Winning Thinking® inside2019-01-18T15:10:02+00:00

How could you deliver breakthrough growth, increase profits and stay ahead in times of increasing speed and uncertainty?

A 1-day Winning Thinking® colloquium immediately breaks through strategic barriers, enhances cognitive processing, measures and transforms culture and realises unimaginable results. 

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through we can also provide … award winning specialist transitional leadership to accelerate people, team & the organisational transformation

winningthinking® is a Process that encompasses everything that the icebreaker team has learned whilst successfully turning around over 200 businesses over the last 15 years (and winning numerous awards whilst doing so).

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winningthinking® overview

Given the challenges that our world’s phenomenal pace of change presents… isn’t it time you put together an in-house CHALLENGER think tank?

If your business is a victim of circumstance: hover here.

If you think there’s no way your business will ever be a victim of circumstance… YOU’D BE RIGHT… but only if there’s a comma after the word “think”

Try these 2 test case studies – what action would you take?

Question 1. As  intended leader of an interim assignment with this client, what would you want to do next with the client?

Note. This is a true case history and the dialogue is close to actual.  You are free to comment on the Interim’s performance but please be sure your focus is on WHAT YOU WOULD DO WITH THIS LEVEL OF CLIENT KNOWLEDGE NOW AS THE NEXT STEP IN AN INTERIM ASSIGNMENT

The Interim Manager has been appointed to work with the CEO on a number of undefined strategic matters that the CEO said were confidential and would be explained when they met. The fee is agreed at £1800 per day with no limit on the commitment until they have completed the first appraisal sessions together.

The Interim is a mature senior executive with powerful reputation as a former corporate £500m turnover CEO.

Ignoring whether you would have followed the Interim’s steps and thoughts, and merely observing that it happened this way, what would you do next if you were the Interim or they consulted you as their mentor or boss?


Bill.  Age 34. Group Managing Director (MD) leading 1600 employees of a £200m division of a £400m turnover PLC (Public limited Company. ie. a company whose shares are quoted on the stock market). The company was a stockmarket ‘darling’ which had achieved tremendous growth and profit improvement that had taken it from being a small ‘bit player’ to market leadership in a decade. On retirement of the PLC Chief Executive Officer six months ago, Bill was promoted to Group Managing Director of half the business with the 56 year old executive chairman running the other half and supervising Bill for a 2 year ‘probationary’ period that if he was successful, would result in Bill being appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the whole group with a £500k pa. remuneration  package.

In the first meeting with the Interim Bill said :-

‘I need advice how to get rid of my chairman who is sending me crackers. We are hardly on speaking terms. He is a complete ego maniac. He virtually wants to run the company himself and get the credit for its fantastic results. Actually they are due to the CEO who retired 6 months ago but the chairman wants the world to believe its all due to him.

I can never have a productive conversation with him. He always wants “written detail” I tell him we should be talking at strategic level not petty detail but he just keeps going back to the same old conversations about “profit margins and numbers, and ‘wanting notice of meeting topics in advance so he can think about them before we meet! ”

‘I get really cross with him in the board meetings and the executive committee now. I get the executive team on one side before the meetings and tell them to back me up when I disagree with him. I argue and contradict him openly in the hope he will either shut up or resign’

‘Recently I have got so fed up with his negativity that I have stopped telling him what I want to do and have just been getting on with changes without him knowing’

Interim. ‘What type of things have you been doing without his knowledge? Are they matters that the plc board ought to approve?’

‘I suppose the board ought to approve them really but he blocks everything I suggest. Even if it goes to the board and they ask his opinion, he always takes the ‘its too risky’ line and they agree with him. I’ve taken on a new divisional Managing Director without going to the chairman and I’ve just told the executive team to set up a new manufacturing plant so we can launch a new product line’

Interim ‘ How much will that new plant cost?’

‘About £2 million but we’ll get that back from new sales within 2 years. It’s a new product line I have been pushing to do for two years, but the CEO wouldn’t do it either. I’ve been waiting for him to retire to get on with it’

Interim ‘Do you have actual authority from the plc board to spend that much on your own initiative?’

