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Resilience- The New Workplace Buzzword

Resilience- The New Workplace Buzzword

The Context

Every now and again, buzzwords creep into our business language. The main one at the moment is resilience, with leaders wanting to build resilient teams and raise people’s resilience in the workplace. But what is resilience? Can it be developed or even influenced? Many people refer to it as the stand-up syndrome, or the ability to persevere during tough times. Let’s begin by looking at the roots and definition of resilience.

Resilience in the face of challenging situations has been around for centuries, as is evident in myths, fairytales, art, and literature which portrays heroes and heroines. And it continues in today’s thriving movie industry. Just look at Aquaman, The Avengers, Wonder Woman, Black Panther, or Spiderman to name a few. It is only recently though that individual resilience is spilling over into the workplace.

Resilience was first studied as a scientific concept in the 1970s while researching children who were classified as high-risk problem children. Over the next three decades, further research was conducted which indicated that resilience led to increased positive behaviour, academic achievements, a happier and more satisfying life, and a decrease in mental illness, emotional distress, criminal behaviour, and risk-taking activities. Looking at these benefits, it’s no wonder that everybody wants to increase their resilience, especially leaders in the workplace. But resilience is more than just bouncing back from adversity. It has two important benchmark criteria: firstly that you are doing better than anticipated from the adversity, and secondly that there has been a positive outcome. It’s not just about bouncing back and being in the same state of mind as before. Growth needs to happen based on a “threatening” situation. You can obviously appreciate that resilience takes time, practice, and a mindset to develop. In a work context, adverse situations are often present, but do we always come out better than expected or grow from it? Our case study is about how to implement resilience in a working environment.

 

Client Background

Our client is in the insurance industry and has a solid track record of delivering excellent customer service. They go the extra mile with every client, and through their stellar quality work, outperform their competitors. The company is a medium-sized business with approximately thirty employees, which made it easy to engage with every employee and make a lasting and positive impact. The Managing Director had scheduled a strategy session with the team, and wanted to include tools and techniques to support the employees to be resilient in an anticipated challenging year ahead.

We were invited to facilitate a half-day workshop on developing resilience. The purpose was to impart knowledge and tools for the team on how to increase their level of resilience, and manage difficult situations and/or aggravated customers. It was about boosting the team with practical know-how so that they could thrive in the coming year.

 

Approach and Processes

We started off by providing background information on what resilience is, the benefits of developing it for both an individual as well as for the organisation, and ended off by sharing practical tools on how to build and maintain resilience. We also played a fun physical game with the team to assist them to transpose the learned material into real work-life situations. In this case study we will share two main resilience tools that you can apply in managing your day-to-day irritations, frustrations, and disappointments.

 

Tool 1 – Question your Internal Beliefs

In a moment of distress we seldom start by looking at ourselves, but rather jump right into being reactive and finding fault in the situation, which leads to us going down the blame and fault-finding path. This is not a helpful process for us. We taught the team to reverse this by questioning their assumptions and beliefs about the situation that was causing them distress; first looking inwards and then identifying their thinking traps. The practical tool to apply is the ABCDE method in which the following steps are followed.

The “A” stands for Adversity, and you need to pinpoint and name the situation that is causing you distress.

The “B” stands for Beliefs, and these are the assumptions you are making on what is causing you the actual distress. These are you sinkholes in your thinking.

The “C” stands for the Consequences of holding onto these beliefs around the adversity. It is very helpful to gain clarity of the consequences of holding onto the assumptions and beliefs.

The “D” stands for Disputation. Here we question ourselves whether the beliefs and assumptions are the only feasible explanation for the adversity. We begin to become open-minded and curious about possible alternative reasons. We challenge our thinking by looking for evidence and pondering the implications of our beliefs, assumptions and consequences.

Finally, the “E” stands for Energization. In this last step, we become energized by removing the limiting and negative assumptions around the adversity which usually results in us moving towards a positive action.

 

Tool 2 – Examine the External Environment

Only in this tool do we look outwards at the external environment that is adding to the level of distress we are experiencing. It can be friction with a colleague, time management, unreasonable work deadlines, or not having the necessary resources available. We imparted a short, practical tool for the team called ADAPT, and designed a plan of action to work through the adverse situation.

The first “A” stands for Attitude and is about questioning your mindset and exploring which thinking sinkholes are in the way. It also includes examining your emotions and the perception you have.

The “D” stands for Defining the problem and setting a realistic goal.

The second “A” stands for generating Alternative solutions. Brainstorming different ways of how you can accomplishing the set goal and writing down some alternative ideas.

The next step, the “P”, stands for Predicting the consequences. This entails examining the alternative solutions generated in the previous step, and evaluating their level of effectiveness. You start to look at things from all angles, and place yourself in other people’s shoes.

And the final step, the “T”, stands for Testing it. Moving into action and implementing the plan.

