In the late 19th and early 20th century the gateway into America - the Statue of Liberty - was, and is still, a famous iconic emblem that articulated:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

So it is that we are carrying on that legacy on behalf of any and all leadership teams that are, 'tired', performing poorly and yearning for some respite.

Most leadership teams benefit enormously and improve their performance by reviewing their strengths and correcting as many of their weaknesses as they can. However, after 25 years experience in this field we have recognised that the majority of management leadership teams that commit to this process are those that are already in a fairly or very healthy state and performing well.

Who Needs Team Development?

Ironically those teams that need it the most - the groups that are underperforming or downright dysfunctional - rarely commit to such an intervention as commissioning a team building programme or leadership team review. The cause of this is likely due to high task orientation and a lack of leadership or effective management training. But the net outcome only too often is poor performance, loss of money/profits, a miserable culture and a sense of futility within the team members.

When a merger takes place or a new team is formed, the value of conducting a leadership team programme bespoke to any scenario or circumstances, is always enormous. A prime example of this is a specific category leader of Unilever who insists on commissioning a high impact and very focussed team development programme when he takes charge of a new team, and always every year as a refresher to ensure they are robust enough to deal with the pressures and challenges they face. The net result is that his current team of 2 years has won the Unilever 'Growth Award' for those past 2 consecutive years. This is a hugely prestigious accolade in very difficult trading times. It is, of course a great reflection on excellent leadership skills and superb commercial acumen on behalf of the team members. Even though they are spread throughout the globe and only meet up intermittently, they are all quick to agree that by having these bespoke team building programmes it enhances their performance and keeps them focussed on the priorities that optimise their deliverables.

If only newly formed leadership teams or groups that are not getting on well - due to a lack of cohesion - had the mind-set to look for a remedy; the way a person who is not feeling well will go to the doctor, or at least a pharmacist, in order to alleviate their suffering enough to function effectively.

How Can We Help?

This is an area we at Dickson Training Ltd have a great deal of expertise in. If you belong to a leadership or management team that is always falling short of target; losing quality team members or just feels unpleasant to be a part of - then you have everything to gain and not a lot to lose by calling in the leadership team experts. We have already developed a very effective template and have delivered this team development programme to suit many unique leadership teams and sometimes highly unusual team dynamics, all over the world.

The ideal time commitment is 3 days (2 overnights), but shorter versions can often be devised, or more strategic schedules can be fashioned to be work-friendly. Including residential costs the total commitment is less than £10k for up to 10 people!

It is always very successful and highly effective - turning dysfunctional groups into well coordinated and cohesive units. It accelerates the expulsion of negativity and ill-feelings within certain groups that inadvertently advertise their distressed state to other departments and, all too often, clients! The process is very straight forward but innovative in approach. It is actually very enjoyable and is very efficient in breaking down barriers that cause a potentially successful team to break out of their downward 'tail-spin'.

So please bring us a 'tired', dysfunctional, newly-forged, exasperated and/or ineffective leadership team and within 3 days we will return them exorcised, with new vigour, collaborative and most of all ready to face down their demons that obfuscate their progress towards performing well for your organisation.

Whatever the management level they may be.

Case Study – Operation Splatt

First Line Managers’ introduction to Project Management

“Operation Splatt” is a perfect introduction to Project Management disciplines for First Line Managers as a crucial part of their Training. Most First Line Managers have to fulfil projects as part of their role – yet few have any formal training in this vital area. With this fun exercise the delegates are split into to 2 x groups and they are provided with a batch of bamboo canes, a box of kit (comprising of elastic bands: paper cups; pipe-cleaners; napkins; cellotape; rulers, scissors; balls of string, balloons; paper clips and many other materials) and a detailed brief. Their challenge is to design and construct a ‘trebuchet’ – or catapult – to propel a raw egg for over 5 meters – without damaging it!

Hence the title – ‘Operation Splatt!’

The brief explains that they have costs attributed to the use of any of the materials and that they will need to present to the ‘Stake-holder(s)’ (The Trainer(s)), half-way into the 90 minute time-frame, their plans, prototype ideas and projected costs. This has all the key elements of Management skills, team dynamics, planning, use of resources and financial control – plus, of course, Project Management.

It’s always huge fun and often the two groups compete with each other – somewhat needlessly – as one of the key learning points is to reach out to other groups to trade options; materials and ideas – as well as skills – to get to Best Practice.

It’s always very revealing how the First Line Managers decide upon roles and responsibilities. Do they conduct a skills audit? Is there any jostling for the Leadership position that creates a distraction from attaining the best results?

At the ‘Stakeholders’ review stage – the First Line Managers are challenged with committing to decisions – such as the mechanism for firing the egg and the strategy to ensure it is well protected.

They will also be quizzed on their budgets and target distances reached.

One of the key skills for most First Line Managers is to manage expectations and yet make clear decisions that they are confident about.

