A herd or a crash?

A herd or a crash?

When you go on an African safari you cross your fingers and hope to see ‘The Big Five’: buffalo, leopard, elephant, lion and rhino.

These days you’d be very lucky to spot a rhino as they’re increasingly rare. However, that is not the case at Ivy House, where all our Alumni consider themselves rhinos. So, what do we mean by this?

Believe me – when we call someone a rhino it is definitely a compliment! The Ownership Ladder demonstrates why:

The cows at the bottom of this ladder follow the herd and stand around waiting to be milked, chewing the cud together, blaming others and making excuses for how life has turned out. Cows think that life happens to them.

The rhinos at the top acknowledge reality, own the situation, find solutions and make things happen. They believe that life happens because of them.

There are three traits of the Ivy House rhino to look out for:

1. 100% ownership

Ivy House rhinos take complete responsibility for their life and how it turns out – ownership for their vision, ownership for their plan, ownership for their behaviour. They know they have choices about how they respond to every event and that those choices create the quality of their life.

As all rhinos know, event + behaviour = result.

2. Courageous learner

Ivy House rhinos are courageous learners. This means they fail forward and fail fast, quickly applying what they learn to the next situation. They have the courage to look at the raw facts, seeking out external feedback and acting on it to improve. Their inner voice is set to self-coach mode, not self-judge and they know one of the most courageous things anyone can do is be vulnerable.    

3. Making things happen

Ivy House rhinos don’t wait for things happen; they make things happen. They develop the skills they need to pitch themselves and seek out opportunities, be that a mentor, an internship, a secondment, a trial, a chance. They charge after their goals.

Who would you prefer in your organisation? A herd of cows or a crash of rhinos? (and yes, I did have to google the collective noun!)

If you’re interested to learn more about Rhinos v. Cows check out this book – Rhinoceros Success by Scott Alexander

Changing futures: A story about confidence

Changing futures: A story about confidence

This story shows that having the confidence to step up could change your future.

Farnborough Hill shared with us this anecdote about Bella, one of their students, who is currently taking The Ivy House Award.

Bella works in a clothes shop at the weekends and a customer approached the till for a refund. Having only been there for a month, she was about to default to the ‘hang on, I’ll get someone more experienced’ spiel, but stopped herself and thought ‘no, I have been shown how to do this, I just need to try; it doesn’t matter if I get it wrong because I’ll learn from it.’ So she explained to the customer that it might take her a few minutes, but she was happy to give it a go. They then got chatting about Bella and her aspirations (to study medicine) and it transpired that the customer is a Department Head at a big hospital. Bella took her contact details and has been in touch with her; they hope to arrange work experience for the summer, which will be a huge help to Bella’s university applications.

Bella totally credited this experience to what she has learned so far by taking the award.

The moral of the story?

You can’t predict what situation could turn out to be an opportunity.

But, we can be leaders of our own lives.

The Ivy House Award develops ownership, initiative, resilience, confidence and self-leadership for sixth formers – which impacts the confidence they have in themselves and the choices they make.

If you’re going to network, for goodness sake do it well

If you’re going to network, for goodness sake do it well

Networking has a bad name. We all ‘know’ we should do it but, most of us would happily choose Netflix and a glass of wine instead. The issue, as Meg Jay points out in her book The Defining Decade, is that 74% of jobs come through, what she calls, weak ties – people you sort of know but don’t really, friends of friends, your boss’s wife.

The fact is networking is a brilliant way of progressing anything you are working on. Anything. So, my advice? If you are going to do it, do it well. I know that sounds stupid but, having worked with thousands of people, it is incredible the number who do it because they think they should BUT don’t put the effort into doing it well. If that is you, and the time has come to do more than just show up and shuffle around avoiding eye contact, try these three things.

Be a giver. Most people hate networking because they hate asking for things. The answer is to be a giver. How can you help the person you are connecting with? An introduction, a book or a hotel recommendation, some advice or just to listen to them as they talk through a problem. The minute you make it about them, and not about you, the whole energy of the interaction changes. Givers listen, they ask genuine questions and they share things about themselves. Who they really are, their passions and their dreams. When we connect in this way it is far easier to ask for something at a later date if they haven’t already offered it.

Be ‘re’markable. And by this I mean be worthy of ‘re’ mark. The aim of networking is to be memorable. So memorable in fact, that someone remembers you a few weeks later, when they are talking to someone that could help you. So, work on your pitch. If you could only share three things about you – three things that someone could remember – what would they be? Again, don’t be confined to work things. One of the best pitches I ever heard was by a wonderful woman called Hannah Stenton who, amongst other things, told me she had a gold-medal-winning flock of sheep. I have never forgotten that or her. So, take the time to find your remarkable, and then be really clear on how you want to direct their thinking. Tell them what you are focused on right now and inevitably they will think about how they could help you.

