Finish line in sight….almost!

I think we all know that moment when we have taken on a physical task, a training session or a race when we feel like it will never end, it always happens in the last three quarters, that point where doubt creeps in. We have gone through the excitement of getting to halfway and then the realisation arrives that all that means is we have the same amount to do all again!

We have gone through the excitement of getting to halfway and then the realisation arrives that all that means is we have the same amount to do all again – and then we start to have that internal battle between stopping and keeping going.

It takes a bit of time and the fear/courage battle to get through that and then it can be like the sun comes out – all of a sudden the finish line has miraculously come into sight (literally or figurately) and we realise that there is enough petrol in the tank to make it – in fact, there can be enough petrol in the tank, mentally and physically, to raise our game once more and smash it into the finish.

That is happening out on the ocean right now; after 34 days at sea any records might have passed them by but the lads onboard Latitude 35 must all but be able to smell Antigua as it is only 134 miles away. It is still worth reflecting on that number – any race of 134 miles is a long, long way – but having rowed over 2,400 already that seems nothing.

Add in to that the weather gods have started to smile and the boat is smashing along at an incredible 4.1 knots so a day and a half and they could be in – a couple more sunrises to go.

Ocean rowing like ‘normal’ life is all about contrasts and the contrast here is still the lads at the back of the fleet who have also passed a milestone – in the last few days they rowed through the 2,000 miles to go point… 1,806 miles behind the lead boat.

I think numbers like that bring home the sheer enormity of what rowing the ocean means – Daryl Farmer has so far rowed just over 600 miles in 34 days, with 1,941 miles remaining he could be out there until the end of April……that is a big, seemingly now impossible, challenge. He needs the weather gods to get a massive smile on their faces and yet the weather forecast does not look great.

Row4James have secured 2nd place and are now 200 miles behind the leaders after their neck and neck tussle early on; a further 600 miles back is a ‘pack’ of 6 boats albeit spread over 200 miles and all of these will soon be under the 1,000 miles to go. A thousand miles to go!

300 miles further back again is the solo boat of Elaine Hopley, plugging away and keeping ahead of a men’s pair and two of the men’s solos. Awesome.

So keep watching as these ordinary people complete their extra-ordinary challenge….

Oh, and if you ever think that ocean rowing is something for you then get in touch to come and have a go on our boat on a river or lake or take part in a Thames Row or Coast to Coast.

If that lights a fire I can introduce you to Charlie at Rannoch Adventure who can support you getting out onto the ocean for a trial or even the ‘main event’ the lads pictured above, Tom and James, are seen having an experience session on Rutland Water – 18 months later they rowed the Atlantic – that could be you!

Use the contact form below..


28 days at sea!

A picture of us at sea – a few days before we were swimming instead of rowing!

The Atlantic Rowing Race fleet has been at sea for 28 days – the same time our challenge was rowing for. The lead boat has continued to be Latitude 35 after their early tussle with Row4James they have stretched out a lead of 117 miles, ahave rowed just over 2,000 miles and have just 547 miles remaining until they row into the harbour in Antigua in a week or so’s time.

To put that in perspective they are around the same distance to the finish as we had on our fateful day after the same amount of time at sea – we had however started from Tarfaya in mainland Africa, something like 415km/258miles further east!

Adding further perspective to the ocean rowing challenge are the boats at the other end of the field – the solo  Daryl Farmer has now covered, wait for it….461 miles so has an enormous 2,092 miles still to go; 99 miles ahead of him is another solo of Dmytro Rezvoy who has just under the 2,000 to go. It is worth pointing out that from 5 January up until yesterday it appears that Daryl had been blown backwards some 20 miles….imagine what that must feel like…! (Check this out using the slider at the bottom of the Race Tracker on the Talisker site – click here) At their current rate of progress, therefore, both men are looking at well over another 100 days at sea. That seems insurmountable if nothing else due to the rations they will have on board their boats.

Next up are 32 Degrees North, a pair with 1735 days to go and the female solo rower, Elaine Hopley with 1656 to go – both have a monumental challenge ahead with potentially at least another 50+ days at sea.

