People-centred and conscious leadership: A must for organisations to survive

People-centred and conscious leadership: A must for organisations to survive

Twenty to thirty years ago, conversations about the environment and climate change started appearing. At that time, there were rumours that icebergs at the North Pole were melting, plastic waste was killing marine life, toxic waste was being pumped into rivers, and exhaust fumes from cars and factory chimneys was poisoning the air. Immediately, some of us were convinced that these things were true, and we changed the way we lived. However, most of us were in denial, either thinking that it wasn’t true, or feeling that it was OK because it didn’t affect us personally. Like ostriches, we stuck our heads in the sand, not wanting to see and hear how the climate and environment around us was slowly changing. Activists had a continual uphill battle of raising awareness and educating people about climate change; it’s devastating, destroying our planet, and it’s here to stay! They encouraged people to take drastic action now, not in years to come.

Fast forward to 2020, where we have constant validation that the climate has changed. There are heatwaves in countries who aren’t used to such high temperatures, droughts, flooding, volcanic eruptions, earth tremors, cyclones, and devastating forest fires. We can no longer be ostriches and say that the warnings we received two decades ago are not our current reality.


People-centred and conscious leadership mindset

I feel we’ve reached the exact same thing in organisations where, for the last ten years, conversations have been around shifting from a profit-centred to a people-centred mindset. Many organisations are in denial and rigidly follow an industrial-era type business model with top-down hierarchies, focusing on making short-term profits, driving strategic goals, and maximising shareholder returns. At the core there is nothing wrong with this business approach, as organisations exist to make profits and be competitive. However, the model has lost its people-centred focus. The human element is missing, and people are often seen as a commodity that can easily be replaced, similar to a piece of machinery. But people are not machines, and they cannot be treated as such. They have hearts, emotions, goals, and individual strengths. Everyone is unique and has so much to offer. Your people are your organisation’s biggest asset, not your biggest liability!

Like environmental activists, I am the well-being, people-centred activist who wants to make you aware that leaders must adjust their style and mindset for future organisation success. You can, of course, be in denial, like we did with the environment, but the results are not going to be what you want in the years to come. Do your best to bring conscious leadership into your organisation now, because it’s a strategic change that requires time to roll out and implement. It needs time because it involves an entire culture change. I know that this concept may be scary, but it need not be if it’s done in small steps. Carrying on the way you’re doing business right now will have long-term negative consequences because the climate of organisations is changing drastically. Introducing conscious leadership into your organisation will keep you ahead of the curve; don’t wait to jump on the band wagon.


What is Consciousness?

Consciousness is about being fully-present and aware; directing your attention to what’s happening to you in the moment on a thinking, feeling, and sensing level. It’s about paying attention without judgement, or attachment to your emotions, thoughts, and feelings. It takes you out of the reactive, knee-jerk reaction we all fall prey to, and allows you to be introspective. When you are conscious, you can focus your attention inward for a minute or two and explore what’s going on for you. What’s going through your mind, what emotions are you feeling, and what is your gut telling you? Becoming consciously aware allows you to take a step back from a situation, out of ego-mode, and to openly assess what is happening for you as well as for others. Ultimately, it allows you to make ethical decisions, and to find solutions to complex scenarios. Living more consciously raises your level of empathy and compassion, which in turn results in being more flexible in your thinking, more solution-orientated. In this way, we can build stronger relationships, and we can also support those around us.


What is Conscious Leadership?

From a leadership point of view, conscious leadership means being present, fully connected, and authentic with your team. It involves making a mental mind shift to lead in the new leadership way that straddles both the importance of making profit as well as caring about the team’s well-being, and being people-centred. The focus is on long-term sustainability rather than short-term gains, and for that change you need to invest in your people and their well-being. Like the call for us to stop abusing the planet, here is the call for us to make an organisational shift and bring in conscious leadership.

Fred Kofman, author of the book Conscious Business, says that a conscious leader shows responsibility, humility, collaborative communication, win-win conflict resolution, integrity, emotional mastery, and excellent self-awareness. Reading these criteria, one can see that conscious leadership has a soft side that is very people-centred. It’s something that goes deep and cannot be reached when rigidly adhering to, and honouring, processes and procedures. It has an element of vulnerability, of not knowing the answers, of not controlling or managing people, and of being curious and open-minded to situations. It is this vulnerability that makes leaders uncomfortable and afraid to shift into conscious leadership. But, it if you want your organisation to remain competitive, you need to take the bold step and instil a people-centred culture and shift to a conscious leadership style. Start with these three small, and non-overwhelming steps.


Three non-overwhelming steps

  1. Buffer your reactive knee-jerk reactions: Only through bringing in mindful consciousness can you become fully present in the moment and register what a trigger is doing to you. Learn to take five deep breaths, count to 20, or take a 10-minute walk before you respond. Find yourself a visual reminder to assist in these sorts of situations, and find a place to stick this reminder where you’ll see it easily. Once you’ve cooled off and put some distance between yourself and the situation, reflect on how you’re feeling at the time and what you ideally want from it. Then communicate that in an open and positive way.
  2. Take full accountability for a situation: As difficult as this may sound, a conscious leader takes ownership and responsibility for a situation that didn’t go according to plan. Learn to not shift into a victim mentality, or blaming others, but rather understand how your leadership behaviour and actions have contributed to the problem. This is a combination of looking inward and then outward, rather than just outward, which is our autopilot mode. Once you can see that you are part of the problem, you can be part of the solution and navigate it in the direction you want it to go.
  3. Act, think, and behave with intention: Learning to bring intention to everybody and everything you engage with requires that you decide upfront how you are going to show up. Bring awareness to how you want to come across when you interact with your team and what you want to experience in a situation. If you would like to enjoy your day at the office, have a pleasant experience doing your job, and a solid connection with your team, you have to set this intention upfront, because then that’s exactly what will happen! Even when things don’t go according to plan, you’ll consciously decide to look for solutions and not for this situation to derail you.


You may only be able to remain in denial for a very short time, but the writing is on the wall. Organisations who don’t want to fail, downsize, or close down, will eventually have to make the shift to a people-centred culture. Start today with small steps and keep working on it bit by bit as change takes time both from a mindset and from an implementation point of view.