Be consistent. Firstly, the obvious bit: if you promise something then do it by the time you said you would. Secondly, networking isn’t always about face-to-face events. Technology has made it so much easier; investing just 10 mins a day could change your life. Use LinkedIn and use it properly – send personal messages to people you meet and with shared interests. Use email, text, WhatsApp to stay in touch with people you met at work, on courses, on a weekend away. It doesn’t have to be often, but it does have to be personal. Read an article and share it with people you know that would like it. Share pictures, stories, updates, anything that for a few seconds puts you in their head. And, every so often you will get a message back that says ‘funnily enough I was talking about you the other day, I think you should meet X – they are looking for someone just like you…’ and all of a sudden that 10 mins a becomes a brilliant new opportunity.

Being able to build genuine relationships and connections is just one of the skills that can help you live an extraordinary life and become an extraordinary leader.

Our programmes do just that.

Dear skills gap: We’re on to you

Dear skills gap: We’re on to you

Traditionally, technical skills have been the backbone of the HR process.

Developers need to know how to code. Accountants must be certified. Electricians need to know their earth from their live wire. Without those skills you’re on a path to failure. These have become the ‘essential skills’ that employers look for and the tick boxes that get students through the education system.

However, overwhelmingly, emerging talent consider soft skills to be contributing most significantly to the skills deficit within organisations.

We conducted research with 500 high potentials across a range of sectors to find out what skills have had the biggest impact on them and their organisation.

This research shows a stark contrast between those methods of training / development that emerging talent believe to be most impactful and those that are currently being prioritised by organisations. Therefore, in order to truly deliver a talent development strategy that is fit for purpose, the approach has to change.

The proliferation of Industry 4.0 technologies will only exacerbate this further. The innately human or soft skills of leadership, creativity, empathy, problem solving and communication will undoubtedly become more important than ever, as we require people to make the complex human decisions that robots can’t. Therefore developing soft skills will be a key part of future-proofing the capabilities of workforces – but to really master these, osmosis is simply not enough. To really effectively develop these skills we need a significant shake-up of the talent development strategies most organisations are currently delivering.

The time has come to recognise the importance of soft skills. By virtue of their name, soft skills have become a rather poor relation of hard skills. In reality, these are ‘transformational life skills’ – but it’s not just about the label we give them. The skills we need for our businesses to work are the same as we need for our lives to work. And when we make development about the whole person, they engage 100%. And, that is what we need.

Get in touch to start a conversation about support your future leaders, emerging talent or sixth formers.

More focus on character, please

More focus on character, please

If we believe the purpose of education is to prepare pupils to thrive in the future, then we have to develop skills that will enable them to do that. We need to give them the time and tools to discover which direction is right for them and the ability to learn and adapt from their experiences. This means developing the skill of building meaningful, trust-based relationships, the skill of effective conversations, of proactive wellbeing, of managing their minds and the essential skill of taking 100% ownership for who they are, the decisions they make and the behaviour they choose.

For me, developing character is a three-part process. Firstly, we need to give students the time and tools to discover their unique character, who they are and how they can play to their strengths. Then we need to give students the skills that will enable them to take that character into the world and thrive. Finally, we give them the opportunity to practice these skills in a safe environment.

Traditionally, the approach has been to jump straight to the third stage by getting kids involved in lots of different activities and hope / assume that they will learn something positive about themselves.

This is a hit miss approach and has as much chance of teaching them bad habits as good.

Forward-thinking schools are now taking a different approach – taking time in the curriculum, using expert content and tools, and only engaging teachers who are genuinely interesting in human potential and learning themselves. If a school is genuinely committed to character development, they need to take it seriously.

I’ve spent the last 20 years running one of the leading executive development businesses in Europe. I spent my days sitting in board rooms and, while I sat there, one thing kept bugging me. Why are these life-changing skills only given to those who’ve already reached the pinnacle of their careers? Why aren’t we giving them to younger people – at a time when it could make a real difference, not only to the leaders they become, but to the lives they create?

I realised that if we were going to give our young people the best opportunity to thrive then this had to change, so I created Ivy House.

We have taken the core learning from our transformative, future leaders programme and put it into a programme for sixth formers. A flexible progammes of 20 modules, it gives teachers the expert content and professional tools they need to facilitate this kind of learning in their school.