More construction and development activities take place after the review session – and very often the groups discover that they can produce something much better and more effective than they had originally expected. They also regularly demonstrate some creative flair and savvy financial planning.

Then, after 90 mins, comes the Launch – The test to see if this will be Operation Success? – or Operation Splatt?

Many First Line Managers have invested a great deal of care and ingenuity into their catapult (One group dubbed theirs as - the ‘Eggulator’) but more often than not – there hasn’t been enough thought or investment in materials, for the protection of the egg.

The contraption may send the egg flying across the launch pad area to reach 5 meters or more, which is quite spectacular, but all too often the egg is either critically damaged – or it’s aptly described as a ‘Splatt’ The financial model within the task is designed to reward more (notional) money by combining distance with an undamaged egg. So… the winning formula is….strategic & intelligent investments, with the right materials while optimising the use of the team dynamics always pays off.

The de-brief stage is the most important aspect of all of our exercises on the First Line Management courses – especially the in-house programmes.

For this marvellous, fun but focussed, exercise – they learning points are captured such as:

- Stepping back to review the time-lines, the costs, the resources and the team’s capabilities. - Identifying the ‘critical path’ – to get the best result that earns the most money by utilising the team’s skills fully. - Planning disciplines that have contingencies and ‘owning’ decisions - Preparing to engage with ‘Stakeholders’ and being robust enough to handle challenges and answer probing questions. - Motivational drivers that make the team work hard and contribute fully, despite set-backs - Moving out of the ‘silo’ mentality and engaging with other teams to get best practice that is sustainable - Meeting commercial objectives which go beyond just getting some distance covered – it’s also about quality control and the connections between competing priorities

All of these – plus the learnings from behaviours (arrogance; timidity; team support; negotiations; inspiration; overcoming disappointment) – are directly applicable in the First Line Managers’ work-place.

Phil Dickson September 2018



“It was a real joy to work with Billy Ferguson’s Thincats IT Team recently at the amazing Docklands Museum venue at Canary Wharf.

They are a highly qualified team with many new members, so it was a perfect opportunity to accelerate the bonding and collaboration with a focus on ‘Leadership’ within the business.

What a fab group!! They are full of energy and ambition – plus they are blessed with a rich diversity of technical know-how, experience and augmented skills. I loved how the more experienced Team members actively encourage the newbies to challenge and give feedback and recommendations. Very Refreshing.

Billy is a superb Leader who earns and deserves a huge amount of loyalty and commitment. He really inspires his team.

He had been a real star Manager when I used to deliver the Leadership Training programme at Allianz a few years ago - so I was delighted when he reached out to invite me to work with him again in this stage of his career.

He has a formidable talent for selecting and developing a high performance team – and this was evident on the Programme.”


It’s really tough out there...

The economy is not in good shape in many sectors, business is patchy for quite a lot of companies and so many people are under a lot of pressure coping with high, intense, workloads & a myriad of challenges.

This is why it is absolutely crucial to have very strong and effective Leadership in order to mitigate poor morale and to boost confidence so that a team’s culture (and therefore performance) can be enhanced, not beleaguered.

I was having dinner with my daughter, Julia, recently and she really, profoundly, inspired me when she mused…”I MUST have some JOY in my life, otherwise I simply cannot function.”

Like so many of us – she has challenges in her work-life but she has identified a vital component to her set of priorities... Joy.

Fun; good positive spirit; that sense of subverting negativity with laughter and good humour.

Leaders who cultivate a spirit of ‘we can get through this’ or ‘this challenge is not beyond our capability’ – and inject and encourage an authentic feeling of ‘we will not be robbed of having at least some fun to mitigate and compensate for the tough episodes’ always get better results.

This is the core essence of all the training sessions we deliver.

I am very proud of the glowing feedback and very regular repeat bookings @DicksonTraining enjoys because, even though the Leaders, Managers and Teams we are working with have pressures and difficult situations to deal with – our training approach gives them some fun, laughter and a genuine sense of positive energy.

We often find that, for so many people, they had forgotten how to do this for themselves and they are always so glad to reclaim this sensation of positivity that they are then determined to carry this back to their work-place.

Training is so much more effective and long lasting – especially in the area of Leadership and Team support – when there is a real boost to everyone’s confidence and spirit. This usually helps put the challenges into perspective as it erodes fear and anxiety.

We always recognise and address the priority issues and galvanise the Leaders/Teams to find the best way through, perhaps applying EQ and Soft skills to engage with colleagues/partners; stepping back to scope out a more strategic approach; apply a more creative, courageous plan.

However, when there is a positive atmosphere that is supportive and energising – it really fuels progress.

Joy... is the nitro-boost.

If you’re reflecting on your team (and Leadership culture) as it is confronting tough challenges and you feel that a big blast of Fun - and even – ‘Joy’, as part of a strategic training intervention to recalibrate how your Managers Lead, then you may want to consider how @DicksonTraining can help break them free from a loop of set-backs, frustration and low morale.

Our approach may just be the perfect remedy.

Please drop me an email –