‘No. But it’s petty cash for us out of our normal expenditure of £300 million. It’s the only way to get anything done. By the time they hear about it, I will have the new sales coming in and that will prove the point’

Bill told me of other ambitious plans to change many of the main basic operations of the business, but that he was ‘having to fight very hard to move his Chairman into agreement’. Under questioning, Bill admitted his plans would cost the company circa £20m capital and would radically shift the business focus. Reluctantly he also admitted that if he was wrong, he could undermine the whole success of the business. ‘But all life’s a gamble’ he said shrugging his shoulders, ‘If we don’t adapt we don’t survive. We need to replace our winning lines. We need to change the direction of the business to broaden our base. We can’t ignore threats on the horizon. We need to launch a lot of new products to keep ahead.

I asked him where he felt there were the threats on the horizon. His reply was vague and unspecific.

‘Well you never know what your competitors are doing until its too late. We are the lead player and they have to try to outsmart us. Sitting on our hands is just asking for trouble’.

I asked him what the trading projections were like for the next three years ahead if he made no changes in the business.

‘We couldn’t fail to make record profits because we have big new long term contracts.’

‘So if you do nothing but run the business efficiently for the next three years, you are guaranteed record profits?’ I asked. ‘But if you make the changes you want, the capital cost of £20m will definitely reduce the profits in the next three years?’

Reluctantly Bill agreed. ‘But we can’t rest on our laurels ‘

‘The next two years are your trial period that will decide if you get the job of CEO. Which do you think is best for you? That profits are at record levels or reduce?’

‘Well record profits would be best for me of course, but that wouldn’t be in the company’s best interests – to ignore future threats and do nothing’

‘Do the board agree with your plans that sacrificing record profits would be in the company’s best interests?’

‘Well no but I never get a full hearing because its clear the chairman does’nt support me’ 

‘Lets have a look at this from your board’s viewpoint. They have appointed the Chairman as the most senior executive and must have confidence in him. Is that right?

‘Yes but they don’t know how his bloody detailed mind is stopping things getting to the board’

‘So the board have trust in the chairman’s judgement? How long has he been in charge?

’10 years’

‘Who is your boss? The board or the chairman?’

‘The Chairman’

‘If you and your boss disagree about policy and ask the board to decide, whose opinion do you expect the board to take, yours or the chairman’s?’

‘When I’ve tried that, they back him. He never supports me’

‘So, from your board’s viewpoint, they have to decide whether to back their chairman they have trusted for 10 years, or you who they have known for a few months?’

‘Well yes, but he doesn’t want to change anything! And I have a duty to do and say what I think is best for the company not just suck up to the chairman’

‘If you have told your chairman your views and he has rejected them, then you have done your duty to do and say what you think is best for the company haven’t you? And if he tells the board about your ideas and gives his opinion, he has done his duty hasn’t he? And if the board reject them, the board have done their duty haven’t they?  But you seem to be saying that if your proposals are still not accepted, you then have a higher duty which is to disobey the plc board or continue to argue to get your own way? To be blunt, isn’t this a bit like you saying to them ‘I don’t care what you think. I’m right and I want my own way?’

Bill smiled ruefully. ‘Some of that may be true but I still think they’re wrong’

‘You’ve fought that battle Bill. Time to accept that your plc board of ten very senior executives with combined 125 years plc experience have made the best decision they can after listening to you with 6 months plc experience. You have had your say and its time now to gracefully get on with delivering what they want not what you want.’

Bill. ‘I see what you say. But I’m not prepared to kowtow to the chairman when I think he is wrong. I’m still going to say and do what I think is right. That’s what I’m paid for’

I realised that at this point Bill was so entrenched in his views that he would not be prepared to accept any contrary ‘advice’.

‘OK. I said. ‘Lets leave that for now and look at the other matters’

These were other topics we discussed. His previous job had been as Managing Director of a division within the group which he had grown from £25m turnover to £100m turnover, taking profits from £1m to £3m pa.  He disclosed that he had deliberately built a ‘intellectual; superiority ethos’ in his own division and that the other business divisions had disliked the superior image his team conveyed. His team had believed themselves to be the best in the organisation and considered the other divisions to be inferior – and showed it to them.  He believed that creating this type of corporate pride in his division was a healthy thing to do and had helped to contribute to the success they had generated.  He wanted to introduce that ethos into the whole plc now. That would mean former competitive divisional colleagues adopting the new ethos or ‘getting out’.

