Celebrating #20years trading

‘The Vulgar’ and appreciating difference


Image source: the Barbican – Walter van Beirendonck, Fall/Winter 2010/2011. Hat: Stephen Jones © Ronald Stoops

We listened to @BBCWomansHour yesterday with the talented Judith Clark of London College of Fashion who curated the current exhibition ‘The Vulgar’ at the Barbican, alongside partner and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips. The Barbican has described it as ‘the first exhibition to explore the inherently challenging but utterly compelling territory of taste in fashion, from the renaissance through to contemporary design’.

“Vulgarity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder,” Clark writes in the catalogue. “It is an emblem of artificiality.” It is also a knee-jerk reaction to the unknown: “People,” said Mary Quant in 1967, “call things vulgar when they are new to them.”

We’re a curious bunch here at Maier, so it’s as no surprise that this exploration of ‘vulgar’ got us talking about the potential parallels between ‘vulgarity’ and appreciating difference in others. A large amount of our work focusses on understanding and appreciating one another’s ‘styles’ and ways of operating. In other words, what might seem perfectly acceptable to one person may feel completely alien to another.

Phillips offers an interesting perspective on this when asked in a recent article why we’re in a habit of narrowing ourselves down and seeing ourselves as fixed…

“It seems to me that taste is problematic when it is a militant and aggressive narrowing of the mind, when it says “I know what I like – and don’t like – and you’ve got to agree with me”. A more experimental view of trying new things out is healthier – and there is less of an inclination to mock or be angered by what you don’t understand”.

Perhaps if we applied a more ‘experimental view’ to the way we operate on a daily basis, we could open our mind and thinking in ways we might never have imagined…one to ponder.

Counting down to Christmas in style

With Christmas and 2016 just around the corner, at Team Maier we find ourselves excited (Christmas is nearly here after all) and full of anticipation for the year ahead!

We’ve been looking back on some of our highlights from 2015; what went well, where we felt we delivered success for our clients, and what we’ve learnt along the way.

So, as much as we love chocolate in the Maier office we’ve scrapped the traditional Advent calendar and created our own countdown to Christmas featuring our highlights from 2015.

LTA advent Court side with the Lawn Tennis Association

Now in a different era, the LTA find themselves really looking to the future by drawing on values and strengthening their mission to get ‘more people playing tennis more often’. We’re known for our coaching and team work, but our work with the LTA took on a bigger, bolder format to a 300-strong work force.

The day was jam packed with a variety of plenary and group work – all designed to inspire and engage delegates in truly understanding the company vision, as well as giving individuals the opportunity to discuss and capture stories that demonstrate how they live the values on a daily basis.

All of this was brought to life through the creatively artistic skills of graphic recorders, Inky Thinking.

Inky Thinking LTA 2

The results from this first stage of work are now being used to connect with the LTA’s expansive volunteer group, develop a performance management programme for new and existing managers and revisit induction and appraisals systems. What’s not to love!

 “It was absolutely fantastic and your team were a joy to work with – they love my team; I love your team so it’s happy days.” 

Vicky Williams, People Director, The Lawn Tennis Association 

 LCF Advent Fashion matters – London College of Fashion

Communication and collaboration with staff and students has been at the heart of what has evolved into an organisation wide change programme at London College of Fashion. With an exciting and hugely ambitious move ahead of them in 5 or so years time to a single site in Stratford, there’s a real sense of energy and urgency to realise potential at all levels – to deliver demanding agendas with pace and total alignment.

Much of our work together has been around the creation and development of dynamic leadership teams across all of the Schools and departments to help deliver the shared vision. We often talk of the private sector being able to work faster and slicker than the public sector, but this organisation could take on even the best of them!

“We have worked with Maier now for several years and Karyn and her team have been instrumental in helping us to transform the ways in which our management and leadership teams across the college operate, lead and collaborate. It has been a really successful partnership.”

Frances Corner, Head of London College of Fashion 

LCF’s #Fashionmatters fundraising event was another great highlight for us. With the 2015 showcase dinner raising over £80,000 – creating 63 new scholarships and bursaries.


Asos advent Bravery is just in their blood – Asos

It is genuinely exciting to be working with a company who have innovation and creativity as part of their natural DNA – it’s their life blood and is contagious to all who have the luck to work with them.