Is it Time for an Organisational Health Check?

Is it Time for an Organisational Health Check?

People have returned from their holidays and work hasn’t completely taken off full swing just yet. The energy is still high and people are filled with optimism for the new year and its potential. However, as time passes our enthusiasm and energy generally starts to slow down and eventually tapers off, which is often when an organisational health check is needed.

Routine, structure and constant deadlines often lead to lower levels of motivation, morale and engagement. It is not unusual for companies to use this time to strategise about the next twelve month’s goals and plans, setting the organisation’s direction and determining the measurement indicators that will show that they are moving forward and by how much. So, as part of the annual strategy process can we take the time to do an organisational health check? A process that can determine where your employees are right now and what level of health your organisation is at right now?

In reality, this seldom happens, if ever at all. For some unexplainable reason, we often think that employees’ overall health is constantly good, but is it? We tend to put together our plans of the year without checking if our employees are whole-heartedly behind it. This can become a costly oversight that will become evident in the months to come- as engagement wanes. A strategy is only as successful as the people who need to execute it. But what is the organisational health check?


Why Do an Organisational Health Check?

There might be a gap that has developed silently and slowly and this is where the desired reality and the current reality are no longer aligned. This process is usually gradual and can easily go unnoticed until our staff fall short of our expectations and unseen crises become more frequent. It’s like a murmur that leaders have to be very attuned to so they can feel the heartbeat of the organisation is strong.

We can use our bodies as an analogy, sometimes we might feel the odd ache or pain which disappears for some time and reappears unexpectedly. In the beginning, it’s an odd ache or pain we ignore however over time if not attended to, it can develop into a serious illness. The murmurs were there all along but we were not mindful of our health and did not see or hear the warning signs- which can lead to serious organisational health issues.

An Organisational Health Check is how we become aware and vigilant of the warning signs within our organisations, staff and teams.


Four Questions to Ask During an Organisational Health Check

  1. Does our vision statement still excite our teams?
  2. Do our people get a sense of belonging?
  3. Is the mission worthwhile pursuing?
  4. Are the values still shared and actively lived out?

These four questions are a good starting point for any company to ask on a regular basis. Speak to your teams to get answers, and tune in and listen to the inner voice. Listen for the unspoken. If this is left undetected for too long the process to change can take quite some time – this is the time during which the strategy i.e. goals are slowed down, or worse not achieved at all. Of course, we can choose to ignore the health check results and push the strategy through, but it will backfire. If you want to successfully accomplish your company’s strategy, then it’s important to learn to take your teams with you and work collectively on the same goals.


How 4Seeds Can Help

4Seeds are a team of expert facilitators and coaches who support companies before, during and after an Organisational Health Check. With our toolbox of assessments and evidence-based strategies, we can help your organisation thrive, individually and collectively. We are the company doctor- and we are always on call. Contact us at to find out how we can support the health of your organisation.

Set your 2020 Inner Leadership Goal

Set your 2020 Inner Leadership Goal

A new decade has dawned, and with it comes a feeling of inner knowing that things have to, and will, change. For quite some time, many of us have become aware that our current economic, business, social, cultural, and ecological situations need a drastic overhaul. There needs to be a shift in our thinking and behaviour so that we can fix the problems we’re facing in our modern world. This all starts with inner leadership.

Our traditional way of thinking won’t be enough to meet the challenges that are upon us, and a change in perspective is urgently required. As much as you may think that the current chaos in the world is not yours to solve, or even beyond your control, you can make an impactful change in your working environment by starting to shift your leadership perspective and set your 2020 leadership goal to match this.

It doesn’t matter what leadership level you hold in your company, or perhaps you aren’t in a leadership position. You don’t need a title to create change. It’s a personal and conscious decision you make. By changing your workplace, you’ll start a positive ripple effect that touches your family, your health, your social networks, and your communities. If we all take a small step forward, the collective impact will filter through to the meta level of our economy, culture, environment, and society.


A New Decade, A New Beginning: The Age of Inner Leadership

As is customary, we start the year with reflections and the desire to bring our best into the world. We earmark personal and professional areas we want to change. We want to improve our health, better our wealth, spend quality time with loved ones, study some more, find time for our hobbies, climb the corporate ladder, expand our own business, and honour work-life balance. These are all important goals to focus on, but I’d encourage you to add in a new goal of raising your consciousness.

Strive towards your true self, fulfil your potential, because that’s what motivates you and keeps you moving forward. As human beings, we want to self-actualise and become the best possible version of ourselves. To reach that goal, we have to raise our awareness and consciousness to a higher level.

By focusing on your professional and leadership competencies, you might have identified skills that you’d like to develop. These can range from soft skills such as emotional intelligence, conflict management, time management, or assertiveness, to hard skills like training in human resources. I invite you to include an area that might be new to you; something that entails growing your inner leadership.


Setting Your Inner Leadership Goals

If you’re wanting to improve and transform your leadership ability, then you’re going to need more than just soft and hard skills. You’ll need to develop your inner leadership, which means going inward and shifting your perspective.

Inner leadership is a courageous process which involves confronting yourself, and taking responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions. Inner leadership means believing and accessing the best in yourself with love, compassion, sensitivity, and inspiration.

You need to be consciously aware of what’s happening in the physical and material world, and learn to not react to it. When you turn inwards, you’ll be able to see the interconnectedness and interdependence of people, situations, and events. In an outward approach, you can only see these things separately, and won’t understand the connection.

Going inwards requires ongoing practice, and, over time, previous limits and boundaries will disappear as you let go of fear and anxiety. Instead, you’ll gain in autonomy and confidence, and will be astonished at the learnings, opportunities, and possibilities that open up for you. Inner leadership is not a skill any leadership course will teach you. It’s a personal decision you make to take your leadership competency to an increased level.