I questioned Bill further to check his logic and the depth of experience he had given to the topics. Was he sure he was right to want to radically change a winning strategy – and that the board was wrong?  Also was intellectual superiority really likely to ‘win friends, colleagues and customers’? Or could it be judged as naively arrogant, insensitive and fear based? Did a really secure executive need to risk offending anyone? If strong and assured, would not an executive want to encourage corporate equality and modesty?   How long had the Chairman been in the job and what had happened to the business in that period?  Had Bill proposed any of his changes to the CEO who had recently retired and if so what had he said?

Reluctantly, Bill agreed that the Chairman, who was age 56, had a superb track record, having previously been Chief Executive of a plc and several other businesses, all of which had been very successful.  Bill agreed the company had been incredibly successful with turnover going from £8m to £400m pa in ten years under the chairman’s authority. However Bill claimed the success was more due to the recently retired CEO than to the Chairman. On challenge, Bill agreed, rather shamefacedly, that the CEO had only been in charge for the last 3 years and that the entire strategy for the business had been the Chairman’s brainchild 10 years ago. ‘But he‘s past his sell-by date now’ Bill hastened to add. ‘He’s not up to date with the new challenges the business is facing’. Bill eventually acknowledged that the CEO had also disagreed with Bill’s proposed changes. ‘He told me they were hair brained. But he was just holding his job down until he retired. He didn’t want anything reducing profits before he went’

In further discussion, Bill’s could not produce any convincing evidence (to me) that justified the extreme risk his strategy was proposing; viz, to spend £20m capital, reduce next year’s £20m annual profit to £14m, cut the shareholder’s dividend after 9 successive increases, and change the whole basis of operation and product range to meet an undetermined theoretical future threat.

At this point as Interim what do you think about the situation and what would you do next?

Question: As  intended leader of an interim assignment with this client, what would you want to do next with the client?

Note. This is a true case history and the dialogue is close to actual.  You are free to comment on the Interims performance but please be sure your focus is on WHAT YOU WOULD DO WITH THIS LEVEL OF CLIENT KNOWLEDGE NOW AS THE NEXT STEP IN AN INTERIM ASSIGNMENT

Loss making MD

The client is 39 years of age and was appointed MD of a £10m turnover business 16 months ago.  When he joined it was losing £500k pa.  He was previously Sales and Marketing Director in a competitor and had 10 years in the sector.  The sector was in decline because of new alternative products produced completely differently so they cannot compete with them.  (For confidentiality reasons the products cannot be mentioned.  Here is a parallel.  Their product has simply gone out of fashion compared with new alternative options.  So whilst many people still use their products, the market will progressively decline.  The gulf between their product and manufacturing and competitors is the equivalent of a manufacturer of audio tapes finding sales are dropping because people are getting records via the internet.  It is impossible for them to adapt that completely.

Since the MD has joined the business, he has fought valiantly and stabilised sales at the same level.  However, they have had to discount prices dramatically because of competitors doing the same.  The result is that a loss has grown from £500k to £1m in the year.

There was an alarming drop in business on 11 September with sales continuing to fall every month to now £8m pa.  They have been waiting ever since for it to come back, but it continues to decline.  All their competitors were in the same situation as far as he could ascertain (reliable sources).  He has spoken to his Australian parent company, who say that he need not worry because they are playing the long game and the market will recover.

He had asked the high level Interim Manager to help assess the options and then to lead any changes that they agreed. Interim rate £1200 per day. He concluded his initial briefing with the words ‘But Im inclined not to make any changes right now because HQ will be OK if I play the long game, sit out the present crisis situation  and don’t rock the boat with the staff.’

The Interim’s views at the time were that he was likeable and very customer orientated MD.  He was well-liked by his team, was intelligent and personable but showed a lot of unease and insecurity.  Many of his comments were tentative and unsure.

Here are extracts of an all day conversation that exclude much detail but briefly indicate key areas discussed.

INTERIM “I think you are very tactically aware on what is happening in your marketplace and you have taken a lot of time to analyse areas where you could take action.  In your own best interests, I sense you know yourself you must take those steps very rapidly to turn your business into profit”.