 

Impact and Results

This two-step process was a start for the team to adjust their thinking towards life’s challenges. It was about accepting that life is fluid, and that irritating, frustrating and annoying situations will happen to all of us on a regular basis. We cannot prevent them from happening, however we are in control of our thoughts, we can regulate our emotions, and we can choose how we will react and grow from the challenge.

For organisations, teaching people resilience skills is very beneficial to their profitability and productivity. In a recent study by Gallup in 2018, figures showed that 23% of people suffer from permanent burnout, and 44% from occasional burnout.

If your employees or leaders are experiencing similar challenges, and you’d like our support, contact us on info@4seeds.co.za to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our expert team.

 

6 Facts About Employee Engagement Revisited

6 Facts About Employee Engagement Revisited

The other day I stumbled across an article that I wrote in September 2017. Reading through it, I realised that engagement is an even more pertinent topic than it was back then, and that I have deepened my knowledge on engagement since then and would like to share it with you.

Today, employee engagement is a necessity for organisations who want to remain commercially successful. In addition, employee engagement is essential for employees to be happy in their work, to find meaning in life, and to have an opportunity to be productive.

 

Defining Engagement

Let’s begin by defining engagement because there are many definitions of this term. Researchers classify employee engagement as a unique, persistent and pervasive psychological state that uses self-investment of personal resources and energy to express oneself in work tasks and connect with others.

What that means in layman’s terms is that engagement involves an emotional, physical and cognitive focus; so we commonly refer to it as combining the head-heart and hands into a work task. Engagement is often used interchangeably with job satisfaction, attitude, behaviour, involvement, and commitment. In as much as thinking isn’t incorrect, the key and critical component to engagement is the psychological state of the employee during their work experience.

Psychological Safety

You may be wondering why it’s challenging for people to be engaged at work, and the answer lies in the words: psychological safety.

When people engage they are attentive, connected and completely integrated with a task and/or person, and for that to happen people need to feel safe in their environment, safe to be themselves, safe to bring their authenticity to the work environment, safe with the people they work with, and safe with their leader; they need to feel that they can trust.

Safety is the second most important need that has to be fulfilled in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and if we don’t feel safe we aren’t able to deliver our best thinking, decision making, and tasks. So ask yourself how safe your employees feel in their work environment.

Here is the original article written in September 2017

The engagement concept has become a workplace buzzword over the past seven years. Every organisation wants the best part of their workforce to be fully or semi engaged, and less disengaged. However, many attempts have failed to create this shift, and our engagement levels remain at around 13 to 19 percent. This means that a lot of employees are disengaged at work. So, what are we missing?

We know a lot about engagement, and equally are left with many unanswered questions. There are so many definitions of the term “engagement”. There’s a very definite lack of consensus of what engagement is, what factors make it up, or how to practically measure it. Some people refer to engagement as employee engagement, while others as job or work engagement. There are several words all referring to the same thing, but it’s confusing when there isn’t an overarching consensus. This is a huge problem, but one that is often overlooked and brushed aside because that’s for the researchers to dwell on – as leaders we just want to have engaged employees.

Engagement is not an old concept. In 1990, Dr William A. Kahn, a professor of Organisational Behaviour at Boston University, was the first researcher who spoke about the word personal engagement when he contemplated how much a person brings of themselves to their work tasks and performance. He was way ahead of the curve and nobody was interested in the topic back then.

After that, no one spoke about engagement for 12 years, until 2002 when it reappeared as being the opposite to burnout. This development can be seen as reasonable, but it still didn’t explain the factors that make up engagement. And again, there was no traction on the topic until in 2010 when it started becoming a management and organisation buzzword.

Engagement is believed to have many benefits to both the individual and the organisation. Some of the benefits have been scientifically validated, and others widely speculated on. We would like to ask leaders and organisations to be cautious when rolling out an engagement strategy because it requires planning, thought and dedication. A hasty, unclear strategic plan can do more harm to employee happiness than is often anticipated.

Some facts to consider are:

  1. Engagement isn’t a noun, it’s a verb. You don’t DO engagement, you become actively engaged with your activities and tasks. Engagement is who you are and become as an organisation, similar to your culture.
  2. Define what engagement means in your organisation and perhaps write down some examples.
  3. Be specific about what the benefits, rewards and recognition for becoming more engaged are for employees. You are expecting more input from your workforce, which means that you have to be transparent and reciprocate fairly.
  4. We take the worldview that engagement is a positive construct from which the individual and the organisation will benefit. But, what if it doesn’t have such a tremendous benefit for the individual? What about when going the extra mile brings their work-life out of kilter and negatively affects their personal relationships?
  5. Let’s be considerate. Not every human being has the physical or psychological ability to operate at high levels of engagement. There could be limitations and illnesses to consider, and they are doing their best every day, albeit that the organisation doesn’t see it as good enough.
  6. Lastly, is engagement the utopia solution we are making it to be? Is it the be-all and end-all where the individual and organisation has a perfect win-win? Is this approach realistic?

