By True North Learning Director and Senior Facilitator Errol Amerasekera
Contrary to some general opinion, financial compensation is only one of many reasons that keeps talented people within an organisation or draws them to it. While focusing on financial arrangements may be one of the simplest solutions to staff retention / attraction challenges it can take the manager’s focus off other – more important and more complicated – reasons why people choose to come, stay or go.Here is a list of what we believe to be seven fundamental reasons why talented people leave organisations or are attracted to them:
  1. Clarity of the organisation’s purpose and how an individual’s role and behaviour is aligned to that purpose.
  2. A structured and formal feedback process and regular performance review.
  3. Clear career development pathways with opportunities to pursue roles and projects that are aligned to their personal purpose, Values and goals.
  4. Strong systems, culture and skills to manage conflict in proactive and effective ways.
  5. Leadership that sets clear expectations and then coaches, mentors and supports team members in their achievement.
  6. A culture of responsibility and accountability (as opposed to “pass-the-buckism”), where talent, initiative, hard work and high performance is supported and recognised at every level of the organisation.
  7. Ensuring that the role an individual is placed in is appropriate to their personality and behavioural tendencies and also is aligned to their personal beliefs, goals and purpose.

To find out more about True North Learning’s 7 Steps to Attracting and Keeping Employees program click here:


From the data at hand it looks like we are coming out of the GFC. There are some sectors that appear to be doing well, the obvious ones being resources and finance. And there are other sectors that are still struggling a bit. Either way one of the big challenges that we all face is to be innovative. The term innovation is linked to creativity and hence it can have connotations of something a bit arty or airy-fairy. For us, when you boil it all down, the essence of innovation is simple- doing more with less.

Doing more with less builds efficiency within a business. Doing more with less allows us to both streamline our business or expand knowing that we have some margin of error.  Doing more with less creates new and exciting work environments and minimises the stress its members feel. This leads to a better work life balance, which is one of the big focuses of organisations these days.

In an increasingly competitive market place and as the pace of change only accelerates, the  businesses that survive, let alone thrive into the future are the ones that develop a strong ability to learn fast, adapt to market changes and facilitate the challenge of multiple and often competing demands.

Yet given all this, how do we be more innovative. We have found that being innovative is not some magical gift that some teams have and other don’t. Being innovative is a skill. And like any other skill, it can be learned, developed and fine tuned. For this to happen we need to place an inherent value on innovation and creativity. We need to set time and resources aside to invest in this skill development, perhaps even get some coaching around it. And we need to trust that if invest wisely in our ability to be innovative then the return on that investment will add value not only to our people and our products and services, but also to the mark our organisation leaves on the corporate landscape.

To find out more about True North’s THINC innovation program visit this link:

On the Changing face of Leadership….

The face of leadership is changing everywhere we look. If we start on a global context we have seen the overthrowing of many world leaders who ruled mostly by means of a dictatorship or tyranny. To bring it closer to home, with the work we do with our clients, we are starting to also see a turning of the tide as well. It seems like the days of the iconic heroic leader are drawing to a close.

Why is this happening? Perhaps because business just seems more complex these days. In the 80s and 90s in the halcyon days of people like Jack Welsh, a CEO’s role was simple- improve the bottom line and boost shareholder value. Notice I said “the” bottom line- as in only 1 bottom line. This allowed them to pour all their energy, focus and resources into achieving a single, tangible outcome.

Oh how times have changed!

Now business leaders have to report on a triple bottom lines taking into account people and planet as well as profit. Lately quadruple bottom lines have come into vogue, where there is also a value and reporting placed on the spiritual well being of organisational members.

Given this, we see one of the most significant challenges of corporate leadership as we move forward is to come to terms with the competing demands of multiple bottom lines. No longer can we focus on a single outcome and therefore be single minded in our approach to business. And what if one of those bottom lines appear to detract from each other? How do we drive profit and still create environmentally sustainable policies? How do we look after our people and their well being and at the same run lean in challenging economic times? And even more frightening, how do we as an individual leader or an organisation contribute to someone’s spiritual well being and development?

These are indeed complex problems and if there was an obvious and easy solution, everyone would be doing it. But from a leadership perspective, the thing that we have found most effective is to develop our facilitative leadership ability.

Facilitative Leadership sees that there is an underlying process to these challenges, as well as solutions. It understands the limitations of how we think, and also realises if we can sit in the tension of the unknown long enough, magical and innovative solutions form organically. The key questions then becomes how do we as leaders generate buy in from our team members, make space for a diversity of views and advocate reflection in order to increase our capacity to grapple with and find solutions for these complex challenges? This is the art and science of facilitative leadership.