You probably know you need to manage a declining business, not a growing one.  If annual sales  went down to £6m from £10m within six months, what would your overheads have to be to make a profit of say £600k?  If you were to set up to achieve that level of overhead now and the decline went to that level, you would be glad you had done so, wouldn’t you?  And if on the other hand turnover only went down to £7m, then you would have made a bigger profit, wouldn’t you?

I think that if you went on the job market at the moment, the fact that your sector was in decline would not be taken as an excuse by companies when you had to disclose the loss had doubled in a year.  In your own interests, you must stop that immediately and you do not have much time left.

How could you operate the company at a profit of £600k if it was turning over £6m this time next year? “

  1. I think that’s rather too bold for me considering I don’t really have to be too radical and I would be scared to announce to everyone that I was planning to accept a permanent fall in sales to £6m from £10m 18 months ago. I had thought I could maybe look at some of the other areas to make smaller incremental changes if essential’

INTERIM. What are the other alternatives?  .

MD “I had thought of cutting the sales force or closing the Spanish sales office and sell from UK.  However, the Spanish will not buy unless it is from a Spanish office, so I can’t do that.”

Interim. ‘What are the sales figures there and what are the costs?

MD;.  “Spanish Sales are around £750k pa  with £500k pa costs.”

INTERIM:  “Is that direct costs or does it include all other charges.”

MD   “It does not include HQ costs and cost of materials.”

INTERIM  “So overall what has £750k sales cost you?”

MD:  “£850k actually I suppose”

INTERIM:  “If you were to close down your Spanish sales office, how much would that cut overheads?

MD About £250k- £300k pa. but the Spanish are very nationalistic and will only deal with Spaniards, so, its all or nothing. If I close it down I will lose £750k pa. sales which would be dreadful on top of all the other UK losses in sales’

INTERIM  “How many UK salesmen have you got and how much do they cost each?”

MD  I don’t know precisely .Their basic is £50k pa. and we have 35.“

INTERIM  “Who are the best UK salesmen and how do they compare with the worst?”

MD  “I don’t have that information.  We are getting systems but we don’t have it at the moment.”

INTERIM  “What do you sense is the position then?  How do they compare with the Spanish team for example?”

MD  “Many of them are probably about the same as the Spanish team and perhaps four or five are doing really well.”

INTERIM  “How many calls do they make a week”.

MD “I don’t know that because of our system’s weakness.” “They could do more calls if we took them off some of the warehousing jobs they do but they have always done that so they keep in touch with their own orders and service their customers.”

INTERIM. So you say you could lay off some of the sales staff?  How many do you need right now?

  1. Well I probably need about 10 but it would destroy the company if I were to lay off 25 sale staff most of whom have been with the company for over decade. It’s a really happy place with everyone so friendly that it would be impossible for me to fire them. I think Id lose all credibility in their eyes if I did that. ‘

INTERIM “At the moment you seem to be saying that you are selling products at a straight loss.  They actually cost in manufacturing and delivery more than you are selling them for?”

MD “Yes, I guess that is correct.”

INTERIM “Apart from cutting your costs, what else can you do to stop that situation?”

MD “I could put prices up – but” (hurriedly) “sales would just dive because the competitors would just undercut us, so my hands are tied”

MD We pay £150k pa rent on our UK HQ. I can get better premises for £52k pa. and can get out of the lease. But the Group CEO negotiated the lease on the UK premises and it would make him look a fool if I told the board we are overpaying so much’ So I don’t think IO can do anything there.

MD. The Production Director refuses to cut production even though sales are 40% down. So we’ve got a massive inventory which I cant get him to accept needs to be cut. I could move production to the HQ in Europe actually which would save about £350k pa but he wont hear of it and says it would destroy staff morale. Even so he’s very aggressive with the staff and has told them that the product lines are rubbish. He has been with the company for 7 years and earns £75k pa.  I could replace him with another director at £50k but I don’t want to appear to be a hirer/firer so soon after I was appointed as MD some months ago and with staff morale so low.’

Question: As  intended leader of an interim assignment with this client, what thoughts are in your head at this point and what would you want to do next with the client?