There is then a pack of crews, albeit spread over 200 miles with the all girls crew Atlantic Endeavour with 1421 miles to go and the remarkable boat of this years race, Soulo Gav in overall third place with 1218 miles to go – and that is a solo boat rowed by endurance athlete Gavan Hennigan. Check out Gavan’s website to see more of his remarkable story – including his comeback from drugs and alcohol addiction, genuinely extra-ordinary.

Below are the positions today – this is a screen shot – another week to go and the first crew could well be popping the champagne – keep watching….!


Atlantic Rowing Race 2016 – 30 day barrier to be broken at last…?

Image result for atlantic rowing race images big wave

As I write this there are less than 20 hours until the start of this year’s Atlantic Rowing Race – now an annual event rather than every two years.

It is a little different from our trip in that the crews start together from La Gomera in the Canary Islands, roughly 400 kilometres west of where we started from in Tarfaya, mainland Africa. There are 12 teams scheduled to depart with four solos, two pairs, three trios and 3 fours, one of which is the all female crew and they will have at sea with them a safety/support yacht should anyone need assistance – another difference to our trip! The yacht is not there to lend outside assistance and is purely there for emergencies although it may well swing by to say hello to crews as and when.

Looking at the boats in the fleet, the clear favourite to win must be Latitude 35 with Jason Caldwell, Angus Collins and Alex Simpson on board, seasoned ocean rowers plus top flight rower Matthew Brown.

Without doubt they have to be contenders to become the first boat in history to row the Atlantic in under 30 days.

The women’s record could well come under threat too with the Atlantic Endeavour Team and you can see more on their website by clicking here

You can follow the progress of all the crews on the website by clicking here – pick one, adopt it, support them, be part of rowing the ocean!

You can also download the racetracker on your phone, look out for the Yellowbrick app and download the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Rowing Race 2016.


Ever thought of sailing on a tall ship….out where the magic happens!


What a privilege to speak at the Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST) celebrations for the 30th anniversary of the maiden voyage of Lord Nelson – one of two tall ships run by the Trust and specifically designed for use by less able bodied people.

There were approximately 300 guests at The Grand Harbour Hotel and it was great to have my ocean boat, Lisa Too, on display immediately outside the main entrance to The Mayflower Suite where the dinner was held.

She prompted a lot of interest even amongst so many seasoned sailors, with a good number of transatlantic sailors in amongst the attendees too; the general view seemed to be one of ‘you must be mad rowing that, what is wrong with sails?!’ I agree, now!

The work of the charity is amazing and they are currently looking at other fund-raising opportunities to support them – and that is where we come in with Atlantic Experience and our ThamesRow. Next year we are planning to run a ThamesRow for JST which could include less able bodied crew, sponsors coming on board, a garden party along the way and even people following along the Thames path on foot or bike. There may even be a small flotilla of boats that join us along the way to help raise money and not least raise awareness for the great work of the charity.

On the night it was fantastic to meet so may passionate and driven people, all there pulling together to make something extra-ordinary happen. They ranged from the lady who worked in the engine room of Lord Nelson (yes, she does have to have an engine as well as sails), to the founder of the Charity, Jacquetta Cator; from volunteer Chrissie to ‘ordinary’ Pete, born with no legs and arms to the elbow – yet a three times paralympic Gold medal winner. What a great bloke, telling us amusing and inspirational stories from being shaved down by the girls in the team to streamline his body to the Korean journalist asking how exactly did he use his ears to swim with….!

It was a real pleasure and an honour to speak for the Trust, the them being taking on big challenges and delivering them one small step at a time and that the most important thing is that whilst we need the equipment to make things happen from Pete’s wheelchair, to Lord Nelson – it is the people that deliver it, ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things. Great work!

Click here to see more on the Jubilee Sailing Trust, including how you can go on board for a day sail or a multi day voyage….


Transferable skills – lessons from the Atlantic in ‘normal life’.

Looking forward to speaking at the Silverstone University Technical College this evening for Part 2 of The Atlantic Experience for the Silverstone Business Forum. Each part is standalone and audience members will take a lot away with them whether they have seen Part 1 or not. Part 2 looks at how we handle setbacks and can use failure as a foundation for future success.

