We’ve just entered February, and I have to say that I’m not quite sure where January went. It just whooshed right past me! At the beginning of the year, we usually plan our goals for the year ahead, but with the pandemic there has been so much uncertainty that most of us might be thinking, “Why bother?”. I know it’s not easy to set goals in the current circumstances, but they’re critical for your physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Goals give you direction and purpose; they give you focus, and a reason to get out of bed in the mornings. Because of how challenging 2020 was – a year that nobody will ever forget – and because of the uncertainty of this year, you may be hesitant to set goals. Many goals that you had for 2020 didn’t materialise, and you might find this difficult to accept. But please remind yourself that achieving those goals was most likely beyond your control, rather than because you were complacent or procrastinating.
So, here we are in a new year, and we need to set new goals. What’s different this year is that goals must have a shorter timeframe. In the past, you might have set 12-months goals, but right now you should set short, three-month goals. The benefit is that three months has the ideal balance in that it is neither too short nor too long. You’re likely to have control over the next three months, and, most importantly, you’ll feel optimistic in attaining the goal. Long-term goals will increase your current anxiety and overwhelm. Besides, who needs that additional pressure? Rather be kind and gentle on yourself and set small, bite-size goals. But please do set them, and keep the momentum going. Once you’ve attained those goals, you can set new ones when you’re ready. You can’t ignore this, believing that once the pandemic quietens down you’ll get into action. Get going today!
Let’s get practical with these six easy steps to set your short-term goals.
Step 1: List all the goals you want to achieve this year.
Step 2: Prioritise the goals you can achieve in the next three months. Leave the other ones for the next three months.
Step 3: Describe what you want to achieve.
Step 4: Make a note of why this goal matters to you right now. What will be different when you’ve attained it?
Step 5: Differentiate whether it’s a learning goal or a performance goal. The purpose of learning goals is to develop or acquire an attribute, behaviour, or skill set. Performance goals involve mastering or enhancing a skill that results in improved performance. By nature, performance goals can be learned in shorter time periods such as three months, whereas learning goals might need six or even nine months to become an automatic habit.
Step 6: Is about evaluation, and for you to choose progress indicators that will give you a sense that you’re moving forward in attaining the goal. The evaluation step is critical as it will provide the motivation and commitment to continue. It will give you an opportunity to make changes to your goal strategy if progress isn’t going in the direction you want.
Here is a Goal Matrix to print, complete, and monitor.
My three-month goal matrix
||Describe the goal
||Why does the goal matter right now?
Improve my energy levels
||I want to be more aware of what I eat, how much I exercise, and how much rest I’m getting.
||I feel as if I’m not taking proper care of my body and mind, which is impacting my work and family relationships.
||X (New habits)
||Drinking a litre and a half of water every day, exercising three times a week, and ending my work day at 18:00.
I know that setting goals is not easy for us to do right now. Some days we’re all fired up, and on others we’re listless and worn out by all the negative news. Setting goals will be good for you because it will ground you, give you purpose, make you feel as if you’re in control, and it will reduce your stress levels.
Even with this pandemic forging ahead, you can begin to lead the life you want!
It’s a known fact that in an organisation, culture is taken for granted. That is, until it becomes a toxic and destructive environment to be working in. When that happens, we wonder how it ever got to that point. By that time, the toxic culture has seeped through every part of your organisation, and has infiltrated your people, processes, structures, and systems. It may even have impacted on your clients and suppliers. This will happen faster than you think, and the way out is not easy. It is something that can be done, but it will be a lengthy process. So, it’s very important that, as a leader, you keep your eye on the ball, and mindfully observe your culture.
Now’s the time for leaders to be very conscious of their organisation’s culture. Virtual teams are developing more and more, and flexitime and home-office working seem to be the new norm. As euphoric as we might be that we don’t have to get up early, we can avoid the traffic to get to the office on time, we’re able to spend quality time with the kids, and can even play some sport whenever it suits us, we have to keep in mind the new virtual culture that’s developing around us. And it’s always best to be aware – and proactive – on how you want to direct it. If you don’t, it will develop by itself and you might not like the outcome.
What is culture?