The program is built around 12 intense animated “chapters” that develop two key themes: engaging your people and achieving breakthrough results

An introduction to the process⇒

The WinningThinking® process

Transform Thinking – Transform Strategies – Remove Barriers – Transform Results

 …12 succinct animated videos to kick-start transformation

  1. Establish your purpose
  • What’s your purpose?
  • How do you see others?
  • Recognise and leverage diversity
  1. Engage your employees
  • How do you interact?
  • How do you respond?
  • How to transform capability
  1. Committed Employees
  • How to get organisation right
  • How do you view others?
  • How to align beliefs
  1. Get everyone thinking
  • How to recognise thinking
  • Link between capability & thinking
  • How to encourage thinking
  1. Manage risk
  • Mistakes and criticism
  • Danger of perfect strategy
  • How to create approach-ability
  1. Create trust
  • What is trust?
  • Link between mistakes & trust
  • Link between forgiveness & anger
  1. Create breakthrough
  • What is the roadblock?
  • How to open up choices
  • Breaking through profit ceilings
  1. Sustainable profit
  • Where are the strategic traps?
  • Familiarity & the core business
  • What is hard to replace?

9.Transforming capabilities

  • Experiential learning on the job
  • Taking new actions & creating grit
  • Realising different outcomes
  1. Free up time
  • Do you value being ‘busy’?
  • Organisation as ‘the machine’
  • How to free time for others
  1. Everyone implementing
  • Whose responsibility is change?
  • Making change part of business as usual
  • Setting the bar at the right height
  1. Stay on track
  • What blocks the truth?
  • Organisational behaviour
  • Truth means to keep the strategy alive

Whilst we provide the framework and boundaries – to transform your capability the rest comes from you! The discussions that follow are invariably extremely revealing, getting to the nub of the issues quickly in a non-threatening way that does away with confusing ‘management speak’. It’s a staggeringly effective process that’s actually enjoyable (how often can you say that about corporate development programs?)

But until you experience the Winning Thinking process in action, it’s unlikely that you’ll realise just how valuable it can be. 

That’s why we would like to share with you these client experiences:

Carrie CEO and Owner

Hazel CEO

Dan Solicitor

Denise Owner

Alistair Banking

John Msc Level Coach Trainer

“Thank you so much for the immense day and turning point yesterday. We all had an amazing breakthrough and cannot wait to change – from TODAY! Thank you for the facilitation & encouragement to be open.


“Thanks so much for the session. We really got to the crux of some key issues and I remain very excited for what the future holds!”

Project Manager

“Thank you for running your session with us yesterday & helping us face into some tough areas! ”Have already started seeing the change & look forward to continuing to drive that in all areas of the business. “


“A brilliant day facilitated by you, and as a result we were able to crack through the actions which will help us to drive immediate change. Thank you so much for driving this turning point..”

Senior Manager

“We don’t want to run the portfolio businesses for them, they know better.” “the winningthinking toolkit is a enlightening way to realign activity and leave the ownership with the team to meet their challenges.”

VC Partner

A new day using all the winninthinking learnings and really shifting gears.                                                                                                                     Day one 🙂


“The icebreaker approach achieved buy-in and the benefits were there for all to see: we increased the divisional profit annually by 10%. Without this crucial input we may well have been without an answer today”


Thanks for the fantastic session today, it was really good food for the soul. Refreshing to hear someone with such conviction discuss leadership from a philosophical perspective rather than a mechanical or transactional one.

Jon Aerospace Exec

Highly valuable insight on the essential human elements within successful transformation. The power of freedom of thought + attitude in the pursuit of improved metrics.

Phill Aerospace Exec

Many thanks I found the session to be extremely informative

Julian Aerospace Executive

I want to thank you for sharing the winningthinking approach and discussion we had; it was excellent. I found it both refreshing and inspiring.

Yahve Aerospace Executive, Your Content Goes Here

So what does an MBA cost?

So what does® cost? Customise your own solution: these are our offers open for the next few days…

A bespoke WinningThinking® 1-day colloquium with your key leadership

Designed to tackle specific challenges and opportunities that your business is facing, these sessions will be facilitated by one of the Icebreaker alumni who will involve up to 10 members of your team.  Issues will be addressed immediately in the context of your business challenge.