At the end of the day if we are not willing to get out of our comfort zone and do something different to what we have always done then how can we grow. This can perhaps be seen more in older members of the population – people who in their own minds have become ‘expert’ at what they do or believe they are good enough and use the excuse of ‘I am too old to change’ so as to avoid that change.

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Fear, excitement, change – be prepared, it’s coming for you!


I am speaking at the Cambridge launch of the HubSpot User Group – HubSpot is an inbound marketing and sales software that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers – so it will be something that I will be using in due course! I was asked to write a blog for them ahead of the event in November with a theme around change and how quickly things can divert from expectation and the plan we had carefully formulated…..this is it below:

We join Ian’s story as they leave the African coast behind…

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Big ocean, big challenge – the Atlantic Odyssey where it all began

Our ocean challenge was billed as ‘The Atlantic Odyssey’. We were 6 men brought together after an intensive 9 months of sea trials; some people dropped out, others could pay their way but looked unlikely to be able to row their way – there was a conflict between who had the funds to join the crew and who had the ability, physical and mental.

In the end, the crew, or so we thought – was selected on physical and mental merit – the one big gap in our testing being that we never tested the physical capability of all of the team; physical fitness comes from a simple willingness to train and train again. To train when we don’t feel like it, to train because we have our team-mates to support, to back ourselves and not least to have our eyes on the prize.

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Looking for challenge, excitement and something extra-ordinary?

852430e9-7f36-45fc-b623-9dcf9479d2b1-300x229We are looking at running three ThamesRow events next year; one will be for the Jubilee Sailing Trust  who in their own words take both disabled and able-bodied men and women to sea, to not only teach them how to crew a tall ship, but to promote equality, sharing, and to celebrate  individual differences by working together to achieve greater things.’ That sort of thing is right up my street and exactly what we aim to do with trips on board Lisa Too.

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Bedford Daycare Hospice – get involved!!

Great work going on here at Bedford Daycare Hospice; we have supported the Daycare Hospice before with last year’s B2Sea row where two young lads of just 12 and 14 rowed the length of the river Great Ouse to raise around £4k. This year it was speaking at their Annual Fundraising Ball – a first for me doing an After Dinner speech which is a different animal to the normal Atlantic Experience corporate or educational talk.

We had some laughs on the evening as the story wound it’s way through the highs and lows of the ocean, being saddled with living in a world of permanent cold, celebrating achievement – even if it is related to a yellow builders bucket – looking for silver linings and of course, handling setbacks.

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Lasting the distance: Key Business Lessons from the sport of rowing

This is an article by    Director at Total Leader and Coach Solutions Australia & Conference & Key Note Speaker, published on his Linkedin Page.

It gives a good insight into rowing over the standard 2,000 metre course – remember the ocean is 5,000,000 metres…

There is no doubt that businesses in every country around the world, regardless of sector and industry, are experiencing some pain in the current economic environment. In my home town of Perth there are numerous iron ore businesses experiencing significant pain right now. There are increasing pressures to become more nimble, cost effective, efficient, more innovative and higher performing.  I have recently observed a number of organisations on the brink of collapse, and not lasting the distance.  This prompted me to consider what is required for an organisation to thrive and last the distance. My mind immediately leapt to my experience as a rower, from rowing in high school to representing my country.

If one had to ask any rower around the world, from club level through to Olympic level, what makes rowing such an incredibly tough sport, I am confident that the one singular agreed response would be this: “The level of pain experienced”.  There a number of studies exploring the effectiveness of different pre-race and during the race strategies for managing the experience of pain during a race. Ultimately the key is to last the distance with the consistent delivery of maximum power output throughout the 2000m.

Below I will describe a number of strategies that rowers typically would implement to assist in lasting the distance that are equally applicable to business.

1.    Ten Strokes at a Time

Rowers race over a distance of 2000m, which is typically around 240 strokes.  Breaking this down further, every 500m is 60 strokes and every 250 m is approximately 30 strokes.  Rather than breaking out of the start with the mindset of “I have 235 strokes to go”, rowers typically focus very specifically on sets of strokes.  Some crews break the race into sets of 15 strokes, others into sets of 30 strokes.  Some of the best crews around the world break their race into 24 sets of 10 stroke pieces.  In addition to breaking the race into sets of 10 strokes, each set of ten strokes has a different and specific focus e.g. finishing square.

