply, but could be resentful.

And your influence will diminish if you indulge in ‘fake consulting’ when you have already made your mind up.

Real influence is not a zero sum game in an organisation, with one person winning out over another. Positive influence is aiming for win- win for you and your colleagues.

Positive influencing sees you taking more responsibility for your actions and trying harder to understand the other party’s interests and agenda.

Zero sum game playing is best left on the sports field.

Delivering Fierce Conversations at the University of Sheffield

Sheffield University The University of Sheffield’s Learning and Development team is putting the ideas and principles of Fierce Conversations into practice across the university.


PDA’s Fierce trainers worked with ten members of the Learning and Development team so that they could then train their Sheffield colleagues independently.


Jane Ginniver, HR Manager, Leadership & Management Development, at the University of Sheffield, says:


“The flexibility of the Fierce model is what has made it so appealing as our staffing groups are so diverse - this model is relevant for everyone.”


Jane notes some of the commitments participants have made following their training include:



• To stop putting off tackling tough challenges

• To not put off talking to a team member where there are problems – nip it in the bud!

• Think more about the impact of interactions with staff.


Jane explains:


“Since September 2014, we have facilitated Fierce Conversations in a variety of formats for 57 of our staff. Another 60 people are booked in to attend over the next couple of months. We are aiming to ensure all our managers access the Fierce 'Foundations' session in the next 2 years, building on this with the conversational models for specified staffing groups."


You can find more details about Fierce here.

Unlikely uses of positive feedback by Fletcher Age 7

Sweet or Sour?

This is Fletcher - he is 7 and actually really likes strawberries. However his face looks as though these are going to be a sour taste to handle and it seemed the perfect image to go with his wonderful example of unlikely uses for positive feedback.


Its all kicking off!

Fletcher and his friend had been playing with some friends this week, suddenly the two of them came running over to me with streams of protest about how the girls were being mean to them and how they took their drink bottles and, as I tried to decipher the two stories being told at once, there was a general sense of something 'kicking off'!


Positive feedback about being mean

My friend and I sat and listened to the simultaneous stories and then I asked Fletcher "What were you doing when this all started?" His reply was "I was giving the girls some positive feedback about them being mean".


I have to say that I have dug around a little to find out what this positive feedback was and I have yet to find out the exact words, but it is along the lines of telling the girls that the boys didn't like what the girls were doing. Just one example of how positive feedback can be used - and that saying something is better than saying nothing. Even if, like Fletcher above, we think the aftertaste will be sour, it is more likely to be sorted out and then we can all play together.


Mirrors and attention

The Conversation is the Relationship

I find that Fierce surfaces and presents itself to me in many ways – over the past few weeks it has been Idea number 2 “ The Conversation is the relationship”.  There are a few personal ‘issues’ (lets call them!) that are niggling at me – I keep trying to brush them under the carpet but I know that isn’t helping, in fact its making them worse.


Mirror Neurons

Then in a quiet moment, I read a book by Dr Daniel J Siegel and Dr Tina Payne Bryson called ‘The Whole Brain Child’. It’s a fabulous book which explains how a child’s brain is wired, it’s practical and can also be talked about with the child which has been useful for my 11 year old and me.  I was reading about mirror neurons and how this recent discovery from the 1990s explains why we yawn when someone else does.


The neurons fire when we observe someone doing something intentionally that we recognise, as though we are doing the thing ourselves. These neurons may be at the root of empathy. Siegel and Bryson point out that these discoveries show how the brain is designed as a social organ. “Every discussion, argument, joke, or hug we share with someone literally alters our brain and that of the other person. After a powerful conversation or time spent with an important person in our life, we have a different brain.”


How much attention?

Big lightbulb – I need a different brain. I need to get on with the ‘issues’ and do some brain altering. Susan Scott, writer of Fierce Conversations, helps me get on with it when she says about Idea Number 2 “ What words and what level of attention do you wish to bring to your conversations with the people most important to you?”


The answer is a lot of attention – stop spending time avoiding the lump under the carpet and get on with it. Thankyou – I’m on it.

