January 20, 2022

Leadership in Uncertain Times

Uncertainty.  This seems to be the theme of 2020 before the year has even really begun!  How do leaders design their strategies for the year ahead, never mind approach budget plans and create projections for the future when we simply do not know what the next year holds for the UK?

Strong, successful leaders should be able to steer companies through this uncertain time and continue to deliver in the same way as they would when the future is secure, profits are high and stakeholders are happy – but that is easier said than done, so how do leaders lead in uncertain times?

I recently reread an article I’d saved by Harry M. Jansen Kraemer Jr. the author of From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership.  In it he said “By knowing myself and my values, being committed to balance and having true self-confidence and genuine humility, I can far more easily make decisions, no matter if I'm facing a crisis or an opportunity.”  I am an avid supporter of Value-Based Leadership as an approach to both personal and business growth, and this quote reminded me that its principles are a great first step when leaders are faced with uncertainty.

An organisation with clearly defined values, a well-documented purpose and an easily articulated ethos is one that can navigate any crisis.  Value-Based Leadership is a way of making decisions and evaluating your own and your team’s performance based on your organisation’s values rather than focusing entirely on metrics and milestones.

In times of uncertainty and change, the goal posts may be constantly changing, but a company’s values should stay constant.  As teams are asked to adapt to new situations, and learn new things, performance criteria will need to adapt too.  By using a Value-Based approach, not only are you creating a supportive and flexible company culture, but you are enabling feedback and growth measurement to continue through change and uncertainty.

The first principle of Value-Based Leadership is self-reflection.  In order to lead others successfully, you need to be self-aware and really understand what your company’s values are and what matters most.  Taking stock of your own position and knowing what you and your organisation stand for, makes it much easier to know what to do in any situation.

But Value-Based Leadership is not about acting blindly according to your own viewpoint. The second principle is balance - in other words, being able to gain a full understanding of a situation by seeing it from other people’s perspectives and opinions. Balance means approaching situations with an open mind and engaging with your team members frequently and authentically.

The third principle is about self-belief and confidence.  You need to recognise your strengths and weaknesses and continuously strive to improve.  This does not mean that arrogance is a coveted trait in a successful leader.  In fact, the fourth principle is genuine humility.  You should treat each person you encounter with the same respect you would like to be treated with.  Humility is also about knowing that you do not have all of the answers, or all of the time, and knowing when to ask for help and look outside for support.  That’s a great 2020 goal for any leader in any organisation.

Here are Connect Three’s top tips for leading your organisation through an uncertain year:

1. Keep Talking
Silence is unlikely to be interpreted as a good thing by your colleagues, customers or suppliers!  You should communicate often - reinforcing clearly, and repeatedly what your plans are, keeping your teams in the loop whenever things change and letting them know what your response will be.

2. Enable Others to Lead
Help develop the skills of other leaders, potential leaders & possible superstars in your organisations now, so that they are ready to step up when you need them to.  Essential Leadership skills courses are available through Scottish Enterprise and are designed to do just that.

3. Don’t stop Planning
You need to keep planning for the long and short term of your organisation and your team. Topics like personal development and appraisals may be the last thing on your list when facing a crisis, but culture and morale will suffer if you maintain your focus on the immediate future.

4. Stay Engaged
Great leaders know that they don’t have all of the answers.  They are confident that they have surrounded themselves with people capable of more than just freeing up their managers’ time.  Whether your organisation is doing well, or struggling, you hired a great team, so stay engaged with them, ask questions and be open to hearing the answers.

May 15, 2020

Why is Remote Working so Exhausting?

Are you finding working from home is more exhausting and you are more drained than when you had to commute to and from a busy office?

I’m sure you are starting to read more about ‘Zoom Fatigue’ or Teams Tired’.  As with any new experience, by using these platforms which we may not be used to we are training new neural pathways in our brain.  This is one of the reasons why learning is tiring, even more so when we start down what was a familiar pathway (the work looks the same) but then have to divert to do the work in a different way (virtual meetings, mastering new platforms, presenting or receiving information in a different way).

Added to that, we are having to respond to multitudinous ways of being contacted; if my WhatsApp is stupid busy with work, personal and family calls at all times of the day, then it’s hardly surprising my ‘on’ button feels like it got jammed.

I recently saw this model from Nir Eyal on a former colleague’s LinkedIn post and all of a sudden it all made sense. His view is that technology can perpetuate a vicious and seemingly constant cycle of responsiveness. The alerts that go off at all hours seem endless.

When we look at the science behind our almost addictive reaction to such pings, it’s not surprising that our brains are exhausted. Somehow, that need to find out who needs us, wants something from us, needs to speak with us grows more and more irresistible – especially when many of us are missing out on our usual social interaction over a coffee, lunch or just someone wandering past your desk.

Experiments on response to stimuli with mice found that providing the same treats every time a mouse pressed a lever was less motivating than varying the rewards.  So, when we don’t know who could be needing us or what they could want it gets harder and harder to resist the ping. We tell ourselves it’s just a quick look and Bam! we get our attention fix – again; and by taking that quick peek (it never is) those neural pathways to fire up all over again.

Devices and platforms use triggers such as notifications to encourage us to take actions—opening the app, looking at Slack, checking LinkedIn etc. Variable rewards - messages coming in more frequently and from a wider social sphere -encourage us to take action every time: checking our inboxes, refreshing social feeds, and the like.

I for one have a hard time resisting the alerts, and an even harder time not ‘just quickly checking’. In fact - there goes my phone now!



If you are a leader struggling to set ground rules to protect the well-being of your remote teams, you may find value in our free one-to-one coaching sessions.  Find out more by emailing hello@connectthree.co.uk.

April 29, 2020

Creativity and Innovation in Problem-Solving

There is no one way to define creativity; from artistic expression, to invention and problem solving.  The 21st April has been designated as ‘World Creativity and Innovation Day’ (WCID) by the United Nations to raise awareness of the role of creativity and innovation in all aspects of human development.

On WCID, the United Nations encourage us all to remember that innovation is essential for harnessing the potential of our nations.

“Innovation, creativity and mass entrepreneurship can provide new momentum for economic growth and job creation. It can expand opportunities for everyone, including women and youth. It can provide solutions to some of the most pressing problems such as poverty eradication and the elimination of hunger.”

By fostering innovation and creativity among our teams, we can improve the culture in our organisations and contribute more to our economy and the world at large.  We urge you to mark the day in your own organisation by looking at the processes you have in place for inspiring creativity and innovation among your teams.  If someone has a great idea, how do they pass it on?  If someone does something innovative, how are they recognised?

In our Workplace Innovation workshop series, we introduce the different practices behind the concept of workplace innovation, and we demonstrate how they can help you to achieve positive benefits for your company.

For more help with workplace innovation and Fair Work practices, get in touch with Connect Three today.


April 17, 2020

Shona: Three Ps from Me to You…

So, with nearly four weeks of lockdown under our belts and it being another three weeks until we find out what decisions are going to be made next, I felt the time was right to share some of my reflections.    As I’ve connected with friends, colleagues and clients over the last month it has become clear that while we’re all experiencing the same thing, the way we’re experiencing it is unique to each of us.

Everywhere we look there is a plethora of insights, thoughts, tips and techniques about how to make the most of the world we’ve found ourselves in.  Personally, I’m glad to be through the binging stage and while I found some of it helpful, some of it positively unhelpful.

These three Ps are definitely not new concepts, nor are they anything that many of us weren’t already doing, but the context for each of us has shifted as we’ve all found ourselves in uncharted territory.  My intent behind sharing them is that they might go some way to helping you make sense of your thoughts with either yourself or with the support of a trusted friend or external coach.

Prioritise ~ I find that I’m now making more conscious choices about how I’m spending my time and who I’m spending it with.  I’m dropping ‘should do’, focusing on the ‘want to do’ and as a result I’m connecting more with my purpose (the Start with Why concept from Simon Sinek) and identifying were I can be most proactive (the Circle of Control concept from Stephen Covey) as well making the most of my days both personally and professionally.

Practice ~ I like to think of this as experimentation with purpose.  If you don’t dip your toe in the water and practice you’ll never know.  No one said it would be easy and progress is better than perfection (admittedly I’m still struggling with this concept!). I’ve recently discovered the work of Susan David which has taken my own thinking on resilience and emotional agility to a deeper level.   Seeing it as a set of skills to learn, grow and thrive as a person is helping me overcome the blips in my practice and reframing stumbling blocks as stepping stones is helping sustain and build my self-confidence.

Positivity ~ I’m a practical optimist and by encouraging my inner critic to speak to myself like I would speak to my best friend I’m starting to judge myself a bit less and show myself a bit more compassion.  Without doubt, understanding when Imposter Syndrome is hampering me and being able to deploy ways to manage that has been a game changer and is equipping me to develop stronger connections with my tribe and seize the right opportunities when they arise.

I’m starting to see how these three Ps are helping reframe my approach to each and every day… definitely starting to feel less discombobulated and connecting more with my ‘buildbackability’, while accepting some days will be better than others and there is no right way to feel right now.

I’d love to engage and explore the above in more depth so if what I’ve shared has resonated with you and you’re curious to explore more, please reach out to me.

Thanks, Shona


April 2, 2020

Can you do training courses during lockdown?

If you are an employee on furlough or self-employed and unable to work because of lockdown, it may seem like the perfect time to keep up to date on your skills, or take part in personal development, but will that affect your government support?

If you are seeking help through the Government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme there is nothing in the potential support that will be affected by you undertaking self-development.

If you have been notified you are an employee on furlough, while you are not able to work for your employer, you can undertake training (subject to following the current public health rules) as long as you are not making money for your employer, or providing services for your employer.  Ultimately, whether or not you are required to do the training needs to be agreed between you and your employer, but it is a discussion you should be able to have comfortably with them.

Should you do training now?

Learning new skills, taking part in group events (even if they are online), and keeping your brain active can all be really important steps in combating the negative effects of self-isolation.  It can be all too easy to become lonely, complacent, bored and even depressed during this uncertain and turbulent time.  By taking steps towards self-development, and focusing on the future, you can bring a positive light to the situation.

Can I receive Coaching now?

Similar to group training, one-on-one coaching can be hugely beneficial to both your personal and professional development at this time.  Find out more about Connect Three’s pro bono coaching offering this month.

Disclaimer: all information correct at time of publication. If in doubt, we recommend you seek advice from HMRC or your employer.

March 31, 2020

COVID-19 Scottish Business Support Summary

Our friends at Glasgow City Council were kind enough to share this guide which Business Gateway has prepared.  It offers an at a glance summary of the help and support available to businesses and individuals from HMRC, the Scottish Government and other sources.

Download your guide here

March 20, 2020

Creating Psychological Safety for Remote Workers

Being an effective team leader in a digital environment is not an easy task.  When there is physical distance and even time zones separating team members, there can be a real challenge to maintain culture and a sense of collaborative working.  How do you develop an office environment where staff feel safe to speak their minds, make mistakes and ask questions when they are not in the same room?  Essentially, how do you create ‘psychological safety’ in a digital workplace?  The term, coined by Prof. Amy Edmundson, can seem like an alien one when put in the context of a remote team interacting digitally; but it can be done.

Now that Scottish schools are closing, and non-essential travel is banned, teams used to sharing a workspace may be forced into a remote working situation and culture can instantly suffer.  Here are some quick tips for helping your team maintain a psychological safe environment while working digitally:

  1. Choose your technology carefully

Email, Slack, HipChat, WhatsApp and other text based systems are likely to be used frequently with remote teams, but users need to be aware that it is hard to convey tone by text.  Comments and jokes can easily be misconstrued, and emojis are not the answer!  By making use of video calls body language, facial expressions and tone of voice are all much more apparent and easier to interpret.

  1. Consider a buddy system

A buddy system ensures that everyone has someone whom they are comfortable to go to for support and advice.  You know that two minute chat over a coffee in the office where you sense check an email before you send it?  When your team works remotely it can make a big difference having someone to depend on for simple questions like these.  It can also help to make everyone feel valued when they know that someone is equally reliant on them for help and advice.

