Bridging the gap between training and execution

Darren Cassidy, Managing Director UK/Ireland and Senior Vice President EMEA Services at Xerox, has worked there for 32 years in many different roles encompassing sales, sales management, direct management and channel management and all over the world. Here, he talks to us about how he uses Red2Blue strategically in both his personal and professional life, and how he intends for Xerox to become a Red2Blue business.

How did you first get involved with Red2Blue?

Martin and I used to work together many years ago. In one of my roles at Xerox, I needed to create a strategy to set up training for our new channel business across EMEA. The company was spending money on training programmes that everyone said were great, but that didn’t actually work. I was looking for somebody who could empathise with my problem and help me understand why nothing different was happening in the business after the training.

I was reintroduced to Martin, who argued that most training is flawed by design because it’s not connected to execution. He introduced me to the Red2Blue one-page map. I immediately cancelled all training for 60 days in our business. It felt like one of the biggest decisions I’d ever made at the time, but I knew we needed to stop, so that I could get everybody on board to understand and reflect. We then started working with Gazing and rolled out what we called ‘Roadmap’, a very different approach to training with Red2Blue at its core. That was 20 years ago, and I’ve been working with Gazing ever since.

How did Gazing’s approach succeed in implementing genuine change within the business? 

From day one, we started working on bridging the gap between having amazing training, to guaranteeing execution within the business. One of the best examples is when I was tasked with creating a ‘new services’ offer for our channels. We wanted people who were very good at selling boxes of hardware to change the way they thought about engaging clients and selling our outcome-based service.

With Gazing, we created a programme called Streamline. It was based around selecting the right clients within a target audience, understanding the sales process, and finally focusing on how it’s delivered. We took the programme to channel partners all over the world over a 2 to 3-year period and got incredible results. Even today, we still get feedback about people who were involved in that programme. That business – ‘Partner Print Services’ – is now over a billion dollars and is still growing double digits. The Gazing approach played a big part in helping enable that.

What it is about the Gazing approach that works where other training programmes fail?

The first thing is the clear understanding that you’re building it to work in a pressured situation. Forcing yourself to put all your information into a one-page map that will help when you’re under pressure is great. Then there’s the focus on connecting this to your processes; building it into the way you work; creating a language and tools and energy around delivering real-life, in-the-moment programmes – and supporting them, otherwise it won’t work.

It was never about a 5-day training event with Gazing; the conversation was always around “How do we do this to win?” Winning means execution in the field. It’s about the way people think and organise information; the way they utilise the maps; and helping them to understand human behaviour with Red2Blue, so that they can bring that in when needed. We’re dealing with humans under pressure and resourcing the managers to have the tools to acknowledge and support that.  

So do you think it’s the map that’s the key?

The map makes it simple. That’s simple, not simplistic – there’s nothing simple about getting there. In fact, I’m using the map right now for next year with all my individual teams in the business. I’ve asked them to put their strategy onto one page. The process you have to go through to be clear enough to get a strategy on one page is very tough.

I always felt I could go to the Gazing team and we could discuss, debate and work through things with like-minded people who would challenge how we thought, and how we were doing things. I came up with better outcomes because of that process and the debate.

The other part that makes the Gazing approach so applicable is that the basis of Red2Blue is around humans and performing under pressure. Those are the two constants we have in our business. Corporate life is full of pressure. You have to grow continuously and drive better outcomes, better performance. That pressure, and the understanding of how humans deal with it, makes Gazing very relevant, arguably more so today than ever.

What has been the toughest moment in your career to date? And how did you get through it?

I was working in the States until two years ago and a couple of things happened. Firstly, I lost my little brother unexpectedly at aged 42. Secondly, the company was in quite a volatile situation, and I couldn’t get clarity about whether I was staying in America or not. Business was tough, the environment was tough, and I also had personal things going on.

I’ve generally been blessed with good mental health, but I felt that things were becoming overwhelming. Two things made a difference. Firstly, my wife tricked me into learning meditation while we were on holiday, so I started to meditate, and I still do it today. And secondly, I used the Red2Blue model for my personal situation. Using the Control Circles, I realised that too much was in my ‘can’t control’ circle.

I needed to gain control over where I lived, how long I lived there, which also affected my daughter’s schooling. I didn’t have enough control over these big decisions that affected my family and me. Red2Blue helped me get out of the haze – that anxious feeling where it’s tough to see things properly – to assess the things I needed to take control of.

Rather than waiting for the company to tell me what I was going to be doing in my next job, I made a decision. It was a very practical use of Red2Blue that helped me to recognise there was a lot of heat going on and I needed to take more control over certain areas. I very quickly started to feel better.

It also reminded me that I needed to be more deliberate about using the Red2Blue tools again to make the changes I needed. Although I’d been using Red2Blue ‘in the moment’, it reminded me of the value of using Red2Blue more strategically, evaluating how I could be more skilful in the use of it, preparing mindset, skillsets and structures.

Are there any moments that you look back on now and wish you’d had Red2Blue to draw upon?

On the work side, I don’t spend too much time looking back. But personally, there were periods in my life when my decision-making was poor. If I’d known about Red2Blue when I was growing up, I would have been better equipped to deal with different situations, whether that was education or sports.

My 13-year-old daughter understands Red2Blue. She’s a performer and therefore experiences a lot of pressurised situations. I heard her coaching one of her friends the other day, talking about what she can control and what can go wrong. I also have three boys, two of whom are trained Red2Blue coaches, and the third one soon will be. Personally, I think I’d have made better decisions in so many scenarios if I’d had a good understanding of Red2Blue.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s ever given you?

The best advice, as I’ve grown a little older and more comfortable in myself, is about being authentic. Not trying to be things that you’re not; being comfortable and confident that being oneself is good enough. Once I became more comfortable in myself, it allowed me to be more inquisitive and engaged. I could ask questions in a way that I couldn’t have done earlier on in my career. That’s something that sticks with me today: trust yourself, be authentic, know that you’ve still got a lot to learn; and bring all of you, good or bad to the things that you do.

What’s the one piece of advice that you would pass on to the people you mentor?

I do a lot of mentoring and I tend to mentor more females than males. My mission is to get more female leaders higher up in our organisation. In the UK, we’ve increased the females in my first line by 50% from 18 months ago and we’ve added another 7% in our female population above a certain level across the UK, Ireland and EMEA.

What comes up a lot in the conversation is be authentic, raise your voice, have an opinion. And take that big step forward. People get a bit stuck in their thoughts about what they could be, and I try to encourage them just to move – what’s the worst that could happen?

What’s next for Xerox and Red2Blue?

We recently took on about 35 young kids who needed a break, through the government’s Kickstarters scheme. The first thing I did was take them through Red2Blue. We’re signing up to do a lot of work with the Prince’s Trust next year, so I’ll go through Red2Blue with them too. We’re about to accredit four Red2Blue coaches within our business. We’ve got pockets of Red2Blue in the UK, but I want to look at how we take that to the next level so that we formally become a Red2Blue company. Gazing have been great partners of Xerox and long may that continue!

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