August 30, 2021

Key lessons in returning to the workplace – The Scotsman

Repost of Colin's article in The Scotsman

Over the past 16-months the pandemic has forced employers to adapt to extremes never considered before, and it has taken strong leadership to steer things in the right direction.

However, as restrictions ease and we all prepare to return to the workplace, we must adapt again to changes that will last beyond the pandemic – and it falls again on leaders to navigate their people on the road to recovery.

Over the past 16 months, organisations have changed immeasurably, and so have the demands placed those in the driving seat. What has become clear is that ina crisis, the leadership approach must change too.

Let’s break this down into three phases: emergency – the pandemic; return – getting people back into the swing of ‘normal’ working; and recovery – what happens next.

In the emergency phase, leaders had to move to the frontline and fight the fires. However, in the return phase, leaders must step back and spend more time supporting their teams.

In recovery, leaders need to strike a balance between guiding a smooth return while maintaining the pressure to renew and rethink the future.

So what does this mean for leaders in the ‘new normal’ and what should they be thinking about as we emerge from the pandemic?

1. Recalibrate what you do and why you do it.

This is a crucial step – often overlooked – but an easy win. Re-tell the story about your organisation and why it exists, what it does and what is important. Many people have now re-evaluated their personal priorities and whether they are still aligned with those of their organisation. Spending time here helps everyone to get ‘back on the bus’, know the destination, how they will get there, understand what seat they are in and how they can contribute to success. Don’t overlook the obvious just because you know the way ahead, and if you don’t know the way, keep listening, talking and asking for contribution.

 2. Rethink how work gets done.

Clearly, the pandemic changed the way we work forever. For some this may be minor, but for others this could mean a change of role entirely. This is an opportunity. Don’t slip back into your old organisational structure – you need to better understand how your business needs to operate and then think about what that means for the roles required and the people you have. Capitalise by resetting the organisation and reviewing if you have the right structure for now – not the past. Include your team in this. It helps people shape the right structure and roles, and they often have a better understanding of how things work day-to-day. This helps identify where gaps and development areas are in knowledge, skills and behaviours that are necessary going forward.

3. Elevate your authentic self (NB this is key).

It can’t all be about the business strategy and structure. Leaders must be explicitly authentic. What does this mean? Well, leaders need to role model vulnerability for a start. Why? Because everyone is probably feeling a little vulnerable and nervous about the future of work, and the truth is no one really knows what the coming months and years have in store. Leaders need to be honest, transparent and show vulnerability. They need to connect with their human-side and be able to express their feelings and display emotions for others to understand that ‘it is okay, not to be okay’.

We have had to immerse ourselves in being more resilient and focus on our wellbeing over the last 16 months – this cannot and should not stop. We need to ensure we are putting our own lifejackets on before helping others. Leaders need to look after themselves, to be able to look after others. To do this, we can ensure we are booking in regular maintenance and re-fuel time so we don’t burn out. There is a fine line, and leaders need to know themselves better to manage their impulse control and emotions to create a safe psychological environment for people to feel they can come forward with concerns or questions.

4. Navigate your people back to work

Going back into the workplace should not be overlooked. This is a BIG deal for most people – especially if the set-up has changed. We all know the importance of how people see their physical place of work and why some have battled with the introduction of hot-desking in recent years. You should create a staged campaign here to get people excited about going back into the workplace (once it is safe to do so). Pilot different ideas and bring people in to help test and ask for their feedback. Re-think why you are asking people to return to the office and consider how you can still offer flexibility for teams and individuals who have improved productivity from working from home.

For most, the move to digital and working from home (or anywhere) has really elevated industries – creating an opportunity to rescope how the office is used and how to work in a hybrid way.

We would also recommend ‘re-orientating’ workforces on their return. I don’t know how many people we have spoken to that have forgotten how the printer works or how to set the alarm. Going back over the basics and bringing teams in to go through a re-introduction to the workplace shouldn’t be missed. It will help create a buzz and start reforming relationships again. Top tip – take the small stuff seriously.

