teamsteps, align your team

Keeping your team aligned, on task and up to date can be a challenge

teamsteps is designed to be a simple sheet to capture the key weekly activities and priorities for your team.

This sheet should be used at a weekly team briefing – maybe a standing meeting? – to capture:

what you are working on individually and as a team

key deadlines for that week

what barriers are in your way which can stop you

what resources and input can help you (internally & externally)

what you need to carry forward, postpone or note for next week

Then display it somewhere everyone can see it.

This will help keep the home team aligned, informed and can help you measure progress, even those small ones. As its weekly, it keeps the priorities flexible.


Download the sheet for free by clicking on the picture below:

teamsteps_align your team

If you have a difficulty with the link, click on

Communicate towards trust

The funny thing about looking back at the progress that we have made as a team – and I have made as a leader – over the past 21 months is that you quickly realise that there have been some very good times and times that have been very challenging. Some of these good times and challenging times are caused by the work environment and some have been caused by factors away from work.

But the one thing that they all have in common is the impact on the team.

One of the things that I have noticed during that time is the impact on communication within the team whenever we go through the good days and tough days.

Communication is essential for a team to be ‘a team’. We need to be able to talk to each other. We need to be able to share information with each other. We need to be able to trust each other to admit when we are struggling – and trust that our colleagues will be there for us. We need to be able to celebrate our successes together – and trust that we will receive the credit & acknowledgement for our own & our joint work.

And what I’ve noticed is that during the tougher points that we have been through, communication can be reduced within the team to morning hello’s, evening goodbye’s, and the odd e-mail.

And I’m guilty for that too.

In this video by Susan Schuman, CEO of SYPartners, she confirmed to me something that I had always believed, but which others within my previous teams have always tried to dismiss – that when people come into work they bring the whole of them into work, including their ‘home’ them –

[scroll to about 8 minutes in]

And this is so true.

I have a lot of pressures outside of work in my personal life and they certainly come with me into work. Some days I just want to sit in my own little bubble, to sit with my headphones in, to shut the pressures of the office out, and to remove all unnecessary demands on me – like conversations over the desk.

But I know that this has a seriously detrimental effect on me and the team.

It also causes a vicious circle of me not communicating, not sharing tasks, feeling like a lone-leader, feeling under pressure, not communicating… and it goes round and round. And it makes the whole thing worse.

See, one of the things about me, and you might not believe that from the openness that I write this blog, is that I am an introvert. I like my own space. I like time on my own. I struggle to network at conferences, actually, I hate those things. So, making those conversations all day in the office can feel like a huge load of pressure on me. And when I’ve had stresses, strains and pressures at home, the last thing I want to do is add more when i get in the office.

And I know that as a leader I can’t do that.

So, over the past year I’ve been working hard on communicating with the team more – even on those tough days, actually, especially on those tough days. I’ve also started to share with the team the reasons why those days are tough, and you know what, on those days I have noticed that the team actually choose to limit those office pressures on me themselves. They also make small acts of kindness to help me.

And you know what, it makes a huge difference to my day – and to the whole team.

Another key ingredient added.

Tomorrow I’m going to finish this reflection with a look forward.

Next year promises to be an exciting year for the team. We know we have some really awesome projects to deliver that will have a real impact. We know that other colleagues are starting to benefit from some of the bits we have been working on. We have a new leadership team in place. And we have the opportunity to help develop two people at the start of their careers when they start their year long internships with us.

2017 is just around the corner and it looks like its going to be a good one…

More tomorrow.

A transformation agenda – refocusing who we are

This is a special month for my work website – it turned 5!


I wasn’t involved in the website when it was first launched; however, it has been my baby for the last 4 years.

During that time the website has grown significantly. Its content, its reach, its audience has grown beyond what I ever imagined when I took on responsibility for the website back in 2012.

But, one thing has not changed – our why. That has remained consistent –

we help people make informed choices about their lives.

That’s why we exist. Its what shapes what we do and how we do it.

But, we don’t want to stand still.