Please don’t get me wrong! I am an avid supporter and lobbyist for employee engagement in the workplace. However, I want to challenge you to think about the engagement concept from a long-term moral and ethical angle before you go ahead and quickly roll out something that will make employees happy.

In summary

I hope that you have gained further insight on engagement and its importance in the workplace. It starts with the employee because they get to choose whether they want to engage or not. As an organisation you cannot force people to become engaged; however you can create possibilities that enable employees to engage.

Case Study: Promoted to manager, now what?

Case Study: Promoted to manager, now what?

Leadership: A Context

 

Most people strive to be promoted and climb the workplace ladder into a higher position, with their eyes set on becoming a manager and then a leader. So, why is it that when they reach the desired point for which they worked so tirelessly, things change drastically. Suddenly a star performer’s productivity and performance drops, their motivation dwindles, they deliver late, their work quality drops, and mistakes creep in. They won’t be sure how it happened and will be like a deer in the headlights, unable to move.

The analogy of the startled deer is precisely what happens. The newly-promoted leader enters a state of paralysis where they can’t move, begin to doubt their own abilities, lose confidence, and are unable to make concrete decisions. The senior leaders will ask themselves what has happened to their star performer, the person who was recently promoted and who they were expecting to fire like a rocket.

What has happened to their star performer is that they have become “paralysed” in their new role. They were previously technically competent and highly skilled which made them perform at their best. Senior leaders recognised the potential in their star performer and promoted them to a more senior role with additional responsibility and a few team members reporting to them. What may appear as a formidable gesture turns into a nightmare. The challenge lies in the fact that the star performer has been promoted without the necessary leadership training on how to embrace their new role, tasks and most importantly how to lead their team. The essential people and soft-skills were never imparted, with the newly-appointed leader doing their best to figure it out by themselves. They will have to learn in a DIY style when it comes to leadership, which is not a recommended approach. Unfortunately, we see this situation very often and are called in to assist through coaching, training or workshops. Our next story is precisely about that.

 

Background

The client was a well-established family-owned business where the owners wanted to grow the business to a level where they could hand over their legacy to the next generation leaders in the next 15 years. The leaders they had identified had been working in the business for the past 10 years which was why promoting them to manager seemed like a natural next step. It was everything but that.

After the initial feelings of elation and pride, the reality set in and the team’s as well the manager’s performance began to drop. Customers complained, mistakes occurred, team morale dipped, and workplace tension was escalating for everybody.

 

We were called in to help this manager make the transition from previously being part of the team and now being their manager. In addition, we needed to help the manager with some leadership skills.

 

Approach and process

We engaged with the manager for over 10 months, with meetings every two weeks. We designed a structured plan upfront of what would be key items to focus on as we believe that each situation is unique and each leader requires different skills to develop and grow. However, in this case study we will share three main things we applied to get the transition moving forward.

  1. Shifting the mindset from team member to manager. This is the most difficult transition to make because their role will have changed completely from one day to another. Yesterday they were part of the team sharing tea breaks and lunches with them, and now they are their manager giving direction on work tasks to be completed. Suddenly, they are accountable for their own work, as well as delegating, and planning. For the manager, this is the most stressful and difficult time to make the transition because they have not yet identified themselves with their new role, and sometimes they will slip back into what’s familiar. The transition occurs gradually but has to be approached consciously. They will need assistance in terms of listing what behaviours they need to let go of and identifying how this can be done by exploring what they can replace them with. This stage requires time and patience as the transition does take about three months.
  2. Learning to communicate with their team. Communication is a large and important topic for any manager to embrace. It has many components to it such as listening, asking questions, providing feedback, and managing conflict. With this situation, we taught the manager to rely on his natural people strengths. We encouraged him to listen without interrupting, ask questions to understand and not judge, ask for help from senior leaders when he wasn’t sure, and to give his team feedback. He needed to trust his intuition when communicating, and also to learn to find the right balance on when to be empathetic and when to be firm. We raised the communication levels through regular brief face-to-face morning team meetings and used emails more for information sharing rather than for conversations. The last thing we focused on was addressing conflict or disputes very early on and not allowing them to go unaddressed and spiral out of control. We showed him to be mindful to focus on the situation that was under dispute and never the person.
  3. Building positive trusting relationships seems to be an obvious one, but the words “positive” and “trusting” change the dynamic in relationships. Finding the ideal balance is tricky for even the most seasoned leader. Relationships are about having a sense of awareness for oneself and others, and can be categorised into building social and emotional intelligence. We are all unique human beings who think, feel and sense differently. What motivates one person doesn’t motivate another, and as a leader, it’s learning to build, nurture and maintain different relationships at various levels. The things we specifically focused on here was to let go and to trust the team to do their tasks, learning to not micro-manage and to give continuous feedback on the work completed.