5. Promote ‘out with the old and in with the new’

Leaders need to encourage and role model change. Recovery isn’t about going back and slipping into old habits. This is an incredible opportunity to assess pre-pandemic routines and behaviours, then determine which ones serve the organisation, and which ones are best left in the past. “Renewal not return” is the term used by leaders such as Siemens Chairman Jim Hagemann. Leaders who have created a psychologically safe culture with their teams will be able to progress, promoting and rewarding others to help do things differently, faster and better. This is when you can get creative and innovative with teams – form huddles and create the environment for creative problem solving and looking at ways to improve processes and workflows. This is pivotal to your people feeling part of and contributing to the change your organisation needs to be a success. It is not about the leader having all the ideas or solutions – it is about creating the right culture and environment for your people to take ownership and accountability here and bring their own ideas of how they can improve productivity.

Colin Lamb is founder of Connect Three, a Scottish consultancy which helps businesses improve through their people

July 15, 2021

World Youth Skills Day

It might not get as much press as other international days, but 15th July is World Youth Skills Day, and since it celebrates something that is very close to our hearts at Connect Three, we wanted to do our part to spread the news about the great work that happens internationally because of it.

What is World Youth Skills Day?

The UN created the day back in 2014, with a goal of "celebrating the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship".  Now, annual events in countries across the world are held to create a dialogue between young people, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions, firms, employers’ and workers’ organisations, policy makers and development partners.

Why is it important?

Did you know:

  • UNESCO estimates that schools were either fully or partially closed for more than 30 weeks between March 2020 and May 2021 in half the countries of the world.
  • In June, 19 countries still had full school closures, affecting nearly 157 million learners and 768 million more learners were affected by partial school closures.
  • Young people aged 15-24 have been even more severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis than adults. Globally, youth employment fell by 8.7% in 2020, compared with 3.7% for adults.

The consequences of all of this disruption to the early labour market experiences of youth could last for years to come.  So what can be done?

What can I do?

If you want to attend the live event, you can register here.  Otherwise, why not use today and this week as an opportunity to start dialogues with the youth in your employment about what skills they need to develop in order to progress this year and beyond.  If there are no people in your employment under the age of 24, now is the time to discuss with your team how you can help address that, and prepare for the next wave of graduates and the additional skills help they might need after the events of the last 2 years.

June 30, 2021

Reflecting on Pride Month 2021

On Monday some of the team took the morning off from virtual meetings and went for a walk up Ben A’an as part of our Wellbeing initiative, headed by Katy.  We also took the opportunity to make it a learning day around the theme of Pride, since it’s pride month and our walk coincided with the 51st anniversary of the first ever Pride march.
We asked each other questions from a quiz, which sparked amazing conversations and stories, and learning, about Pride and what it means to us as individuals and as a team.

June 21, 2021

What do Insights’ colours really mean?

Barbara Clark

As an Insights Practitioner, I see the world and people as colours – Red, Blue, Yellow and Green. I don’t view the world like this to label or define, but to recognise and understand the person. I love this! It thrills me to work with people and really help them understand themselves and others. Why they think the way they do; why they react the way they do; why they communicate (or not!) the way they do and how this can build brilliant working relationships.

Over the past 12 months, I have had the chance to really put myself to the test with my own work and team. I have been working a lot with my brilliant colleague David. We have been doing lots of work for Connect Three behind the scenes as a team, and also working closely on projects and delivery with our partner Scottish Enterprise, creating bespoke support for the Seafood Industry in Scotland as well as a large project for NHS Lanarkshire doing Management Development.

What did I know? David and I, according to Insights, are opposite types. He is Blue / Green, and I am Red / Yellow. David is methodical and detailed and works really well collaboratively. He also cares a lot about what he does and the people he works with. He is fun and witty, can be serious when needed. I am not all those things, particularly the methodical and detailed part. I am energetic, flexible (David fed this back to me), I am honest, direct (sometimes harsh) and say it like it is. I also get bored easily and distracted far too easily.