Future proofing to 2020

One thing about my team is that we are realists. Part of us didn’t think that we would make it to today – and part of us doesn’t see us making it to our 10th birthday. Not because we are pessimists, but because we understand the system that we sit within. The stresses will grow – and the budgets will shrink. We know that, and we accept that.

But, we will not give in.

We will continue to grow, to improve what we do, how we do it, and the impact that we have – all driven by our why.

To help us do that, I have spent the past few months working with my team on A Transformation Agenda for our website.

A Transformation Agenda

Inspired by the great work of Howard Schultz at Starbucks – with input from the talented bunch at SYPartners – I set out to look again at what we do & how we do it, and how we can stay relevant in an ever changing digital world.

I realised that what we needed was our own Transformation Agenda. Something to drive us. Something that we can aim towards. Something that we can check our progress against.

But I didn’t know where to start!

So, to help me, I used the SYPartners (or SY for short) Unstuck tool to create a number of initial actions. These actions were:

Action 1 – Think about how do we fit into the world

When the website was launched in 2011 the world of the Internet was in a very different place. What’s more, the world of the Internet in our type of work was in a place much further behind. We started life as a directory – or as I refer to it, as a Yellow Pages for adult social care. But since then, we have grown.

And since then, user expectation has changed dramatically.

So we needed to work out how we fitted into 2016 – and then from there, how do we fit into 2020.

To help us do that, we started at the top – we rewrote our why. Our purpose. The thing that drives us. Our old version – we help people make informed choices about their lives – was okay, but it didn’t hit the right buttons. I believed that it was too professional, to bureaucratic and not really something to drive us. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to change our why as such, I just wanted to change how we wrote it.

So, that’s we did – we rewrote it.

Our why, our purpose, why we exist is now –

To enable people to live their lives better

We think that’s clearer. It’s more ‘real world’. It’s more ‘outcome focused’.


Action 2 – Think about our mission

After resetting out our why, we started to think about our mission.

Inspired by Coca-Cola, we wanted our mission – we didn’t really have one before! – to be enduring. We wanted it to declare our purpose and serve as the standard against which we weigh our actions and decisions.

So, we wrote our first ever mission.

You’ll notice that I don’t call it a mission statement – this is deliberate. For me this is like our own mission, like a mission to the moon or to the bottom of the ocean, it sets out where we want to get to; its active; its achievable but stretches us; it certainly is not just a statement.

Our mission is –

We will be part of the everyday lives of the residents of the borough
—we will be their first source of trusted information & advice, we will support them make more informed choices about their lives, and we will help them feel part of a community of shared experience

This is certainly ambitious for us. We’re not the type of website that people tend to keep going back to. But we want to be.


Action 3 – Think about how we reach our mission

Once we had reworked our why and set out our mission, we started to think about how we get there.

Again, I was inspired by the work of Howard and his team at Starbucks. I love the Transformation Agenda that they created – with the help of SY. And in particular, I loved the principles that they came up with – our coffee, our people, our customers, etc. and then how they said that they would achieve them.

Adding this inspiration in with my learning from another tool from SY, Teamworks, I worked with my team to identify 6 ‘bold moves for transformation‘.

These would be ambitious but clear & actionable statements to help us reach our mission – inspired & shaped by our why. We would be able to monitor our progress against them. We would be able to achieve them – but they would push us.

Our 6 bold moves for transformation are –

  1. Make our website more engaging in its content by mixing the ‘human story’ together with information & advice in a style that people experience away from the public sector
  2. Make our branding more ‘current’ & digitally friendly, including a new logo, new font style, & new colour scheme
  3. Make our purpose clearer & more relatable to the public—whilst also covering the full breadth of information & advice on our website
  4. Make users of our website feel part of a community of shared experience by joining conversations that people are already having online
  5. Make our content more customisable by using simple questions to give targeted information & advice, and direct links to relevant actions—such as online forms, buying equipment, or completing a referral
  6. Make more people more aware of us by focusing our resources for publicity & brand awareness raising on going to people —both physically & digitally—and giving them a clear reason to come to us

Each one would help us to enable people to live their lives better by being part of the everyday lives of the residents of the borough.