 

Outcomes

This three-step process was the start for the manager to transform. Many other soft skills and building blocks were shared, but are not discussed in this article. From the day we started the intervention, the manager has grown and developed a level of confidence and self-worth and has set new goals in his personal and professional life. There is nothing more rewarding than to witness an individual growing and developing in both these domains.

If your newly-appointed manager or leader is experiencing similar challenges, and you’d like our support, contact us at info@4seeds.co.za to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our expert team.

How to Become an Agile Leader

How to Become an Agile Leader

Our first article on agile leadership was written on 5 September 2016. That’s almost three years before the phrase “agile leadership” became a familiar business buzzword. Today, we hear and read about agile leaders, agile managers, agile employees, and agile organisations all the time. While reading through that blog, I feel that we were on the button with our comments, but would like to add some new wisdom and information.

 

Defining Agile Leadership

Let’s start by defining what an agile leader is, and how it differs from previous names such as authentic, transformational, democratic, or autocratic leader. An agile leader can lead a wide range of complex and diverse circumstances, and is able, in a crisis situation, to realign human resources where most needed. In the current VUCA (vulnerable, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) business world, agile leaders are nimble and light on their feet; able to adjust their decisions, focus, and attention on the spur of the moment, while innovating, inspiring and motivating their team to commit to the new strategy.

 

Characteristics of Agile Leaders

Leadership experts and researchers have identified that an agile leader demonstrates four core characteristics:

  1. A deep sense of purpose of why their team and organisation exists, and what they intend to achieve. This sense of purpose brings focus, clarity, meaning, a sense of belonging, and direction.
  2. Being comfortable with the complex unknown means having a vigilant eye for change and opportunities. Feeling confident, positive and familiar with the uncertainty and navigating through it.
  3. Experimenting and trying things out which speaks directly to being open-minded, growing and learning. Being courageous and brave to charter unknown waters. Inspiring others to be creative and innovative.
  4. A lifelong student who never stops learning, exploring and growing. Conscientiously expanding their knowledge and competencies. And if they don’t know, then being streetwise enough to know where to go to find the information.

 

Here is the original article written on 5 September 2016:

Case Study: Managing Conflict and Building Effective Relationships in the Organisation

Case Study: Managing Conflict and Building Effective Relationships in the Organisation

Relationships: A Context

Building positive, trusting relationships is paramount in every organisation to ensure that communication is flowing, ideas are emerging, people are volunteering to assist and support one another, information is being shared, and collaboration occurs.

In his hierarchy of needs, Maslow reiterates that people need to feel loved and have a sense that they belong to a community. We all want to be liked, wanted, needed and loved, and this is no different to wanting to experience it in a work environment. Toxic working relationships cause distrust, miscommunication, frustration and loneliness. They drain us emotionally, physically and physiologically. They zap our energy, and influence our performance and productivity. They make us dread going to work, and we can even become physically ill from toxic relationships.

 

Background

We experienced a situation in an organisation a while back where the team was talking to one another but not truly communicating. They were polite, friendly and respectful, but they didn’t listen to each other. They didn’t air the conflict that was very noticeable in the room. Many difficult conversations were swept under the carpet which resulted in the team not being able to make decisions that mattered to the business. Each team leader was bickering about what wasn’t right, and whose fault it was. People were beating around the bush in conversations instead of saying what they truly felt and thought.

Throughout this process, people became cynical and expressed snide remarks that were hurtful. It didn’t take long for trust to break down and relationships to become superficial.

 

We were called in to help this team to build trusting, positive relationships.

 

Approach & Process

We engaged with the team over eight months and had to start gently before we were able to go a level deeper. The four key items we focused on were:

  1. Sharing what they appreciated and valued about one another. This was a new concept for the team as they were accustomed to talking about what was wrong and what someone didn’t do. They had to sit back and recognise the strength of a fellow team member and openly share it. To stretch them a little further, we asked them to articulate how a team member made their work easier.
  2. Learning to listen and not to interrupt was our next approach. To allow a team member to complete their sentence in full. To hold back on any knee-jerk reaction, and to hear what the person was saying. To make notes of thoughts and ideas that were coming up for the listener and to go back to them when it was their turn to speak.
  3. Engaging in open-ended questions that allow for clarification and expansion of viewpoints. Not to make any assumptions or judgement about what was being said, but rather to ask to ensure deep understanding. To summarise if needed based on what was heard.
  4. Express one’s feeling was the last aspect we brought in as this was going to force the team to show vulnerability and humility. Baring their heart on how they felt about a decision or situation. But having learned the previous tools, they were in a strong position to be heard and understood by their colleagues.