Every organisation has its own unique culture. It’s the shared purpose of management and employees. Your shared purpose will be the reason you exist as a business, and it’s not to make a profit. Professor Edgar Schein, a former professor of the MIT Sloan School of Management in the US, defines culture as ‘shared assumptions and beliefs that a group of people learn from one another through working together.’ These assumptions often occur on a subconscious level, and by seeing others perform them, we start to do the same. It moves on to the next person, and the next. This behaviour – positive or negative – becomes acceptable, and it’s then passed on to new employees. As an example, if we don’t address tardiness to online meetings, it becomes acceptable to be five or 10 minutes late, and soon the entire virtual team will be doing it. This will have a knock-on effect, which will make having candid conversations difficult, and it will affect efficiency, trust, and other work-related matters.
In a nutshell, culture is your team’s rules that everybody begins to use. The rules may not serve your macro strategy or goal, and that’s where the conflict will start to come in.
It’s up to leaders to be proactive in directing the culture of virtual teams. Which behaviours are positive, drive the objective of the team, and will drive higher performance? Be clear on what that behaviour is, and don’t let it evolve. Which behaviours are you starting to notice that concern you? Start to address these with your virtual team as it’s likely that the behaviours haven’t embedded themselves, and can be changed without too much effort. Involve your team in these discussions, and form the culture collectively. Discuss – and even debate – the rules, because everybody needs to agree on them and live them out. Be agile with your culture, review it, assess it, and change it. Remember to keep your eye on it all the time.
This new virtual working concept will give rise to a different culture, and you have the opportunity to give your old one an overhaul. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the working world has changed, and it has brought about change in how your virtual teams operate. Embrace the new door that has opened, walk through it, and create the culture you have always dreamed of.
In last week’s blog, I spoke about what happiness in the workplace is, and why leaders have an ethical obligation to focus on creating well-being (the scientific word for happiness) for their stakeholders.
In the past few years, leaders have realised that the traditional business model is outdated and in need of a drastic overhaul. The main focus of a business can no longer be on making a profit, although many businesses are unfortunately stuck in this thought pattern. Society has evolved, and two critical things have transpired: the focus on the environment, and on how happy people are at their jobs.
Until now, businesses measured their success on how profitable they are, and the amount of dividends they pay their shareholders. Only after that is there any consideration given to how satisfied their people are with their work. That equation is in dire need of an overhaul, and should be reversed.
First, we need to care about people’s well-being, because when they’re happy, satisfied, and motivated, they’ll perform well. This in turn will drive profits and shareholder dividends. Happy people share information, communicate more, collaborate, make more thought-through decisions, and spread positive energy. Happiness in the workplace isn’t a strategy you focus on when you have the time; it’s something you need to start introducing in small steps as part of your culture. Start today with one small step.
Practical happiness tips
Changing organisational culture isn’t easy. It takes conscientious time, patience, effort, and repetition. It’s like any habit you’re instilling. You have to unwire your brain from an old habit, and rewire it with a new one. In organisations, change is even slower as there are many people involved, and not everybody will be as receptive to the change as you’d like them to be. It involves regular conversations that explain the reason for the change as well as the benefit. Then there’s the discipline required to behave differently.
Here are some tips on kickstarting a happiness culture in your organisation.
- We often dive into meetings by quickly saying hello, recapping previous action items, and moving straight into the discussion points. Instead, set a different tone at the start of a meeting by checking in with everyone on what went well in their week.
- Another way to lift the energy at the beginning of the meeting is to ask people to acknowledge colleagues who have made a difference in their work tasks.
- From a more strategic and human development level, you need to establish how you’ll monitor your employees’ happiness levels. This means that employee happiness becomes a strategic conversation and not purely a task for the HR department. What indicators are you going to use to measure how happy your employees are, and how often are you going to do this? This process should be done often and regularly, so that you can make changes swiftly.
- Appoint full-time happiness ambassadors who consciously wear the hat and think about the organisation’s well-being. Trust me, it will be the most valuable investment you can make in your organisation.
- Re-evaluate your new employee induction process, and make sure that it’s fun, welcoming, and supportive. Assist the new employee to feel at home in your organisation by supporting them every step of the way. Appoint a buddy for three months to guide them through the processes and procedures of the organisation. Again, this is not an HR role, but rather a company and team role.
- Share positive memories and stories with each other as often as you can. Even if you’ve heard the feel-good story ten times, it evokes positive memories and emotions in you which touch your heart, and reminds you about what really matters.
- Introduce a culture of offering assistance to others before they ask for it. If we look close enough, we can see that people need our help, but we choose to look the other way. Bring in the spirit of ubuntu.