Our Transformation Agenda

So after identifying all of that, we pulled it all together into one sheet – and here it is, here is our Transformation Agenda:




I would love to hear what you think. Just comment below or e-mail me at iammichaelwatts at gmail dot com.

Here’s to progress.

Refocusing me – my new working day challenge

I have written a lot before about how I want to be a better me, and as part of this, I continually look at myself and see what I can do better.

And I did just that this morning!


I was on the train to work, sitting down, without a paper to read (I was running too late to stop at the shop!) I was thinking and reflecting – and I started to feel stuck again. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was, I just wasn’t feeling that I was going anywhere – not literally, the train was moving! I was feeling overwhelmed with stuff I have been reading about all things that I just do in life – stuff like design thinking, digital living, user needs, reframing, and challenging the status quo.

So I turned to my iPad and found an app that has been a constant companion to me – my Unstuck app from SYPartners.

After going through the different parts of the app I identified that I was indeed stuck. The app then helped me get unstuck by identifying some simple actions I can do myself to move forward.

And one of these actions, was that I decided to create a new daily challenge and habit for myself.


I decided that to help me refocus myself, I needed to start looking at my life, my ‘everyday’, and my regular experiences through a new lens. So I decided to try something that I have read about several times before, and which builds on my new hobby of photography:

I have decided that for my next 20 work days – I tend to only work 4 days a week so this will be for about 5 weeks – I will take a different picture using my iPhone of a different part of my journey to work for no other reason then to just look at the mundane things differently.


By doing this I also hope that I will see things I have never seen before. I hope to learn to challenge what I see around me at work and to question more of the ‘office everyday’ so I can identify ways that we can do our work better. I also want to use this different lens to experience new things too – things that I have missed.

So, I did  just that on my way home.


Except, I then got stuck again!

Instead of just photographing something and sharing it, I was procrastinating by trying to find the perfect picture – which I have noticed is also one of my habits that I can get into at work. So, I’m hoping that this challenge will help with that too!

After a bit of talking to myself, I decided to take a picture of the next thing I saw – and I did just that. And what I saw brought a wry smile to my face – this fitted perfectly to my new challenge.

This is the result:



Keep an eye out for next photo tomorrow 🙂

Here’s to doing life, better.

Unlocking my best self to leadfully

Recently I’ve signed to start using the new toy, sorry, tool from SYPartnersLeadfully.


Leadfully provides a system of tips, tools, and everyday actions you can use to activate your authentic leadership style.


As part of the daily challenges, thoughts & inspiration that they send out via e-mail, they sent a challenge to “turn impossible into possible”.


What does this mean?

Well, quite simply, it’s about engineering growth opportunities by raising the bar to encourage people to stretch beyond what they believe is possible.

And this is something that I am 100% fully committed too.

For us to be a great team, we need to be great people. And to be great people, we need to grow, stretch ourselves and tackle scary & challenging situations. You know, those situations that you don’t feel prepared for – but you go for it anyway. [As a side, Julie Felner wrote about her experience of this only yesterday].

As Richard Branson once quoted:

If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!


Except, that if a member of my team did this, I want to be there for them – to help, support & encourage. In other words, to be their leader.

And Leadfully has just challenged me to do just that!


The challenge

As part of the challenge, over the weekend I will be stepping back and thinking about the work my team is doing and how it’s assigned to make sure there is a meaty stretch assignment for each person.

This could be mastery of a skill, a new behaviour, or a task they’ve never had to handle before.

The goal is to make sure there is something new that’s a reasonable stretch for each person.

So that’s what I’m doing.


I’m pulling together my thoughts into a single place – which I won’t be able to share as it’s personal for each person – and will then sit down with each team member to then do the second part.

Although, here is a screen shot of the templates I am using:

Page 1 – 

Team development - goals, stretches and challenges_2016-01-08_Page_1

Page 2 – 

Team development - goals, stretches and challenges_2016-01-08_Page_3


The second part

This is then followed by the other key element of this challenge.