 

Outcomes

This four-step process rebuilt open, candid communication in the team which had a ripple effect on their trust and relationships. I still engage with them on odd occasions and can say that I’m delighted that they have upheld these strategies. Their relationships have remained positive and the once poor level of communication has completely turned around.

If your team is experiencing similar challenges and you would like our support contact us at info@4seeds.co.za to schedule a 30 minute free consultation with our expert team.

 

Return on Relationships

Return on Relationships

We’ve noticed that a new Key Performance Indicator (KPI) has popped up in many Leaders’ Performance Assessments, namely the measurement of Return on Relationships. If it is not on yours yet, it will be coming soon!

In the 80s and 90s, we measured Return on Investment (ROI). In the early 2000s the entire IT platform dominated our world, and now the new buzzword is Return on Relationships (ROR).

What do we mean when we talk about Return on Relationships? Is it networking, socialising, or customer liaison? The answer is “all of the above” – but it is also much more, including building, nurturing, trusting and maintaining connections with our teams. A Meaningful Leader will know the value of positive relationships and will spend a fair amount of time nurturing good team relationships.

 

Meaningful Connections

 

Connecting with people mainly covers giving people our undivided attention and time; communicating through dialogue and listening deeply to each other’s needs. When we mindfully connect with others, we build rapport, trust and loyalty with each other. By doing these we remove judgement, bias and perceptions about one another, therefore allowing us to work together in an optimal team environment. We would be willing and open to provide feedback to each other, brainstorm new solutions to complex work situations, and challenge each other’s thinking. Connecting with people reduces conflict, misunderstandings and having arbitrary, meaningless conversations.

Humans are social beings, which means that we need social interactions and connections with other people. If someone has been deprived of social connectivity they withdraw and become unmotivated and unengaged with work and life. In an experiment conducted on baby monkeys, the babies were given the choice to either be deprived of motherly affection or food. It came as a surprise that the babies did not choose to fulfil their primary need for food, but rather chose motherly love. This indicates their instinct that connections matter more than actual food.

 

Improving Organisational Relationships

 

You might be thinking that this is all well and good, but how can you improve or enhance connectivity with your team? How do you build relationships especially with team members that you don’t know or even particularly like? The answer is – and you might not like it – deep listening. Make a concerted effort to spark up a conversation with them and then listen beyond the noise. Listen with openness and curiosity. Listen to find meaning in what the person has to say. Ask questions to clarify and understand. Discard any perceptions and do your best to put yourself in their shoes. That may be a good starting point to build relationships.

After that, shift the dial on intensity and frequency until connecting with others becomes a way of working. The benefits, in the end, are far greater as people will support you on your own tasks and challenges through their insights and ideas, which will deepen the connection. Nevertheless, in the beginning, you have to invest conscious effort, practice and discipline. If, as a leader, you are sincere about people being the most valuable and valued asset, connecting is a brilliant starting point.

As February is the month of relationships, we encourage you to have belly-to-belly conversations with your teams. Let us know how it goes!

 

What is your mindset?

What is your mindset?

Our mindset has a profound impact on our life because it determines how we interact, behave, perceive, and engage with the world around us. We seldom, however, give our mindset a second thought, perhaps assuming that it’s innately inborn and something beyond our control. Many people assume that we either have a positive mindset that sees the glass as half full, or a negative one that sees it as half empty. Fortunately, and because of neuroplasticity over time, our mindsets can change and grow.

In our day-to-day lives, our mindset determines how we approach challenges and obstacles. Do we see things from a more negative viewpoint, or do we see challenges as opportunities to grow and learn? The good news is that you can develop and change your mindset in any situation because you have one phenomenal component in your life: choice! You can choose how to see your world around you. Your mindset is the belief you have about something, and we all know that our beliefs aren’t always correct. Beliefs are concepts we deem to be true without having any empirical evidence, but we have the ability to change our beliefs and therefore our mindset.

According to leading mindset researcher Professor Carol Dweck, there are two distinct mindset types.

The Two Different Mindset Types

1. Fixed mindset

As the word indicates, a fixed mindset person believes that our abilities and qualities are predetermined. This means that we’re born with certain predispositions that we cannot change or control. A fixed mindset focuses on winning and achieving for the benefit of being acknowledged and respected by others. A fixed mindset approach requires constant validation from others. If the person perceives that he/she won’t be able to achieve an outcome because of the lack of capability, this translates into them not putting in the required effort because they doubt their success. If failure does occur, the person doesn’t try again but gives up and believes that they aren’t good enough.