What did we do? To work well together we knew we had to communicate. Often and clearly. Pre COVID we did not know what was coming and agreed to meet for lunch. We talked, set expectations, and shared our excitement at the opportunity to work together on these brilliant projects.

Then… we all know what happened next. David and I were still working together – remotely. We were designing and delivering programmes, having client meetings, project meetings, team meetings, all online.

What did I learn? Whilst using cool blue energy does not come easily to me, I know and understand why David asks questions. It is not to drain my very excitable sunshine yellow energy. It is because, to do the best job he wants to understand. He wants to understand to get it right and be prepared. Fiery red energy comes easily to me. This can be great when decisions need to me made and things just need to happen. But sometimes it is best to get someone else’s opinion and input. Put my earth green hat on and say, let us work together on this. Sometimes we have not had that luxury, and that is ok. Though the difference is we can say this, and both understand why. I have also learned to embrace the structured approach. I can see where this helps and why it works, with flexibility built in.

What have I learned most? That it is not only about labels and opposites. Its about intention and understanding and sharing a purpose to do not just a great job, but the best job. That by really being empathetic and self-aware, we can have great working relationships even with those who have opposite styles and approaches to ourselves. I have an appreciation of others’ styles more than ever. Whilst I will never really love a spreadsheet, I will always love working collaboratively with those that can create one for me.

Find out more about Insights



June 14, 2021

Skills potential of Scotland’s Workforce can Propel Nation from Recovery into Growth

Industry expert says skills potential of Scotland’s workforce can propel nation from recovery into growth in the aftermath of COVID-19

Connect Three enters major four-year partnership with Skills Development Scotland to help upskill Scotland’s workers 

Connect Three’s ‘joined up, people-first’ approach to skills development has helped more than 800 businesses thrive 

Skills Development Scotland programme will help Scottish SMEs flourish in wake of pandemic 

DEVELOPING skills at small firms across Scotland will be key to the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis, according to Colin Lamb of Connect Three – a consultancy that specialises in improving businesses through people.

Colin was speaking after the ‘changemaking’ consultancy entered a major four-year partnership with Skills Development Scotland (SDS) to help upskill the nation’s workers as part of a new four-year initiative designed to propel small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across the country from recovery into growth.

Covid-19 - alongside longer-term challenges such as demographic and technological changes - has brought the skills needs of Scotland’s businesses into sharper focus.

Connect Three is one of four partners selected to deliver the Skills for Growth programme, which offers free support to SMEs helping them adapt to a new economic environment brought about by the pandemic. With a focus on innovation and productivity, Skills for Growth helps identify and address skills gaps in the workforce to drive businesses forward.

Since it was founded in 2014, Connect Three has supported more than 800 businesses from across Scotland and farther afield in North America, Europe, and Asia, helping 10,000+ managers become leaders able to drive their business and people forward.

Big name clients at the Good Business Chartered firm, which has offices in Glasgow and London, include Sky, Scotrail, Border Biscuits, Cala Homes and Scottish Enterprise.

The SDS partnership is a major coup for Connect Three, which made its name tearing up the rule book on ‘management consultancy’ – a label the firm distances itself from.

Connect Three offers a holistic approach to skills development, focused on developing people and establishing positive business cultures.

Colin, founder and owner of Connect Three, said: “Few sectors of society have felt the impact of the coronavirus pandemic more in Scotland than SMEs.

“It has been a period of instability nobody thought possible, and recovery is absolutely attainable, but it takes leaders, teams and individuals equipped with the right skills, mindset and belief to achieve it.

“Upskilling, reskilling and skills development will be central to how businesses thrive again, and we are delighted SDS has recognised Connect Three’s ability to deliver that change and help Scotland on its route to recovery.”

He added: “We are not a traditional consultancy, in fact, we have been known to take offence when described as a 'management consultancy'. What we do is more than training. We believe in business cultures without hierarchy that actively encourage contribution and independent thinking.