In the beginning, these new happiness practices will feel uncomfortable and even senseless, but with continuous practice, they become more comfortable and you’ll quickly see the positive benefits. Start today by gearing your organisation for future success by making your people the most essential and pivotal aspect of your business. The rest will follow.
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyone’s lives upside down. For some, the change has been more dramatic than for others. The same can be said about most companies, which will have had to become extremely agile in the way they have managed their teams, serviced their customers, and delivered value to their shareholders. Old ideas and thoughts of “it can’t be done” suddenly became “it can be done”, and “this is very ‘doable’”. Decisions that usually took a while to make were taken in days, and sometimes even hours.
We were all booted out of our comfort zones into the unknown. Creativity, innovation, and seeking new ways of achieving the impossible flowed through every company!
This blog is the first in a two-part series on why happiness matters in the workplace. In the second part, I will provide practical tips on how to start implementing happiness in your company.
In the past few years, there has been a call for companies to focus on honouring stakeholder rather than shareholder returns. This focus has uplifted the well-being in four domains: leaders, employees, customers, and the community. Some companies have made this shift from the industrial revolution age to the human revolution of leading; however, they still remain in the minority.
COVID-19, as disastrous as its global impact has been, has fast-tracked the emphasis companies are placing on the well-being of their leaders and employees. Perhaps for the first time, they’re genuinely realising that without their people, there will be no business to service customers, no growth, and inability to maintain their competitive advantage. The pandemic has started to bring humanity back into the workplace, and to give employees a voice.
It may sound absurd, but incorporating well-being into your company means allowing happiness to filter in. Bringing humanity into an organisation means making happiness a primary strategic goal of executive leadership. Of course, making a profit will remain the primary motive, but it cannot be at the cost of having unhappy leaders, employees, or customers.
What is happiness?
The happiness concept has been around for the last 30 years. It’s not a ‘phase’; it’s here to stay, and will in future gain more and more momentum. Right now, happiness has already infiltrated psychology, medicine, and education, and it’s starting to gain traction in business and government. Danish philosopher Knud Ejler Løgstrup says that, as a leader, you have an ethical obligation to treat those around you in such a way that it increases their level of happiness. You may have never considered that, as part of your leadership role, you need to ensure that your employees are happy.
So, what is happiness? Is it a frivolous topic to align with leadership, organisations, or politics?
Most leaders feel that happiness doesn’t belong in the workplace, and certainly not in politics. Happiness is everyone’s own personal affair, isn’t it? And it’s up to everyone to work on their happiness levels in their own time. Well, it doesn’t quite work like that, because people can’t compartmentalise their lives into these various domains. Instead, they all interlink with each other. Think about it this way, you can’t be happy at work and unhappy in your personal life, as the one spills over into the other.
The simplest definition of happiness is to experience frequent positive emotions, combined with a sense that, overall, life is satisfactory and fulfilling. It might seem like a broad definition, but to ensure that employees experience mostly positive emotions at work, and are generally satisfied and fulfilled by their work, suddenly doesn’t sound so easy anymore. Of course, the positive benefits happiness brings to the workplace are immense: increased productivity, creativity, learning, resilience, and better decision-making. Also, it reduces absenteeism, stress, depression, and disengagement. These can all severely impact the bottom line, teamwork, and culture.
Alexander Kjerulf, one of the world’s leading experts on happiness at work said that “happiness is not only an integral part of leading, but should be the ultimate goal of leadership.”
How much do you make happiness a critical part of your leadership role?
“True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers; not the enrichment of the leaders.” – Robert Townsend, US business executive.
Teams produce synergies and a form of collaboration that individuals can’t do on their own, either from a capacity or an ability factor. Working side by side, collaborating, sharing ideas, finding solutions, and supporting each other is what team members should be doing, and, in most cases, want to do. A team that trusts each other is incredibly powerful, as they will achieve a level of performance, productivity, and satisfaction that one person on their own is not able to. However, if two or more people work together, something creeps in that has a significant impact on a team’s performance levels. This is what is known as TRUST.
What is trust?
Trust is something that everyone approaches differently. For some, trust is given to a person, and then “points” are deducted for every breach that happens. For others, you’ll start at zero and will have to earn their trust through actions. The approach you apply doesn’t matter; it’s based on your personality, style, and life experience. Either way, trust is something that holds much gravitas, but it can often be left entirely on its own to develop within teams.
