Learning new leadership and team skills – with sheepdogs!

A new form of leadership and team-building training is taking the business world by storm – using sheepdogs to allow managers to hone the art of gentle and non-aggressive personnel management.

By working with the natural elements of shepherding and sheep farming, managers attending the innovative courses in Cumbria are able to draw their own conclusions about their behaviour in the office, the boardroom, and clinical practice to find the best way forward.

“We don’t tell clients what they need to do or change, they work it out themselves,” says Stuart Jackson, co-founder. “That’s what makes the Your Natural Leaders experience all the more powerful.”

Why Work With Sheep Dogs? 

The benefits of working with dogs and sheep are many:

  • They are non-judgemental (they do not condescend or criticise) – everyone can learn constructively from mistakes and successes
  • They give an immediate response (they don’t discriminate no matter your position at work, and won’t move if they don’t want to) – you get instant and honest safe feedback, a perfect mirror to learn from.
  • They respond to non-verbal communication – meaning you learn how to make your message clear through your movements, posture, body language, and tone of voice (you already do this at work and at home, understanding your impact at this level is very empowering)
  • They reward your efforts once you have earned your authority and their respect – encouraging and developing leadership through rapport, respect and trust, not power and authority. It is truly remarkable.

The Your Natural Leaders Working Sheepdog Experience uses a unique combination of talent from the world of leadership, change specialists and sheepdog trialling.

Your Natural Leaders invites delegates to consider their own experience, styles and impacts from totally different perspectives. In every session people are often surprised by their own capacity to generate new, powerful and useful ideas, insights and models about their own experience as leaders and how they might move and change their models, strategies and tactics in the work place.

Surprisingly, a large number of people also find positive impacts for their personal lives too. Later sessions allow peers to support each other to explore how to deploy new behaviours in a safe way and build them around existing beliefs, both on the field and in the briefing and de-briefing sessions in our newly purpose-built Natural Leaders learning facility.

Click here to find out more about how you can get incredible value and a lasting experience that will truly make a positive difference and generate lasting outcomes from your training budget. 

Annual Reports: what the smart Communications and Marketing Managers are doing

If the thought of reading an annual report gives you a headache, you aren’t alone. Just thinking about the writing and designing of one is enough to make the most of us want to lie down in a darkened room.

But we all know that, if designed well and presented in the right format, annual reports are a great way to present your organisation’s achievements, as well as highlight what is unique.

The best annual reports will engage stakeholders and win you loyal fans; and as more emphasis is placed on creative presentation, it’s finally becoming the latest format to benefit from good design – online and offline. Here are examples of what the best are doing…

This interactive annual report from Shopify last year packs in a lot of data (and who doesn’t have to do that?) yet makes it easily digestible, using interactive elements. As a scrolling webpage, the report can combine readable graphs, eye-catching animations, linked images and a timeline of events to communicate engaging information. Check out how it encourages you to share key issues on social media too. 

Interactivity is not the preserve of slick international brands. We have experience of producing dynamic Prezis that really engage and capture audiences, for example. Click here to see how Heywood, Middleton & Rochdale handled their annual public health report using interactive Prezi, with embedded video links.

Check out how Kickstarter also incorporate video with the simple and clean presentation of data.

With the right support, you can make complex copy simple to read and use designs that are relevant to your organisation’s culture and ambition.

Most organisations publish a summary of the annual report intended for public consumption. Now you have seen these examples, how have you been inspired?

If you need a hand and would like ICE to provide you with additional support for your annual report, at an affordable cost and pace – come have a chat with us here.

Four essential steps to assessing organisation culture and employee values to drive innovation, creativity and growth

“Create thriving communities: listen to the needs of your employees and create an environment that helps them to thrive.”

The B Team / Virgin Unite, “New Ways of Working”, Jan 2015

(www.bteam.org / www.virgin.com/unite)

Back in the 80’s and 90’s, organisations started to put lists of ‘values’ up on walls and point at them and say, “these are our values now” – somehow expecting a shift in behaviour and performance. Or say something like “we’re implementing a transformation programme”, and later scoff: “we’ve tried all that transformation stuff and it didn’t work”.