“We practice what we preach, and by helping Scottish businesses move towards this model, we can provide the key to unlocking business potential and driving firms from recovery and into growth.

“The potential to achieve it exists within the people working in Scotland right now, they simply need the tools to realise their potential, embracing mistakes and using them as stepping stones towards their goals.”

The move follows a major Scottish Council For Development and Industry (SCDI) report ‘Upskilling Scotland: The Future of Skills’, which identified the three key pillars of a high performing Scottish economy – high performing individuals, high performing workplaces and in-work development – and proposes 34 ideas to support them.

Delivered in partnership with specialist consultants including Connect Three, Skills for Growth helps identify any learning needs, create a positive culture and provide a fresh perspective on what skills your organisation needs for the future.

Gary Gray, Skills for Growth manager at SDS, said: “Scotland’s employers are adapting to a new economic environment – including a greater focus on innovation and productivity – where having the right blend of skills in place is essential.

“By working with partners Connect Three and others, we are committed to helping employers face these challenges - equipping people and businesses with the skills to seize opportunities and realise their potential.”

More information on the SDS Skills for Growth programme can be found here.

January 20, 2021

Connect with Fiona…

New year, time for a new interview. Next on the (virtual) hot seat is Fiona...

Hi Fiona, so let's start with a nice easy one to warm us up - what's your role at Connect Three and what do you do?

I’m really pleased to be one of our Consultant team at Connect Three. I love the variety within my role where I work with our clients to help them to be at their best. This could mean for me designing, developing and delivering leadership development workshops or coaching individuals in one-to-one programmes. In my coaching, I have most recently worked with executives and also with leaders who are at a cross-road in their career.

Whether I’m delivering face-to-face or more recently virtual programmes, my focus is on increasing insight, growth and performance and helping bosses to be even better bosses!

Excellent - so you've been with us a while and I'm sure you have lots of stories to tell, so what has been your favourite moment in Connect Three so far?

I love the relationships that I build with my clients and seeing and experiencing their growth while working together. It is a real privilege to be able to work with such a wide range of people in this way.

When I think of our Connect Three team, I am blown away by the energy, insight and talent of my amazing colleagues! And I really appreciate their creativity, optimism and kindness too.

One of my favourite moments as part of the Connect Three team was when we supported Social Bite by raising money and taking part in the world’s biggest simultaneous sleepout to support homelessness. It was so inspiring to hear Josh Littlejohn (co-founder of Social Bite) speak about how Social Bite came to be and how, almost by accident, it stumbled across its purpose of supporting homelessness in such a hugely practical and impactful way.

Love it! Thank you for that, so what are you reading right now?

I find reading at the moment a great way of focusing attention and opening doors to enter another world, especially at this time.

I’m reading two very different books at the moment….one is ‘The Graveyard Book’ by Neil Gaiman, a classical coming-of-age children’s fantasy novel which focuses on the perennial themes of love and friendship. This is the first time I have read one of Neil Gaiman’s books and it’s a very welcome Christmas present.

The other book I’m also reading at the moment is ‘The Promise that changes everything: I won’t interrupt you’ by Nancy Kline. I’ve read a couple of Nancy Kline’s other books and was intrigued when I heard of her most recent book that explores how interrupting reduces us, and reduces our thinking, our decisions and our relationships. I am curious about the impact of agreeing these three simple things that Nancy suggests: begin to give attention, remain interested in where each other’s thinking will move to next, and take turns at sharing the ‘stage’ equally.

These ideas are potentially world changing, and apply to professional, personal and political relationships.

I am a huge fan of both of these authors, so I am loving these choices.  Back to business now, which leader would you like to have a cup of tea with?

It would have to be Marcus Rashford! Marcus is an extremely talented, elite footballer who is at the top of his game with Manchester United and who has improved the lives of millions of people with his campaigning on food poverty, child poverty and free school meals in the UK.