During my next one-on-one, I will be waking each person through how I’ve been thinking about new ways they can grow. And I will be asking them to think about their own ideas before the meeting too.

We will then work together to create a shared plan.

Thank you again SYPartners for making a tool that is helping me and my team aim towards greatness.

Join us on the journey – visit to sign up today.

Here’s to progress.

Book 4 – Superteams by Khoi Tu

This is the fourth book in my countdown of my top 5 books around leadership, personal development, and self discovery.

What’s the book about?

“In Superteams, renowned teamwork specialist Khoi Tu explains how to make sure your team delivers consistently superior results and emerges stronger from the inevitable crises you will face.

What do the SAS, Ferrari and the Rolling Stones have in common? Their success is about much more than talented individuals. They are Superteams.

Every organisation, whether a business or a sports club, lives or dies by the quality of its teamwork. No man can be an island for long; only great teams can face a crisis and emerge stronger. So how do you build the right team? Many people think of it like a rock supergroup: bring the best of the best together and magic will happen. Yet supergroups often flop, while bands of unknowns rise to the top.

In this incisive and inspirational book, renowned teamwork specialist Khoi Tu explains how to make sure your team delivers consistently superior results, whatever your aim: averting business failure or resolving political conflict, dealing with a hostage situation or leading your team to sporting victory.

Superteams takes seven legendary teams – including animation studio Pixar, Europe’s 2010 Rider Cup winners, and the people behind the Northern Ireland peace process – and analyses their inner workings, evolution and defining moments.

‘This book shows what people can do when the going gets tough and there’s a goal to be achieved. Nice one Khoi’ Jamie Oliver

– © Amazon


Why did I choose this book?

About a year ago or so, I set out my ambition to go on a journey to transform my team into a great team.

This book has helped me on this journey by providing experience, learning and ideas from some of the most successful teams that there has ever been. These are all teams that I have admired from a range of different areas of life. Sport, politics, the army, and others.

Each story provides valuable learning all brought together into a single book.

Has it made me a better leader and my team a great team? Im not sure we are there yet, but it has certainly helped me on the journey.


What does the book look like?



Why should you read it?

  1. If you are a leader in an organisation – this counts for everyone, not just leaders in a formal hierarchy – then Superteams provides page after page of tools, techniques and methods to make yourself a better leader
  2. The stories about the transformation of each team illustrates the different elements that need to come together to make a great team, including forging a common purpose, shaping the environment, building cohesion and mastering conflict
  3. The book is written in way that can be easily read in short bursts, like on a commute, and in a way that you can relate to with excellent story telling


Where can you buy it?

If you are in the UK, you can order Superteams from Waterstones.

Alternatively, you can download Superteams for your Kindle or as a hardcopy from Amazon, or download Superteams from iTunes.

Book 3 – The 3 Volumes to help you make ideas happen by 99U

This is the third book in my countdown of my top 5 books around leadership, personal development, and self discovery. Find out what was first and second in my list.

What’s the book about?

Book 1 –

“Are you over-extended, over-distracted, and overwhelmed? Do you work at a breakneck pace all day, only to find that you haven t accomplished the most important things on your agenda when you leave the office?

The world has changed and the way we work has to change, too. With wisdom from 20 leading creative minds, “Manage Your Day-to-Day” will give you a toolkit for tackling the new challenges of a 24/7, always-on workplace.”

Book 2 – 

“Can you step outside your comfort zone? Bounce back from failure? Build new skills? Tapping into your true potential is no idle endeavor. It demands creativity, dedication, and a whole lot of hustle.

With wisdom from 21 leading creative minds, 99U’s Maximize Your Potential will show you how to generate new opportunities, cultivate your creative expertise, build valuable relationships, and take bold, new risks so that you can utilize your talents to the fullest.”

Book 3 – 

Are you ready to “make a dent in the universe”? As a creative, you no longer have to take a backseat. In fact, stepping up and embracing entrepreneurship is the fastest route to impact. But where do you start? And what sets the businesses that succeed apart?