How to Start Developing Your Inner Leadership

You might be wondering how you can develop your inner leadership. There is no shortcut here; you’ll need to practice it every day. Uplifting your consciousness means becoming aware of every situation that offers a change or a challenge. Welcome these opportunities so you can see them in an original and new way. Leave judgement and preconceived beliefs out. You’ll need to set aside some time to learn how not to be actively play the game, but to step off the pitch and watch it from the side-line. Become curious about what’s playing out in front of you, how you contribute to it, and what’s the opportunity for you. Take failures as valuable information to discover what didn’t work, and be open-minded to try another way. Also, it’s not about trying to understand the catalyst that gave rise to the situation, because it can be a situation, a thought, a feeling, or a reaction. Rather, see the interconnectedness of the situation. Don’t focus on “why did this happen?”, but rather on “what is the opportunity for change?”.

What opportunity does this situation allow for so that you can behave at your highest level?

Don’t be reactive and try to fix the weakness; rather look for the strengths in the situation and raise them. Inner leadership is a mindset shift, and one that is possible for everyone. You can raise your level of consciousness with regular awareness and practice!

I’m aware that this article might appear a little heavy and intense for our first one of the year, but it’s time for us all to actively decide to be the change we’re yearning for.

Be bold and courageous, and take the first step forward. Don’t wait for others. Take charge and set yourself the goal of embracing your inner leadership.

I know that the philosophy of inner leadership may resonate with you, or it may not. It might be something you yearn for but are fearful of starting. You may question whether you can reach this level of raised consciousness, or anxious of what will happen if you fail. Rest assured, you cannot fail! Turning inwards is a new leadership mode that expands thinking and raises consciousness. Both are needed to address the current workplace and other world challenges we’re facing.

A Three-Step Reflection Process for You and Your Team

A Three-Step Reflection Process for You and Your Team

The end of the year is just over a month away. On the one hand, we’re eagerly counting the days until the end of the year so that we can go on our well-deserved holidays, and on the other we’re aware of what’s in our inbox to be completed before the Christmas shutdown. This time of the year is often associated with pausing, looking back, and taking stock. If you were to ask yourself whether 2019 was a good year for you or not, your answer will most likely be based on your experiences during the year. There were no doubt some happy moments, and obviously some sad or less enjoyable ones. However, some experiences weigh more than others, so your reflection process will be a subjective tally, and you’ll decide whether it was a good or not so good year.

Reflection is commonly used to assess our personal and professional life but seldom do we use the power of reflection process within a team and consciously take the time in our companies to reflect and celebrate. When I talk about celebrating, I’m not referring to the traditional year-end functions or team-building activities, but the process of really going inward and reflecting on the team’s successes, learnings, and challenges.

Past research suggests that focusing, planning, and setting meaningful goals for the future is important to increase well-being and positive functioning. Also, the main goal theory researchers, Locke and Latham state that goal setting is an effective way to receive feedback on performance and progress. During the year, we tend to focus on completing goals, sometimes perhaps even doing it without questioning whether we’re moving towards the goal or away from it. We don’t often take the time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished and whether what we’re doing makes any sense. We’re extremely focused on getting things done and meeting deadlines.

It’s very important to engage with a reflection process in your team and spend time, especially at this time of the year, to look at what has happened over the past year. It’s good to assess the goals you’ve achieved, which ones weren’t met, and what you’ve learned as a team. You’ll also need to consider what you’re taking into next year and what you’re leaving behind.


A Three-Step Reflection Process for You and Your Team

The following exercise will assist you to consciously monitor your progress and take you through a three-step reflection process you can use in your team and company to accurately review 2019.


Step 1: Explaining the Process and Intent of Goal Monitoring

This stage is self-explanatory and doesn’t require much elaboration. From the outset, you’ll need to tell your team what you’re going to do, why you’re doing it, and what the purpose is. This is to make sure that there is no resistance and that they all participate honestly. Highlight the importance for them as a team as well as individuals.


Step 2: Create Review Questions

Together with the team, think of questions that will help them track their 12-month progress. Start with light questions and then move onto meatier ones. Some examples are:

  • What did we accomplish over the last 12 months that we’re proud of?
  • What experiments did we attempt, and how successful were we with them?
  • What are some of the things we’ve learned about ourselves in the last year?
  • What are the things we want to take into next year?
  • What didn’t work for us in the past year that we want to stop doing?
  • What do we want to recognise ourselves for?
  • What are some of our goals for the upcoming year?
  • How do we want to celebrate our wins?


Step 3: Plan Future Review Meetings

Invite the team to schedule a 30-minute meeting once a month – or once every quarter – to review progress made. Waiting to do this at the end of the year can be a long time, and bringing in frequent check-ins maintains motivation, energy, and commitment. Also, it’s important to give regular feedback on whether they’re progressing in the right direction or not. Make the meeting non-negotiable, and if for some reason it can’t happen, reschedule it rather than cancelling it.

This three steps reflection process is easy to follow and doesn’t require any preparation. Your team will give you all the answers so make sure you really listen to them. It’s things like this which open communication, establish future developmental areas, and highlight past successes. It also brings to the forefront any weaknesses and highlights what didn’t work. We need to talk about all of it. Make sure that you focus on growth, achievements and acknowledge the members of your team. It’s also extremely important to end the session on a high note.

You might be concerned that you don’t have the time for a reflection process at this time of year and that it sounds like a lengthy process, but it shouldn’t take you more than an hour to 90 minutes. Trust me, it’s time well spent time investing in your team and giving them the necessary energy to be more engaged in their work at this time of the year.

For more information on how you can start creating a healthy workplace culture, contact us on Our consultants are available to help you set up a sustainable and strong strategy which puts your best resources – your people – first.




Does Employee Loyalty Exist and How Can You Build it?

Does Employee Loyalty Exist and How Can You Build it?

I was on my way home from a client who’d just told me that they’d lost their star performer, the employee they’d invested all their hope, time, and commitment in. The client was devastated, and asked me does employee loyalty exist? Good question!

In the current working environment, the tables appear to have turned, and employees aren’t staying with one company for a long time anymore, leaving without qualms, for greener pastures. The one reason – well certainly here in South Africa – is that there is a skills shortage, which makes it easier for employees to be selective about their jobs. But could there be other reasons for why people leave their jobs? Remuneration seems like a logical answer, but when conducting deeper research, it’s not the true answer for why we lack employee loyalty. The answer is multi-layered, but can be divided into three core elements: culture, leadership, and employee happiness. I will touch on each of these aspects, but first I’d like to go back a step and explore what employee loyalty means.