2. Growth Mindset

On the other side of the spectrum is the growth mindset – here the belief is that a person’s qualities and abilities can grow and develop with effort, experience, discipline, and engagement. The focus is on learning mastery and competence in self-selected areas. Results and outcomes don’t determine who we are, or what our potential is; rather they’re an indication of the amount of effort we apply right now. If the person doesn’t succeed the first time around, they develop the thinking style of “not yet, but soon”. They get up, contemplate how to approach the situation differently, and try again. Their emphasis is on the process applied not the actual outcome.
You may be wondering why it matters which mindset type you have. It matters profoundly because it clearly affects your ability to achieve goals, performances and being successful. Our mindset type can hinder or enable us, and this determines which strategies we’ll apply. It dictates how we respond to setbacks, the energy and effort we use to tackle situations, and in the end our success in goal attainment. Statistics show that a growth mindset is successful more often and is able to maintain that level consistently.

 

Mindsets in Organisations

If we take this concept one step further and assume that companies operate in the same frame as individuals, we can then conclude that companies have a certain primary mindset culture. Let’s hypothetically assume that a company has a fixed mindset culture, which is shown in its structures, policies, processes, operational activities and task execution. Outcomes and targets are distinctly measured and not attaining them means failure. Mistakes are punished, people are labelled as incompetent, and no learning is taken from mishaps. Leadership cascades that energy into its workforce, which may hamper employees from being self-motivated, creative, innovative thinkers, learners of mistakes, and eager to experiment with new ways of doing things. Growth is overshadowed by the company’s habitual system.

If the above concept is true; should leaders not be focusing on changing their company’s mindset? Companies like Apple, Google, and Virgin actively apply a growth mindset culture and we know what phenomenal success they’ve achieved. Perhaps it’s time to review what parts of your company are stuck in a fixed mindset and which aren’t.

Make the shift to a healthier growth mindset culture where you can learn from mistakes, and focus on the processes you apply rather than the final outcomes.

 

Reference

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: The Random House Publishing Group.

Six Things Employees Really Want in 2019

Six Things Employees Really Want in 2019

The silly season is over and we can now begin to slowly get back into our work routines. It’s time to start planning our next twelve months with hope and optimism, and gearing ourselves up for a new year with inspiring strategies and stretch goals. We all have ideas as to how we’ll grow our businesses to the next level, but every plan is only as good as the person who executes it.

This raises a question for leaders: “What do my employees want in 2019?”

Besides having secure jobs that provide them with satisfaction, here are six things that employees want from their organisations because they provide fulfilment for them.

1. Meaning and Purpose

Research has shown that employees are yearning for work that provides them with meaning. This translates to them understanding whose life they enrich through their work. For them, it’s about establishing a personal connection to the work, and understanding how it contributes to others or society. Also, meaningful work means giving employees work challenges that are not mundane or routine based. These are projects that stretch and grow them but don’t set them up for failure.

2. Communication

Communication is such a vast topic, and can span from listening to receiving feedback and managing conflict. Although these may all be applicable, what employees want the most is to engage in dialogue in a kind, respectful and fair manner. They want to know that their ideas are heard and seriously considered. It’s important to them to receive regular feedback on their work as well as suggestions on what they’re doing well and where there is room for improvement.

3. Recognition

Conveying appreciation for work done is the foundation to motivate and stimulate engagement. Employees want to know that you, the leader, have seen their work and taken the time to praise them for it. They want to be recognised for their strengths, skills and the effort they applied to a task, which will result in them repeating the positive behaviour. This will in turn raise service quality, performance standards and customer satisfaction.

4. Job crafting

This is giving employees the choice as to how to complete a task. It may be scary for some leaders because they feel they’re giving away control, but employees want the freedom to decide how they perform a certain task. It’s important for leaders to give them the autonomy to bring in their creativity, personality and unique strengths. Leaders can set the boundaries of when they want something done which will ensure that it’s within the organisation’s policies and standards, but thereafter it’s good to give your employees free reign.

5. Work-life balance

The traditional 9 to 5 working day may look good on paper, but in reality, we often commit more time to work then that.  Employees want the agility to combine their lives with work, and vice versa, which will give them the flexibility to decide when they want to play and when they need to work. Again, stipulate the boundaries of the 40-hour work week, the need to complete tasks on time, and to come to the office at least once a week or whatever applies to your organisation and industry. Be mindful that people are productive at different times of the day, in different environments, and in various circumstances. As much as many organisations are doing their best to hold onto the traditional working hours, flexi-time will become the accepted norm.

6. Connections

We know that relationships are a key factor to our happiness, and having healthy, trusting relationships at work matters to us. Employees want good camaraderie and friendships with their co-workers because that reduces stress, enhances trust, and opens up communication. Make it easy for employees to have a social area where they can connect and exchange work experiences with their colleagues.

Employees aren’t demanding the impossible from their organisations, and with some effort and changes, every organisation can meet these six needs. Let’s be honest; we all want positive, fulfilling and happy work environments, and it doesn’t take much to make it happen.