But many organisations are now waking up to the realisation that smart and committed people are their most valuable resource.

Yes we’ve heard this before, but now we are living in an exciting period of time where the world is changing, and putting more focus on people: recognising the importance of their wellbeing, their values, and their beliefs. When you engage with people on this level you can expect significant impacts on creativity and innovation, productivity, and profitability.

At ICE we have been working with a number of clients to help them do just that. We have tools and approaches that help organisations create a balance between hard issues (such as processes and systems) on the one hand, and soft issues (such as culture and values) on the other. Working together, we ensure these are aligned and support the overall purpose and direction of the organisation.

How do we do this? 

So take ‘values’ for example. Values are usually based upon deeply held personal beliefs about the world, and reflect a person’s moral sense of right and wrong, or simply what they believe they ought to be. The aims of values is to provide us with an internal reference for what we think is good, beneficial, important, useful, beautiful, desirable, constructive, and so on. This helps us to understand why we do the things that we do, so putting a list of arbitrary values on a wall can actually be a bit of a waste of time – and in some cases, quite counter-productive.

So we have developed a unique enterprise mapping tool called ICE-Berg to assess sociability and conformance, and drive for advancement across an organisation. We also work with clients to develop question sets that enable us to map how well explicit values resonate within and across an organisation. Using this tool is one way of considering the four essential ingredients to assessing values alignment within an organisation. They are:

  1. Develop an understanding of the ‘desired-cultural-state’ based on real organisational needs rather than arbitrary sets of behaviours or values
  2. Map the ‘actual-cultural-state’ and identify actions to address any gaps; including transformation, training, and coaching interventions
  3. Develop a coaching culture based on regular reviews alongside existing performance and competency reviews
  4. Develop a foundation for succession planning and recruitment based on how well people resonate with cultural values and behavioural norms.

Using this approach we can create strong links between culture, purpose and systems, leading organisations to a tipping point – a fertile state for an organisation to begin its journey to sustainable excellence based on continual engagement and development of people.

For a free consultation and demonstration of the ICE-Berg assessment tool, contact Justin Wrench on justin.wrench@icecreates.com / 0151 647 4700.

Significant savings and improved performance in Revs & Bens – you’ll be amazed how they achieved it!

Tewkesbury Borough Council were looking to make efficiencies in the Revenues & Benefits Service through identifying improvements in efficiencies and realising capacity and cashable savings.

At the outset it was clear that the service appeared to have a significant backlog of work (in particular in Benefits) which had been the norm for some time.  As a result, their performance in the national league tables was one of the lowest in the area.

The review concentrated on the two separate workstreams with representatives from the teams, managers and support services coming together to form a core team. The scope of the work was focused on Benefits processing and Revenues administration (to include both Council Tax and on-Domestic Rates).

No ‘magic wand’

There was no magic wand. This project used the principles of Lean Systems Thinking to deliver the following outcomes:

  • Improve the effectiveness of the Revenues process to meet purpose of issuing the right bill, to the right customer at the right time, and therefore increase collection rates.
  • Reduce the end-to-end times for processing Benefit claims and changes in circumstances
  • Improve the processes to achieve a better customer experience
  • Reduce levels of handoff, duplication and other waste within the processes.


Here’s how it worked…

This work was based on the ICE model for service transformation.

It began with a period (Establish) designed to set up the engagement cleanly by building relationships across the service and with wider stakeholders to ensure the most value from the review.

During the Explore stage, a team representing the whole of the service, plus some of the wider support services, was brought together, to create a current state map.  This visual representation of the in-scope work included the demands placed on the service by its customers, the flow of work, data to show the performance of the systems along with details of the system conditions.

The Envisage stage then allowed the team to present these findings back to the wider stakeholder group at a vision workshop.  It was at this event that areas for improvement were agreed and buy in from across the organisation was gained. This buy-in was vital to ensure that any changes would be sustained in the future.