Developing ownership, initiative, resilience, confidence and self-leadership, The Award bridges the gap between education and work, equipping students with the knowledge and skills to enable them to thrive, whatever their chosen path.

The Award is running in a number of schools including Canford, Eton, Brighton College, Charterhouse, Downe House, Cranleigh and City of London – and, following huge success we have just released another 5,000 student places for 2020-2021.

Want to find out more about The Award? Have a read of our brochure and give us a call.

What type of people are we trying to ensure leave our schools?

What type of people are we trying to ensure leave our schools?

Jay Lockwood decided to open his own school in 2014 after realising how unfit the curriculum was for many young people. He shares his journey here.

Upon leaving University, I joined a scheme called TeachFirst – a new programme aimed at putting talented graduates into some of the toughest schools in London. The aim was to attract people into the profession, and it wooed me with the aim of doing a couple of years and then working for one of their many corporate sponsors and going to make my millions. To be completely transparent I had little interest in helping others, it was simply an interesting way to start my career.

My first school was based in Hayes, a grey and not so shiny example  of London’s urban sprawl. At the time, 1 in 10 of the GCSE examinations sat scored a C or higher and a police officer was stationed full time on site. This was my first experience of how different education can be across our supposedly developed nation. I remember teaching my first year 10 history lesson, trying to explain my academic career to date and how much I knew. I was greeted with rhythmic chants of posh boy, posh boy and other, more unrepeatable abuse. If you have to google an insult you know you are out of your depth. I also soon met Terry. Grandson of a famous gang leader who used to rival the Krays, as Terry’s new form tutor I wandered by him sat outside the Head’s office:

“Terry is everything alright” 

“ Sir I have been accused of smoking on the school roof”

“Well were you…”

“It depends sir”

“Depends on what Terry?”

“Sir, does the Headmaster have CCTV on the school roof”

“No Terry”

“Sir, can the Headmaster take fingerprints or DNA samples from the school roof?”

“Errr… no Terry”

Nodding.

“ Sir…I can now confirm that I was not on the school roof”.

It was a mad place. A mix of white working-class families and intergenerational worklessness causing lower aspirations than you can imagine and an immigrant population who reflected global issues at the time – from war refugees to child soldiers, Hayes had it.

What struck me was how unfit the curriculum was for so many in the school. What were we building towards? What type of young people are we trying to ensure leave our schools?  I was acutely aware of the political short termism and the failure to overhaul the curriculum so that students can develop skills for the future economy – something a community such as Hayes needs so badly.

Indeed a recent study suggested that those entering the post-2020 economy will most likely have at least five careers, with employers wanting to recruit those with creativity, complex problem solving skills and emotional intelligence. And yet our education system remains focused on more 1970-esque content and rote learning of facts and quotations. There is simply not enough join up between our education strategy and economic planning – today in Europe there are 1 million jobs in the computing industries unfilled, and conservative estimates suggest that our digital deficiencies cost the UK economy £70bn a year. We are simply not training people properly.

It is with this in mind that in 2014 I decided to open my own school under the Government’s free school programme. A rioja induced brainwave quickly became reality and the Conservative government approved the opening of Logic Studio School, which opened its doors in 2016. We are a school based in Feltham, for 14-19 year olds. Our focus is giving our young people what they need for the future – qualifications, skills and confidence. Every GCSE student studies Computer Science and digital design, at post-16 we have no lessons on Wednesdays – students are on a range of internships, visits or studying industry exams in accounting or cyber-security and networking.

It has been a brilliant four years, designing a school from the ground up; building a community with a strong and authentic ethos that gives students the chance to build confidence and learn when they fail. A school that gives young people so many opportunities that they are able find what their passion is. A school that asks young people to take responsibility at an early age.

Feltham, where we are based, is one of London’s most deprived areas.  2% of our parents have been to higher education, if they do work, many work in low skilled jobs. I recently went to a new Amazon factory in London and it was striking to see how few people were employed. it was a mini city of machine and computer. So what for these already struggling communities like Feltham, like Hayes, Walsall, Hull? What happens to the 45,000 uber drivers in London alone once the driverless car arrives?

We keep making the same mistakes – the closure of the mines in the 70s might have been financially prudent but the lack of planning for the economically displaced and otherwise unskilled communities was a national disgrace.  As we sleep walk into the artificial intelligence and digital revolution I fear the forthcoming economic displacement will be much, much worse. We are still too focused on political short termism and cheap point scoring. Listening to PMQs is embarrassing. Maybe a dictatorship with a friendly face is what is needed – over to you Boris.