As someone who benefited from free school meals, his earlier struggles have clearly impacted on his purpose and drive to give back to the community that had helped him to get to where he is today. The gratitude to and admiration for his mother as his role model is so humbling. Marcus started reading at the age of 17, and has also launched a literacy campaign for children whose families can’t afford to buy books. He has a passion to protect our most vulnerable children.

Marcus has wisdom and maturity beyond his years. He is a role model to us all, and the tone with which he engages is with eloquence, respect and integrity. Marcus values diplomacy, collaboration and teamwork.

I would love to have a chat with him about his motivation and passion behind his campaigning. We are so fortunate to have a leader like him in our midst.

What a great choice. Finally, if you could only give one piece of advice to the leaders and future leaders reading this, what would it be?

There are many paths and everyone’s path is different. Compete against yourself. Yes, there will be setbacks as well as great achievements. Always focus on the bigger picture and long-term view.

Believe in yourself!


Amazing Fiona, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us.  There's one last spot until we complete our 'Connect with...' series - so keep your eyes peeled for the final chapter!

January 8, 2021

Career Ready Scotland 2021

2021 marks the third year Connect Three will be involved in Career Ready Scotland mentoring scheme.  This year's programme launches on Monday and it aims to help progress young people (S5/S6 students) to positive post school destinations by equipping them with the skills necessary and giving them access to a support network.

Throughout the programme we work on developing skills that the students have identified as improvement areas, as well as abilities that we can give them experience in to help add to their repertoire. After a series of coaching, masterclasses and potentially workplace visits, the programme is finished with a four week paid internship where the students can experience first-hand what it is like to work at Connect Three.

This is a hugely rewarding programme for both the students and for myself, I believe that it is extremely important that opportunities such as these are offered to young people to help provide them with the skills and experience they otherwise may not have access to. Find out more information on the Career Ready website.

~ Craig

January 6, 2021

Top 5 Workplace Trends for 2021

Let us not say much more about 2020. It was not a great year for most; however, it did offer a plethora of learning opportunities for us on both a personal and business level.  COVID-19 has certainly been a catalyst for change, and we should not expect this to slow down even when we return (sooner rather than later we all hope) to a feeling of suspended ‘stability’.

For the most part, we are all craving positive news and being able to return to meet in person again but not as we knew it before. Here are 5 Workplace trends that I anticipate seeing in 2021: 

  1. The Hybrid Workplace
    A term used more frequently over the last 3 months. Do not expect employees to return to the office 5 days a week and back to some sort of 9-5pm working hours.  We anticipate that this could be a 50/50 split with employees commuting for only essential meetings where it requires more collaboration, strategic or creative input. We have already seen workplace spaces been redefined and streamlined and we expect to see less office desk space and more collaborative working spaces. It goes without saying that there will be an uplift in flexible working and remote working, given that we have been forced into it for most of 2020.

  2. Role of HR
    I have read many articles about HR now having a seat in the board room and the CHRO title being popularised more. However
    , in reality, HR (or ‘People’ as it more often referred to now) is still not considered a strategic contributor to many executive teams in both large and smaller businesses. With HR being more integral in 2020, through workforce planning, there will be a huge need for talent and skills mapping, upskilling, increasing focus on mental health and well-being as well as a increasing diversity and creating an inclusive workforce. If there is a year to invest in your people, then 2021 should be it.

  3. Diverse & larger talent pools
    The door has opened to casting a larger net for talent with the adoption of flexible and remote working. We expect to see much more of this in 2021, even with Brexit. In addition, businesses need to innovate and increasing the diversity of their talent (age, background, education, experience etc) is going to be essential to help drive this for many, especially those businesses who have a long-serving workforce.  We expect to see new jobs created and companies hiring out with their previous boundaries and broadening their views on who could be considered for the job.