The areas for improvement included:

  • Working to get complete applications in first time
  • Improving the cleanliness of information around change of circumstances
  • Reducing the number of Council Tax bills issued incorrectly
  • Issuing bills to new properties with provisional bandings

There then followed the Experiment stage, where changes were tried out and measured against data collected in Explore to understand what outcomes could be achieved. Once the concepts were proven, the team went on to Embed the changes and incorporate them as business as usual.

Benefits Achieved

  • Elimination of backlog of work
  • New claims – reduction in end-to-end time from 37 days to 11 days
  • Change of circumstances – reduction in end-to-end processing time from 25 days to 8 days
  • Significant increase in Benefits subsidy achieved
  • 80% Reduction in failure demand into the Benefits service
  • 75% increase in Revenues customers having their accounts administered at the point of contact
  • 60% reduction in incorrect ad-hoc bills produced
  • Improved staff communications with daily, self-managed team ‘huddles’ to promote ownership and efficiency
  • Capacity release to undertake a more proactive approach
  • Identified savings in excess of £250,000.


At ICE, we combine Lean Systems Thinking with other organisational development and behaviour change tools to make better happen. To find out more, get in touch (0845 5193 423 / ideas@icecreates.com)

How can you make the most of digital communications?

Today, our global digital universe is full of billions of things that require you to do something, act and makepeopleshapedmodel
a decision. When faced with a range of complex challenges and pressures, how can you best use digital tools and techniques to help our communities and empower them to take action?

That’s the question we’re exploring with a variety of organisations who are successfully using digital solutions to engage local people and break down the barriers to sustainable behaviour change.

ICE digital solutions are built upon our philosophy to meet each of us in context, to evoke feelings and beliefs that
matter to us, and to motivate us to act differently. Here are some of the key trends we’ve identified:

  • Think objective first, NOT channel. It’s all to easy too fall into a trap of thinking “we need to do some social media”, or “we need an app”, but take a step back and consider what you’re trying to achieve. Yes, these might be the right channels, but is that decision insight-driven? If not, your efforts to create the right environment to reshape attitudes around, say, vandalism or anti-social behaviour, will always fall short. Get it right and you’ll see measurable results (take our recent integrated campaign with one CDRP, which supported a 7% fall in violent crime, and a 45% reduction in public order offenses over a one month period).
  • Set KPIs at the outset. It seems obvious, but setting clear KPIs and using robust monitoring to evaluate activity is just as important for digital communications as any other sphere of your work. So whether it’s web applications, mobile phone apps or social media tools, there are a range of bespoke evaluation tools you can use to help you demonstrate reach and value for money.
  • Get ‘people-centred’. It’s a fact, mass communications don’t work. Focus on user experience, whilst developing a system that is visually engaging, accessible, flexible and importantly, easy for you to manage. Our design and UX (user experience) expertise, coupled with our deep understanding of the behaviours of users, has helped us to create online experiences that truly engage and deliver real outcomes for our clients. It’s essential to segment target groups and personalise your communications. That way, you develop integrated, end-to-end solutions which positively influence and motivate people.
  • ‘Co-create’ solutions with your audience. Of course, working together will be an integral part of your multi-agency approach. However, it’s worth considering how you can actively involve target groups in developing and refining solutions, which enable you to interact with them in different, more productive ways. For instance, we regularly use usability testing groups to ensure web development work is truly user-friendly and meets users’ needs and expectations.

At ICE, we understand the true engagement power of an easy to use, fun and enjoyable digital experience, and we have spent 1000s of hours developing our expertise to provide digital solutions for a wide range of publicly funded organisations across the UK.