  1. Keep social

Do not forget to allow for ‘water cooler’ chat.  With social distancing being promoted as a solution to the COVID-19 epidemic, creating a space for people to socialise is more important than ever.  Set it apart from daily work updates by creating a different chat group, or slack thread specifically for the ‘fun stuff’.  As a leader, set challenges like getting people to answer questions about themselves, or take photos of their desk or videos of their home town – ensure everyone has an equal chance to talk about what they consider to be important.

  1. Ensure that failures, lessons and successes are shared

Even when times are tough, and you think that people need ‘a win’, do not shy away from sharing the bad news with the good.  Missed tenders are as important as won contracts when building comradery between staff.  It is important to ‘walk the walk’ when aiming for a psychologically safe workplace – sharing your own mistakes can help others feel comfortable asking for help when they are struggling.

  1. Maintain 1:1 conversations

Check in regularly with your team on one-to-one chats, by phone or video call as well as email and text chat.  Not everyone communicates in the same way and some may feel too intimidated to speak up in group chats and email chains.  Use these private conversations to discuss projects, progress and longer-term goals.  Remote teams can easily drift apart and having a shared long-term vision is important.

If you are a leader and you are feeling daunted by the prospect of suddenly managing people remotely, get in touch with Connect Three and let us know where you are struggling and how we can help.

March 20, 2020

Remote Working with Children at Home

It’s been mere hours since our First Minister announced that we have 2 days to prepare for the schools closing thanks to the COVID-19 epidemic.  Since the story broke on Twitter I’ve already had a frantic phone call with my husband, my mother, and I’ve had a teary call from a friend who is a single working mother.  I have 3 children aged 8, 6 and 3 - how on earth am I going to work from home with stir crazy children in the next room?

Firstly, I don’t have all of the answers.  I am lucky enough to have a dedicated office space in my home, and I will be working with my husband who will happily take on as much child wrangling as I will, but I know that not everyone is in this good a position – or anything like it.  I have, however, been working from home for over 10 years and I have weathered every childhood illness, in service day and snow day going.  I once recorded 13 hours of online training material with a new born baby on my knee… so if nothing else qualifies me, I have some experience in remote working with kids.

So here is my guide for parents getting things done while the schools are closed:

  1. Make a Schedule

If you are not used to working from home, the best suggestion I can give you is: treat it like you are going to the office.  Get up at your usual time, get dressed and get started.  Make a schedule and stick to it as much as you can.  It might take a while, but it means that your children will start to understand that even though you are at home, the rules are different than on a weekend, and until it is a certain time, you are not able to play.  It is a two way street though, so when playtime comes – put the laptop away and get playing!

  1. Communicate with everyone

Speak often to your partner, your kids, your team, your boss – let them all know what you are doing and when.  Explain any problems you are facing and share solutions.  Communication will stop you from feeling isolated and ensure projects progress as planned with as little interruption as possible.

  1. Get help when you can

You cannot work non-stop from 9am-5pm with kids in the house if you are the only responsible adult available.  Someone is going to need juice when you are on a conference call, or a toddler is going pull the entire pot cupboard out onto the kitchen floor when you need to proof-read a document…you get the idea.  I cannot advocate bringing other people in to look after your children at the moment when we are being advised to self-isolate, but if you have someone who can safely help you, do not be too proud to accept the help.

  1. Work the hours that work for you

If you can, be flexible with your hours.  A translator I work with puts in a 7 hour work day, split into two blocks with 7 hours off in the middle while her partner works and she has the children.  Consider shifts, get up early, or sleep in and go to bed late, utilise nap times - do what works for you.

  1. Draw a line somewhere

When the boundaries between work and home, family and business get blurry it can be easy to never fully ‘switch off’.  My advice is to be present.  Commit to whichever activity you are doing – if it’s playing with the kids, then put the phone down.  If it’s work, then set some guidelines for the family, get somewhere quiet, and get focused.  Boundaries and guidelines are the remote working parent’s friend!

  1. Be Mindful

If you have found yourself in a remote working environment that you did not plan on, would not ask for, and generally are not prepared for, it can be hard to stomach the ‘you are so lucky’ comments that others will be making.  Try to embrace the change in circumstances by mindfully appreciating the opportunity you have to maintain your career and spend extra time with your children.  Be grateful that you get this time to enjoy with them, and that technology and your company are allowing you this opportunity when many others are not so lucky.  Try to gain some perspective and practice gratitude as you and your children settle into this new rhythm together.