Does Employee Loyalty Exist?

Yes, it does. Most would agree that employee loyalty is an employee’s commitment to working hard and being dedicated to the company’s success. It’s about putting the company’s interests first, and in return, expecting reciprocity such as stimulating work, a positive culture, growth opportunities, regular feedback, and collaboration, etc. Remuneration is a given, and is considered a fair exchange between skills, work tasks, experience, and knowledge.

In short, employee loyalty exists but remuneration doesn’t buy it- reciprocity does. This means that there needs to be a fair exchange, and herein lies the challenge. That exchange can become distorted as time goes by, with blurred lines between what the company and the employee expect from each other.


The Difference between Employee Commitment and Employee Loyalty

We need to clarify that commitment and loyalty are not the same things. Most committed employees are naturally loyal, but the reverse doesn’t necessarily hold true. Loyal employees don’t have to be committed. How can that be? Loyal employees are happy with their working environment and happy to perform their tasks. In contrast, a committed employee goes above and beyond and expects more from the company. Loyal employees will be passionate advocates for the company as long as it is good to them and satisfies their needs. A committed employee usually demands a positive working environment, growth, supportive leadership, motivated goals, and an inspiring vision from the leader.


The 3 Components of Employee Loyalty

At the beginning of this article, I said that employee loyalty is based on three things: culture, leadership, and employee happiness.


1.      Organisational Culture for Employee Loyalty

Research into culture, conducted in 2019 by TINYpulse, shows that 43% of people leave their current jobs for one that has organisational culture, even if that would involve taking a salary reduction.

Companies today are facing a culture crisis. Culture is a key differentiator for employees to stay, or to be attracted to work in your organisation. In reality, how many companies really put energy behind their culture? Most have their values stuck up on the wall and believe that a year-end function is enough to keep the culture alive. Maybe that was good enough twenty years ago, but in this current dynamic working environment, it isn’t. Not for the organisation, and not for the employee.

If you want to start changing the culture in your company, you need to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty because this takes time, commitment, and dedication. If you don’t put energy behind your culture, it will form itself, and it seldom develops in a positive way. Employees want to be heard, valued, and appreciated, so make that your starting point. Begin by talking to your employees and find out what frustrates and delights them about their work. You may be wondering what that has to do with culture, but the answers will assist you in establishing patterns and behaviours that need adjusting for positive growth.


2.      Good Leadership Builds Employee Loyalty

The second component is leadership. We’ve all heard so many times that employees leave leaders and not companies. But did you know that the percentage is as high as 70%? That means that with good leadership, companies have it in their control to instil employee loyalty.

We all know that in this day and age, leadership is an enormous responsibility and challenge, but it’s also an exciting one because we’re living in a time where we can explore opportunities and make decisions that shape our kids’ future. Leadership is complex, with a lot of emphasis on acquiring the necessary soft skills to lead people, and I’m a huge advocate that those are absolutely necessary. However, when I speak to employees, three common topics always come up, and I’d like to suggest that leaders start working on them.

First, employees aren’t always clear about their roles and responsibilities, as they have not been well defined. Second, they’re unsure how their work contributes to the team’s goals and therefore to the company’s success, which makes them feel that their work doesn’t matter. Third, they feel as if they’re not being listened to when they make suggestions or give ideas.


3.      Employee Happiness is Key to Employee Loyalty

The third and final component is employee happiness. I’m not talking about pool tables or Friday pizzas, but rather about getting to understand what makes people happy in the workplace. The answer might surprise you, but employees are looking for mental stimulation. They want to work on tasks that are not boring and routine-based, but ones that allow them to think and apply their skills and knowledge. I know we all have to perform standard tasks that we don’t enjoy that much but are part of our job, but it’s about mixing in activities that challenge us.

You can approach this in two ways: (1) you can assign activities to employees based on your assessment of their skills and competency, or (2) you could make a list of activities that need to be done, stick it up on the office noticeboard, and let people write their names next to the thing they want to do, preferably with a buddy. The key message here is to give employees autonomy to choose that thing that they want to step up to.

A much overlooked aspect of employee happiness, is that employees want to feel emotionally safe at work. This means that they can express themselves freely, receive support during challenging times and when they make a mistake, and are able to build trusting relationships.


In Conclusion: Employee Loyalty Exists but it Takes Effort

Employee loyalty is certainly difficult to attain, and companies have to work hard to ensure that their star performers stay. I have provided three areas for you to start working on so that you can ensure that your employees – who are your biggest asset – stay for a long time and give you the commitment and hard work that you’re expecting from them.

Don’t forget that I’m an email away if you need support. Contact me on


Three Leadership Tips on How to Motivate Employees for the Long-Run

Three Leadership Tips on How to Motivate Employees for the Long-Run

It’s every leader’s dream to have a motivated, focused, and high-performing team. Equally, it’s every employee’s desire to be motivated and inspired at work, and go home every day feeling fulfilled and satisfied. But all organisations struggle with sustained motivation, which is why we are going to offer three leadership tips on how to motivate employees for the long-run.

Without deviating too much, let’s pause for a moment and reflect on a time when you went home feeling as if you’d had a “wow” day at the office. I’m guessing that it’s been a while… Don’t feel alone; it’s not often that we have the kind of days where we were truly inspired and motivated by our work.

Leaders are frustrated that employees aren’t motivated, and employees are bored or unmotivated as their leader doesn’t give them the personal motivation that they yearn for. This is a lose-lose situation which results in headaches for both leaders and employees.

The Secret to Motivate Employees for the Long-Run

The concept of motivation in the workplace is nothing new; it’s been a conundrum which leaders have grappled with for centuries. Over time, various motivation theories have been designed by people like Maslow, Vroom, Hertzberg, Skinner,  Locke and countless others. They all have a slightly different focus, but basically all want the same: to inspire employees to be engaged at work and put in the necessary effort into their tasks. However, what the theories miss is the fact that everyone can’t be placed in the same box. They’re unique beings who are motivated, stimulated and passionate about different things. So, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, and leaders have to take the time to get to know their team members really well to understand what they are passionate about and what does or doesn’t interest them. It is this personal attention that helps leaders to motivate employees for the long-run.