We tapped 21 leading entrepreneurs and experts to share their best practices for launching a purpose-driven business, refining your product, delighting your customers, inspiring your team—and ultimately—making something that matters.”


Why did I choose this book?

I stumbled across 99U a couple of years ago and just fell completely and utterly, head over heels, in love with them. Their philosophy. Their approach. Their purpose. Their website. Their conferences. basically, all of them.

99U is Behance‘s effort to provide the “missing curriculum” for making ideas happen by helping people make great ideas a reality, by encouraging everyone to act, experiment, fail, adapt, and learn on a daily basis. They offer and share an amazingly pragmatic, action-oriented insights from leading researchers and visionary creatives to empower people to make good on the ideas that have got.

And when I realised that they were publishing their own books, I just had to buy them.

So, when the third book was published at the end of 2014 I brought all three. And then I read them in the wrong order! But that didn’t matter. They didn’t need to be read from book 1 through to book 3. They could be read in what ever order you like.

I started with book 3 as this opened with the best chapter of the whole collection. The opening chapter was written by the brilliantly insightful Keith Yamishita, Chairman of SYPartners.  Now, readers of this blog will know that SY have had a huge impact on me and the person I am today, and the person I want to be tomorrow and in the future.

In this chapter, Keith encourages you to think about what your personal purpose is in life – and then share it with the world. So I did just that.

And since then, my personal purpose is guiding everything that I do.

But, the books are much more than that. They are built around 20 or so chapters of practical advice from people who have turned their ideas into actions. The chapters are action orientated, short enough to read on the daily commute, and focus on one thing – helping you be a better you.


What does the book look like?



Why should you read it?

  1. If you want to move away from talk to action, you just have to read the advice of the 60+ people who have been there and done it – and see how they wisdom and experience can help you
  2. You will learn how you can make an impact in the world and leave your dent on humankind by learning in practical steps how to step up and embrace entrepreneurship as the fastest route to impact
  3. The books will help you focus on how you can manage yourself and your team to be a better you by harnessing your dreams, personal purpose, skills and beliefs to make a difference by bringing your ideas to life


Where can you buy it?

If you are in the UK, you can order the three books from Waterstones.

Alternatively, you can download them on your Kindle or as a hardcopy from Amazon.

You can also download them as an audiobook from iTunes.

Book 2 – The Knowledge – Management and Leadership from A to Z by Carl Taylor

This is the second book in my countdown of my top 5 books around leadership, personal development, and self discovery. Find out what the first one was in my early post.

What’s the book about?

“The Knowledge Management and Leadership from A to Z provides a comprehensive development resource that you can access over and over again throughout your career. It contains notes on learning styles to assist you in developing your effectiveness as a learner, an opening story to set the scene for exploring your own experiences of management and leadership, and A to Z sections that cover topics and exercises for leaders, managers and teams seeking to continuously improve. As the demands made upon us become ever more challenging, and budgets become ever tighter, you ll find The Knowledge invaluable as a life-long guide and mentor.”


Why did I choose this book?

I was privileged to meet Carl over 10 years ago in my very first leadership course when I was in my early twenties – and have been lucky to stay in regular contact with him since then.

What Carl taught me in those 3 days – and another 2 courses following this, plus endless positive & supportive feedback outside the courses – has helped make me the leader that I am today – and the leader I want to be tomorrow.

Carl manages to squeeze 20 years of professional coaching, insight and relevant tools into 160 pages of pure gold dust. Coupled with Carl’s amazing storytelling, the book comes alive around the story of Wayne, Payne, Sayne and Jayne, and their journey to building the cathedral.

This book is quite simply a practical handbook for individuals, teams and organisations to help them develop both individually and as a collective. This is something that I promise you will refer to over and over again.


What does the book look like?


Why should you read it?