Trust is defined as a psychological state in which we expect positive actions and behaviour from others, to a commitment made. A trust equation has therefore been designed, and it says that trust equals credibility plus reliability plus intimacy. So, it’s about doing what we promised to do, or even said we would do, every single time. We tend to trust people based on their behaviour, and then label them as trustworthy when they meet our expectations. The intimacy variable means that people communicate, participate, and engage actively with others. This variable can often be overlooked, but as social creatures we generally trust when people interact with us.
Trust in teams
In teams, trust means that people are willing to be vulnerable. This usually results in team members working and co-operating with one another. Trust also reduces conflict because people are comfortable – and will be confident – to express opposing values and opinions. It will allow for team participation, sharing of knowledge and information, and innovation. It also builds social bonds.
Distrust, on the other hand, is counterproductive, and carries an intangible cost for the organisation as a whole. Time is wasted because people have to deal with hidden agendas, unproductive meetings, incomplete work, miscommunication, or having to micro-manage others. When there is distrust, leaders will visibly perform control checks on all their staff. Distrust slows down the wheels of effectiveness and efficiency. For employees, it zaps all their psychological and cognitive energy, so much so that they become disengaged and lack motivation. It creates cliques in teams, something that needs to be carefully managed, as it can escalate to such an extent that people will leave. If left unaddressed, distrust becomes a cancer and will infiltrate the organisation’s culture, resulting in a toxic working environment. It will also eat away at the bottom line. However, this is something that we allow to continue, all too often.
If you become aware that there is no trust in your team, you need to start with these six small steps. Rebuilding trust takes patience and continuous work, but it is something that can be achieved with dedication and commitment.
- Be the exemplary role-model by doing what you promised to do, and within the set timeline.
- Have conversations with the team on how everyone would benefit if they all under-promised and over-delivered.
- Be courageous and tackle difficult topics together. Have transparent conversations.
- Invite people to present their ideas in meetings. Be careful not to be judgemental.
- Care for others in a genuine and sincere way. Share life and work stories with each other.
- Set clear expectations by clarifying roles, tasks, and commitment dates.
Trust is broken quickly, and requires a lot of energy and time to rebuild. In some extreme cases, the damage is so severe that it cannot be fixed. Transform distrust into trust with your teams – it’s what leaders do to have happy and productive employees.
COVID-19 is impacting every single person on the planet! Life will never be the same as it was before the pandemic, for any one of us. So many things have already changed in our working environments, our companies, politics, healthcare, travel, and education. Some businesses will be forced to close, and new careers will be born. In all of this, there is so much that is unknown about what the future holds. Some people see 2020 as the most exciting and vibrant time to live in, and others believe that it’s a period of doom and despair. Regardless of which way you look at it, life will never be the same again. It’s now important to understand – psychologically and emotionally – that our old life has ended, and that we need to transition to a new one. We need to slowly start to create a new life for ourselves and for our loved ones.
This week’s blog is on a rather unusual topic: how to give yourself permission to grieve your old life and find meaning in a new one. For the past five months, I haven’t been in a single coaching session where the topic of COVID-19 hasn’t come up. People share their fears, their apprehension of the unknown, and the pain it has caused them. I have noticed that my clients are, unknowingly, grieving the end of the life they knew before this pandemic. Under normal circumstances, we battle to grieve the loss of a loved one, but how do we grieve for something that’s not a person, but an actual life that involves us?
Grieving is a very healthy and important process of letting go of a loved one. It’s a deeply painful, emotional process, and it brings up many emotions such as denial, anger, betrayal, disappointment, guilt, sadness, and relief. There will be days where you’ll want to talk about your loss, and others where you don’t even have the energy to get out of bed. Grieving means being consciously present and feeling the pain, as well as remembering the happy moments you shared together.
There’s no difference between grieving for a loved one and grieving for your old life. You’ll go through the same grieving stages, and you need to give yourself permission to grieve. In doing so, you’ll begin the process of transforming from your old life to creating your new one. Also, what’s very important is that you don’t have to do anything on your own. When you see that you’re unable to progress in your grieving, please ask for help from family, friends, or a professional like myself.
The five stages of grieving
The Grief Model, developed by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in the late 1960s, comprises of five stages. They can be summarised using the acronym DABDA.
Denial: This is the first stage where you’re in utter shock, disbelief, and denial about the impact the pandemic will have on your life. You feel numb by what’s happening around you, and cannot comprehend its gravitas. You feel like you’re watching a bizarre science-fiction movie. Your body and mind are in shock, and you shift into survival mode, only taking in as much information as you can comprehend. Life feels empty, meaningless, and hopeless.