What makes motivation as a leader so difficult is that we tend to make three dire assumptions. Firstly, we assume that people are motivated by the same things that we are. This is seldom the case because everyone is unique with different values and belief systems, which means that a different motivation style and intensity is required. Secondly, we assume that people should be self-motivated. In an ideal world where employees are working on things that stimulate and excite them, they’ll have their own inner motivation.

However, there are many things that don’t motivate them or that are overwhelming for them, and these require managers to provide extra motivation and encouragement. Thirdly, motivation waxes and wanes depending on the progress we make on tasks. Employees need words of encouragement, feedback, and support to get through difficult periods. A kind and encouraging word carries a lot of weight.

I’m aware that we’re heading towards the end of the year and that motivation is starting to wane, however in our article Three Strategies to Keep You Motivated Towards Year End published on 8 October 2019, we provided you with ideas on how to get through the last two months of the year in a positive way.

In this article, I want to take a longer-term view on how you can make motivation part of your leadership style and influence the culture of your team. This is a competency that is built and developed over time. It’s important to remember that motivation is a way of leading; it’s something you do every day rather than when people are low, disengaged, and unmotivated. By then, you’ll have a steep road ahead to get people positive and engaged again. It is so much better to learn to do it every day in small bits so that you maintain the momentum. Make sure that the whole team feel motivated often!

Three Leadership Tips on How to Motivate Employees for the Long-Run

Build the following motivation skills into your daily leadership role and notice motivated employee’s in the long-run. Four tangible outcomes that you can use to see whether there is a change in your team’s motivation are:

(1) They communicate more often and are more open with you
(2) They share with you and others when they make mistakes
(3) They volunteer on additional projects or work
(4) They share information or knowledge with each other

Three basic things which a leader should do to ensure that they motivate employees for the long-run are:

1.    Involve the whole team in decision-making

People want to feel included and connected with their manager as well as with their colleagues. Giving them time, the most valuable resource, is a primary motivator for them because they feel valued, appreciated, and considered. Allow them to contribute in meetings, ask them to share their ideas, and listen to them. Give them the autonomy to contribute their creativity and innovation; they are often the ones doing the actual work so they generally have the best solutions.

2.    Reward people in their value language

Most people don’t mind working late or taking on extra work for a certain amount of time, but generally they want to be rewarded for it. It’s your job to know which rewards motivate employees for the long-run. Understand what they value and align the reward accordingly. To do this, you have to listen to the language they use, as that is a common give-away. Better still, you need to spend time with them to get to know them better. There is nothing more off-putting than receiving a meaningless reward after a long slog. A reward without any thought or consideration behind it will demotivate them, and it might even go so far as to break down the trust in the relationship.

3.    Accountability and fairness

It may sound odd to put these two words together, but employees are motivated by being held accountable. They want you to follow up with them on where they are, check in if they need support, and remind them of a looming deadline. You might disagree, but in the end every employee wants to know that their peers are working as hard as they are, and as per their job description. If this is not the case, then employees value it if you hold that person accountable and don’t turn a blind eye. Not addressing it with the employee will instil a feeling of unfairness which can be exceptionally demotivating. Having double standards for different people, or favouring one person over the other, are absolute no-nos. Before you have a chance to blink, a lacklustre culture will have developed and the team performance will decline. I urge you to learn this skill as early as possible.

At 4Seeds we specialise in building positive workplaces through the use of scientific, practical, and fun workshops. We develop bespoke and affordable training that is tailored to your company’s needs.

If you’re interested in developing your team or your own leaderships skills, get in touch with us on

We look forward to working with you to create community and connection in your company.

Five Steps to Creating Happiness in your Workplace

Five Steps to Creating Happiness in your Workplace

Despite research showing the significant link between employee happiness and productivity in the workplace, it seems that very little effort is being made by organisations to instil a happy and positive working environment. Perhaps the idea of focusing on employee well-being or happiness feels like a soft and fuzzy thing which is leaders believe is the employee’s duty to manage. Either that or they think that it’s a modern fad that will hopefully soon pass. The reality is that employee happiness and well-being is here to stay and its voice will become louder and louder in years to come. If they haven’t done so already, employee well-being and happiness are going to become strategic agenda items that will need to be taken serious by board members, and senior and executive leaders.

People spend a lot of their time at work, and have the right to be happy and in a positive vibrant working environment that brings out the best in them. Also, happy employees are statistically known to be more productive, engaged, and motivated, which has a direct impact on an organisation’s bottom line. So, it’s a win-win situation for the individual and the organisation. But we struggle to make the mind shift to instil this positive concept. Why do you think this is the case?

Four key reasons spring to mind: (1) organisations are stuck in their comfort zones, and lack the know-how to roll out this cultural change process. (2) they lack the clarity on how the change will be tangibly measured. (3) they don’t have the budget set aside to engage in this philosophy. (4) they don’t have the time to focus on implementing and training people. Like the saying goes: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

I’m going to address the second point immediately because we can tangibly and easily measure employee happiness and well-being through things such as job satisfaction, volunteering, career development, talent retention, minimal absenteeism, low employee turnover, culture fit, motivation, employee engagement, and many more. The list is endless. On second thoughts, perhaps the terms happiness and well-being are causing confusion, because we’re not clear on what they mean.

What is Happiness?

Happiness is a construct most of us have experienced in some parts of our lives, and most people are mildly happy for the majority of their life span. Philosophers and social humanistic researchers have defined the term happiness in many ways so that not one agreed definition exists. The reason for the disagreement lies in the fact that happiness has two components to it. We speak of hedonic and eudamonic happiness. Hedonic happiness is the happiness most people are familiar with, which is to experience pleasant emotions and situations. We pursue positive events and activities to forego negative experiences, hence pleasure over pain is the motto. Eudamonic happiness is more intense, and requires personal commitment. It is engaging in activities in which one finds meaning, pursues growth and self-actualisation, and is virtuous by being naturally and morally right. Hedonic happiness focuses on the individual and has a selfish component to it, whereas eudamonic happiness is focused on the collective social well-being and is performed for the higher good of society. For organisations, there is a balancing act because both forms of happiness need to be integrated into the workplace. Events such as monthly pizza lunches will be fleeting and will tick the box of hedonic happiness because they disburse positive emotions and experiences, but aren’t long-lasting so we need to do them more often.