  1. If you are a leader in an organisation – this counts for everyone, not just leaders in a formal hierarchy – then this book provides 24 pages of tools, techniques and methods to make yourself a better leader
  2. The 26 sections of the book offer you 26 opportunities to reflect, 26 different team exercises, and 26 times to sit back and link the pieces together
  3. The story of Wayne, Payne, Sayne and Jayne, and their journey to building the cathedral, brings the book to life and makes it easy to link what you are learning in the book into your workplace as each character is an accurate archetype of people we have all encountered in our teams


Where can you buy it?

There are not many copies left to buy on Amazon; but, you can download the app – which has a pdf copy of the book – from iTunes.

A day of highs and lows

It’s been a day of highs and lows today.

My team ran a session to promote my Bromley MyLife website we we had some real, honest feedback. We then had a follow up meeting where we dug into issues, problems & negative things about the website – which was a necessary & much needed thing to do. Although it was also quite disheartening to do that task, we needed to do it to make the website better.

But, I did finish the day with my regular review of the performance targets for this year and, 8 months into the year, we have passed 2 of our annual targets & are on track to meet the other 2. It’s days like this that I am very proud of my team.

Here’s to progress.

Book 1 – Onward by Howard Schultz

This is the first book in my countdown of my top 5 books around leadership, personal development, and self discovery.


What’s the book about?

“In 2000, Starbuck’s founder and CEO Howard Schultz stepped down from daily oversight of the company and assumed the role of chairman. Eight years later, in the midst of the recession and a period of decline unprecedented in the company’s recent history, Schultz—feeling that the soul of his brand was at risk—returned to the CEO post.

In this personal, suspenseful, and surprisingly open account, Schultz traces his own journey to help Starbucks reclaim its original customer-centric values and mission while aggressively innovating and embracing the changing landscape of technology. From the famous leaked memo that exposed his criticisms of Starbucks to new product strategies and rollouts, Schultz bares all about the painful yet often exhilarating steps he had to take to turn the company around. Peppered with stories from his childhood in tough Canarsie, N.Y., neighbourhoods, his sequel to the founding of Starbucks is grittier, more gripping, and dramatic, and his voice is winning and authentic.

This is a must-read for anyone interested in leadership, management, or the quest to connect a brand with the consumer.”

– © Publishers Weekly


Why did I choose this book?

This book just had to start my list.

It changed me.

This book quite simply had such a big impact on me personally and professionally that it had to be the first book I shared.

I previously wrote about how I started reading the book and some of the impact that it had in my earlier post ‘Getting unstuck to make progress’. This book gave me so much inspiration, so much belief and so much to aim towards when I was feeling lost, with out a purpose and struggling to see how to go forward in my career.

When I started reading the book book, it just struck so many cords with me.

How Howard described Starbucks at the time was how I felt about my team.

How Howard described his feelings was how I felt.

And that created a connection which I have very rarely had with a book.

But, not only does Onward cover the problems, it also talks through the solutions, ideas and methods that were used. Real, practical and proven examples of what actually works. And that’s one of the things that I loved about it.

It helped relaunch me on my journey to do life, better. And, on top of all that, it also introduced me to the brilliant people at SYPartners.


What does the book look like?


[image from]


Why should you read it?

  1. If you are a leader in an organisation – this counts for everyone, not just leaders in a formal hierarchy – then Onward provides page after page of tools, techniques and methods to make yourself a better leader 
  2. The story about the transformation of Starbucks illustrates the clear benefits of putting the purpose, mission and vision of the organisation (or team) at the heart of all your decisions – and then letting this be your guiding star for everything that you do – and it gives you some brilliant ideas about how you can do the same thing [I should know, I have already done it!]
  3. The book is an inspiring story of how Howard and Starbucks built a circle of safety around their partners (or employees in other organisations) and rebuilt trust, belief and love across a huge, multinational organisation – and the benefits that this has on the company, and more importantly, those that come into contact with the company (their partners, suppliers, customers, etc.)


Where can you buy it?

If you are in the UK, you can order Onward from Waterstones.

Alternatively, you can download Onward for your Kindle or as a hardcopy from Amazon, or download Onward from iTunes.