Anger: Once denial wears off, anger sets in. All too often we struggle with anger as an emotion, because we believe that it’s not socially acceptable. Remember that in this instance, it has its right place. Give it room to unfold, and feel it in your inner being. You’ll become angry at the injustice of life, the pandemic, and, if you’re religious, even at God. The anger is about why this has happened to you and your loved ones, making your life unfair. Don’t bottle it up! Give yourself permission to feel it, process it, and then release it. It will feel like an intense muscle cramp: it hurts, it’s debilitating, and it makes you draw in your breath from the pain. Exhale slowly, breathe, and relax into the anger until it slowly begins to become less tense, and the muscle cramp starts to ease. Processing your anger is an very critical stage to work through, and one you can easily get stuck in.
Bargaining: This is the start of your transformation and creative process. It’s like seeing the light at the end of tunnel. You’ll become resourceful, hopeful, creative, and will be optimistic that bit by bit you can claim back some old parts of yourself and your old life.
Depression: After having experienced the bargaining stage, you may think that the depression stage is going a step backward, but in actual fact it isn’t. It’s about learning to surrender what you can’t control, and putting all your energy and focus into what you do have control over. There will be days where you become withdrawn and slump into a depressed mood, and this will be the preamble to surrendering to your new life. You may be quite negative, feel sad, low, and lonely, and can even lose your zest for life. You could even begin to wonder if you’ll ever be happy again, and have the quality of life you had before the pandemic. What’s very important in this stage is to surround yourself with people who care about you, and to set small daily goals to keep working on.
Acceptance: The fifth stage is to surrender and accept. It’s the key to your freedom and transformation. Acceptance means you’ve come to embrace your new reality, but it doesn’t mean you approve of it. You’ll start to understand that this is the new norm by which you’re going to live, and will begin to adjust accordingly. You’ll re-organise your roles and responsibilities, and will bring in different structures, methods, routines, and ways of doing things. You’ll do your best to establish meaning and purpose in new activities and tasks, and will accept that you’ll never replace the old with the new. When you realise that it’s time to create something totally new, you’ll find that this is where the power of transformation happens.
Give yourself permission to grieve. It’s very necessary and will serve you to move through the challenges of COVID-19. Accept that you won’t ever return to your old life – and savour that – but equally you’ll look forward and take steps to creating a new meaningful life. Use all the support you can get to assist you during this transformational time.
COVID-19 is mercilessly sweeping through our country, and affecting our lives, our economy, and our businesses. Sadly, there have been many casualties along the way, and some businesses will be forced to shut their doors. However, there will be some that will manage to get through these tough times, largely because of the support of their employees. At this stage, a company’s financial reserves do play a critical role, but ultimately it’s the people – the heartbeat of a business – who make everything happen. This means that if you want your business to survive, thrive, and gain a competitive advantage, it’s the ideal time to invest in the well-being of your people.
Psychological Capital, also referred to as PsyCap, was pioneered by Fred Luthans, a management professor specialising in organisational behaviour at the University of Nebraska, in 2002. It’s defined as an individual’s positive psychological state of development, characterised by hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism. The underlying principle of PsyCap is to grow people psychologically, rather than to train them. Companies often spend time and money growing people’s explicit knowledge by enhancing their skills and competencies, but don’t invest the same kind of resources in growing tacit knowledge, such as people’s mindsets, attitudes, and psychological stamina. Research has continuously demonstrated the benefit of rolling out PsyCap in companies, starting with increased performance, engagement, and job satisfaction, and carrying through to personal life satisfaction, well-being, and health benefits.
The four psychological well-being components
Luthans made it easy for us to implement PsyCap in our companies by coming up with something called the “HERO Within”. This is a combination of four psychological aspects: Hope, Efficacy, Resilience, and Optimism. Investing resources in developing all four will give your business the competitive advantage to ensure that you overcome the pandemic.
Let’s look at each component in more detail, including a tip on how you can implement it in your business.
- Hope: A positive mindset that helps us find solutions and willpower to achieve our goals. Hope can be increased by making sure that goals are broken down into bite-sized chunks. ● Leaders can meet with a coach and have regular informal check-ins to support them to maintain their willpower, and collectively brainstorm new ideas.