How to Kick-Start Happiness

To assist you to introduce the concept of happiness in the organisation, I’m going to share five practical steps to kick-start your process.

Step 1: Design a bespoke happiness survey for your organisation and then distribute it to all employees electronically

Honestly, this is more difficult than it sounds because you’ll want to ensure that you’re asking relevant happiness questions that will give you a true indication of how happy people are at work. Perhaps you’ll even bundle questions into sub-categories that you can use as measurement tools – things like job satisfaction, workplace trust, social relationships, working environment, safety, job crafting, etc. You need to set a substantial amount of time aside to establish what information you want to collect from your staff. Phrase questions in a simple and open-ended manner so that everybody, regardless of their position in the organisation, can effortlessly answer them. Have a look at our free happiness at work assessment to inspire you:

Step 2: Brief people about the happiness survey

If you want to get a significant amount of people participating in your happiness at work survey, you’ll need to brief people accordingly. Writing one email is not going to be enough for people to willingly spend time on the survey. Leaders will have to verbally communicate why the organisation is doing the survey, what the intention behind it is, what happens with the results, who sees them, what type of feedback they’ll get, as well as when they will receive it. The survey has to guarantee confidentially and be anonymous if you want truthful answers.

Step 3: Create readiness through positive language

You may not notice, but most language used in an organisation, regardless of whether it is written or spoken, is negative and has a deficit tone to it. Start by rephrasing words like “problems” with “challenges” or “opportunities”. Speak of “strengths” instead of “weaknesses”. Break the traditional corporate lingo, and be a bit more light-hearted and positive in your terminology. Bring in simple human appreciation concepts of being kind, considerate, and caring towards one another. Be mindful that what you hear consciously and subconsciously impacts on your performance, mindset, and attitude.

Step 4: Overcome resistance

Not everybody is going to be excited about this new concept. Perhaps your organisation has tried something like this before and you weren’t successful. People will remember that. Maybe they’re scared of the changes because they’re not sure how it will impact either them personally or their work. To reduce resistance, include the people affected by the change from the outset. Communicate often, answer their questions, and address their concerns. Listen to them and make an effort to understand where their fear is coming from.

Step 5: Do it in bite-sized chunks

It’s totally common that once you’ve assessed the data from the survey, analysed it, and interpreted it, you’ll be ready to jump into action. You’re going to have lots of things that you want to change immediately, but you need to be mindful of going slowly. Take a step back and find two or three activities that you can work on. Choose something that will get quick results, something a little bit more medium term, like in four to six months’ time, and then something that will take a full twelve months. Focus on three things only. Once you’ve accomplished one goal satisfactorily, give feedback to the entire organisation, and then choose a new thing on your list.

Making Happiness Permanent

Instilling a positive and happy culture in your organisation takes time and continuous practice. If you want to make this an effective and permanent part of the organisation’s culture, you’ll need a dedicated person to focus on this full time. Depending on the size of the organisation it may be part of the HR department’s role, but in a larger organisation you’re likely to employ an internal happiness officer or use an external consultant. Should you feel overwhelmed with the task of implementing a happy work culture in your organisation, please speak to one of our consultants for a free one-hour consultation.

10 Characteristics of Ethical Leaders

10 Characteristics of Ethical Leaders

Over the last few years, the number of private sector and government scandals have increased drastically. Every day, unethical and disgraceful behaviour and decisions are exposed, which obviously raises the question of where were the leaders at the time? Did they really not know what was going on within their company, did they turn a blind eye, or did they actively participate? When there is unethical leadership in an organisation, the implications are severe and often affect many employees and their families. Society is shocked, even enraged, by this behaviour, and call for justice to be served. However, the damage has been done, and people tend to lose trust in corporate governance and leadership. Unethical leadership seeps through society and leaves a vile taste in our mouths.

Being Ethical

It is only in recent years that leaders have embraced an ethical consciousness in the management of an organisation, and have made ethical leadership a strategic executive topic. The word “ethics” originated from the Greek word “ethos” which means advocating moral behaviour and requirement. Ethics can, therefore, be inferred to mean to behave in an acceptable manner that is good and does no harm, opposed to doing “bad”. Being ethical is honouring your values and moral principles which enables you to behave legally and morally correctly, thus protecting the larger community. Ethical dilemmas arise if there is uncertainty and conflict between different people’s interests, values, and beliefs. In an organisation, ethical behaviour is commonly referred to as a “Code of Conduct” or “Best Practice” where both require the organisation’s culture to drive ethical behaviour. Ethical leadership is about living out these critical high-standard principles, which is done through an active process of enquiry. It is also about developing an enquiring mindset that continuously asks explorative questions. Taking it a step further, it is extending this concept to the entire organisation which gives each and every person the permission to enquire and ask questions.

A leader’s character plays a role in their ethical performance. Jones (1995) said that ethical behaviour is a personal disposition, and a character that you are born with, rather than one that has been acquired through training and learning. An ethical leader has a conscious mind, and is self-controlled and aware of the dire consequences of unethical behaviour. It is not a risk they’re willing to take as it would conflict with their inner values and beliefs. Zander (1992) identified ten characteristics of an ethical leader:

The Ethical Leader

  1. being humble
  2. being concerned for the greater good
  3. being honest and straightforward
  4. honouring commitments
  5. striving to be fair
  6. taking responsibility for their actions and behaviour
  7. showing respect for each individual
  8. encouraging others to develop
  9. serving others, and
  10. showing courage to stand up for what is wrong.