To find out more about True North Learnings ‘Supercharge our Superstars leadership program click here:


On managing people….

Managing the people within our organisations is one of our most difficult tasks as leaders. To demonstrate this, let’s look at project leadership. The 3 traditional aspects which require management are time, scope and budget. While they have their own complexity, they are also relatively fixed and can be measured in very tangible and quantitative ways. These are the inanimate dimensions of an organisation or a project.

People on the other hand, as we know, are infinitely more complex. There are personal quirks, tendencies and moods. Each individual has certain work preferences and talents and their own unique profile when it comes to things like motivation, change and stress. And all of this does not take into account the interpersonal dynamics which get constellated when people work together on a common task. What happens when your “quirk” bounces off my “bad mood” or your fear of change triggers my fear of failure? It’s a recipe for chaos, not to mention a very ineffective team.

In some ways project leadership is like extreme leadership.  This is because it contains all the usual challenges of leadership along with some extra ones created by the project management model itself.

So as project leaders its so much easier to focus our attention and resources on the time, scope and budget aspects of the project. After all, they are easier to manage and to measure, and also less complex to correct should they not meet milestones. Furthermore, the technical aspects of a project eg IT or engineering fall right into our familiar skill set, so why shouldn’t we just play to our strong suit.

Here’s why!

Because simply playing to this strong suit does not necessarily help us to manage our people better. Sometimes the way forward to just ask better questions. Unfortunately, better questions can sometimes mean the answers are not as simple or as obvious. But surely, this has to be one of the responsibilities of leadership- challenging ourselves to examine the process aspects of a project as well as the task related ones.

The process aspects of leadership involve asking questions about the strength of our delegation, how well we motivate members from diverse groups, do we have a participative decision making process to support stakeholder buy in, and if our strategy is sound and sustainable. It is the courage to ask these difficult questions and the honest reflection that follows that will find solutions to these complex challenges. And that in turn will start to build high performance teams and supports organisational outcomes.

Visit our 4DPM program to find out more about how you can increase the capacity of your Project Managers to leas their people.

On managing underperformance…. 

Here is an unfortunate fact of life. Almost every team we work with has 1 or 2 of “those” people in it. By those people we mean the people that nobody really wants to work with, in fact, they will go out of their way to avoid working with them. They are the people who lower the overall tone and morale of the team and make underperformance almost acceptable. They appear to have no motivation and are not in any hurry to change. In our work we affectionately use the pseudonym “Bob” for these people. By the way, Bob is gender neutral, but you can call them Bobette if you prefer. :-)

We want to talk about managing Bob from 2 perspectives. These perspectives are not “or” perspectives meaning its one or the other. These are “and” perspectives- meaning we need to employ both of them to get the best outcome.

The first perspective is the personal and team based one. How do we performance manage Bob? How do we make sure they are in the right role and one that is aligned to their own purpose, values, goals and interests? How does Bob’s manager manage them in terms of role-based feedback, coaching, motivation and career development? And really trying to understand the underlying drivers of his lack of motivation. And finally, how does Bobs team build a high performance culture of accountability and ownership, so that under performance is simply not acceptable. When this happens, the team culture itself serves as a managing influence on Bob? These are all important questions and need to be addressed adequately.

The second perspective is them systemic one. In our work we talk a lot about temperature checking, By that we mean taking time out and checking whether we are cooking at the correct temperature in terms of our communication, our strategy, outcomes or leadership or all of the above. So let me ask a question…..if we are boiling at too higher temperature, do we blame the water or the setting of the flame? Yes exactly!! (nod) In the same way how much of Bobs behaviour is representative of the overall operating system we are using as opposed to only a personal behavioural deficiency.

Think of it like this. You’re still using Windows XP, when the rest of the world is using Windows 7. There are going to be some software incompatibilities. We see Bobs behaviour as highlighting the fact that your operating system is out of date. This is unintentional on Bobs behalf, of course, but it doesn’t dilute the validity of the message.

What is interesting is that we often find the skills, attitudes and mindset that Bobs manager and team need to change and develop in order to manage Bob more effectively are the very same ones needed to update and then work effectively within the new operating system.

So firstly, welcome and thank your Bobs; they are here to teach you something that is potentially of great benefit to your business. And secondly use the discomfort and frustration created by Bob to find better ways to doing business.


To find out more about True North Learning’s Managing Under Performance Program click here: