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Developing Relationship Effectiveness & Authentic Leadership at NEC Group

The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham has long been a household name in the UK, with around seven million people every year attend a NEC Group event to learn, conduct business and be entertained.

NEC Group & TotalSDI

NEC Group recognise the key to their success is to maintain the quality of their award-winning services, by focussing on people and relationships. To facilitate this process, NEC Group use TotalSDI Relationship Awareness training as the golden thread througout their New Leader leadership development programme, designed to enable their team leaders to develop the interpersonal skills needed to motivate their team of 2,000 full and part time staff to consistently perform at their best.

“TotalSDI is the heart and soul of the New Leader programme.”
Steve Russell, Learning and Development Consultant, NEC Group

Self-Awareness Key to Relationship Effectiveness

TotalSDI training takes each individual on a personal journey of self-discovery. Giving learners a greater understanding of why they behave the way they do, together with an appreciation of why behaviour changes in challenging circumstances – including how to manage the consequent personal conflict.

“Helping others to achieve their best is a key skill for Project Managers. Learning about the SDI Relationship Awareness Theory has really helped us to think smarter about how we can better motivate people on our projects”.
Andy Skinner, Senior Project Manager, NEC Group

Speaking a Common Language

To support their learning, the NEC Group leaders create their own action plan, detailing how they will implement the training to improve their professional relationships. Individual follow-up meetings are held to help participants embed authentic behaviour change.

Subsequently, it’s not unusual to hear team members talk a common language based around getting people to think about their own and other’s motivational values – and therefore how best to influence those they work with.

Powered by TotalSDI, the New Leader training programme continues to drive results through relationships – establishing itself as a key component for NEC Group to realise its commercial objectives, by achieving stronger individual performance, as well as an engaged workforce all pulling together as an effective team.

You can use this link to read the full case study (this link will open a PDF in your web browser).


TotalSDI @Twitter


How do you get time for training in one of the fastest moving environments around? And, how do you gain people’s attention when your company is literally processing the world in real-time?

Simple: You promise a common language that speeds communication, improves collaboration, and gets better business results. And that’s what’s happening @Twitter.


Twitter chose the SDI because it gives people a powerful common language. And it’s not just because “Blue” is only four characters. Although “a person who is deeply concerned about the welfare of others and wants to help them” does take up more than half a tweet. “Blue” saves space.

The colours (shorthand for Motivational Value System types in the SDI) make it easy for people to quickly recognise what’s driving others. The colours, and deep meaning behind them, also help to dispel the incorrect interpersonal judgements that get in the way in fast-moving environments.


Teams form and reform quickly at Twitter. The SDI improves members’ awareness of each other’s motives and core personalities. This is knowledge is power – and it drives more effective collaboration because members are able to understand what’s driving each other. It works across the many cultures represented in Twitter’s offices. The common language gets to the core of human motivation, and makes it easier to appreciate other differences.

Teams who work through the SDI training together immediately become more engaged. They are excited by what they learn from each other. They are more committed to each other. And they take it out of the training room, because it is simple and easy to remember.


Teamwork and collaboration are so essential at Twitter that improved collaboration virtually guarantees better results. Generally, these results are that projects move faster, quality improves, and that people want to continue working together. But the SDI also helps solve two critical problems on teams: 1.) conflict and 2.) misaligned goals.

The conflict part of the SDI takes the common language to another level. It gives people simple and memorable terms to talk about how conflict is triggered and how it can be prevented. It also helps them recognise more quickly when conflict starts and suggests how people can start to solve it. Teams who manage conflict quickly have much more time to devote to productive opposition, which creates synergy and innovation.

Misaligned goals often relate to people’s views of situations. The SDI explains how people’s motives and personalities act as filters that cause them to see things differently. Many misalignments can be traced back not just to assumptions, but to the filters act before assumptions are made. While everyone does not need to have the same motive to work together, it does help if they all have the same goal. Then members are free to express their own motives as they collaborate to achieve it.

Every sentence in this case study contains less than 140 characters. Feel free to re-tweet. #TotalSDI #Twitter

SDI Helps VA Hospital “Self-Medicate” Conflict Pains

SDI training nets 6,841% ROI for conflicted Veterans Administration hospital.

The symptoms were festering and it was shaping up to be a costly situation. Recent government funding cuts had forced the downsizing and merger of the billing and coding offices from two different Veterans Administration Medical Centers. Several staff members from both offices lost their jobs and those who were left standing were being forced to work in close quarters with many new people. The result was a toxic combination of grief and culture-shock. Interpersonal problems began to surface immediately and within a matter of months, five people had approached their union representative to inquire about filing Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints against co-workers or managers.

Alternative Medicines: Formal Procedure vs. D.I.Y.

Past experience showed that costs for administering EEO grievances ranged from $20,000 (informal) to $100,000 (formal). Due to the nature of the complaints and the disposition of the parties involved, the union rep estimated that three out of the five conflicts would be filed at the “formal” level while the others would be filed as “informal” complaints. The organisation could be facing a cost of at least $340,000 not including the potential loss of productivity inherent to workplace conflict.