The primary reason for this specific focus for 10 strokes is to manage pain.  The evidence from the research shows that cognitive strategies that include focusing attention on specific technical aspects or elements of the stroke reduce the experience of pain.  The research also indicates that attentional focus contributes to a higher power output than when rowers are not focusing their attention on specifics elements of the stroke.

 Lesson for Business (10 strokes at a time)

  • During tough times, not only is it critical to have a clear vision and goal, this goal needs to be broken down into much smaller manageable sub-components (this could be time based / process based / frequency of activity based).
  • Create specific focus items during each sub-component e.g. quality, behaviours, language etc.
  • Regularly change the focus i.e. different focus each week e.g. week one – quality of verbal communication; week two – clear agendas for every meeting etc.

My observation is that many organisations implement KPI’s, goals etc. but are poor at breaking the work into clearer sub-components.  Furthermore, very few leaders provide a clear and specific focus for each sub-component. A classic example in the resource sector is the use of pre-start meetings to set the context for the shift’s work.  We observe over and over again pre-starts done so poorly, with no clarity on the progress to date, some clarity on the tasks for the shift, and no specific focus for the shift.  No wonder the crew are half-asleep in the back.

Anecdotally I observe that organisations that have outstanding pre-starts also have outstanding sustainable performance.

To last the distance organisations need to break the primary objective into much smaller specific sub-components with specific identified focus.

 2.    Plan Your Pushes (and Limit the Number)

Almost every crew would have a well-developed race-plan, which would not only articulate the specific focus points for each set of strokes, but also identify the timing for a 10 to 15 stroke push.

A ‘push’ is essentially a set of strokes where the crew lift their intensity (usually by 10% or so) and stroke rate.  The lift is unsustainable over 2000m, but can be used to create points in the race that create mental stepping blocks as well as put the opposition crews under pressure.

One of the biggest mistakes rowing crews can make is calling for push after push after push.  Ultimately the unsustainable additional effort causes an earlier than planned increased experience of fatigue resulting in a significant decrease in power output, which then usually leads to dropping off the pace.

The key to successful pushes is being highly disciplined about the implementation of a push, which includes a 100% absolute commitment for each crew member to input as required, as well as sticking specifically to the agreed timing and number of pushes.

Ideally the intention of the ‘push’ is to have a significant impact on the race and on boat speed. Don’t overuse pushes and don’t waste a push.

Lessons for Business (Plan your Pushes)

  • Be very careful about asking your people to do ‘more’; and if you do ask your people to do ‘more’ then it needs to be planned
  • Limit the number of times you ask your people to do ‘more’
  • Specify exactly what is expected when asked to deliver ‘more’
  • Build capability to deliver sustainable high quality rather than using a ‘push’ to deliver higher quality

To last the distance leaders need to anticipate and plan as much as possible for times when people need to do more, and then be very specific about the time, quality, and effort required.

 3.    Judge Effort Required by Evidence and not by how it Feels

One of the keys to success for the fastest boat over 2000m is a consistent power-output over the entire race.  This is surprisingly difficult.  The reason being that at the beginning of the race lactic acid levels are low, experienced pain is low, and the delivery of the required power-output feels easy, sometimes resulting in rowers working too hard too early on in the race, which ultimately leads to a significant drop in power output by the end of the race.

If a rower judges the level of effort by the way they feel, the power output would start really high and then drop significantly over the 2000m.  Seasoned and experienced rowers know that they need to judge the level of effort by the actual boat speed and power output, which means that the first 1000m (120 strokes) actually feels relatively comfortable.  Over the remaining 1000m the experience of pain and fatigue increases exponentially, but the actual power output should remain relatively consistent all the way through the race.

The key here is a highly disciplined and deliberate choice (decision) of effort required for every stroke set over the distance.

I hear many leaders talk about how ‘busy’ they are or the response from their team members is “I am too busy”.  “I am too busy” is a feeling, a perception of workload, and not a specific measure of activity.  There are times when people say they “are busy” but not actually delivering the expected outcomes.

