Leadership Training By Design

Why Our Clients Are Chasing Us?

The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light many issues we experience as a society, including the persistent inequalities people face and our very own mental health ‘pandemic’. The pandemic highlighted the importance of protecting mental health and well-being within the workplace for businesses. Additionally, the uncertainty and chaos faced during the pandemic exposed the significant impact stress can have on leadership. Our scenario-based leadership training aims to transform leadership by helping leaders tackle issues such as poor decision making and unconscious biases that arise due to the stress and uncertainty faced during crisis.

Episodic Memory

Our scenario-based leadership training is an innovative way of engaging the brain’s episodic memory system, by bringing to life actual world-changing events. The episodic memory allows us to engage in “mental time travel”. It is the only memory system that enables people to consciously recollect specific events that happened to them, at particular times and places in the past1. It allows information learnt during personally experienced events to be encoded, stored, and retrieved. When an ‘episode’ is recalled, it brings to mind all the data associated with the event, including sensory information, emotional and physical sensations, behaviours, and knowledge learnt. Interestingly, the amount of detail remembered and the length of time the event is retained depends on the significance and uniqueness of the event1. Therefore, we have created a unique training experience that brings to life world-changing events that evoke high levels of emotion to enhance the participants’ memory retrieval and skill retention.

Decision Making and Cognitive Bias

For effective leadership to occur, an individual has to be able to dedicate a significant amount of their cognitive resources to making important decisions and tackling problems2. Experiencing high levels of stress can negatively impact leaders’ cognitive functioning and reduce the likelihood of finding alternative solutions to problems. As a result, leaders tend to become more self-aware and less likely to assume the team’s perspective2. Additionally, they are more likely to shift from goal-directed actions to binary and habitual decision making3. Leaders must be aware of both factors and circumstances that may change their decision-making parameters, meaning leaders need to be able to adapt and ‘think outside the box’. Stress inhibits this process and causes bias in decision-making strategies. The pressure experienced means people become more reactionary and start thinking with the brain’s limbic system, known as the emotional brain, instead of the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for critical thinking. This emotionally fuelled thinking pattern can lead to an increase in cognitive biases. It is essential to acknowledge that we all have cognitive biases, which help us filter information, decide what to remember, make judgements when information is lacking, and act fast when immediate action is needed. When faced with ambiguity, cognitive biases allow us to produce decisions on what to do. However, they can also lead us to ignore other explanations or jump to the wrong conclusions. Our training is designed to embrace the confusion, ambiguity, and uncertainty of crisis by helping improve decision-making pace and ability. Additionally, we bring awareness to the various cognitive biases leaders may have and help them be mindful of their thinking patterns.

HRV, Stress and Debriefing

We use heart rate variability technology to monitor how stress impacts leaders’ decision-making ability as they enter red stress zones as part of our innovative training. Here we observe the participants’ behaviour and notice when their decision making starts to become impaired due to pressure. We give the delegates feedback on this information during their debrief. Doing this allows them to see where anxiety and stress may have negatively impacted their decision-making ability and highlight any unconscious biases they may have. Research shows debriefing is an essential aspect of learning and skill retention when engaging the episodic memory system1. We encourage the participants to reflect on their performance during the scenarios, which helps to consolidate their memories.


  1. Tulving, E. (2002). Episodic Memory: From Mind to Brain. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 1-25.
  2. Harms, P. D., Crede, M., Tynan, M., Leon, M., & Jeung, W. (2017). Leadership and stress: A meta-analytic review. The Leadership Quarterly, 28, 178-194.
  3. Soares et al (2012). “Stress-induced changes in human decision-making are reversible”. Translational Psychiatry, 2(7).

Author:  Rebecca Symonds

How Do You Build Resilience?

Everyone experiences trauma, adversity, and stress. This blog outlines some of the tools and techniques you can utilise to become more resilient and emerge stronger than before.

What is resilience?

There are no collectively accepted scientific definitions of resiliency. However, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Tugade and Fredrickson1 provide the following definition.

“Psychological resilience has been characterised by the ability to bounce back from negative emotional experiences and by flexible adaptation to the changing demands of stressful experiences”

Everyone has their map of the world. We all experience ups and downs, from daily challenges to traumatic experiences, like divorce, serious illness, or the loss of a family member. These encounters affect thought processes and emotions, which can lead to long periods of anxiety and stress. However, over time people tend to adapt well to their situations due to resilience.

Phycologists such as Deiner2 describe resilience as a process of positive adaptation during times of adversity, such as health issues or financial and workplace stress. Adapting to these challenging situations includes a degree of personal development and the process of “bouncing back”.

Although these challenging experiences are painful and testing, they do not determine your future. You can adopt simple daily habits and behaviours that help you grow, adjust, and control your life. Developing resilience enables you to navigate challenging experiences, and it facilitates personal growth and the ability to change your life.

Somebody can develop resilience by changing their daily behaviours, thoughts and actions. For example, people who lack resilience will view negative experiences as traumatic, whereas more resilient or hardy people will reframe them as opportunities for personal growth3. Building resilience is like lifting weights to build muscle; by working on positive thinking, wellness, connection and purpose, we can increase our ability to withstand trauma.

Positive Thinking

Accept ambiguity: Some people view ambiguity as dangerous or threatening, however accepting that everything in life changes will help you concentrate on the aspects you can influence.

Maintain perspective: Our thoughts affect how we feel physically, so try to identify negative and unhelpful thought processes and challenge them. One method to adjust our perspective is to view the situation from the third person; this makes it less experiential and increases subjectivity.

View failures as an opportunity to improve: Do not beat yourself up if something does not work out as planned. Instead, look to see what you learn from the situation and move on.


Be kind to your body: Stress affects us physically and mentally. So, look after your body by exercising, eating healthily, hydrating, and getting enough sleep. These simple acts can strengthen your body’s ability to withstand stress and anxiety.

Practice mindfulness: Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us spot negative thought processes quicker and help us understand ourselves better. Mindfulness is commonly practised during performance breathing, yoga, meditation, or prayer but can be done whilst completing simple tasks like washing up.


Build a network: Resilience is not just about the individual; it is increased by having strong relationships and networks. They help people share increases in workload, make sense of workplace politics, push back where necessary, and receive empathic support.


Find your why: Focus your effort on what matters most to you. Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl said, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”4 Find out what you a passionate about and try to connect with a cause bigger than yourself.

Move towards your objectives: Develop some achievable long-term goals and break them into small manageable tasks. Then, try to accomplish something every day that moves you towards your goal and celebrate the achievement.

How does resilience affect UK employers?

Mental Health can be one of the most expensive neglections a business can make. They estimate mental health to cost UK employers £32-42bn each year5.

A recent study showed that 15% of the working population in the UK lives with an existing mental health condition, which costs employers an average of £1,119-£1,481 per employee5.

Our resilience solutions can reduce these costs and give a Return On Investment of up to 9:1.

  1. Tugade, M. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). Resilient individuals use positive emotions to bounce back from negative emotional experiences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 320-333.
  2. Deiner, E. (2000). Subjective well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 34-43.
  3. Orr, E., & Westman, M. (1990). Does hardiness moderate stress, and how? A review. In M. Rosenbaum (Ed.), Learned resourcefulness: On coping skills. self-control, and adaptive behaviour. New York: Springer.
  4. Frankl, V. (1946). Man’s search for meaning. Beacon Press, 72.
  5. Deloitte-Mental health and employers: The case for investment, supporting study for the Stephenson/Farmer review 2017.

Author: Mick Murphy

The Performance Equation

The Performance Equation

Often, when I am working with clients, I aim to use simple, easy to implement, yet powerful tools. One of the tools that have served me well for many years is the Performance Equation, which is an iteration of a tool Timothy Gallway references in his best-selling book, ‘The Inner Game of Tennis’.

In essence, we have our performance, which can be from any area of our life. It might be an event you have entered from a sporting perspective; it might be a presentation you were asked to give by your boss or might even be whether you were successful in a recent job interview. Although entirely different in context, all these examples are all measurable by the outcome metric that is your objective performance on the day. If you have no psychological restrictions on the day of the event, you will perform equal to your maximum potential by default. If you have any psychological restrictions, these will subtract from your potential and reduce the measurable performance.

All we can ever hope for is to perform equal to our potential in whatever we do.  

So, what are some of these Psychological Restrictions I’m referring to? Well, it might not come as a surprise to you to find out there are a vast number of these restrictions, and we are all affected by them at different times, and in various areas of our life.

  • Poor Internal Dialogue
  • Self-Limiting Beliefs
  • Fear of Success
  • Fear of Failure
  • Mental Fatigue
  • Poor Rehearsal
  • Focus Loss / Concentration
  • Poor Sleep
  • Stress
  • Pressure Perception
  • Motivation Loss
  • Confidence Loss

Each one of these elements can be improved through the endeavour of practice, commitment and application. Consider all the times you have ‘been at your best’ in any context, what were you thinking at the time? Consider likewise, the times when you have not performed to the standard you would have liked, which elements of this equation were in play that day? Perhaps you lost your focus right at the critical moment you need to be laser-like? Maybe you were feeling stressed leading up to the event, and in turn, your sleep was severely reduced, leading to fatigue. What if it was a combination of poor internal dialogue that leads you to create the wrong mental pictures through visualisation. This leads to you executing your negative visualisation flawlessly.

Reflection: These elements can be developed and strengthened with the correct application and practice over time. What must happen before practice is undertaken though, is an awareness of which parts affect you most frequently and in what context. With this elevated awareness, you can apply yourself to addressing the underlying factors that feed these psychological restrictions. Gradual, constant, incremental improvements over time will erode the restrictions allowing you to fully actualise your potential on the day of the performance.

Author: Phil Quirk



“Good actions give strength to ourselves, and inspire good actions in others.” Plato

A frog meets a scorpion on a riverbank. The scorpion is desperate to get to the other side and pleads with the frog to carry him across the river on his back. The frog is quite rightly suspicious of the scorpion and politely points out that it might sting him while swimming. The scorpion explains that he cannot swim and to sting the frog would result in death for both of them. After some consideration, the frog decides to trust the scorpion and agrees to carry him to the other side. Halfway across the river, the scorpion inexplicably stings the frog causing paralysis. As they both begin drowning the frog asks the scorpion why he’s committed them both to death with his actions, the scorpion replies, “I have no idea why perhaps it’s because I’m a scorpion?”


Trust is a fascinating concept. Businesses are built upon it, relationships also. It can be lost in the blink of an eye and takes much more time to rebuild when betrayed. I have been too trusting in the past, without a doubt. It has only been in this year of my life where I have developed a cautiousness that prevents such mistakes. Everyone would act following their word in a utopian society, and trust would be an automatic starting point in any relationship. Unfortunately, the reality in my experience is not reflective of this romantic ideal.

All is not lost, though, the key to building more robust and resilient relationships is to invest heavily in building trust. Whether in business or your personal relationships, investment in this area will lead to astounding results over time. One of the finest models for understanding the underpinning value of trust is Patrick Lencioni’s ‘5 Dysfunctions of a Team’. Don’t be discouraged by the title; books often use negative titles as they market better than positive titles. What Lencioni talks about in his book is the five fundamental functions of a high performing team.  The model is built like a pyramid with each level underpinning and supporting the level above. Unsurprisingly, the underpinning foundations of the entire model and the first level is trust.

The absence of trust will placate the absence of all of the other levels above and often when I’m working with organisations nearly all of their challenges have their origins in trust, or lack of it to be more accurate. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts or hacks for building trust with individuals, especially if those individuals don’t necessarily like each other, which is often the case within organisations. The starting point for me is to have the courage to show vulnerability which is often feared most when trust is missing, both professionally and personally. It is easy to understand when trust is present, because honest debate and conflict can occur without being perceived as an agenda-based interaction with ulterior meanings.

Reflection: If you can do this, you’re well on establishing a high performing team if conflict and debate cannot be honest and without agenda, you have to step back down to the trust level and start again with vulnerability.

Author: Phil Quirk

Your Google Brain

“He who has peace of mind disturbs neither himself nor another.” Epicurus

Have you ever noticed how your brain is a pattern-searching machine? Perhaps if I use an analogy followed by an example of what I am suggesting it might resonate with you?

Imagine for a moment you decide to upgrade your home sound system. After some research and comparing various products, you choose to purchase Sonos speakers through Amazon. While waiting for your new speakers to arrive, you carry on reading reviews and studying your imminent audio upgrade via various websites. Then the strangest thing starts to happen; suddenly across your digital devices, you begin noticing adverts for Sonos audio speakers. On Facebook and Instagram, as well as when you’re browsing the Internet or watching videos on YouTube – these adverts keep popping up as if your computer knows what you want. Now, it’s obvious what is happening here for most people, you’ve searched these items, so they’re in your HTTP cookies, supposedly to improve you’re browsing experience on the internet but more often associated with re-target advertising.

Your brain works similarly through something called your Reticular Activating System or simply the RAS.

You will most likely be familiar with when your RAS is working but perhaps not consciously aware of it. Can you remember the last car you purchased? I would imagine that before purchasing you might have researched some of the models and colours you were interested in, perhaps then narrowing the search down to a few dealerships which had the car you wanted in the colour you wanted, and at the price you were willing to pay? Finally, you commit to one of the dealers and place the order for your car, but unfortunately, your dream car will take a week or so to order and prepare. In the meantime, you’re driving around in your old vehicle and what starts to happen?

You start noticing the car you’ve just bought, in the same colour, the same model, everywhere you travel. It’s almost as if everyone has decided to buy the same car and you start noticing them – all the time!

Now you can exchange the car analogy for anything you like, a woman planning for a baby starts noticing pregnant women while strolling down the High Street. It is also the same with advertising campaigns that subtly settle in your subconscious, and you start seeing the advertised product everywhere.  Now the truth is these items were always going to be there, the car, the pregnant women, and the product, but your RAS cache is full of these searches, and your brain noticed them when they were in your proximity. The RAS is a pattern searching machine that matches the reality outside your head with your ‘cookies history’ inside.

Remember the friend who proclaims, “Nothing good ever happens to me!” Well, guess what nothing good happens to them.

But why is this so important? Consider for a moment your brain being this pattern-searching machine that you had pre-programmed deliberately to look for things to be grateful for. Everywhere you went your subconscious brain quietly searched for examples of all the things in your life that gave you gratitude. Well, this is how, and more importantly why, a gratitude log works.

Activity: Each day, list three things that you are grateful for. You cannot repeatedly use the same items over and over, in doing so your RAS will slowly start scanning for the examples of gratitude.

Author: Phil Quirk