- Efficacy: Refers to confidence, conviction, and motivation in our ability to successfully complete a task. ● To enhance efficacy, you need to experience task and goal successes, combined with regular feedback and acknowledgement. For a leader, this means allocating tasks in bite-sizes, taking the time to provide acknowledgement when the job is done, and giving constructive feedback of what the person did really well, and where there is room for improvement.
- Resilience: The ability to bounce back from stressful situations, conflict, or mishaps. ● Resilience can be developed by reframing the situation from a negative obstacle to a positive learning opportunity. This isn’t always easy in the heat of the moment, and so brainstorming about it with others is often very helpful. It can also foster positive relationships.
- Optimism: Having a positive future-orientated mindset. Many people struggle to be optimistic, and feel safer seeing things from a pessimistic point of view. This is because they perceive this to be the reality that is linked with not having expectations and not being disappointed. Optimism must, however, not be confused with luck or fate, but rather thought of as an internal belief that you can and will create a positive future. ● The tool here is to reflect on what you have control over and what you can’t control, and then focus on what you have, and look for the opportunity in every challenge that life presents you.
As you can see, the four components become very interlinked, and working on one will benefit another. You might not feel that your business or team has the time or money to invest in your people right now, but I can’t stress enough that it’s the perfect time to consider this if you want to make it through the pandemic.
Chat to us – we can assist with short workshops to enhance the psychological well-being of your staff.
Happiness is a concept, a feeling, and a state of being that we wish for others and for ourselves. When parents are asked what they’d like for their children, the answer is almost always: “For them to be happy”. When we write birthday cards or cards for weddings, christenings, or graduations, we always wish happiness on the person or couple.
Happiness is an essential ingredient in our life, but one we don’t often give much conscious thought to. We know that it’s a fluctuating emotion, and that outside situations often determine whether we’re happy or not. However, that’s not the happiness I’m referring to. I’m talking about the happiness that you can control; an inner feeling that isn’t dependent on the external environment.
COVID-19 has undoubtedly made us aware of what makes us happy and what drains us. It won’t come as a surprise that studies have shown that our happiness levels have dropped significantly by between 10% and 20% over the last four months. Other emotions such as anger, disgust, anticipation, and distrust have all increased. You might even question how we can talk about happiness during this pandemic, but it’s precisely in this time that we need tools to help buffer against all the negativity that’s around at the moment.
Everyone wants to be happy! It’s something we all share; a golden thread that runs through our collective lives, and connects us as human beings. For some, it’s more conscious than for others. Happiness is so much more than a nice feeling, and it’s very definitely something that can be physically felt. When people are happy, their prefrontal cortex (located in the forehead, and responsible for allowing us to think, make decisions, focus, and achieve our goals) is noticeably more active. Besides allowing us to think, the prefrontal cortex has another important function. It regulates our emotions, and assists us to recover from negative thoughts and feelings. If we learn to train our brain, we can indirectly influence our psychological and emotional well-being.
Four easy ways to train your brain
There are many ways to train our brain to be happy without the use of chemical substances, but in this blog I’ll focus on four.
- Ten minutes of quietening the mind stimulates the prefrontal cortex, and provides feelings of joy, calmness, serenity, and well-being. These are ten powerful minutes in which you can empty the thoughts from your head. It’s like having a brain break.
- Loving kindness meditation (LKM). This is a meditation where you intentionally send love, kindness, protection, and well-being to your loved ones as well as to yourself. Visualise the loved one in front of you, and send them abundant love. It sounds strange, but if we’re honest, we do this naturally for the people we care about and love.
- Gratitude awareness. Take a couple of minutes to become aware of who and what you’re grateful for in the day. This can be gratitude for people, situations, events, or the beauty of your surroundings, relationships, and life. You can have fun here and write the list in a journal, take a snapshot of it, draw it, sing it, dance it, or just think it.
- Strengths mindfulness. Reflect on the day and list strengths that you applied. Again, it’s a conscious decision to focus on the inner strengths that you used in certain situations during the day, without being mindless. This can vary from being patient and kind to an infuriated colleague or client, to using humour or empathy in a difficult situation.
The benefit of training your brain to be happier will be a more productive and focused mind, and it will make you happier. It’s within your control and your choice to pursue happiness in your life. I know you might not feel you can right now, as there are many worries and concerns, but take one very small step towards reclaiming your inner happiness and you’ll soon notice that you’re able to cope with your day a little better.