Needless to say, the union was motivated to seek an alternative solution to the problems plaguing this department — and the ideal solution was not hard to find. The Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) had been (and still is) a prominent part of the training programme for the union leaders and upper-level management of the Veterans Administration, so it seemed an obvious choice for damage-control within this department. Based on this recommendation, the SDI was a key component of an internal seven and-a-half hour intervention spread over two days. In attendance were 11 employees and two managers. The total cost for the programme was $4,970 including travel, facilitator costs, materials, and participant down-time.

Full Recovery: Fiscal + Personal

The intervention paid off in more ways than one. The individuals involved in the looming grievance filings were empowered to work through their conflicts on their own. No official complaints were filed — a $340,000 expenditure avoided. This fact alone translates to a 6,841-percent return on investment.

But if you were to ask the 13 people who experienced the SDI, you’d hear the results described in a very different way. Suddenly, light bulbs were flashing as they learned to recognise and understand their differences. The room buzzed with comments like, “Now, I get it!” “We need to talk a different way.” “No wonder I’m unhappy.” But the crucial success of the SDI training rested in its ability to depersonalise conflict. The infighting that had plagued the department could now be discussed in a safe, objective way that wouldn’t be taken personally. This newfound self-awareness encouraged great dialogue between participants and helped them to understand one another (and their patients) better.


The long-term impact of this one training event has been remarkable. The once dysfunctional department now meets monthly as a group to discuss any issues. They still use the SDI learning and terminology as a common language for discussing interpersonal issues. Concepts like “warranted” and “unwarranted” conflict have become part of their operational culture and team members address each brand of conflict accordingly.
Furthermore, the turnover rate for this department has slowed to well below the organisation-wide average. One year after the SDI intervention, only one person had quit their job… not surprisingly, it was the only person who chose not to attend the training. Although no dollar value has been attached to the reduction in turnover, the costs savings are significant.

Every time the facilitators check in with the team, they are greeted with enthusiasm and gratitude. What was discovered over those two days was not about “learning” skills, but about revealing and understanding what was there all along. Participants came to realise that they all really shared the same goal: Provide optimal patient care in a way that maintains their self-worth. There are many ways to treat a malfunctioning department. The SDI just seems to do it in a way that not only heals the problem, but enhances the overall wellness of relationships at the same time.

SDI Ensures a Successful Mediation and Substantial Cost Savings

The Sales Division of a construction service organisation was impacted by a serious conflict between the Director and his Sales Manager.

The Sales Manager, a 25 year veteran of the company, was asked by the Director to support and introduce their new Sales Performance System to his Sales department. Although the Manager understood the business necessity for the change, he also believed this new system would not be well received by his Sales team. As a result, he communicated the changes to his team in a way that, from the Director’s viewpoint, clearly undermined his authority. As a result, a serious breakdown developed in what had previously been an effective working relationship. The conflict escalated to the point where the relationship was further damaged. The Director was planning the Manager’s termination and the Manager, in turn, was evaluating new career opportunities in the market.

As a last resort, the Director and Manager both reluctantly agreed to participate in a one day mediation process. The SDI played a key role in the mediation, helping both parties understand their individual and joint interests. Each began to better understand their individual styles of relating, and how to communicate in ways that would sustain a more effective ongoing work relationship. A key result was their understanding that it was their perceptions of each other that created some of the difficulties they were experiencing. Learning the reasons behind their perceived behaviours was a critical success factor.

The session contributed to a much improved work relationship. The Sales Performance system was introduced on time and on budget. Of greater importance was the potential cost savings gained by preventing further escalation of the conflict and the loss of a long service employee.

Termination costs: 2 year severance payment of $200,000
Career Transition Support Services: $10,000
Replacement Costs: $20,000

Mediation Costs: $3,000
Potential Cost Savings: $235,000+

Turning 360-Degree Feedback with Si.mobil

360-degree feedback has become another one of those trendy subjects. Suddenly everyone is talking about 360-degree feedback and everyone wants to be able to say, “Of course, this is something our organisation does.” But what exactly is it? Does your organisation really need it? And what benefits can you get from it?

Most of us are familiar with some form of performance appraisal, usually once per year, a time when boss and employee sit down together and review what’s been going on for the past year and agree on goals for the next year.

360-degree feedback was originally born out of a way to improve the performance appraisal process. It assumes that your boss is not the only person who has useful information about your performance. In fact, in many cases your colleagues or direct reports often know you better than your boss. They also have a different perception of you based on a different working relationship than the one you have with your boss. So, what if these people could also contribute to your appraisal and could add their feedback about your performance — even make suggestions about things you could improve in order to be more effective.

This is exactly what Si.mobil, the second largest telecommunications operator in Slovenia, decided to do in its Customer Service team. Over the previous years, the team (comprising of approximately 80 agents, eight team leaders and two managers) had already done a lot of training and development — not only in technical skills and product knowledge, but also in ‘soft skills’. They had used the SDI as part of their Customer Service training and also to help their Team Leaders and Managers to improve their leadership skills. A lot had been achieved with their SDI learning but they were now facing a particularly challenging time. A large competitor was withdrawing from the market place and Si.mobil was flooded with new clients. The sudden increase in business was affecting the customer service agents in a more negative way. They wanted to do something that would help the team leaders better manage and motivate their teams through this difficult period. And so they decided to expand their SDI work into the area of 360-degree feedback.