The Foundation and Benefits of Positive Psychology

The Foundation and Benefits of Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology is a word that is slowly filtering through into our work, social and personal lives. However, few people know what it is, where it originated, and why it has become such a much-talked-about concept. People often think that Positive Psychology is a new trend, industry or hype that has recently emerged. But if you trace its roots, you’ll find that it goes as far back as 400 BC to the ancient Greek times where Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics spoke about the importance of human happiness, virtues, fulfilling one’s potential, and living ethically. Since then, the idea of happiness has been a common thread through the eras of the Stoics, Christianity, Renaissance, Existentialist philosophers, right up to the beginning of the 21st century before WWI after which it lost its direction for a while.

Before the outbreak of WWI, the science of Positive Psychology had three distinct intentions:

  1. to cure mental illness.
  2. to make people happier.
  3. to study geniuses and highly talented people.

So, Positive Psychology already had an umbrella function back then, but with the outbreak of the war psychology got stuck on focusing on mental illness and spent little time on mental health. The reason for this was twofold: The war produced many war veterans and family members who needed to be treated and cured of the gruesome traumas, and institutions provided sponsorship funding for curing mental diseases. The result was that for 50 years psychology has honed in on curing mental illnesses, and this pathology has taken its toll on society and human science. This changed in 1998 when Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, who at the time was the President of the American Psychology Association, rebirthed the concept of balanced positive living, fulfilling one’s potential and having meaning and purpose in life. Seligman was purely bringing to light what past philosophers and scientists such as Freud, Jung, Skinner, Watson, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Maslow and Rodgers had been working on for decades. In a nutshell, one could say that Positive Psychology has a short history but a long past.

 

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of optimal human functioning. It hones in on what is right about people by uncovering their strengths and promoting positive thriving. It focuses on factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive such as: building positive emotions, optimising character strengths, setting meaningful goals, being mindful and present in life activities, nurturing trusting and deep relationships, developing a growth learning mindset, and cultivating resilience strategies.

So, if Positive Psychology is “happiology” that only focuses on the optimistic side of life, especially with stats relating to the high levels of depression, anxiety, burnout and other mental health challenges, is it a naïve unrealistic science? No, it’s not. Positive Psychology doesn’t deny or ignore the existence of negative emotions, feelings, situations or life events. It accepts and embraces them as being a normal part of life. However, what it does do is make individuals aware that they are not living from their optimal level, and then gives them practical tools and resources to pull them out of a downward slope quicker. Positive Psychology is an applied science that offers people balance to their previous skewed weakness or disease-orientated approach. It’s a holistic science that explores people’s strengths alongside their weaknesses. As it’s a science, the activities and exercises provided have undergone rigorous scientific testing and peer reviews. It isn’t self-help which is a critical distinguishing point; what is provided works. As much as Positive Psychology is about scientific theories, models and practical exercises, it is also about transformation and personal development. It has the ability to grow people to reach their level of optimal flourishing; a level very few people have experienced, but one each and every one can and has the right to.

 

Positive Psychology versus Traditional Psychology

Positive Psychology and traditional psychology complement each other and are not in competition with one another. They simply have two different focal points which are both extremely necessary and needed in the modern world. Traditional psychology focuses on mental illnesses, commonly referred to as the disease model of what is wrong with a person, and aims to remediate the situation. Positive Psychology tries to work from the approach and build on what is strong.

In the words of Abraham Maslow, “The science of psychology has been far more successful on the negative than on the positive side; it has revealed to us much about man’s shortcomings, his illnesses, his sins, but little about his potentialities, his virtues, his achievable aspirations, or his psychological height. It is as if psychology has voluntarily restricted itself to only half its rightful jurisdiction, and that the darker, meaner half.”

Bringing the two psychologies together allows us to work with people in a complete and holistic manner. Another main distinguishing point is that traditional psychology is responsible for making a person function and Positive Psychology to make a person flourish – it’s like working with minus and plus signs. Both psychologies complement each other and a person can successfully engage with both modalities at the same time.

 

The Benefits of Positive Psychology

Now that you have some background on the roots and definition of Positive Psychology, let’s explore why this concept has become invaluable to our life. Positive Psychology, otherwise known as “happiness science”, has the following benefits:

  • It teaches us to shift our perspective from an overly negative bias to a balanced viewpoint.
  • It is present-orientated living in the here and now.
  • It instils an open-mindset of continuous learning and development.
  • It assists us to be more grateful and mindful of our surroundings and activities, thereby removing us from the debilitating autopilot mode.
  • It deepens our ability to savour positive life experiences.
  • It helps us to build trusting and meaningful relationships with family, friends and work colleagues.
  • It teaches us to have more positive emotions and moods than negative ones.
  • It opens our hearts to volunteer work and acts of kindness.
  • It helps us to find meaning and purpose in tasks and activities.
  • It allows us to be engaged and fully participate in life.
  • It enhances our social and emotional intelligence.
  • It strengthens and develops neurons through the process of neuroplasticity.
  • It assists us to use our character strengths more often.

