How To Ignite Your Team

Back in my former corporate life, I took on a project in which I took nine hand-selected under-performing employees on a 12-week journey of self-discovery. By using a coaching and leadership process to engage disillusioned employees, I was able to re-ignite the team’s passion and self-belief so that they could go on and achieve huge successes.

But first, a little bit of background...

I had been in my role for over ten years and was feeling frustrated and undervalued because I knew my skills weren’t being fully used. I am generally outspoken, but during meetings, I kept quiet because I was bored. At other times I was capable of being disruptive just because I wanted to get some attention. I knew I had the skills and abilities to do much more, but the opportunity hadn’t presented itself. A new Senior Manager came on board, and I wanted to build a relationship with her because I believed she would be a breath of fresh air. She had all the skills and abilities needed; she had a good background and experience. I wanted to be part of her team and was excited about what I could learn from her. Learning and self-development are key drivers for me, and suddenly I had a manager I could learn from, who had a great track record and who had invested in her own personal development.

There was only one problem; I felt that she didn’t trust me.

I knew if I was going to get where I wanted to go, then I was going to have to change. There was one thing I could change that would be pivotal to my success, and that was to change my attitude. I needed to show my new boss the ‘brilliant me’. 

Within a few weeks, I had made some important changes, and it didn’t take long before I started to shine. My boss started to see the seed of potential growth, and the flower of engagement start to bloom. I came into work energised, enthusiastic and positive. I was forward-thinking, and I implemented action plans aimed at moving the team forward. 

As a result of my own new-found motivation, I discovered that the staff in my team were also becoming more motivated. 

They were inspired by me again.


I saw first-hand what a difference it made when I changed my thoughts and attitude. It impacted directly on my feelings, and that ultimately affected my behaviour – and that of my team. From this, I experienced how my own mood as the team leader affected the mood of my team.

 I also discovered that knowing yourself inside out is critical to success.

I had direct evidence that if I changed my mood, then there would be a shift within others as they followed my lead. My feelings about myself and my role completely changed, and finally, I was being recognised for
what I am good at: being a coach as well as an inspirational leader who thrives on change and challenge.

Suddenly, I felt valued, engaged and (more importantly) my boss saw my potential too. She believed in me, trusted me and respected me. As this was important to me and reflected my own values, I became even more motivated. My new manager was creating a different culture and was focused on making the site a centre of excellence. 

To support this goal, it was suggested that the centre needed to think about employee satisfaction surveys and how employee enablement and engagement could be improved. It was in a Team Managers’ meeting that it was suggested that someone take on a team of disengaged employees with a view to turning around their performance in the business. The theory was that by raising an employee’s engagement in the business and instilling a sense of empowerment, the individual would feel a greater sense of satisfaction in their role and so raise their work satisfaction score, perform better in the business and help the company do more business. 

All the team managers were asked to nominate one person from their team who they believed to be disengaged in the business. I made a radical decision to nominate an employee who had the potential to be a team manager but had become disengaged because he hadn’t been promoted as he expected. He had applied for the position of team manager but had been unsuccessful. He was now being disruptive, and his performance was inconsistent. Under normal circumstances, he would not have gone into this team, but because of the issue with the promotion, it was the right thing to do. Other team managers made similar decisions: choosing employees that were frequently absent, were performing inconsistently, behaving in a disruptive way, exhibiting low morale and seemed generally unhappy in their role. 

The next task was who to decide who was going to lead this team. I volunteered without hesitation; after all, this was right up my street. When opportunities come along, I believe we have to seize the moment and grab them, even if they are scary and present challenges. Before I could stop myself I heard myself say, “I’ll take the team”. It wasn’t clear at this stage what I had volunteered for, but I knew it felt right. 

As a qualified coach, I knew had the skills, capability and passion to take the group of nine people on a journey of self-discovery to re-engage them back into the business. 

When I discovered that others had the same confidence in me, I never looked back. I realised that this was my golden opportunity to shine. Having gained the trust of the key stakeholders in running my 12-week Ignite programme, it was important to me (and the management team as a whole) that I had a plan that was structured, bespoke and flexible. I was going to have to be very creative if I was going to re-engage nine employees back into the business. I had been through my own journey of re-engagement. Now it was time to take a team of nine disengaged staff through their own process of self-discovery.

And so, the Ignite programme was born.

Sometimes you can’t sit around and wait for everything to be in place, you have to take a leap of faith and know that the net will catch you, and this is exactly what I did when I volunteered to take on the new team.

You can find out more about the programme in my book.

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