  1. Relax

Things will not go to plan.  If things go wrong, the schedule falls apart, and you spend the 30 minutes you had planned for emails on sorting out a dispute over Netflix – it’s ok.  Kids will be kids, work will be just as unpredictable, and the shops will continue to run out of toilet roll.  Breathe.  Speak to your team, your friends and your family.  Share war stories with other working parents, take time to yourself whenever you can and celebrate the small victories.

This is my plan anyway, I’ll check in on day 25 of quarantine and see if I’ve stuck to my own goals! Good luck to all the dads and mums out there.  Please chat with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to let us know how you are getting on.

January 17, 2020

Fair Work & Productivity

Productivity is a buzzword used daily in the world of business. Putting it simply, productivity is the effectiveness of productive effort, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input. Productivity can boost profitability and growth of businesses and is a major focus in many of the organisations we work with. Increasing national productivity has a much wider impact and can result in economic growth, improved housing and education and can contribute to social and environmental developments. This is where the Scottish Government’s Fair Work Framework is focused.

For Connect Three, Fair Work and productivity go hand in hand. You can’t expect to get better results or efficiencies from your people if they do not feel secure, engaged, valued and motivated in their roles. Certainly, you can create streamlined processes and procedures but without an engaged and committed workforce, there is no guarantee that these changes will take place as easily or as quickly as you anticipate.

There are countless studies that have been carried out on wellbeing and the important link to increased productivity. According to a survey of 4000 workers across the UK, France, Germany and the US, doing meaningful work was the most important factor in the happiness of workers. Meaningful work was more important than office location, company culture, management, compensation and flexible hours. There is evidence that high employee engagement can improve productivity by 20-40%.

Scandinavian countries are leading the way for being socially progressive and promoting wellbeing and they usually rank highly on global ranking for both productivity and wellbeing. Often productivity is higher, yet the working week is shorter. With more organisations coming to the forefront to trial the 4-day working week and proving it can have an impact on productivity this is really starting to open leaders’ eyes to the benefits to all of working in this way. This combined with flatter structures, dialogue and employee participation in decision making, which is believed to promote trust, shared responsibility and pride amongst all staff.

So, what do we mean by Fair Work? The Scottish Government’s Fair Work Convention has developed a framework which is centred around allowing employees to feel secure at work, have a voice, have opportunities, feel respected and be fulfilled in their roles. These five core areas are integral to increasing productivity and achieving the vision for fair work in Scotland. “By 2025, people in Scotland will have a world-leading working life where fair work drives success, wellbeing and prosperity for individuals, businesses, organisations and for society”.

So, here are our 5 top tips we can offer to help you start to think about Fair Work in your organisations:

1. Re-ignite your values and purpose
Ensure you know why people work for you and what makes them tick. Do your staff feel they contribute to the success of your business? Do they feel valued on a personal level? Clarify your sense of purpose as a business and create a set of guiding principles to help promote positive behaviours and culture that will help drive productivity.

2. Review decision making and participation
Reduce walls and ceilings and move decision making to those who have the information. Give confidence and clarity to your teams to start making decisions instead of passing the buck. This will lead to increased responsibility and ownership.

3. Start using your ears more
Listen more to the ideas and suggestions of your people as they often have the most knowledge on the ground to suggest better ways of working. Involve staff in discussions to gather better insights, help problem solve and co-create solutions.

4. Update Working practices
Being present doesn’t mean that you are necessarily being productive. Can your teams work more flexibly? Do they need to be chained to their desks 5 days a week and work 9-5? Is your working environment fit for purpose and does it give your staff the right space for thinking, meeting, 121 and team time?

5. Develop your leaders
Don’t forget to invest and continue to develop your managers and leaders by giving them the tools and techniques to effectively manage their people through change.

Colin Lamb
Chief Explorer


Be the first to hear about our latest projects, career opportunities & what's been happening at Connect Three.

(+44) 0141 370 3339
Hub & Training Academy
2nd Floor, Rogart Street Campus,
4 Rogart Street, Glasgow, G40 2AA
what3words: ///option.code.yours