Part of our role in working with their Executive and leadership teams is to help them develop and strengthen processes and behaviours to keep them top of their game. Ingredients in the mix include; entrepreneurial thinking and risk taking, creativity in everything they do and all of it with pace, energy and verve.

They’re always looking for opportunities to strengthen leadership behaviours, along with fresh approaches to cultural transformation. Roll on next year, where we look forward to working on the next phase of this exciting programme together.

“Maier have been brilliant at helping us get our Exec team even more aligned in delivering the Asos vision and ambition, company-wide. Through events which cover anything from how to get the most out of our meetings, through to how we work together as one strong and dynamic Exec. Challenging, fun, honest – that about sums it up”.
Nick Beighton, CEO, Asos


 Harper Collins advent Enjoying the creativity of publishing with Harper Collins

What a privilege it has been contributing to the ambitious and visionary direction of Harper Collins. Much of our work has been with the Children’s division – a fantastic team of inspiring and talented individuals who continuously strive for perfection and improvement in both their leadership styles and their approaches to business.

As if that wasn’t fulfilling enough Karyn also had the luck to meet with one of their authors, Judith Kerr. Judith is one of the most engaging women, still producing amazing children’s literature. For those of you who were lucky enough to have been brought up on ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’, we’re already filling the stockings with her latest book Mog’s Christmas Calamity’.

Image courtesy of The Storybook Girl


 Housing advent A united front

Housing associations are currently facing huge challenge in how they need to operate in response to the latest government thinking and policy. We work with a number of them (RHP, Victory, Catalyst, Flagship) providing us with real insight into the complexity of change that’s going to be required to successfully deliver the new agenda.

The common denominator between them all is the need for super aligned, agile, effective, highly communicative top teams. It’s about confidence in dealing with the curved balls and surprises that any company or organisation needs to be ready for – it’s impressive to now see them each developing their well-considered yet confident and forthright strategic responses. 

‘We all really enjoyed yesterday and felt it was a real success with some great progress made – so thank you for facilitating it so brilliantly. I thought you got the pace and tone of the day spot on – and were excellent at not letting us skirt over the more tricky stuff’.

David Done, Chief Executive, Richmond Housing Partnership


Okay, so there are 25 days in Advent and we’ve featured just 5 highlights…but there’s only so much time we all have! If you want to hear more, we have a wonderful bunch of Client Managers who would love to share more of the same.

Happy Christmas one and all xx

Power to us all – Working Women

When we first heard way back in October of last year that Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour was going to be creating a ‘power list’ we were very excited by the idea. We’d just been working with a group called ‘Women in Retail’ (www.womeninretail.com) looking at issues for working women such as juggling work and family, career progression, self-confidence, being authentic etc. It all seemed to tie in quite nicely.

Safety first?

When the list was finally announced in February we were, how shall I put it, disappointed to say the least (we weren’t the only ones, read Miranda Sawyers piece in the Observer from 16th February). While there was no doubting the ‘power’ of the women on it we all felt it was a little too safe, dare I say even boring, a bit too ‘establishment’ for our liking.

Choice matters

But earlier this week I was listening to Woman’s Hour’s live broadcast (Jane Garvey launched the Power List films today) and, I have to say, the journey to London whizzed by. This was more like it, stimulating stuff. If you get the chance maybe download it and listen yourself.


The debate touched on some of the usual topics; raising personal aspirations at an early age, managing the work/life balance, networking and so on, but it also focused on choice, something we all have, and self belief, something women could perhaps do with a little more of. There was a great quote from Kirsty Young (she of Desert Island Disc fame) who said that when women are asked on the show the usual response is, ‘Who me? Really?’ whereas male guests are more, ‘Yes sure, I’ve been expecting you to call.’ Obviously I’ve précised it a bit, but you get the drift.

Ultimately what they were saying was if you stay true to your own personal values, are resilient and determined and show some bravery and faith in your own worth then there’s no reason why you can’t be supremely successful – regardless of gender.

Making it happen

Issues of flexibility in the workplace were also inevitably part of the agenda. If I hadn’t been driving I would have been tweeting in. It so happens that we have five women working in the Maier office, all with young families, who between them manage to work around school holidays, childhood illnesses, sports days, school plays – the whole lot, seamlessly and with minimal fuss (having been there, done that I like to think I’ve played a part in creating this workplace utopia). Our secret is complete trust in the team’s ability to sort out who covers what and when along with brilliant communications – they make all the day to day decisions on the running of the office and as long as our clients’ needs are top of mind that’s fine by me!