For more information about our digital services, visit: digital.icecreates.com





ICE-Berg: Culture & Values Mapping Tool

Culture eats strategy over breakfast” – Peter Drucker

From experience, we believe that values and beliefs inform performance as much as skills and competence. So, weice berg have developed a unique enterprise mapping tool called ICE-Berg, which is based on the five factor psychological personality model to assess sociability and conformance, and drive for advancement across an organisation (including openness to change or assertiveness for example). We also work with clients to develop question sets that enable us to map how well explicit values resonate within and across an organisation. Using this tool we can:

  • Develop an understanding of the ‘desired-cultural-state’ based on real organisational needs rather than arbitrary sets of behaviours or values
  • Map the ‘actual-cultural-state’ and identify actions to address any gaps, including transformation, training and coaching interventions
  • Develop a coaching culture based on regular reviews alongside existing performance and competency reviews
  • Develop a foundation for succession planning and recruitment based on how well people resonate with cultural values and behavioural norms

We don’t know of anybody else who can provide a bespoke tool, which maps values and is supported by our in-house Organisational Development experts.

What outcomes can you expect?

Strong cultural alignment with individuals and teams working together to deliver outcomes that make the biggest difference to your organisation and the people that you serve.


  • Cultural Insight Report at any level of detail you require (from organisation, pay grade, team or individual)
  • Detailed conclusions and recommendations for cultural improvements based on clear evidence.

The approach can be integrated into other systems to support: Recruitment and Selection, Probation, Assessment and Development Centres, Appraisal Process, Community Interaction, Coaching, Creating a ‘Tipping Point’ in transformation and culture change (we can identify your salespeople, mavens, and connectors).

And more…

Using this tool is a very affordable way of developing your organisation. Let us come and try it with your management team, and if you like it we can roll it out across your organisation.

Talk to us: 0845 5193 423 / justin.wrench@icecreates.com



Stoptober draws to an end

You made it! A whole month smoke-free and still going from strength to strength. It’s time to give yourself a well-earned pat on the back, andPortrait of a group of business people laughing against white ba not only look back at all of the hard work you have put in, but to look to the future and all of the benefits to continuing your life smoke-free.

Starting now, your lungs begin to repair and with this comes a reduction in risk of infection and a dramatic decrease in coughing and shortness of breath – this will only get easier as the months go by. By the time you have been smoke-free for a year, your risk of heart disease will be 50% less and in five years time, your chance of stroke could be as low as someone who has never smoked.

Looking ahead to 10 years smoke-free, your risk of dying from lung cancer will be half of that of a smoker; your risk of having cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas also decreases.

Can you see what an amazing gift you have given yourself by joining Stoptober, and the thousands of people stopping smoking with Stop4Life and Puffell? You have to keep going and building on the fantastic success you have already enjoyed.

With things getting a bit easier, you may find that smoking is no longer the first thing on your mind when you wake, or it may be that when you feel the urge to smoke, it seems to pass a lot quicker than this time last week. These are signs that the addiction to nicotine is starting to die down and you are well on your way to a smoke-free future.

The 28-day challenge may be over, but you are not alone on your journey to becoming smoke-free. If you have any questions, speak to your stop smoking adviser. It’s proven that you are more successful in achieving outcomes when you share the experience; visit puffell.com and share your experiences, connect with others, and for advice and support throughout your journey.


Sue Pretty, Stop Smoking Adviser, Stop4Life (0800 612 4580 / help@stop4life.co.uk)

Stoptober: The final hurdles

For those taking part in Stoptober, there is around three weeks as a non-smoker under your belt: time to sit back and appreciate all of the iStock_000000492085Mediumpositives associated with being smoke-free.

By now, you should be starting to feel the health benefits; you may feel that you have a bit more puff and you can do more physical exercise without getting so tired and breathless. Some people like to take up a new activity when they quit smoking so that they can appreciate this even more – whether that’s swimming, hiking, cycling or running… they are all great ways to keep yourself busy and also to reduce the chance of weight gain.

Take a look in the mirror. Can you see how much brighter your eyes are? Do you notice the staining on your teeth and fingers starting to fade? And when you walk past smokers, do you notice how strong the smell of smoke is on them? Just remember, that used to be you, but now you can smile to yourself with the knowledge that it isn’t anymore.

