High Performance Thinking


Leading questions ... how does an innovative approach to training programmes transform staff and organisations?

What do you get when you take two top leadership coaches and a sports psychologist who really want to make a difference? The answer is Zentano - a Worcester and Gloucester-based leadership training consultancy that uses cutting-edge behavioural and neuro-science research to empower people and help businesses thrive and grow.

Zentano is the brainchild of Dave Morris, who first created the brand when he was working as an independent coach, facilitator and leadership trainer. "But it needed more than one person to take it in the right direction," explains Dave. 

When friend and fellow leadership coach, Rich Horton, went self-employed three and a half years ago the pair had conversations about how they could work together. In September 2016, they merged their businesses. Later the same year they brought sports psychologist Andy Flack on board, and the Zentano vision was born. 

Power of the mind - why better thinking is the real driver of high performance...

"One of the things we wanted to do was take leadership development in in a more progressive direction," explains Dave. "I think we all recognised that what's out there isn't necessarily doing the job it's meant to do, it doesn't transform behaviour."

Henry Ford famously said, "Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can't, you're right". And it's no revelation that true and lasting behavioural change is challenging. "You've got to get down to the mind-set level," says Dave. "We can teach new knowledge and skills but that alone doesn't usually take people where they want to be - you've got to work on mind-set to drive the behaviour."

"It's really about getting down to how people think, the psychology of what it means to be human," explains Rich. "If people can understand how their thinking is a barrier to how they perform, then you can get to the root cause of the performance issues as opposed to dealing with the superficial behavioural stuff."

"We also recognise that to be successful you either need to change habits or adopt new ones. And of course, it's something people find difficult. Again, it's mind-set driven," says Dave.

Channelling emotional intelligence

It's not about the dizzying amount of charisma you exude; with the Zentano approach, the most notable qualities of remarkable leaders revolve around their emotional intelligence.

"Successful leaders are those who understand how to manage their emotional responses to situations, they're more resilient, they understand how to influence people and build relationships in an effective way," says Rich.

"If you look at the challenges that our society and culture present to leaders, people normally look up to people who have emotional intelligence."

How neuroscience and strong ethical values play a key role in leadership training... 

Keeping abreast of neuroscience and working out how new thinking can feed into their work is something the Zentano team do naturally.

"We know there's an awful lot that isn't known about the brain. What we are doing is taking things like emotional intelligence, which have been known about a long time, and blending it with progressions in neuroscience - to create a different way of looking at leadership development," explains Dave.

"There are shocking levels of stress, anxiety and depression in the workplace - some of that is lifestyle driven, and some is due to bad leadership. Our progressive leadership programme aims to pull together four key strands: inside-out leadership, curiosity-led leadership, intelligent leadership and servant leadership.

"There's not anything in there groundbreakingly new in our programmes but it's about the way we weave it together with neuroscience elements and our focus on compassion, empathy and humility - these are rare focal points for a leadership programme but we believe they are essential," says Dave.

Following the leader…

Zentano's hero product is its 12-month high performance development programme, which aims to produce people who can adopt the four Zentano leadership strands as their leadership model.

"There are so many leaders we come across. When you think of the good leaders we've had and the ones that have not been so good, take the servant element of leadership for example, who wouldn't want a leader that puts their ego away and puts you first?" says Rich.

"There's a strength in core values of empathy, compassion and humility that people don't associate with business," says Dave. "There's a real disconnect sometimes between what people in businesses want and what leadership and management style the business delivers."

And fine-tuning leadership and performance skills also has a tangible impact on the bottom line.

"You have more engaged employees doing more work, less people going off sick. There are several metrics that can be measurably improved with better leadership," explains Rich.

"Talent retention and staff turnover are also affected," he adds. "The number of people I coach that are so stressed out they want to walk away. The cost of someone walking out of your organisation and you having to recruit and getting someone else in is a huge cost to the organisation.

Andy Flack continued "I've worked therapeutically with high level employees who have had burnout. They can be off work for six months or so which is expensive. The level that they're working at, someone's got to cover for them and it's hard to find someone who can fit into their role.

"The idea that you can squeeze everyone as tight as possible and then throw them out is not sustainable," says Andy.

Small training groups yield maximum impact

The Zentano team see their leadership programme as a prolonged partnership, with individuals and businesses, working with groups of 12 people over a 12-month period.

"It needs to be over a long period because we're changing mind-sets. We're taking learning theory and behavioural learning, and they need to be embedded practically and incrementally over time," says Andy.

"Sometimes there are tasks involved. Those tasks might be external tasks, they might relate to someone in a certain way, or they might be something more internally driven - we draw in mindfulness and thinking skills too."

Clarify, reset, transform - the three steps to lasting change

"Lasting change takes time," explains Andy. "And the other reason the programme runs for 12 months is because we've got to structure it around a process that involves the three stages - clarify, reset and transform. By 'clarify' we mean that you've got to get self-awareness before you change anything," he explains.

"We've all done a lot of this coaching and training in different contexts and this is about pulling it all together for 2018 and beyond into a cohesive programme. Having worked with hundreds of groups and teams and one-to-one, what we're trying to do is structure a programme that takes people through a process as opposed to ad hoc interventions."

Zentano selects the organisations it partners with very carefully. "We partner with forward-thinking businesses that are committed to helping employees go on this journey. And also, it's not just about the time we're with the group, it's about the habits that will be embedded in their organisation," says Dave.

To find out more about Zentano's leadership training programmes, visit

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