I would like to finish with a bit of advice to the incredibly talented young men and women in education across the UK.  You have an unbelievable number of opportunities to develop your emotional skills, interact with teammates, lead on and off the sports field, opportunities to hone your creativity. These are the skills the future is demanding so do not take these opportunities for granted. Get involved, try everything and enjoy it. Continue to academically excel but realise that this is only the start. Grades on a piece of paper will get you so far but there is so much more to it than that.

Modern life is about people skills, modern life is about character and modern life is about leadership. Make sure you are developing yourself for the modern world.  And when the time is right, go out there and be brave. innovate. be creative and stand up for what you think is right. Go and be brilliant, whatever that looks like for you.

We’re with Jay on this one. The Ivy House Award is all about giving students the time and space to consider who they want to be, learn the skills to make it happen and become the leaders of their lives.

Five things you need to know about the apprenticeship levy

Five things you need to know about the apprenticeship levy

Who pays into the apprenticeship levy?

If you’re an employer who pays over £3 million in wages each year you need to pay 0.5% of your total pay bill into the apprenticeship levy set up by the government.

Does the government also pay into the levy?

No. This is an employer-funded initiative and that’s why employers are able to determine how they spend their funds. Unspent funds will be surrendered to the government after 24 months and those funds are distributed to non-levy paying employers as part of the 95% co-investment.

If my company isn’t eligible to pay into the levy, can I still access the funds?

Even if you don’t pay into the levy because your pay bill is below £3 million, you can still receive support with your apprenticeship training. The government will pay 95% of the costs, leaving only 5% left for you to pay. You can also partner with a larger levy-paying company that can donate unspent funds to you to use. They can donate up to 14% of their full levy pot.

What can the apprenticeship levy be used for?

Your funding can only be spent on the cost of training apprentices. It cannot be used to pay apprentices’ wages or any associated travel or set up costs for the training.  

As long as the apprenticeship training is delivered by an approved apprenticeship training provider, employers are free to identify the skills that are needed within their organisation and can choose the standards that employees need to meet in order to do their job effectively.

What if my levy funds don’t cover the total cost of the apprenticeship training I’ve chosen?

Payments for your chosen apprenticeship training will be taken on a monthly basis from your Digital Apprenticeship Service account and sent to your provider.

If you don’t have enough funds in your account to pay for training in a particular month, the government will ask you to share the remaining cost of training and assessing your apprentices for that month. The government will pay 95% of the shortfall, and you will pay the remaining 5%.

Bonus fact: Using the levy to invest in current employees to broaden your talent pool is just as valid as taking on a new apprentice to fulfil a specific role.

Ivy House has partnered with The Opportunity Group, a registered apprenticeship training provider and talent consultancy, to create a programme that not only delivers life-changing development to your emerging talent and future leaders, but is also aligned with the apprenticeship standard.

If you want to chat about using your levy funding to transform your emerging talent, get in touch today.

Apprenticeships are employer-led, not opinion-led

Apprenticeships are employer-led, not opinion-led

Learning is a lifelong process. We shouldn’t be discounting people who have already started their career from becoming an apprentice just because they don’t fit into the commonly accepted view of what apprentices are.

There appears to be a misconception around apprenticeships, and specifically what an employer’s apprenticeship levy can be spent on, which has been reinforced by the recent EDSK report released on apprenticeships. Traditionally, apprenticeships were a way of entering work by learning a set of vocational or technical skills for a specific role. This often conjures up images of school leavers taking an alternative route to that of a university graduate.

This is a valid view point. We need to give young people all the options to kick-start their career and support them with identifying the best possible route to entry. But let’s not forget about the large pool of people who are already employed but haven’t yet developed the behavioural traits or technical skills to progress and be successful. We already know there is a skills gap within organisations which isn’t just affecting talent acquisition; what do we do with an existing workforce that has not previously had the investment to develop future leaders?

The Institute for Apprenticeships reminds us that apprenticeships are employer-led. Employers identify the skills that are needed within their organisation, now and for the future, and can choose the standards that employees need to meet in order to do their job effectively. The apprenticeship levy puts the employer in the driving seat, allowing them to choose the training that is going to be most effective for their organisation. Using the levy to invest in current employees to broaden their talent pool is just as valid as taking on a new apprentice to fulfil a specific role. This shouldn’t be dictated by an arbitrary definition of apprenticeships.