Flash Mobs – A ‘flash in the pan’ – we think not


Flash Mobs the Maier way; shake it, sort it


People talk about engagement all the time – however, as with most things worth the effort; it’s not easily achieved and even trickier to sustain especially when it comes to sharing and interpreting the ‘big ideas’. So, we had a think and a bit of a chat with the team at Prostate Cancer UK (amazing organisation, take a look www.prostatecanceruk.org) and came up with FLASH MOBS.

But, forget break out dance troops (nice idea but there’s a limit to what even we can get top teams to do!) No, this involved creating a completely new way of working, a super-quick, two-day way to tackle things like:

  • Cutting through backlogs at twice the normal speed (at least)
  • Spreading the word about new initiatives, getting buy-in and ownership
  • Leaping over hurdles that may be inadvertently blocking progress
  • Inspiring even greater belief in the vision

Flash mobs aren’t about adding to workloads, they’re temporary generators of momentum that require a bit of focused thinking and enough autonomy to make quick decisions – with the proviso that everyone visibly works with difference.

In the case of PCUK a small, but perfectly formed Maier team set up camp in their head office and met with chosen co-ordinators and small ‘flash-mob teams’ – each with a target project and a limited time to turn things around – then they hit the floor and went to work.

On this occasion we were interested in;

  • Developing a brilliant staff away day
  • Cementing the working principles into everything we do
  • Being better leaders
  • Working out ‘how we do things round here’

The impact was almost instant, with animated group ‘huddles’, five-minute 1:1s, ad hoc group debates, email surveys on the go and videos – the atmosphere was electric.

Although a bit unsettling initially and very challenging throughout, part of the flash mob success was that we didn’t give the teams much prior notice – in fact, hardly any at all. We wanted a very different mind-set, teams had to be super flexible with the ability to respond and react at pace and communicate nonstop – the opposite to the meetings-driven culture PCUK want to avoid.

Here’s a little sample of what they got up to…

The first Prostate Cancer UK ‘Flash Mob’ has entered the building and already we’re making an impact. Although for most it’s quite a strange way of working (at least to start with), thinking on your feet (quite literally) is a pretty good way of getting things done. Salma described it as a ‘fresh and young’ way of working and ‘being comfortable with the uncomfortable’. Ellie thought it was ‘open and exciting’.

The focus of this ‘Flash Mob’ is to create a brilliant all staff away day and rather than let a small group of people shape something that affects all staff, we want everyone to get involved. So, here’s what we want you to do:

  • Let us know what you think is essential for an awesome staff away day by filling out this questionnaire as soon as possible…
  • Be ready for us to come and mob you at your desks (and call you if you’re not based in London) to ask your opinion on what’s important (and what’s not) in an all staff away day
  • Come and join us at 3.15pm at reception to help us work through the results

Onwards and upwards, see you all at 3.15!

At the ‘hub’ of things we provided much needed injections of energy when spirits were flagging as well as collating information, working on those dynamic ‘newsflashes’ and keeping everyone up to date with a sense of ‘real-time’ action and achievement. Even if you weren’t in the office that day, you knew exactly what was going on and what the outcomes where. In fact, one of the Exec team was at a series of external meetings and found himself nipping out to look for the next instalment. Regional personnel were involved too, creating ‘flash-mob pockets’ of their own all feeding back to our central point.

Outputs have been impressive, as has the sense of achievement and involvement across the whole organisation. Although the flash mobs were a bit like temporary ‘agents provocateurs’ in their bid to ‘move things on and see results’ the outcomes have been anything but temporary.

Every flash mob has completed and communicated a series of actions, and whilst there is still work to do, everyone is aware of what stage it’s at and what still has to be actioned or developed. This is no mean feat when a lot of what we’re really talking about are quality and styles of leadership, organisational behaviours and the feeling that your opinion truly counts.

Our thanks and respect go to Ben, communications guru at PCUK, who worked with all the mobs to get news flashes out, helping to share the story and keep us all in the picture.

Obviously, it’s not something we’re suggesting you can do everyday, or even every week. But having taken the ‘flash-mob leap’ the Prostate Cancer UK team now have a way to quickly zone in on unfinished business, gauge understanding and perhaps most importantly access people from across the organisation who have some real gems of ideas to share.  

We’ll be ‘flash-mobbing’ again soon with a couple of clients already keen to give it a try – it’s all about shaking things up and sorting things out.