  4. Antifragility (beyond resilience)
    We really like this term, not just because we are trailblazers, but resilience refers to coping with, whereas antifragility is about getting better. We expect to see a shift in focus around ‘resilience’ where it is no longer about creating coping mechanisms, but it is about making marked change for the better especially if we are not returning to our previous known way of working and living. We will see a change in many company cultures through revised value systems and desired behaviours resulting in more expectations around bravery and boldness.

  5.  ‘Skills First’
    With more of a focus on innovation in 2021 
    and a real acceleration through digital transformation, employees need to be upskilled to do jobs differently, more efficiently and add more value than before. The tide will turn, and it will no longer be acceptable to coast along in roles, the bar has been lifted and this will require a monumental focus on skills and training forin some cases, entire teams within the workforce. The skills agenda will be on the table at all Executive meetings as without this relentless focus you cannot innovate further and compete in a new and changing marketplace.   All said, this relies on businesses having a clear vision of what their future looks like and this being understood in relation to current and future capability. 

If you found these trends helpful, please share with others.  

At Connect Three we help businesses and people change. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss these trends further or if you are looking to see how we could help support you with any of these trends in 2021. 

Thanks for reading, 


December 10, 2020

Connect with Jill

Next up in our Connect with' interview series!  Jill, the person who does all the interviews.  Time for a taste of my own medicine...

What's your role at Connect Three and what do you do?
I run all things Marketing at Connect Three and offer marketing and digital training for clients through the Digital Boost, Business Gateway and LESL programmes.  No two days look the same and the guys keep me on my toes with new things to promote or teach pretty regularly!

What has been your favourite moment in Connect Three so far?
There have been a lot of understated lovely moments which spring to mind - kind messages from other people in the team when I help them out, or people checking in when I'm having a rough week, or 'send to all' compliments when I do things they like.  I've worked in marketing agencies for nearly 20 years and I can count on one hand the number of companies I've seen where the people support each other 'out loud' the way that these guys do.  Everyone gets involved - they all genuinely care about the company, how it's promoted, and I never have to chase for content.  If I ask them all to do something strange (like pass a pen across a screen and film it...) they all volunteer and get on with it!

What are you reading right now?
I am a self-confessed bibliophile, in fact before I got an Audible account I used to read actual paperbacks while walking…it led to plenty of comedic falls.  I have a stack of books on the go at any one time, and you can usually find them scattered round my house (much to my husband’s “delight”).  Right now I’m reading Carrie Fisher’s Princess Diarist, Peter May’s The Noble Path and Seth Godin’s The Practice.

Which business leader would you like to have a cuppa with?
I don’t know if he counts as a business leader, but it has to be Jon Favreau.  He has written, directed, and produced some of the best movies and series of the last 2 decades and I would love to find out how his brain works – how he sells the original ideas he has, and how he balances all the roles he works in.  It would be difficult to ask him the hard hitting questions though, as I would more likely act like a complete fan girl than a journalist…

If you could only give one piece of advice to the leaders and future leaders reading this, what would it be?
Plan, plan and then plan some more.  If you know what you want to achieve and why, it’s a lot easier to get there, and to get others on board to help you.

November 19, 2020

What is OK Positive?

We’ve introduced a brand new tool into the Connect Three team’s daily lives that we are really excited to tell you about. Katy has been the driving force behind it, so we’ll let her explain in her own words:

“I am delighted that we will be using OK Positive in Connect Three as part of the benefits that we offer our team members.

It is a tool that is for personal use designed to help people be more aware of their own happiness levels. The thing that I love the most is that it gives you lots of tools and resources for you to explore what strategies work to help you build emotional strength and wellbeing of your mind.

There is yoga, mindfulness colouring, meditation, breathing, as well as budgeting tools.

We will use these to host team events to encourage more team activities and open up communication on mental health at work.

I am so proud that we are taking this on and we hope to encourage more businesses to invest in their team’s mental well-being by us using this app.”

If you’d like to find out more about this or any of the other tools that we use to keep our team happy and motivated, get in touch with any member of the team today.

(+44) 0141 370 3339
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