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How to set your people up for success

Posted by: sabine-robinson

Bite-sized conversations - Realising Potential

Unlocking Success: The Head, Heart, and Briefcase Approach

In this latest episode of the ‘Bite-sized conversations – What makes people tick?‘ at Realising Potential, Fiona Brookwell and Michael Jones use the head, heart and briefcase framework to explore how to set your people up for success.

The whole person turns up at work, and they bring their briefcase of experience, their attitudes and values and their motivational needs and drives.

The Briefcase: Knowledge, Skills, and Experience

The briefcase comprises our knowledge, skills, and experience, i.e. the tangible assets we build on and carry with us throughout our careers. When we first start out, fresh from school or university, our briefcase is relatively empty. Over time, as we gain experience and knowledge along our career path, it becomes heavier.

The Heart: Attitudes and Values

Beyond the briefcase, the heart is an important component of what shapes an individual. This represents our attitudes, values, and cultural fit within an organisation. Understanding our own values and ensuring they align with our workplace can significantly impact our job satisfaction and effectiveness.

The Head: Cognitive Abilities and Behavioural Drives

The final piece of the puzzle is the head, which encompasses our cognitive abilities and behavioural drives. Most of our behavioural traits and cognitive abilities are relatively stable by the time we reach adulthood. Recognising and understand these traits in ourselves and others can help create environments that foster success by aligning tasks and roles with natural inclinations and strengths.

The Right Environment: A Key to Success

As all these factors come to play in how a person conducts themselves at work, being aligned with the demands of their environment is crucial to set a person up for success. A mismatch between a person’s drives and their surroundings can lead to underperformance and frustration. Conversely, when individuals are placed in roles that align with their behavioural traits and motivations, they can thrive.


By understanding and aligning our cognitive abilities, motivational drives, attitudes, and experience with the right environment, we can set ourselves and others up for greater success. This holistic perspective not only enhances individual performance but also contributes to more effective and harmonious workplaces.

Click here to listen to the entire episode on ‘How to set your people up for success’.

At RPX2 Ltd, we are passionate about helping people and companies realise their potential. To explore more about the services discussed in the episode, please visit


If you prefer to read a transcript, here is a summary of the conversation:

Neale James: Here’s what’s on today’s edition of Realising Potential with Fiona Brookwell and Michael Jones.

Fiona Brookwell: So, we all have a briefcase. Well, of course, when we’re straight out of school, college, university, young graduates, a briefcase is pretty light. There’s nothing in there. There’s not a lot in there. So, we have to use other muscles to get ourselves on the job ladder.

When we get older, a few grey hairs, our briefcase is a lot heavier.

Michael Jones: A lot of your behavioural orientation, it just comes as part of the package when you’re born.

Fiona Brookwell: Yeah. Yeah. But how much exact science around how much of your behavioural drives you’re born with and how much is part of the natural process, there isn’t any an exact answer that comes from there.

Different people have different muscles that they use to be successful, and Michael often talks about them being their superpowers.

Neale James: Fiona, how do we set people up for success? Is it about environment?

It’s a big question. Environment has a huge part to play in people being successful. When Michael and I are dealing with clients, and when we talk about understanding behaviour, and we are teaching people on aspects of behavioural drives, we don’t just focus in on behaviour because different people have different muscles that they use.

To be successful, and Michael often talks about them being their superpowers, we like to sort of break it down into what we call the head, the heart and the briefcase. And the piece that most people are most comfortable with usually, and understand easiest, especially in business, is what’s in somebody’s briefcase, their knowledge, skills, and experience.

What’s in their CV, what’s in their resume, the list of what they’ve done in their career. So, we understand what’s in the briefcase. And we often put people through tests and exercises to check are they technically qualified to do what we need and want them to do. And what we have in our briefcase changes over time and can change quite quickly.

So, you can go on a training course, and you learn something new and add it to your toolkit, add it to your briefcase. So, we all have a briefcase. Well, of course, when we’re straight out of school, college, university, young graduates, our briefcase is pretty light. There’s nothing in there. There’s not a lot in there.

So, we have to use other muscles to get ourselves on the job ladder. When we get older, a few grey hairs, our briefcase is a lot heavier, and there’s a lot more reliance on that potentially a success comes from knowledge, skills and experience or a batch of that. So, that’s one aspect.

