The last IMPACT issue of 2021

Welcome to the last issue of IMPACT for 2021!

In this issue, we focus on how to retain your top talent, how to navigate the ’emotional minefields’ of mergers & acquisitions, and what we can learn from a philharmonic orchestra and its conductor.

As we are coming to the end of the year, we also reflect on how to take stock of 2021.

And there’s a story about the dangers of a suspicious mind – and the IMPACT HACK this time is all focused on face to face meetings (something that many of us may have gotten a bit rusty with!).

You can download and/or read it online.

Enjoy the read and thanks for reading!

Now published in China!

We are absolutely thrilled that ‘The Leader’s Guide to Impact’ has been translated Chinese and is now published in China!

China is, alongside the US, the biggest publishing market in the world, but the number of foreign titles that are published is relatively small, only around 15.000+ per year.

And we were interested to find out that even though online sales is dominant, there were still 4000 physical book shops opened in 2020.

The Leader’s Guide to Impact (or Positive Atmosphere as its Chinese title translates to) is now available to buy in DangdangKongfz and many other stores.

Publishing statistics sources:

How to retain your top talent

The ‘war for talent’ is not a new challenge for organisations all around the world, but the pandemic has made it worse.

recent study from McKinsey shows that around 40% of employees are ‘somewhat likely’ to change jobs in the next 3-6 months. And 2/3 of them would do so even if they didn’t have a new job offer. And a study by DDI shows that attracting and retaining top talent is one of the main challenges CEOs face.

52% of CEOs say attracting & retaining top talent is a top challenge

Living in a pandemic has been life changing in many ways. People may have have been severely ill, they may have lost loved ones, been separated from family and friends and much more.

Many have of course worked from home, some finding that difficult and some finding it wonderful – and everything in between. Many people report having experienced a greater quality of life, with less commuting and more time with their family.

For all these reasons, these big life changes have made us stop and think, to ask ourselves questions like: What matters to me? How do I really want to live my life? How do I want to spend my time? How do I want to work?

Yes, there is a realisation for many that they are the leaders of their own life and that they have more options to choose from when it comes to the setup of work.

More and more companies offer people greater flexibility than before – some are even offering that people can “work anytime from anywhere”.

Does this mean that you cannot retain your employees anymore? That it just comes down to total flexibility? No, it doesn’t. Flexibility is increasingly important but it’s not the only factor.

People want to feel that they belong and contribute to something that matters – people want to make a difference – it’s in our human nature.

So how you consider what is important to people, matters greatly. Think about the impact you want to have in shaping a company where people want to work.

Here are 4 impactful leadership habits that can help shape a meaningful, inclusive organisation where people want to work.

Habit 1: Focus on people and culture

See yourself as a culture shaper – how are you showing up? How will you be in meetings? What will you enable through your behaviours?

Engage with and lead your stakeholders. Involve them, inform, be curious; ask, listen, understand. Show empathy.

Talk about culture and healthy habits – make it more than just words. Recognise and praise healthy cultural habits when you see them – help people see the impact of those habits, make them clear and meaningful.

Think about, and design, the office as a culture space, where people come together to communicate and collaborate with each other, hence shaping and enhancing the culture.

Habit 2: Lead with purpose

Clarify the purpose, why are you all here, how will you make a difference in the world, to your customers? Make sure it resonates with people.

Focus on making work meaningful, help people see how they contribute to the purpose and make a difference. Just like in the famous story about the NASA janitor who was asked by a reporter what his job was – and he explained that his job was to help put people in space. He could truly see how he made a difference to the overall purpose, making others’ lives/jobs easier by taking good care of the facilities.

Continuously communicate the journey you are all on together as a team/organisation. Lead change in the context of purpose, help people see why change happens and how it contributes to the purpose and their ability to make a difference.

Habit 3: Grow Collective Intelligence

Build the organisation’s collective intelligence. Be intentional about bringing people together for creative dialogue and innovation. Driving product innovation is another of the top CEO challenges reported by DDI in their Global Leadership Forecast.

50% of CEOs say driving new product innovation is a top challenge

Help people learn from each other and create together, seeing that they do truly matters.

Use AI to free up human intelligence for more creative purposes, making work more meaningful.