In a business environment, ethical leadership can be summarised as: (1) being honest, (2) being trustworthy, and (3) having integrity. Trust is related to demonstrating consistent, reliable, and predictable behaviour. Ethical leaders treat people with respect, dignity, fairness, are transparent in their communication, and have no double standards. Gallup, in their 2004 survey which comprised of 50 000 employees spread over 27 countries, demonstrated that respect is the primary characteristic in the workplace that people value the most. It is therefore no surprise to see it as a main characteristic in ethical leadership behaviour. Integrity is a very sought after characteristic in the business environment, and it means being honest with oneself and others, learning from mistakes, and engaging in a constant process of self-development and improvement. Demonstrating this behaviour ensures that the leader is a role model, and this should encourage others to behave in the same manner. The concept of “follow-the-leader” applies.

For leaders to roll out ethics within an organisation, they use their internally designed values. On the one hand, an organisation’s values are aimed at achieving the strategic goals, but on the other hand they are the collective moral compass of behaviours in an organisation. Researchers Blanchard & Peale (1996) identified five organisational values that support driving ethical behaviour throughout an entire organisation:

Organisational Ethics

  1. Pride – having high esteem and respect for what the organisation stands for, the values, the people, and the mannerism in which the organisation is operating.
  2. Patience – being humble and accepting that it takes time to implement strategies that support the organisation to reach its strategic goals.
  3. Prudence – exercising sound judgement and not making risky decisions in good as well as in challenging times in the organisation.
  4. Persistence-the continuous quest to take all the necessary steps and actions to achieve a goal. Overcoming overwhelm, and moving forward with an ethical obligation to attain a goal.
  5. Perspective – the capacity and ability to determine what is truly important in any given situation.


The final question arises as to why organisations engage in unethical behaviour knowing the risk of being caught out at some stage. The answer cannot possibly be to remain competitive and have a cutting edge advantage, even if it will be for a short amount of time. I believe that market success and ethical leadership go hand in hand, and you cannot have the one without the other. Unethical behaviour leaks to the outside environment, and it won’t be long before society begins to hear about it and stops engaging with the organisation. It pays to be ethical and to uphold ethical leadership and values.


Gratitude: What It Is and What It Isn’t

Gratitude: What It Is and What It Isn’t

Everyone wants to be more grateful in their life, and we all value this desirable human characteristic greatly. However, few of us are actually mindfully grateful. There are many definitions of gratitude: From a Positive Psychology point of view, it is not just an act of being kind to others by saying thank you; it’s a positive emotion that serves a biological purpose and one where the effect can be measured. There are also many synonyms for gratitude; the most used ones are acknowledgement, appreciation, and thankfulness.

The Harvard Medical School defines gratitude as: “A thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power”.

Gratitude is about counting one’s blessings regardless of whether life is going well or not. We are, however, more prone to think about what we’re grateful for when things in our life aren’t going as well as we would like them to. What’s important about gratitude is that it’s not about what you did to others or what you achieved in a day, but acknowledging that you received something from someone else that you value and appreciate. The purpose of being grateful is to make life better for ourselves and others and to overcome the human tendency to take things, people or situations for granted. You shouldn’t feel entitled to the benefits, or to resent others for their benefits, or to take full credit for your own success. There were always others involved who supported, guided and believed in you.

According to Robert Emmons, an American Professor of Psychology, gratitude has two stages to it. In stage one we are focused on our own internal world and are consciously aware of the goodness of our life. We feel positive and find life worth living. We are able to appreciate life’s richness as well as those who have contributed to it. In stage two the focus shifts to the external world and we absorb the beauty and goodness in other people, animals, nature, and the world.

But why do we struggle so much with this hugely inspiring characteristic? Gratitude doesn’t come naturally for most of us, whereas resentment and entitlement do. Gratitude is a virtue, which means that it needs to be taught, modelled, and regularly practised until it becomes an automatic habit.

To complicate matters, gratitude has been identified as a trait (a genetically determined characteristic), an emotion, and a mood. It starts off as an emotional reaction of feeling thankful and recognising the contribution others have made to our life and well-being. It then develops into a mood of a subtle, longer duration of conscious state, and ends as a permeable character trait.


The Benefits of Enhancing Our Gratitude

There are many benefits to enhancing our level of gratitude:

  1. Promotes optimal functioning
  2. Promotes feelings of empathy, forgiveness and helping others
  3. Facilitates coping with stress and loss
  4. Reduces upward social comparison which often results in envy and resentment
  5. Reduces materialistic striving
  6. Improves self-esteem
  7. Allows us to savour positive and pleasant memories
  8. Builds social resources
  9. Motivates moral and ethical behaviour
  10. Fosters goal attainment
  11. Promotes physical health
  12. Increases one’s spirituality


Growing Your Gratitude

After reading those powerful benefits, I’m sure that you’re excited to learn and grow your level of gratitude. Here are some ideas on how to do just that:

  1. If you enjoy journaling, this one’s for you! Take five minutes at the start or end of your day where you write down what you are grateful for. It can cover a wide range of things from the mundane to the magnificent. You do need to vary it and challenge yourself to look for new gratitude nuggets every day. It’s a powerful tool for you to reflect and notice who or what you are thankful for. Writing it down is important because on days where you feel low you can look at the things that you are grateful for.
  2. Express gratitude directly to another person. Write them a note or letter expressing what you appreciate about them as a person, or what they did for you. You can either read it to them or leave it in a place where they’ll find it. It’s very special to hear what impact one has made in another person’s life. Expect some tears with this one!
  3. Take note of an ungrateful thought that pops into your head and consciously reframe it to a positive one. We all have thoughts that aren’t positive and that entail negative language. It can be about us, others, or a certain situation. If we don’t manage or become aware of these thoughts, they can turn into stories that we buy into and so it is important to catch them, question them, and reframe them into positive ones. Ask yourself what you are learning, and what makes the situation good as it is. It does take some practice to catch those thoughts.


Whichever idea you use, remain curious and open-minded. If one suggestion doesn’t work, swop it for another one. Experiment and play with this. Keep it varied and fresh. As we are at halfway through the year, it’s the ideal time to reflect and express gratitude to the people who have supported you so far.

Have fun and spread gratitude!