Then there’s the piece that we call the heart, and the heart piece is around attitudes and values and cultural fits and whether people are honest or dishonest, for example, and that’s a bit of a slower pace.

Um, and that changes over time. It tends not to change as quickly. Again, as we get more mature and more experienced, we tend to become a bit more cemented in what our attitudes and values are, or the culture that would work for us – what I might call a non-negotiables.

Michal Jones: Life does stuff to us. You know, sometimes major life events can have a significant shift in our own internal value systems, and it doesn’t necessarily change who we are, but it might change how we see the world and influences. So much of why we do what we do.

Fiona Brookwell: Yep. Absolutely. Absolutely. And then, we come to the head piece. And the reason why Michael and I talk about, about being in the head is because this is a piece where you might use behavioural science to check out cognitive ability, to get this information. And the reason it sits in the head because there’s a stability factor that sits around it.

So, science would suggest that how quickly we learn, our cognitive ability, how sharp we are and what drives us and motivates us is pretty much cemented by the time we’re about 18 to 20 years of age. Of course, that, you know, it’s not completely cemented 100%.

Of course, there’s life’s rich experience that comes along, but you know, if you were an impatient child, then chances are you’re going to be an impatient adult. If you’re a conscientious child, chances are you’ll be a conscientious adult.

Michael Jones: A lot of your behavioural orientation, it just comes as part of a package when you’re born.

Fiona Brookwell: Yeah, absolutely. But how much exact science around how much of your behavioural drives you’re born with and how much is part of the natural process, there isn’t any an exact answer that comes from there.

But I’ll guarantee you, if you have a young child and you go to parent’s evening, and you get told, you know, your child is doing great, however they talk too much. And if they’d only talk less and focus more in class, then I’ll put money on the fact that that child is more driven from a social need perspective and is probably more extravert.

If you have a child and they turn around and say, Child is doing great, but I wish they would speak up more because when they do speak, they’ve got some great things to say, but they need to contribute more in class. Chances are you’re dealing with a child who’s more introspective and is somebody who needs to think first and talk second.

This manifests itself in adulthood. Of course, when you are dealing in business, again, it always comes back to context. Um, because when you’re in a business scenario, having a balance between all three areas can be pretty important. Whereas if you’re dealing with it in a professional sports scenario, then you would use the information in a different way.

So, for example, if I am a sales manager for one of your major competitors, and I’ve been hugely successful, my CV tells you that. So, my briefcase is really weighty and I’m perfect for the job. You’ve interviewed me, and values wise, we seem to fit and that’s amazing. You therefore employ me in your organisation as your sales manager.

Six months into the job, I haven’t achieved the targets. And you’re questioning, why is that? And that is around, why was I successful in my previous organisation? Because they used to, for example, feed me leads and it was a very consultative environment and there was a very strong CRM system, so everything was processed and managed and followed up and, and I was happy to follow the rules and the process and happy to take the instruction.

And that’s why I was hugely successful. But you’ve hired me into your environment, and you’ve changed the context because you weren’t looking for a consultative salesperson. You were looking for an assertive salesperson who goes out and hunts the business.

There are no leads. There isn’t a CRM system. There is no process to help you follow up on things. So, you take the same person with the same skills, knowledge skills and experience, who’s motivated by working in one way, and you put them into an environment that asks them to operate in the opposite way, and it doesn’t work.

And, and this is where we can take top talent and often promote them into their first level of incompetence. Not because the person’s changed, but because the environment, and the demands of the behavioural often, the demands of the environment changed significantly.

When you’re talking about professional sport, it actually comes from a different angle because in professional sport, about what drives and motivates me comes a little bit, doesn’t necessarily come further down the pecking order, but might come later in the sequence of events. Because in professional sport, if I have the raw talent for that sport, and I am physically fit enough, a club will pay lots and lots of money for me.

What they then might do is actually check out what motivates and drives me, so that they can actually pass that information on to the coaches.  So therefore, you know, you need to understand, am I somebody that gets bored with routine and repetition? Or actually, do I need routine and repetition? Because that could make a huge difference in how you actually structure my training program.

Am I happy to take instruction? Or do I like to lead my own agenda? Do you ask me what my thoughts are on what I should do within my training environment? Or am I happy just to be told what to do in that training environment? And that’s where the demands of the environment can make a huge difference.