Application to Business (Judge effort by Evidence)

  • Establish daily measures or mechanisms that provide evidence of effort
  • Ask people to explain what is keeping them busy when they respond with “I am too busy”
  • Create visible clarity of current priorities
  • Establish a practice of deciding where to focus effort
  • Eradicate the language “I am too busy” from the team

To last the distance organisations and leaders need to enable their people to judge their daily effort and make conscious choices about where to focus their effort.

4.    A Clean Boat is a Fast Boat

An attribute evident in all successful rowing crews is discipline.  This discipline is evident in every aspect of a rower’s life, from eating and sleeping to focused effort and concentration every stroke.  Establishing a culture of discipline is the key to success.  One of the best practices and rituals to establish the culture of discipline is maintaining the equipment.

Before each session the crew need to check their equipment and particularly prior to a race the double checking of all the settings and quality of the equipment is critically important.  Equally important is the discipline of cleaning and washing of the boat and the blades after each session. There is no doubt that crew’s that have an established culture of discipline will ultimately perform better in the boat. This discipline is evident in the cleanliness of the equipment.

In organisations and businesses, I can walk into the kitchen area or a meeting room and very quickly assess whether or not there is a culture of discipline.  Furthermore, anecdotally, all those organisations that have neat and tidy kitchens and meeting rooms are also performing better than their competitors.

Application to Business (A Clean Boat is a Fast Boat)

  • Establish an agreed practice of tidying up meeting rooms and shared areas
  • Expect every team member to implement the agreed practice and immediately address any team member not doing so
  • Establish agreed practices around behaviours, language and attitude
  • Give permission for each and every person to hold any other person accountable to the agreed practice
  • Establish a culture of disciplined practice

To last the distance leaders need to establish agreed practices then expect everyone to not only practice the agreed practice but also hold each other accountable to the agreed practice.

Race Your Own Race

An outcome of a crew that has a well-established race plan, clearly defined pushes, conscious choice around effort, and a culture of discipline, is that the crews are confident in their ability and the race plan.  A crew that is confident in their race plan is then able to race their own race.

A mistake that lesser experienced crews make is being sucked into racing the other crews and disregarding their own race plan.  Of course there is a balance. The crew does need to be aware of what is going on around them and then make a conscious decision about whether to push early or respond to an unexpected pace of a competitor.  However, crews who have an element of flexibility and adaptability, but race their own race perform better.

The key to making this work is to assign the responsibility of scanning the surroundings to one member of the crew as well as assign the decision of changing the race plan to one person.  There also needs to be an agreement that once the decision is made to change the plan that everyone gets on board and commits to the new plan.

Crews that are reactive i.e. race based on the pace of others end up making incorrect decisions as well as very often don’t have a collective effort, which is inefficient and reduces boat speed. Furthermore, crews who have team members who are all scanning and looking out the boat end up losing focus and effectiveness.

The crew need to agree on the criteria for changing the plan prior to the race.  For example, the crew might know that one of their competitors goes out really hard, and so they expect to be down by one length at 500m gone.  However, the crew might agree that if in that first 500m this particular crew gains more than one length that they will then bring their push forward to attempt to counter the larger gap.

Application to Business (Race Your Own Race)

  • Establish confidence and belief in the plan
  • Gain a verbal and demonstrated commitment to the plan
  • Assign responsibility to scan the environment to one person and expect that person to report back regularly to the team on any changes etc.
  • Assign responsibility for changing the plan to one person
  • Stick to the plan

To last the distance businesses need to have a clearly articulated and believable plan that the team commit to follow, but at the same time have an agreed flexibility to the plan with specific agreed criteria.

Visibility of Individual Performance

Common of many sports, but in particular rowing, is the visibility of individual performance and feedback.  Typically every crew member would know what every other crew members best and current ergo times are, and in many cases are published on the notice board.  The crew would also typically train in the gym together and know exactly who is stronger and can push more weights than the others.  The crew would also be asked to verbalise their heart rates during training sessions as well as other measures such as power output (from pressure gauges on the gates) and lactate levels (blood samples taken at end of set pieces).

Furthermore, the coach would be providing feedback to each crew member on what they need to be doing better or differently during the session in front of every other crew member. The coach would typically also use video and then following the session in slow-motion review each crew member’s stroke with the entire crew present. Essentially, there is an absolute visibility of individual performance.  There is no hiding.