Philosophy Bites and a Chunk of Conversations

Philosophy Bites by David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton

What a brilliant book for me to digest over the Christmas Break, its full of lively exchanges about a whole variety of topics from Vagueness to Infinity. I love the one on Cosmpolitanism between Nigel Warburton, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the Open University, and Kwame Anthony Appiah, of Princeton University.


There is fabulous discussion which includes conversation and what use the exchange of views is, especially when we disagree with one others choices. Kwame says “ Look, the claim isn’t, and shoudn’t be, that conversation will resolve everything. It won’t. We have to learn to live with the fact that for the very long foreseeable future there will be disagreements within and across societies. And as the world becomes more and more like a single society, these will all be more like internal disagreements. But there will still be lots of disagreements. The conversation is aimed at being able to live with people, whether you agree with them or not.”


I don't have to change their mind

This is such a counter-intuitive thing when we believe passionately in an opposing view and staying in the dialogue is hard work. Kuame’s words really point out to me that having the conversation means something to both sides especially when we don’t changes our minds and that anything that helps me to live and work with people is a very precious thing.


You can find out more about Philosophy Bites at and follow @philosophybites

Thinking about a Labyrinth ( not the one with David Bowie in)

So much more than a good read

I have been reading 49 Ways to Write yourself well by Jackee Holder. It is a fascinating book about the science and wisdom of writing and journaling. As well as being packed full of practical exercises, Jackee has taken references and gems from a very broad range of subjects and experts and this has got me thinking about all kinds of things as I read each chapter.


Is a Labyrinth the same as a Maze?

This morning I am on Finger- walking the Labyrinth and it begins with a quote ‘Labyrinths are carefully designed to move you toward clarity or peace or at least a temporary calm’ M Garfield, 2002. Really? This was a surprise to me, I have always found them slightly messy things, even causing anxiety if I think about the mazes I have been stuck in, not knowing which way to turn. But, I discover, a labyrinth and a maze are different things. Labyrinths are designed to flow so that a person following the path can gain mental and spiritual healing.  They slow us down, allowing us to be more calm and moving us towards the centre.


One direction

There is something very appealing about being on a path that has only one direction, no decisions to make, where the speed we take is up to us and that the centre will be reached no matter how fast or slow we go. Where we can take the time to relish the geometry of the path we are taking, feel the ground beneath our feet.


So until I can get to the Wildflower Labyrinth at Tapton Park, the great news is that the benefits can be just as effective when you use your finger to trace a maze, and Jackee has very kindly provided some in her book. They can be used at times when we want that inner peace or to slow ourselves down. I will let you know how the practical exercise goes.


Thankyou, Jackee.

Magical Portals and Jennifer


Author of AsperkidsMe being nosey

Jennifer O’Toole has written the book Asperkids and it is a powerful read. Subtitled 'An insiders guide to Loving, Understanding and Teaching Children with Asperger Syndrome' I wanted to read it to be nosey because I have read some great things about Jennifer and to find out about something I know very little about.


Magical Portals

In chapter 2 Jennifer talks about special interests and how they are like a magical portal through which you can connect and bond with an Aspie child.  She says ‘There is no better way to let a child know she is loved for exactly who she is, or that he is actually more capable at Math or reading or sharing or staying on task or following directions if you build upon a love that is already an intimate part of them.'


This jumped out from the page for me. Our interests speak of who we are - our likes and dislikes. When someone listens to us in a deep and meaningful way and asks us about the things we love it tells us that they want to hear what we have to say, that we are valued by them.  This is true for work and home conversations, with our loved ones of all ages and strangers.


We naturally do this if we have a similar interest – a shared passion for baking or a similar career path. It is also alluring to delve and probe into someones hobby when it is polar opposite to ours or seemingly risky to us – cliff diving or key note speaking.


The challenge is in the in-between, the mediocre. Where in our eyes the special interest is anything but special, or could even be an obstruction to what we really want to talk about, to find out.


I value you

What Jennifer put so beautifully is that in being curious about someone elses special thing we are showing them so much more than a passing glimpse of attention. We are showing that we value them and the things that they love.



What a tremendous thing to do.