360-degree feedback is a way to collect feedback from a select group of people who know you to get a more ‘rounded’ picture of yourself as seen through the eyes of others. Why might you want this? Because seeing yourself as others see you is extremely valuable in getting to know yourself better. You begin to recognise the impact your actions and behaviours have on others and discover if your true intentions are being seen by others or not. Si.mobil implemented the feedback programme with all the Team Leaders as a way to find out what impact their actions had on others around them and identify what was working and what wasn’t. This feedback would be used to encourage changes that would better support the agents, increase satisfaction and impact performance levels.

But before an effective 360-degree feedback programme could begin, Si.mobil had to address a few concerns and questions: Why would the agents and others be open to giving this feedback? Wouldn’t their direct reports be concerned about telling the Team Leaders what they really thought about them? Could this information be used against them somehow? And wouldn’t their colleagues think it’s not their job to tell the Team Leaders if they are or are not doing their job the way they should, surely that’s between them and
their boss?

When conducting 360-degree feedback, there are some basic principles that should be followed in order to ensure that the process goes smoothly, that the feedback given is honest and beneficial, and that something useful is done with the information gathered. The table below shows step-by-step how Si.mobil approached the project.

Who is 360-degree feedback best suited for?

It’s typically carried out for managers, but is especially useful for any individual or group of people where there is a clear need to understand self and perceptions (or misperceptions) of others.

One year after the Si.mobil 360 programme, the Customer Service team is going strong. Each team leader has just undertaken an SDI team development process with their direct-reports in order to build on the original 360-degree feedback process and continue the work of developing and motivating their teams.

So, did they achieve their goal?

Yes! Results were calculated using various performance measures including customer satisfaction levels, speed of call answering, time on one call, achievement of goals, etc. and ALL of these indicators improved. But the main benefit that they saw was the motivation of the agents and team leaders. Communication between agents, team leaders, and customers — internal and external — greatly improved. Barbara Gorse, manager of the Call Centre had the following to say: “The SDI 360 feedback process is an ingenious tool to understand the relationships in your team and the behaviour of all individuals. It is a perfect process to improve the working atmosphere and to build a good working environment, where people are more relaxed, enjoy working with each other, and can get better results. Can you imagine anything better than an environment where everyone is aware that each and every person is unique, respects the differences, and uses these differences to build stronger healthier relationships? SDI and the 360 feedback process brought us here. The investment in this process is nothing compared to the results we achieved.”

The author, Pam Welsby, is the owner of FastForward International d.o.o. and Personal Strengths Adriatic in Slovenia. She is the main trainer and author of all FastForward programmes. She is a People Development Specialist, a Human Resources Professional and a Master Practitioner of NLP. She began using the SDI about 15 years ago, receiving her training from Personal Strengths UK. Pam currently integrates SDI and Relationship Awareness tools into many varied programmes including management, leadership, sales, customer service, communication skills, and relationship-building. She works primarily with international companies like DHL, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Sava Tires (Goodyear), Nestle (pet food division).

Coaching With The SDI A Wise Business Investment

A General Manager, reporting to the company’s Senior Vice President, had 15 years experience with this large manufacturing organisation, and a total compensation package in excess of $240,000.

During his tenure, this high potential executive was consistently rewarded with numerous “fast track” promotions and cross functional experience. Over the years, he consistently achieved superior performance ratings and was recognised for his demonstrated drive, intellect, commercial judgement and passion for the business. As a result, he was positioned as one of three high potential candidates for the CEO role.

Then, suddenly, his career took a turn. People began to question his ability to manage his relationships up, down and across the organisation. His ratings, particularly on “leadership behaviour” began to drop – signals that there were issues with what some referred to as his “aggressive” communication style. Most recently, he began to “lose composure” in team meetings, whenever he disagreed with the perspectives of some of his colleagues. His credibility was eroding, and there was concern that termination would be the only alternative, unless he could get his career back on track.

Fortunately, the GM recognised his need to change, and willingly agreed to work with a professional coach in the effort to save his career. Using the SDI, including Strength Management and Feedback inventories, the Coach provided him with critical insight into how his behaviour was perceived (and sometimes misunderstood) by others. He developed the skills to choose behaviour more consciously, to reframe preventable conflict, and to actively manage disagreements in ways that would produce more productive work relationships.

The result:

Through insight and practice, the GM got his performance ratings back to where they needed to be, and the company avoided the high costs of an executive’s termination. The GM described the experience as one that “humbled” him. In his own words, this was a “life altering” experience at both the personal and professional level.

From the organisation’s perspective, the corporate client reported that members of the management team noted a clearly visible change in his behaviour. Coaching with the SDI provided a cost effective solution to a potentially expensive issue. Termination of the GM would have amounted to costs in excess of $500,000, when considering severance payments, transition support services and the expenditures associated with replacing the intellectual capital of this highly experienced resource. By comparison, SDI Coaching services cost the company $10,000 – a wise business investment!

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