And if you take somebody with raw talent and manage and motivate them in a way that is opposite to what they need, it’s not going to work. And if you, if you have a disconnect in any of those areas, that could be a reason why you either fire someone from a job or they leave after a period of time. Because you know, technically I might be qualified, attitudes and values are great, but you’re asking me to take risk every day and I’m fearful of risk. Therefore, that job is going to stress me out.

Or I like lots of autonomy and you just want me to follow the rules. Or I might be the right behavioural fit and cognitive fit, but actually the person you’ve hired is dishonest. You didn’t know that before you hired them, but you find out when you hire them. That could be a reason why they leave.

So, understanding people is not easy. It’s complex. And you, if you’re not paying due consideration to – as I say, Michael and I split it into the head, the heart and the briefcase – if you’re not putting the right weight on each of these three areas, then you’re not understanding who your people are, and therefore you’re not able to set them up for success.

I’ll just give you a little story, maybe just to illustrate. A client of mine who I’d been working with for quite a number of years. I went in to do some refresher training with them on a previous topic. And one of the HR people said, I’m sorry, I’m just going to be a few minutes late to your session because I just need to go and deal with this disciplinary situation.

I said, ‘Oh, that’s a shame’, I said, ‘what’s going on?’ And she said, ‘Oh’, she said, ‘it’s this young lad and he’s a great lad. And, and, you know, his CV was great, but, you know, we’ve already given him a couple of warnings and he always turns up late and he’s never at his desk doing his work. He’s always off chatting somewhere and you know, his sickness record is going up. We’ve warned him if he doesn’t pull his socks up, then he’s going to lose his job. And this is his final warning.’

‘And so, that’s a bit a bit strange,’ I said. ‘Do you understand his behavioural drives? Do you understand what motivates them?’ And they have a tool and a system to help them to help them do that.

And she said, ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘I haven’t looked at that.’ I said, ‘Could we have a quick look at it?’ And she pulled out his behavioural profile. And this was somebody that was employed in an administrative job doing, sitting quietly on their own in front of a computer screen, without a lot of social contact. Doing routine and repetitive detailed work is what the job was that he was actually employed to do.

When we understood his behavioural drives, this was somebody that actually had their own views and ideas on things, highly socially orientated, very driven and impatient, with a lot lower than average need for roles and structure, so lower than average attention to detail and process. So, practically the opposite to what they actually needed in the job from a behavioural standpoint.

And, and I suggest, ‘Why have you got this person in this administrative job?’ And they said, ‘Well, because his CV is administrative work, and he applied for the job’.  I said, ‘Yeah, but you look at what drives and motivates him. This is a classic profile of somebody that should be in sales or customer service or training or coaching or facilitating or… It’s complete opposites.’

‘And oh gosh, yes, we didn’t realise that before.’  And I said, ‘Well, what you’re asking him to do is, you’re asking him to do work and be excited by work that’s the complete opposite of what he needs. So, you can warn him all you like, but you’re unlikely to get a different result.’ And they said, ‘Well, what do you suggest?’

I said, ‘Well, to be honest with you, you’re a sales organisation.’  I said, ‘I suggest you take him out of the administrative job. You train him in sales. And you see where it goes.’

So, they sat him down and had a conversation and said, ‘Look, you know, you’re still not paying attention to detail and your sickness record’s going up and you’re never at your desk and we’re getting fed up with you. You have an option. We’re either going to give you a final warning, and if you don’t buck up, we’re going to fire you or we’re going to take you out of that job, and we’re going to train you in sales.’  And initially this young lad said, ‘But I know nothing about sales and never thought about sales and I don’t know what to do.’

And they said, ‘Well, it’s your choice. You either stay where you are and do what we need or we fire you or you train in sales.’  And he said, ‘Okay, fine, let me train in sales.’  So, they trained him in sales, and within six months, this young lad became one of their top salespeople. So, that’s a classic example of same person, create right environment that in this instance didn’t fit with his briefcase, what was in his knowledge, skills and experience. Attitudes and values were the exact same but they gave him the right environment that suited what drove and what motivated him, and he was one of the top salespeople within six months.

Realising Potential with Fiona Brookwell and Michael Jones.  For more information about our services and organisation, visit