Lots of information about Jennifer and Asperkids is at

by Tasha George


The Listening Project got me thinking


Radio 4

This morning I was listening to Radio 4 and The Listening Project came on. If you aren't familiar with it, it's a collection of recordings of people having a conversation that is being held at The British Library Sound Archive.


Each snippet draws me in, partly because I feel privileged to be hearing the honest views of two people. The subjects are far reaching and today they had the Edinburgh Festivals loosely in common.


Listening is such a precious thing

Colin and Juliette talk about how Colin's decision to go and see Juliette's live act at the Fringe had changed their lives. Its a moving snippet and it reminds me how listening to one another is such a precious thing. Colin talks about how differently his family might say he listens and that the situation around him, when he is in Edinburgh, almost allows him to be different. This situational influence resonates for me in work and home life - how we listen easily to some people at some times and yet others we tune out and don't really hear what they are saying. Someone springs to my mind that I need to do an 'Edinburgh festival' with and really take some time to listen to them.


by Tasha George



It's a learning thing and it is thrilling!


Learning to swim


During the past few weeks I have been having swimming lessons. I can swim but have never been able to master the head in the water breathing thing that you need to be able to do front crawl. My son and his friends have learnt well – when they swim their breathing is part of the process and they glide through the water so elegantly. It got me thinking that I would like to learn how to do that and also that I would need to be taught, it wasn’t something I was going to spontaneously be able to do however much I wished it to happen!



Such a thrill

I booked onto my first lesson and was amazed at how much I was able to do in half an hour. I did indeed learn the technique of how to breathe whilst swimming and the energy I had when I finished was brilliant. I felt proud of myself for learning something new and for being able to process the instruction and amend my actions in order to make myself a better swimmer.


I promptly booked myself onto 2 more lessons and the feeling ( and improvement!) has continued. I realise that it is as much to do with learning something new as it is being able to swim better. I like the new connections that are being made in my head and the realisation that I am different to how I was before.


'Exhorted to continue learning'

It reminded me of something Octavia Hill, founder of the National trust, observed in herself as she began teaching at a college in the mid-1800s - ‘There is a tendency to relax study in the sense of usefulness, and the new found delight in teaching. This should be guarded against, and those who commenced teaching should be strenuously exhorted to continue learning’*.


As we get better at things we do – in work, our hobbies, and our lives, we become more expert and maybe more likely to be advisors and share our knowledge. The exciting thing then is to begin learning more and more new skills and get the buzz that comes from it.


By Tasha George


* Quote taken from Octavia Hill, Social reformer and founder of the National Trust by Gillian Darley

Glamorous and fake? What does it cost us?

Glamour in the Fake

I have been reading about The Great Gatsby and wondering about the lavishness of it all. Sometimes we see glamour in the fake ( though maybe not in this photo of David and myself!) – and we know it to be fake. So is it alright just to carry on with the charade and is it hurting anyone if we do?


So much energy

A Fierce conversations session this week has helped me with this thought. There is a lot of energy that goes into a fake – whether it’s a fake copy of a painting, done meticulously to mimic the natural brilliance of the original, or the endless correction of oneself if trying to be something we are not. It takes so much energy that could seriously be much better put to the real stuff.


In addition there is the cost to those around us. They either don’t know it’s a fake – so they feel duped at some point ( doesn’t it always come out?) or else they see it for its frippery and fakery and can’t ever really be sure which side they are on.


Show or a fake?

So I think my distinction is between a show and a fake, and the disclosure of whether it is authentic or not. A show – make believe in all its finery – is a temporary portrayal of something, an escape from the real – just for the escapes sake and this is to be enjoyed and relished. A fake is always trying to be something it is not and for this reason it seems set to disappoint.


I would rather have the show.

By Tasha George

A Grievance Free Zone

  Oh wouldn’t it be lovely? We have been talking this week about how wonderful it would be to work in an organisation where there is no need for such thing as a Grievance Procedure.


Imagine a place where there is no need, ever, to take the draining, painful and awkward path   which arises when someone says the words “I’m taking out a grievance”?