Be a role model for inclusion and non-bias. Unconscious bias is very human – it’s the mental shortcuts our brain takes. Keep challenging yourself to truly include everyone, regardless of where they work from or any other aspects of diversity.

And keep asking yourselves: How can we work smarter, not harder? Have a continuous dialogue around that!

Habit 4: Make the hybrid work

As we’ve talked about in previous articles – figure out how to work in the new hybrid set up and involve all those impacted.

Create a Team Charter, an agreement on how to work together. This needs to include discussions and agreements on when people need to be together, for what purpose and how often – and when they can be online. Clearly figuring out these important ‘in-person or not’ aspects or work is very impactful.

Make it easy to communicate and collaborate – agree tools and forums for communication and collaboration (what gets communicated how and where).

Promote a healthy home/work integration, where people log off a certain time even if working from home. One way of role modelling that can be to not send emails out of work hours for example.

Give people as much flexibility as is possible, while considering the impact on all stakeholders.

A client we recently worked with had been working from home for quite a while and hadn’t quite realised the important role that also he had when it comes to shaping the culture, building collaborative relationships, creating a sense of belonging and driving innovation. As a result of talking about it as a company, he decided to show up in the office at regular intervals. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to – he saw that it was meaningful and valuable for all of them.


This is an ongoing, ever-evolving process – keep trying out solutions, evaluating and adjusting.

Keep having the dialogue, keep asking the questions that matter – like

  • How is our purpose evolving?
  • What do people need?
  • How can we work smarter, not harder?
  • And how can we make this the best place to work?

2001-2021 Think Solutions celebrates 20 years of business

Thank you all so much for greetings from near and far for our 20th anniversary!

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Since 2001 we have had the honour and joy of working with many leaders, teams and organisations around the world, providing strategic and tactical solutions for impactful leadership, high-performing cultures, winning teams and sustainable results in a fast-changing world.

Over these 20 years we have…

  • provided strategic advice for leaders and management boards
  • designed and delivered global leadership programmes for corporations
  • facilitated team effectiveness journeys
  • run workshops in leadership, communication, collaboration, cultural intelligence, self leadership, negotiation, stakeholder management, innovation and more
  • coached leaders and managers at all levels
  • administered development instruments like MBTI, Firo-B, Big Five and Strengthscope
  • spoken at numerous industry events and company conferences
  • delivered bespoke 360 degree feedback for leaders
  • designed and delivered a multitude of learning solutions
  • and much, much more

We have worked in more than 25 countries, including UK, USA, Sweden, The Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Romania, Poland, Dubai, Turkey, Singapore, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Mozambique.

And we’re proud to still be going strong after 20 years. A key reason for that is that we are on a continuous learning journey ourselves where we keep developing our own capability, experience and skills so that we can continue to provide world-class service and solutions to our clients and partners.

How coachable are you?

There is no such thing as status quo – at least not for any longer periods of time. No, the truth is that the world sure isn’t standing still – neither should we.

We live in a changing world and we need to continuously learn and re-learn. What we knew yesterday may no longer be relevant or correct. What we once accepted as truths may since have been disproved. We need to be open to that, to accept that.

We’re sure you would agree that everyone needs to change, adapt and evolve to meet the demands and expectations of the future.

This of course also means that we need to welcome feedback AND be able to take action to change and adapt our actions, behaviours and habits.

Many people say that they are adaptable and flexible, but when someone gives them constructive feedback (which could help them develop), they brush it away, or become defensive, they come with excuses and explanations – simply put; they don’t take it in and so they don’t change.

On some level it’s more important for them to be “right” than to be willing to develop. They are not open to the coaching opportunity of the feedback. And each time they reject the feedback, they reduce the chances of others wanting to share feedback in the future – hence minimising the chance to grow and develop and be successful.

Winners are people who are coachable. It’s as straightforward as that. Imagine a team in the world of sports where a player isn’t coachable and won’t take on feedback – well, they are pretty soon going to be off that team, don’t you think?

What does it mean to be coachable?

When we are coachable, we let our guard down. We stand strong and open minded, knowing that feedback and coaching is the stuff of winners, of champions. We assume positive intent. We are eager to keep doing better and better.