Most leaders that I meet feel uncomfortable with, and even dread, giving feedback to their staff. It shouldn’t be that way! Feedback is a gift that we give people to help them grow, but, sadly, many of us have had bad experiences with it in the past. It might have been a punishment session where we were criticised, and left feeling demotivated, deflated, and discouraged.
As we get older, the kind of feedback we receive changes, but it shouldn’t always be that way. Think back to your childhood where your parents were your biggest fans. They were your cheerleaders who supported you and encouraged you to always do your best. The feedback you got from them would have been honest, but most likely gentle, and it would have been on the things you did well, and where you could improve. Their intention always came from their heart with love, and with the underlying desire for you to grow. Maybe your parents didn’t always strike the right chord, or use the correct words, but you knew that they gave you advice because they loved you.
Fast forward to now in your workplace. Many leaders believe that: ‘If you don’t hear from me, then you’re doing a great job; otherwise I’ll tell you.’ With that approach, feedback will indeed only be associated with criticism, and not with growth or care. Often, feedback is negatively associated with performance reviews, where there is sometimes a one-size-fits-all approach.
So, what seems to be the problem that leaders have in giving feedback? In my opinion, there are five common concerns: (1) They don’t know how to do it properly because they haven’t been shown how; (2) They’re worried about hurting the other person’s feelings; (3) They’re worried that the person will only hear the negative feedback and not the positive, so are unsure how to find the ideal balance between the two; (4) They’re worried that the person will leave demotivated and will have no interest in improving; or (5) Their feedback style is authoritarian and a bit blunt.
On the other hand, receivers may perceive feedback as personal criticism and a threat to their self-confidence, self-efficacy, and self-worth.
The eight steps on giving constructive feedback
As my passion is to provide as many tools and techniques as I can for leaders to lead better, I’m going to share a practical, constructive feedback tool that can assist both the giver and the receiver. Before you start shifting your mindset and viewing feedback as an opportunity to grow and develop, and as the highest expression of care you can give a team member, if you find that the word “feedback” has a negative and emotionally charged meaning, then replace it with a neutral word that carries no judgement. Try using words such as “evaluation”, “constructive feedback”, “observation”, or “learning opportunity”.
This eight-step process created by Hugo Alberts and Lucinda Poole can be easily applied.
- Accept internal discomfort – Embrace that you might feel uncomfortable giving feedback, and that many emotions will come up for you. Acknowledge the discomfort, and then breathe deeply into your body, calming yourself and making sure that you come across in a composed and calm way.
- Create a safe space – It’s common for the receiver to feel nervous, anxious, fearful, and maybe even stressed. Leaders need to be aware of this, and empathise with them. It’s up to the leader to create a safe space by choosing an environment that is friendly, warm, and non-hostile. Offering a warm and friendly greeting with some small talk always helps everyone to feel at ease.
- State your intention – Make it clear that your goal is to see how you can work together to improve their work. Let them know that you welcome a two-way dialogue, where you’re both free to express personal and professional views.
- Separate the person’s work from the person – Arguably, one of the things that makes receiving feedback the most difficult is that it’s often taken as a personal critique. Take a moment to clarify that you’re evaluating their work, and not them as a person.
- Reframe the amount of feedback as an indication of care – Where you have a lot of critical feedback to give, highlight your level of care by saying something like: “I’m being thorough because I care about this. Your work matters to me.”
- Encourage a growth mindset – Highlight that the feedback can be taken as an opportunity for growth and learning, and integrate this type of language into your comments. Give detailed and precise praise wherever you can, and instil a sense of hope and faith in their capability for change and improvement.
- Acknowledge the subjective nature of the situation – Recognise that your feedback projects your personal views and opinions on not only their work, but also on the subject matter. Acknowledge this as you provide feedback by saying things like: “In my opinion…”, and “I believe that…”
- End on a positive note – Conclude by highlighting and celebrating positive attributes of their work. Express your joy in what they did well.
When giving constructive feedback, ask yourself “How can I assist and support this team member in reaching their next growth level?” If you embrace feedback with that mindset, you can’t do anything wrong because your intent and heart will lead the way.
It’s human nature for people to want to evolve, which means that we strive to grow, develop, and self-actualise. No-one is happy to stagnate or stay too long in a comfort zone. Everybody needs a stretch goal to work towards, and a challenge and opportunity to upskill into becoming a better version of themselves. Sometimes we aren’t ready for the growth spurt, and may feel overwhelmed by the mere thought of it. At other times, we need someone to champion us on, to believe in us, and to hold us accountable for our commitments. Or we need an independent sounding board who can challenge our thinking and behaviour. Regardless of what it is you need, a coach can support you to grow to your optimum.