Because we know in the vast majority of cases, Grievances Just Don’t Work. In more than 95% of cases they don’t end up resolving the conflict they were meant to resolve, and people end up in more distress than they were beforehand, or stuck in a stalemate.


So imagine a workplace where everyone feels skilled and confident enough to iron out issues while they are small, people talk about things as they happen, resolve them and then move on – travelling light.


A place where things that block progress get discovered early and sorted - rather than a small piece of irritating grit picking up speed, mud and gravitas as it bowls along its way.


Where mediation is the scaled up version of dealing with small issues, and where even that process holds each party in a safe space, free to work on the similarities between each other rather than the differences.


Worth working towards – altogether now – wouldn’t it be luvverly!

Inspiration From The Washing Line and The So Solid Crew - By Helena J Moore, Bromford Group

crew (2)


I’ve been pondering something this weekend … Is the concept of “team” now defunct and is “teamwork” a thing of the past?


On Friday we held our all colleague event; the Bromford Bash. It’s a big deal for us, let me set the scene; 1150 delegates, we do all our own event management, the ICC in Birmingham, technically complicated with a range of AV, animation and live twitter feed, lots of colleagues presenting (imagine facing an audience of over 1000 people when it’s not your day job) and one of our customers up there too.


Now clock that professional and totally amazing, inspirational and lovely speaker, Tim Campbell, first winner of The Apprentice is there. Yes I have fallen a little bit in love with Tim as have most colleagues from Bromford… and I promise here in writing not to stalk him! And the cherry on the top for good measure is the finale, ‘doing’ the UK’s biggest Harlem Shake led by our CEO … Which could be the biggest ever tumble weed moment ever in the history of events if no one joins in. Phew they did (check it out on You Tube here. You’ll see Mick our CEO is a great sport).


So it all went off on Friday (if you looked the link you’ll see I mean that literally!) Even better than I could have dreamed of. All the lead up paid off all the rehearsing, nagging, persuading, preparing. And whilst I could write a list of lots of people here … colleagues Alex Abbotts (who heads up our Comms team) and Tracy Cadwallader(who heads up our facilities team) deserve a special mention because they lead the teams of their own and other colleagues that created such an amazing ‘do’.


Over this weekend I’ve been reading all the Yammers and Tweets from our colleagues under the #bash2013 and it’s been humbling but also really amazing to feel all the luuurrve out there for the people who helped support and contribute to the event including the teams and people that organised the day.


But this has caused me a problem, I panic every time I read one that doesn’t mention both the Comms and Facilities teams. Frightened that one will get left out and feeling the need to compensate for it by reminding the poster that more than one team was involved. I was like a cat on a hot tin roof all weekend checking out postings and trying to make sure every one in each team or person felt valued and recognised.


I started to think about two other things – firstly one of our ‘F words’ here at Bromford is “department” we always refer to “teams”. Department to us indicates silos and we’ve not used this in our language for many years. Secondly it took me back to a conversation I had with our CEO a few weeks ago about our meetings rooms. We have open plan offices here (absolutely no one has a private office) – we do have “team rooms” that any one can book and we labelled these up with a team name – “HR team room” “Finance team room” etc. Mick and I discussed that this was almost counter to what we are trying to achieve – sticking a territorial label on a room.


So as the concept of team becomes less defined with matrix management, cross team working, project groups internal and external contributors is the concept of “team” as we used to know it dead or at the very least changing. I started to think about a more apt replacement , what about “collaboration” it’s very vogue but hmmmm doesn’t seem to capture the energy and some how feels very formal and has the danger of getting on an unflattering list alongside “running an idea up a flag pole and see who salutes it”, “pushing the envelop” “touching base” and “blue skies thinking”. What about “gang” .I still wasn’t sure. I took inspiration from my washing line – flapping away in the sunshine on my line was my T-shirt from Friday. Emblazoned on the back “CREW”. For me anyway this seems the solution. Crews on ships change, are together for a purpose, have to work together no matter what rank or they could sink, some may move on after the voyage and but find themselves together on a future trip.


So I dedicate this post as a tribute to special group of people. The Bromford Bash 2013 Crew – you know who you are!