Case Study: Building a Culture of Civility and Kindness in the Workplace

Case Study: Building a Culture of Civility and Kindness in the Workplace

Kindness and Civility: A Context

Instilling kind, respectful and civil behaviour among co-workers in an organisation is so important to having an engaged, creative and motivated team. However, this is a culture that needs to be implemented and actively driven, or exactly the opposite will occur and we’ll have bullying, mobbing, rudeness, complaining, and gossiping; things that are exceptionally draining and unproductive in the workplace.

It may be standard etiquette to say please and thank you, and to greet people, but when it comes to our working environment, this etiquette often falls away. Common courtesy doesn’t seem to prevail. Often, the language used among co-workers is hard, negative and pessimistic. You can see this in their verbal communication as well as in their written correspondence. Our external environment does shape our minds, which means that we become negative in our thoughts, actions and behaviours. It infiltrates so slowly that we don’t often notice it or know where or when it started. The negativity filters through to our work ethics, productivity, performance, care for each other, and affects our health and mindset. It’s not a healthy environment to be working in, however, it is a reality I see very often in organisations. Organisations expect exceptional performance from their staff, but don’t provide the ideal positive environment for them to flourish.


The executive leaders of an accounting firm called us into their organisation to assess what was happening with their staff. They saw and felt the negativity within the organisation, with people complaining endlessly but not proactively doing anything to solve matters. Endless problems without effective solutions seemed to be the norm. Corridor gossip was around every corner, and regardless of how many corrective reprimanding actions were implemented, people never raised the bar of their performance or productivity. The executives were at their wits end, and admitted that the punishment approach for poor performance was not successful; quite the contrary. They hoped and trusted that we could assist them in changing the negative and toxic environment within the organisation.

Staff were demotivated, uncommitted, disengaged, and made countless errors in their work. The negativity could be felt by everyone, even outsiders interacting with the organisation for the first time, and it filtered through to every business unit.

We were called in to help this organisation to instill a culture of kindness and civility throughout the organisation.

Approach and process

We engaged with the organisation for a year as changing a culture is exactly the same as acquiring a new habit. It takes time to accept that change is needed, and to unlearn and then relearn new behaviours. In addition, the new culture had to filter through from top to bottom as well as sideways in the organisation. Co-workers who were resistant to the change required additional time to air their concerns and opinions. And, to truly complete the cycle, the new culture had to be documented in all procedures, policies and training materials. It is not a quick fix approach, however the six key items we focused on were:

  1. Kindness board: I’m aware that this sounds rather cheesy, but it works. We mounted a large white board in the organisation’s corridor, where people were able to write thank you messages and stick Post-it notes up for people they wanted to thank for the support they had given them during the week. They had to list the person’s name, what they did, and what impact it had on them. It could vary from a co-worker assisting them with a task, to taking over their shift, handling a difficult customer situation, to bringing them a cup of coffee. On Friday mornings, the team would gather around the board and read the comments, often adding more notes. The board gave them a place to consciously acknowledge and say thank you to each other. It raised people’s positive emotions, and they started to pay kindness forward. That’s the amazing thing with kindness – if you receive it, you want to pass it on to someone else.
  2. Sharing resources and knowledge was our next approach. Resources are always scarce in an organisation, and we begin to hold onto them. The same applies with knowledge – we are not generous with sharing it! For resources and knowledge to be shared, trust has to be present, which is why we needed to first build it up. Trust can only be built at work through consistently doing what we have committed to. We started with exactly that low base of ensuring that people deliver their work to one another on time, every time. If an unforeseen situation arose that would cause a delay, they had to inform the person waiting for the work, and brainstorm how resources or knowledge sharing could be applied.
  3. Providing specific feedback and recognition was definitely underutilised. The motto in the organisation was that if nothing was said then it was a job well done, and if not you would know about it. Communication here needed to be a two-way street. People wanted to receive regular feedback on their tasks so that they know what was appreciated, and so that they were clear on how to repeat that specific action / behaviour again. Recognition is saying thank you to a person for work done. It means: “I see you, I validate you, I recognise your work, and I thank you for it.” Everybody had to learn to provide feedback and recognition to one person every day while being specific and detailed in doing so.
  4. Starting meetings on a positive note was unheard of. Meetings were generally started with what hadn’t worked on a certain project, what complaints were on the table, and any urgent decisions that needed to be made, etc. Meetings were started in a reactive, negative mindset which led to staff going into problem-solving mode and not into opportunity-thinking mode. Things were fixed, but they weren’t solved in a creative manner. We asked that every meeting start off on a positive note, where either they thanked people for excellent work, shared positive news, or expressed gratitude for projects / tasks that had gone well. The result was that they focused on how this positivity could be repeated, and they felt safe which led to everyone being innovative and creative. The tough decisions were still made, but from a different approach.
  5. Apologising for mistakes appears to be difficult in the workplace. Instead, stories are formed on why something couldn’t be achieved, and looking to pass the blame. This process is an exceptionally negative downward spiral process, and is futile. We spend hours trying to pass the buck, whereas sometimes it’s often about taking ownership of the mistake, as you are likely to be part of it, and finding solutions to fix it. We instilled the concept that they had permission to challenge each other when they went into storytelling and blaming others. They had the code word “stories”, and as everybody knew what that meant, they were not permitted to go on with their story but had to sit down and ask introspective questions that we had taught them.
  6. Addressing issues of incivility and disrespect meant that people were given a voice to raise, either in writing or verbally, issues that had occurred in the workplace to the Kindness Committee. The committee would look at each matter raised regardless how significant or not it may appear. They discussed what needed to happen, and responded in person to the person who had raised it. In addition, the committee informed the entire organisation at their monthly information meeting of the matter concerned and how they had dealt with it. It was always done in a positive light, upholding integrity and confidentially where needed.


This six-step process over a year transformed the organisation’s toxic negative working environment to a neutral and positive one. As I do with most of my clients, I build long-lasting relationships with them, supporting them in the transformation and holding them accountable.

The journey has not been easy for them and does require constant attention, but that is what culture is – it demands ongoing care and awareness. Their working environment has remained positive, and if they feel they are falling back they have the tools to go back to.

If your team is experiencing similar challenges and you would like our support, contact us at to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our expert team.