It’s a known fact that all sportspeople have coaches that help them to bring out their best. In the working environment, it’s becoming acceptable for executives, leaders, and managers to make use of coaches in the workplace, but this is still a small minority. However, in mainstream everyday life, very few would use the services of a coach. People are generally misinformed and incorrectly educated about coaching, so they shy away from the service. But now with COVID-19 impacting our entire life, coaching becomes an essential service to consider. This is especially so if, as a leader, you need tools to cope with the daily stresses of the pandemic, gain new focus, grow as a leader, set realistic goals, or need a sounding board to explore opportunities. In this article, I will address some of the primary coaching myths and misconceptions.
What is Coaching?
There are endless definitions for coaching, but, for now, let’s keep it simple. Coaching is a process that improves a person’s performance. It focuses on the current moment and not on the past, because what has happened has happened and cannot be changed. The only change that is possible – and that you have control over – is your approach to, and attitude about the future. A coach will partner with you to find new ways of doing things, thinking about concepts, and behaving differently; all in the spirit of maximising your potential. So, it’s about creating awareness, learning new ways, choosing to act, and self-reflecting on the progress.
Eight Workplace Coaching Myths
1. Coaching is just glorified therapy
These two modalities cannot – and should not – be compared to each other. Therapy works from the context that something in your past needs to be ‘fixed’, and so it delves into your history and childhood. Coaching is a catalyst process where you and the coach work in the ‘here and now’ on methods that can catapult you forward in attaining your goals and providing personal growth. Coaching views you as wholesome and healthy, with all the necessary resources to achieve your potential.
2. Coaching needs a lot of my time
One of the core principles of coaching is that it’s a non-dependent model, so coaches do their best to create no co-dependency. Coaching sessions can vary from one or two sessions to three- or six-month programmes in which you meet your coach every two weeks for an hour or 90 minutes. But if you want to grow and develop, you do need to invest the time for the action items that you have identified.
3. Coaching is for people who have problems at work
Coaching is not a remedial performance review process. I can’t express that more strongly. Nor is it a process that will transfer a leader’s problem to the coach. Instead, coaching is there to support you to get unstuck in your thinking or behaviour, to get committed, and to become re-engaged by developing new tools to increase performance. Through coaching, you understand how your current behaviour is hindering your growth, and you and the coach jointly explore ways to create a positive shift.
4. I am successful, so I don’t need a coach
Ironically it’s precisely at this time when you need a coach the most because they will support you to maintain this level of peak performance or grow you to the next level. Coaching is most successful when a person is already motivated, committed, and thriving, but wants to continue to explore their blind spots and have a neutral sounding board.
5. Coaching is the same as mentoring
Think of it this way: the mentor is the wise sage who has been there done that and has the t-shirt. A coach guides you on your journey of peak performance without being the expert. Mentoring is an informal, unstructured approach which answers your questions and provides advice. In contrast, coaching is more structured, sets clearly-defined goals and milestones of success, and holds you accountable.
6. Coaching is expensive
Costs vary based on the coach’s level of experience, years of training, and professional credentials, but most companies are willing to pay for this kind of service. Different rates apply for personal and professional coaching, and it’s always best to research this upfront. Nowadays, coaching is effective and efficient as it can be done online, which saves time and travelling costs. Also, 4Seeds has substantially reduced coaching fees during the COVID-19 pandemic as we want to help you grow and cope with your workplace challenges in these difficult times.
7. Coaching is only for senior management
Coaching is for everybody, in any company, and at any level. If you want to grow and develop, then coaching is for you regardless of where you are in the organisation’s structure.
8. I will lose face with my team if I hire a coach
Your team needs to understand that coaching is about self-development and growth, and that you’re striving to be a better leader and role-model. You can even invite them to give you feedback during the process, or share why you’re behaving differently. Include them in the process.
Coaching in the workplace is here to stay, and it will play an even more impactful role in a leader’s career path. It’s a safe and confidential environment where you can explore your thoughts, ideas, and feelings, and you’ll have time to reflect on – and to let go of – habits that are no longer working for you.
Contact us today on firstname.lastname@example.org about your coaching needs and desires. We can support you to become your best possible self.