The discussion will be totally different and will transform your team’s interaction and relationships.

We know you will achieve real breakthroughs, and derive specific and tangible benefits by experiencing the power of the approach.

The sessions include the preparation and debrief with the Winning Thinking team gurus. Solutions are available for ambitious teams in deprived situations.

We are passionate about your team immediately achieving breakthrough results, so lets talk…

Premier Personal Certification. 

Become a® accredited trainer or master trainer and prestigious member of our alumni capable of driving transformation from within a business.

These sessions will be facilitated by one of the Icebreaker alumni who will involve up to 10 members of your team.  Issues will be addressed immediately in the context of your business challenge and you will get the chance to lead some of the sessions.

The discussion will be totally different and will transform your team’s interaction and relationships.

We know you will achieve real breakthroughs, and derive specific and tangible benefits by experiencing the power of the approach.

The accredited trainer program includes the preparation and debrief with the Winning Thinking team gurus administration of one winningthinking strategic roll outs and 2 FTSE case studies.

We are passionate about enabling you to immediately achieving breakthrough results, so lets talk…

Meet our chairman John Webster who is regarded to be the best executive coach in the world and a phenom business leader. By listening to the winning thinking technology, you will experience the same techniques John has developed to transform his capability and train over 200 CEOs and C level executives. John had the pleasure of training the icebreaker team, he is a keen para-glider and lives in South Africa.

Tom Pickering is internationally renowned business turnaround practitioner, CEO of the Year 2018 , MBA Masterclass Leader and winner of many prestigious awards since 2002. As is available online many thousands more businesses can transform themselves. Making the right changes in 2005  enabled his team to turn around over 200 companies & yield 45x cash return.

The winningthinking® provenance is very robust…

winningthinking®: … is maximum bang for buck… Abridged in just 35 minutes of online video content, you experience the winning perspectives and learning from: coaching 200 FTSE CEOs; a MSc in Psychology; 2 years development; & 130 man years of refinement. All pressure tested and proven during 200 company turnarounds. For your convenience… the 35 minutes of intense animated experiential learning content… creates a permanent shift in behaviour, 100% respect for humanity & performance. Access on the bus, share with your team, or alone for your self learning.

“The icebreaker approach achieved buy-in and the benefits were there for all to see: we increased the divisional profit annually by 10%. I honestly believe that without this input at a crucial stage in the project we may well still be thinking and planning today”

Ian Jones, Arjo Huntleigh

“In an incredibly short period the icebreaker program imparted, not just mechanistic knowledge, but deep understanding these tools will make me a significantly more effective leader who is extracting the highest possible performances from my team.”

Alistair Greenfield, Arm Holdings

“after 10 years and having spent £9.5m we were unable to get the medical device, organisation or operation right to get the product to market. The icebreaker approach enabled us to get the product to market on sale within 3 months. Over the next 6 months we launched the next medical device in 6 months for £500k”

Operations Director

“The icebreaker approach meticulously guided the team, working within the icebreaker revised management structure  started to quickly deliver results, which took the whole team by surprise. We achieved a more capable, competent and confident team.”

“In 4 days of due diligence at Birkbys Plastics we gained credibility with the vehicle manufacturers armed with the root cause, sound analysis and a recovery plan ”

Stephen Keating, Privet Capital

“I would recommend the icebreaker program to any business needing a rapid and intelligent diagnosis of its strategic position and clarity. It brought clarity and focus and they encourage direct and concise communication within the management team and provides vital pressure for progress along with quality input and the valuable opportunity to sound ideas out. It was instrumental in the introduction of clear and relevant KPIs together with a crisp weekly format for reviewing which means that the function of our Senior Management Team has improved substantially”.

Paul Cunningham, Aspace

“Having experienced the icebreaker program, I can see exactly the application of this material to Turnaround or Business Critical scenario’s.”

Tyrone Courtman, TMA President

“I want to do something I rarely do – introduce someone into my valued network. The reason for doing this is simple – this guy I want you to meet (Tom Pickering) is in a league of his own. He’s an engineer by profession, and we share many of the same thinking on business improvement. He produces amazing results.”

Chris Whyatt, Get To Great
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