For some people it is the lifestyle of being a non-smoker that they relish; the freedom to go where they want and do what they choose, without having to work out where and when they can smoke. No longer will you have to stand out in the cold and rain, shivering or suffering the agony of a train journey or concert gasping for your next chance to smoke. There’ll be no distraction when you are playing with your children, always waiting for that chance to break away for a cigarette. You can enjoy all of these things without the hassle of smoking.

Of course, who doesn’t like a bit of extra cash in their pocket? Try putting the same amount of money you would have spent on smoking in a money box or jar, and see how quickly your savings grow! Before you know it, you will have a nice lump sum to spend on something special, a real treat to say well done.

Now balance all of this against the only real negative to stopping smoking, which is that your nicotine addiction is no longer being fed. You will see that this isn’t negative at all. It is the freedom from smoking that is the reward for all your hard work.


Sue Melville, Stop Smoking Advisor, Stop4Life (0800 612 4580 / help@stop4life.co.uk)

Beyond happiness to wholeness

There are so many books, blogs and social media posts out there about positive emotions and happiness, that we may be forgiven for iStock_000000278165Mediumsometimes forgetting how our darker, more negative emotions and states can actually be really beneficial too.

I often engage with people across social media and digital platforms (Entheos, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Puffell, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube) who are interested in positive psychology and all things behaviour change communications and engagement. Just recently, I have noticed a bit of backlash against what people are calling ‘The Happiness Racket’, which is the saturation of all things happiness and mindfulness dominating the ‘positive side’ of social media.

If I’m honest, I love it all, but I often feel there is something missing and wonder whether happiness and living mindfully all the time is the only ultimate goal?

I’m reading a book at the moment, which is a breath of fresh air amongst positive psychology books. I really like the insight about emotional, social and mental agility. I now appreciate and accept that our full range of emotions play a part in driving our success and fulfilment, with the author discussing life aspirations that go beyond happiness to wholeness.

My key behaviour change action would be not to avoid the certain thoughts, feelings and situations that take you off the road to happiness, but to embrace them and utilise them in your pursuit of success, in the manner of wholeness (not just happiness).

I’d love to know your thoughts on this!


Michael VJ Jones, ICE Creates Ltd (0151 647 4700 / michael.jones@icecreates.com)

Stoptober two week milestone

The two week milestone is approaching and although many people are settling in to their new life as a non-smoker, many people will be Stop Smoking!finding it challenging. As a stop smoking adviser, I see many people, often with similar withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Restlessness and disturbed sleep
  • Headaches and difficulty concentrating
  • Increased appetite and possible weight gain
  • Strong urges to smoke.

This is normal; your brain wants you to smoke, it has become used to it and when you say no, it uses whatever means it can to try and get you to smoke… but stay strong! The only way to break the addiction to nicotine is to be 100% smoke free – even a single puff can wake up the part of the brain that you are working so hard to send to sleep. By resisting every urge to smoke, you will find that over the next couple of weeks it will get easier and the cravings will get less frequent and significantly weaker.

When you feel the urge to smoke, you want to stop those cravings DEAD in their tracks:

D – Delay. Say you’ll wait an hour. It’s surprising how quickly the feeling passes and is no longer on your mind

E – Escape the situation that is tempting you to smoke. Whether it is stressful or social, make your excuses and leave… they’ll understand

A – Avoid. In the first few tricky weeks it is key to avoid those occasions that you know will be a challenge. It won’t need to be forever, but just for the time being it may be best to forego situations where you know it will be difficult to say ‘No’

D – Distract. This is one of the main tools in your stop smoking toolbox. If you feel the urge to smoke then do something else. Take the dog out, make a cup of tea, call a friend, do a crossword, wash up – anything that will distract you, even if just for five minutes as this is often long enough for the feeling to subside, so that you can carry on with your day.

Don’t forget, if you are stopping smoking, your stop smoking adviser is always there to give you advice and support in managing urges to smoke, as well as other withdrawal symptoms.

Visit puffell.com to share your experiences, track your success and get more tips and motivation for your stop smoking journey.


Sue Melville, Stop Smoking Advisor, Stop4Life (0800 612 4580 / help@stop4life.co.uk)


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