PDA have the pleasure of working closely with Helena and Bromford Group - thankyou for permission to add this to our blog collection.

Amazing what speaking out and arguments can lead to - Scientist

Name the Elephant on the table

I came across this TED talk by the historian and philosopher Laura Snyder this morning which is called The Philosophers Breakfast Club. It is a short insight into how some of the scientific landscape has been formed. What is really striking is in the first few moments Laura tells us how a Poet stood up in front of a huge audience and had the courage to name the elephant in the room - the fact that they should not be called Philosophers. An argument ensues and gets quite heated - and from this the term Scientist is formed.


Sometimes having the courage to say something - and not being afraid to make a bit of mess has the most amazing outcomes.


‘Disruptive behaviour in classrooms…..’ on the rise

according to an article on the BBC online today. I read this with curiosity. It is terrible that teachers are having to deal with things being thrown at them and cyberbullying. I imagine that classrooms should be a clear and ready space for the learning that will happen on both sides of the desk. I feel for the teachers who have studied hard to qualify and find themselves reaching for skills that they didn’t think they would need or don’t have.


Frustration and unhappiness

The line that stood out most was ‘ [teachers] are frequently on the receiving end of children's frustration and unhappiness,’. My heart sinks at this. How can children learn when they have these feelings? It is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything with frustration bubbling or sadness taking hold. I wonder too how it affects the teachers and staff when they can see these feelings in a student and yet don’t have the time or space to discover more about it.


Teachers and learners talking

I was recently shown a film clip from a school where students and teachers are working together to have conversations that empower the students to say what they want to say and the results are amazing. The ripples have reached out into the pupils homes and the teachers are doing what they want to do – provoke learning. The article mentions that some measures have been put in place to work on the behaviour of the pupils and the skills of the teachers. My hope is that there is another massive piece to this which looks at the bit leading up to the behaviour and how the relationship between the teachers and learners can be given more energy.


By Tasha George

Sky Diving - A Guest Blog by Penny Heater

Terror and opportunity

Yes! Got out of that again!

I have spent my entire working life, in it’s various guises, successfully avoiding public speaking. Often the time the opportunity has come up for me to take my place in the spot light, and every time I have very deftly deferred to a colleague, had someone important to go and speak to, someone else to enable into the hot seat that I could not bear to climb into. The relief when I had yet again managed to get out of doing it caused me untold mini-highs over the years, ‘Yes! Got out of that again!’ and many internal high-fives.



Stepping over

So imagine my surprise (and yet not!), in the current phase of my career coaching small groups and individuals (notice the small groups – still just short of public speaking!), I was one day the rabbit caught in the headlamps. I was offered some exciting group work that was completely in my discomfort zone. I knew it would provide me with some wonderful learning and I also knew that it was something I had to step over, once and for all, in order to move into the next phase of my work.


The gremlins in my head had a field day. I spent the intervening weeks not sleeping, feeling sick, imagining all the worst-case scenarios possible; arriving at the session half-dressed, my hair-dryer breaking down the morning before, getting lost on the way, losing my voice, being hounded out of the room by the group. There was no awful version of it I did not cover in my imagination.


Preparing for the sky-dive

All this time avoiding it and now, in service of the work I am currently doing, I am put in a position that I cannot turn down. ‘Don’t worry’, the office soothed me on confirming a group of 18, ‘probably only half the group will turn up.’  18!! On my own!! The stress was unbelievable. To my own coach I described it as how I would imagine preparing for a sky-dive would feel. Absolutely terrifying. I have always admired people who could prepare and train, raise money for charity, then go through this most daring of feats. Ridiculously, the challenge I now faced, held the same, leaden, weight for me.


I did it!

Well – I did it. And they did all turn up. And I am still here to tell the tale! It was terrifying but as soon as I had any terrifying thoughts or feelings, I turned them around, if for no other reason, than to give my overactive brain something to do! ‘Now what do I do?’ Became ‘ I know what to do now!’ The group were lovely, there were shaky moments but I kept going and trusted that my love of what I do and what I wanted for everyone else in the room, would be enough to get me through and out the door safely.


And it was one of the most powerful learning experiences I have had in a long time. The sheer terror in the period leading up to it, was totally cancelled out by the relief afterwards of achieving something I have avoided for so long. It felt amazing. I felt amazing. And time and again this comes up for coaching clients; the thing that you fear most, avoid most, think you hate the most, will keep showing up in your life, one way or another, until you face it and deal with it.


The biggest buzz

I am not sure I would ever try real sky-diving, and I won’t be seeking out any more public-speaking, but I now understand that often the situation that terrifies us the most, that thing that keeps hanging around in the fringes of our lives, is usually the one that will give the biggest buzz, the most powerful learning and the biggest sense of achievement and relief felt after doing it.


by Penny Heater

The British Stiff Upper Lip - What is it costing us?

Stiff Upper Lip

I read today that the British stiff upper lip could be hampering efforts to fight Cancer in the UK. The article from the BBC news site reports that our embarrassment stops us from telling the doctor about the symptoms we may be experiencing. We are as aware of it as other countries but are more reluctant to tell someone about it and fear wasting the doctors time. This means it may be weeks between the symptoms starting and finding the courage to go and say something.


War-time mentality?

In particular, it seems that older people may be more likely to wait - maybe thinking that we shouldn’t complain or whine and should instead battle through, putting a brave face on it. Perhaps it is through embarrassment too.  I wonder whether this will be as true for Millenials? Programmes such as Embarrassing Bodies and YouTube may go some way to breaking down some of the barriers that cause people to not want to talk about their bodies and how they are feeling.


Stoic-what a word!

I like the word Stoic, how it sounds – it’s the name of a Viking in How to train your Dragon and I had a feeling it meant being brave but I had another search after reading it on the BBC page and found this great piece from Jules Evans in The Guardian. It’s about being stoic ( in light of the research by the British Journal of Cancer) and how that has changed over time.  Jules Evans explains it far better than I could so have a read but he concludes that ‘Being Stoic doesn't mean repressing your feelings – it means understanding them and learning to take care of yourself.’ Hear, Hear.

by Tasha George



Rich conversation and fun at the HR Directors Summit

  People Development Associates at the HRD Summit

Going for a Stand

We wanted to try having a stand at this years HR Directors Summit as well as the Masterclass and it really worked! Each of us had rich conversations with people who were passing by and also found that it was a place to meet people who wanted to talk more about Fierce Conversations and what it will do for their organisation.


Eyecatching graphics

The graphics from David and Fabric were bright and straightforward. Lots of people commented on the Fierce logo and how it had caught their attention. Surprisingly we took lots of Jelly Bean Sweets home ( even though I tried to eat them all…) so maybe we should try something else next year. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.


Shoe watching

We noticed some amazing shoes and, aside from us wanting to find out where certain pairs had been purchased, they started some warm and interesting discussions. Brightly coloured suit linings and familiar name badges were further starters and echo the Fierce Idea that the conversation is the relationship.


Masterclass by Sarah Vogel

Sarahs Fierce Masterclass on Day 2 was brilliant. The room was full and there was a lot of note-taking and asking questions. We will get a video of the session shortly and will be posting it on the resources section for those who would like to see it. Bravo Sarah and thankyou to all of the fabulous people who attended as delegates and exhibitors.



Jackee Holders New Website is open

Jackee has created an amazing new website which has a green and open feel that is so refreshing on the internet. This comes as no surprise to someone who has been lucky enough to work with Jackee on her Creative Writing and Leadership courses.  

Take a look at the free Wheel of Life Tree to download and the list of Events through 2013 including writing retreats and leadership.


A tyranny of lists - is this the collective word for it?

I reckon a tyranny of lists is a great collective description of my current state of trying not to forget things.  

My fridge, Ipod, phone, desk and back of hand is covered in a single column of words – each with a varied priority rating and to be quite honest most of which nobody would notice if I completed! So it is with interest that I consider my lists – and the irony that often the list is filled with things I don’t really need to do and don’t enjoy doing ( mostly).


My new years resolution is going to be - be more spontaneous, and ditch the lists.