I believe if there is one thing that business needs to learn from sport and rowing, it is that the visibility of individual performance improves collective performance.

I would love to see organisations use video rooms in which leaders need to run a meeting as well as an individual coaching conversation once a month.  Following the recorded session the leader’s line manager debriefs the recorded session and works through what could be done differently.

Application to Business (Visibility of Individual Performance)

  • Gain acceptance and agreement from the business/team on what individual performance measures will be visible
  • Establish a visible performance board with each person’s individual performance mapped against others (for the agreed measures above)
  • Have regular team discussions with feedback and input from team members on each person’s performance

To last the distance leaders and organisations need to have the courage and skills to move toward a visibility of individual performance measures and discussions.

Lasting the Distance – Amundsen vs Scott

Many of you would know the story of Amundsen versus Scott in the race to the South Pole in 1911.

Scott’s last diary entry on the 29th March 1912 shortly before he and his men died:“Since the 21st we have had a continuous gale from the W.S. and S.W. We had fuel to make two cups of tea apiece and bare food for two days on the 20th. Every day we have been ready to start for depot 11 miles away, but outside the door of the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. I do not think we can hope for any better things now. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far.  It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write any more. R. Scott”

In contrast:

Amundsen’s diary entry on the 14th Dec 1911: “So we arrived, and we were able to raise our flag at the geographical South Pole- King Hakon VII’s Vidda. Thanks be to God. …”

 Source – Race for the South Pole: Expedition Diaries

There has been much written about the difference between the two men and the way they managed the race to the South Pole.  Below are a couple of the key differences:

  • Amundsen was a meticulous planner: he spent time living with Eskimos; he experimented with different food sources; he tested all of his equipment and ship. Scott did very little testing of equipment.
  • Amundsen flagged his primary depot as well as marking his return path. Scott did not mark his return journey.
  • Amundsen stored three tons of supplies for 5 men. Scott stored 1 ton for 17 men.
  • Amundsen took four thermometers. Scott took one.
  • Amundsen chose dogs. Scott chose ponies and motorised sleds that had not been tested in minus 50 degree temperatures.
  • Amundsen arrived back at home base on precisely the day that he’d identified in his plan.

Source: Jim Collins – Great by Choice

Jim Collins in his book ‘Great by Choice’ describes the differences between Amundsen and Scott and writes a compelling argument for use of three core behaviours for sustainable success: Fanatic Discipline, Productive Paranoia, and Empirical Creativity.

The above described lessons from the sport of Rowing are not new, and are supported by stories such as Amundsen and Scott and the research such as that by Jim Collins.  If we know all this then why are we not implementing these strategies in our day to day business?

I believe there is much we can learn from sport, but in particular sport of rowing.  I hope that the strategies for ‘Lasting the Distance’ described above have stimulated your thoughts on what you could be doing differently in your business to help your organisation last the distance.

Finally, not only does a rower know and acknowledges that pain is part and parcel of racing, but they also know that the better one is able to manage and cope with the pain the more likely one will last the distance. For those organisations going through pain right now I recommend the following:

  1. Focus very specifically on the next ten strokes (short period of time).
  2. Plan when and how you will expect the collective ‘push’
  3. Judge effort by the evidence and not how it feels.
  4. Expect a highly disciplined approach to work in every aspect of work.
  5. Establish and articulate a clear plan to manage the pressures.
  6. Make everyone feel accountable with visible performance measures.

Great rowers are physiological freaks; but, that quality is minimal compared to their psyche and to their ability to essentially experience pain – and experience discomfort – and yet be able to do the work knowing that it’s going to continue.

— Fritz Hagerman, Sports Physiologist

Gregory Bayne is one of the Directors of Total Leader and Coach Solutions Australia.  Greg works with senior and executive leaders assisting them to make shifts in the way they work, the way they think and the way they live their lives to become better leaders, colleagues and team members. Greg has a particular focus on assisting leaders create a culture or accountability and high performance. His expertise and knowledge is around building and developing a culture of accountability, leading high performing teams, and getting the most out of people to deliver the highest standards of work. We cultivate sustainable behavioural change in individuals, teams and organisations to drive a performance culture.