There are many possible coaches around us all; people who can hold up a mirror and let us see what they see, and at times give us guidance too.

They may be leaders, peers, direct reports, friends, and of course professional coaches.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Learning and coaching can never be forced on someone, it has to be the ownership of each individual to take responsibility for their learning. We have even seen examples of people who get themselves a coach, and then in ‘clever’ ways duck from feedback and consequent learning moments. It’s ironic indeed, but it happens.

And a reluctance to be coached is often fear-based, not wanting to admit to not having all the answers, not being perfect. This reasoning is of course deeply flawed as there is no such thing as perfect – we are all work in progress, learning never stops – and good coaching is an extremely effective way of growing.

“In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow”


How to be more coachable

Here are some ideas to ponder if you want to make more of those coachable moments available to you.

Check your ego at the door

It’s a mindset. Go into meetings and coachable moments with an open mind, not just focusing on your own interests. Be prepared to be inspired and maybe even surprised.

Practise a growth mindset

Recognise that you have endless potential for development and growth. In fact, it would be boring and deeply non-motivating if you couldn’t develop any further, wouldn’t it?

Stay curious

Ask questions, listen, learn. Have questions prepared for meetings to prompt new insights.

Value the people you surround yourself with

Value their observations. Be open minded and grateful when you receive feedback. Assume that they want what’s best for you. Why wouldn’t they?

Make time for conversations with your boss

Ask for their time. Ask for their feedback and listen. Ask for clarifications if needed.

Feedback and coaching is the stuff of champions, of winners and needs to be not just accepted but embraced and welcomed.

Are you getting enough of it? Are you allowing yourself to be as successful as you can be by welcoming coaching? Are you letting yourself be coached? How coachable are you?

Make leadership journaling part of your strategy

Don’t fall into the busy trap. There is great value in pausing to reflect, as it provides an opportunity to recognise what’s going on, evaluate results and consider options going forward.

And journaling is a great way to do this, because it also adds the power of the written word, putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. As thoughts are captured in a visual way (or auditory, if you prefer to record your thoughts) they deepen further in our consciousness than if just thought or spoken. By looking back at them from a distance we can get a new perspective on those thoughts.

The best leaders are great self leaders.

They reflect on their own leadership and the impact they have and journaling is one way of doing this. And it’s often combined with executive coaching where those reflections can be shared out loud and the coach can add their observations and offer insights as relevant.

Many of our clients go through a bespoke journaling process before each coaching session to focus their mind and recognise what they need to reflect on out loud and talk about in the coaching session.

Make journalling and coaching part of your continuous leadership development strategy.

Some of the opportunities and benefits of journaling

  • Time out
  • Slow down, hit the ‘pause’ button
  • Reflection & self feedback
  • Look more objectively at what you’re experiencing
  • Self awareness
  • Bring order to perceived chaos
  • Insights & learning
  • Better decisions
  • Stress relief
  • Inspiration
  • Creative thinking
  • Mindfulness

Examples of Questions you could ask yourself in your journal

  • What’s happening right now?
  • How am I feeling?
  • What’s going well?
  • What are my/our challenges?
  • What are my ideas?
  • How am I using my leadership to make the most of challenges and opportunities?
  • What are my strengths and how are they helping me?
  • What’s around the corner and how do I need to prepare?
  • What have I learned, and how will I use this going forward?

“Discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”



1. Journal each day

Create a habit of journaling. It doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes. Choose a time of day that suits you, morning or evening are popular alternatives.

2. Find a good place

Make sure you can be undisturbed and at ease.

3. Find a new place

If you feel stuck and need new inspiration, find a new place for that day. Go outside, sit on a bench, on the beach, in a café.

4. Put yourself in a reflective state

Close your eyes for a moment and just reflect on the day, week, month – what comes up for you? Pay attention to what comes to the top; what do you really need to focus on? Stay in a reflective state and allow yourself this gift of time.

5. Let go of any specific expectations

Don’t push yourself to solve specific issues as this can block or limit your thinking. Just start writing and see where your thoughts take you.

6. Decide on a list of questions

If you find questions helpful to prompt your journaling, create a set of questions that work for you (see examples above).