We need to encourage organisations to invest in training that will have the biggest impact on their business and right now, life skills are sorely missing from all points of the learning journey. This can be attributed to an idea that leaders are born rather than developed; there is a misconception that people will pick up life skills along the way. If you follow that train of thought, only those who have made it to senior executive level will be fully equipped with these essential skills, assuming that all we need is time. This totally ignores the talented, driven people who could become extraordinary leaders at any level of the business.  

What if we could offer life and business-changing learning at a time where it can make a difference now rather than simply waiting for these skills to be developed?

Even better, what if employers could give use the apprenticeship levy to provide this training?

Ivy House has partnered with The Opportunity Group, a registered apprenticeship training provider and talent consultancy, to create a programme that not only delivers life-changing development to your emerging talent and future leaders, but is also aligned with the apprenticeship standard. The Master Programme is a 12-month early career programme that is almost wholly funded by the levy.

At the core of the programme are five intensive, experiential masterclasses. Every delegate is supported with five hours of 1-1 executive coaching to give them the kind of input they would never typically have at this stage in their career. The masterclasses are supported by a suite of e-learning modules and monthly workplace assessments to track and support their progress and meet the requirements of the Government.

The latest figures show that only 22% of levy paying organisations have utilised their apprenticeship levy contributions. If you want to chat about using your levy funding to transform your emerging talent, get in touch today.

To push or not to push?

To push or not to push?

‘How will you push my daughter?’. This is a question Alex Neil, Head Teacher of Farnborough Hill, is often asked. But is ‘push’ the right word to describe the education journey? Alex shares her take on this.

I understand where parents are coming from; they want their daughter to achieve all that she can, but the use of the word ‘push’ worries me. It implies we have to chivvy the girls along, that they are passive in their learning and it is up to us to force them to achieve. I would like to give all children much more credit than that. I believe the girls want to learn, they have high aspirations – just ask any 10 year old what they would like to be; it is up to us to inspire, encourage and celebrate their unique gifts and talents, however they manifest themselves.

No two girls who have ever entered, or whoever will enter, Farnborough Hill are the same. One will be a musical maestro, another an awesome spin bowler and a third a mathematical genius. One may be the quietest and most unassuming in class but tread the boards with aplomb and flair in a way not seen since Judy Garland. Another might be a combination of all talents listed. It is up to us as the teachers and educators to work with each pupil to discover her passion and drive – to find her element – and to use that as a tool to encourage. We must present the pupils with the opportunities to achieve; we need to inspire the girls through outstanding teaching and learning methods.

When we know what drives a pupil, when we know they are in their element, then we do not have to ‘push’. Achievement will come; they will feel inspired not only by themselves but by those achieving around them.


Supporting students with finding their element and playing to their strengths is a key part of The Ivy House Award. Farnborough Hill sixth form students have been participating in The Award over the last term, developing their self-leadership skills to give them the edge in a competitive world.

Download our brochure to understand more about how The Award could benefit your pupils.

A three-pronged approach to leadership

A three-pronged approach to leadership

Leadership is idiosyncratic; no two leaders are exactly the same, and nor should they be.

When we teach people a series of leadership skills and techniques and ask them to get on with it, it’s really down to luck as to whether it’s a happy match or not. If we want to develop exceptional, authentic leaders, we must first connect them with what they have to bring to the leadership space.

To do this requires a three-pronged approach:

  1. Self-knowledge

Deep self-knowledge allows us to show up and lead from an authentic place. It is the process of understanding ourselves deeply. To know what strengthens us, where our purpose lies and what our values system is. To be familiar with our thinking and behavioural patterns and the impact they have. The odd psychometric test and team building day doesn’t begin to cover it.

2. Self-empowerment

There are some core skills, essential to everyone, that make a game-changing difference to the results we achieve. They are not tips and techniques – they are fundamental skills that are core to how we relate to ourselves and others. They govern how we build trust-based relationships, create teams, have authentic presence, master dialogue and stay well. It is this expertise that enables us to bring our full authentic selves to the leadership space.

3. Self-mastery

A practice of self-mastery means recognising that we are wholly responsible for how we show up in the world. It is a commitment to lifelong learning with the understanding that there is always room for growth. Without this pivotal practice, all development risks being transitory, and the only direction we’ll ever be going is backwards.

Whether we are leading ourselves, a global corporation or a movement to create meaningful social change, these three principles are the foundation from which we can grow to be our full authentic selves.

Do you have brilliant, determined and talented people within your organisation? Help them become extraordinary leaders with the Ivy House Corporate Programmes.