The end result is that we don’t overthink things, are able to bounce back from adverse daily situations, and it enhances our overall well-being. From a work perspective, we become more productive, find meaning in tasks through having flow moments, experience job satisfaction and cope better with stress, anxiety, feelings of overwhelm and frustration.

The best news is that happiness drives success and not the other way around. Becoming happier in life is a journey, not an outcome to ever accomplish, so it’s a path that can be learned and practised by everybody.

In our fast-moving world, Positive Psychology and happiness are not things to be ignored, but rather very important tools that can help you to flourish, to manage your life better, to act as a buffer against physical or mental illness, and to lead the authentic life you are born to lead.

Eight Unknown Indicators of a Positive Organisational Culture

Eight Unknown Indicators of a Positive Organisational Culture

While the ever-present stress of working in today’s world puts strain on individuals and organisational cultures, there are some fundamental environmental and cultural factors which can ease the pressure. Unfortunately, even though we may want to do our best work and have a positive work experience, this is often compromised by factors outside our control, and these unresolved conflicts impact overall organisational culture and business success.

Most organisations don’t plan on being negative environments for their employees’ well-being; however if they don’t pay attention to the unseen culture of the organisation, it can lead to some serious negative side effects, including:

  • High absenteeism
  • Stress-related health conditions
  • Reduced productivity
  • Unhealthy and toxic communication habits
  • Politics and internal conflicts
  • High levels of dissatisfaction

These side effects speak for themselves in terms of the impact they have on organisational culture and employee well-being; however, what often happens is that we leave them untouched hoping they’ll resolve themselves. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and prolonged negative work environments usually lead to:

  • High staff turnover
  • Reduced work satisfaction which impacts commitment and motivation
  • Low staff morale and team unity
  • Higher amounts of HR issues relating to employee conflicts
  • Burnout

So how can we tell that we’re working in a negative work environment? Well, there are a range of factors, but the truth is – you’ll feel it. Mistrust, closed communication, reduced collective problem solving, increased discomfort and reduced motivation are key indicators that your organisation is on a downwards slope.

But how do you know if you’re working in a positive organisation?

In South Africa there appears to be a lot of focus on logistical elements of organisational management which, while important, can lead to the people focus being less highly regarded. In this article we aim to highlight the key signs of whether you’re working in a positive organisation, and through it we hope to expose you to the often unseen elements which impact your employees and, in the end, directly impact your bottom line success.

Indicators of a Positive Organisational Culture

  • Value Integrity

It is all well and good to have a values list stuck up on a wall in the office, however truly positive organisations bring their values to life. It’s simple to say, “we value diversity”, however is your organisation really upholding this value? Does everyone have equal representation? Can everybody share from their personal viewpoint without being shut down or silenced?

Value integrity comes in many forms from the words said, the actions performed, and the morals upheld in the organisation. These will differ depending on the values of your organisation, however one of the key indicators of whether you value integrity in your organisational culture is whether your own personal values are in accordance with those laid out by your organisation. If there is a connection on a personal level, it will filter out into every level of the organisation.

  • A Relaxed and Productive Environment Organisational Culture

While it may seem obvious that we need to work in an environment that is conductive to concentration and productivity, this may not always be the reality. Bull pens, casual interruptions, social media access and colleague conversations can all have an impact on our capacity to do the “deep work” that truly improves organisations. Another area to consider when reviewing your working environment is whether you’re relaxed in your work space. Our brains require a baseline level of relaxation before we’re able to fully commit our attention to the task at hand, so notice whether your work space allows you to relax and concentrate fully on your tasks. A positive organisation should be encouraging a conducive environment through physical, sensory and mental conditions, as much as is possible within the given industry.

  • Commitment to Excellence

A positive organisation prioritises quality as much as quantity when it comes to outcomes for its clients. This is a balancing act and requires attention to both features when considering employee performance. While this may seem obvious and most organisations already have quality audits to ensure they’re producing the best products, what can often be forgotten is the people side of what it takes to achieve excellence. A positive organisational culture should be supporting the employees within the organisation to upskill, learn, and progress in their careers, and experience personal development through their roles. When an organisation commits to the individual improvement of its employees, the overall quality of their outcomes grows exponentially. Is your organisation committed to excellence?

  • Open and Honest Communication

Corridor talk, internal politics and a lack of transparency are just some of the common problems experienced in many organisations. When open communication is not present, this can often lead to mistrust, a lack of psychological safety and employees wanting to “vent” to their peers which fuels the cycle to continue. Open communication can be either formal or informal, written or verbal. A positive working environment and an organisational culture with open communication will be easy to identify as there will be fewer cliques, less gossip, rumours, politics and uncertainty.

  • Collaboration and Support

A healthy and positive team environment is one that supports creativity, problem solving and collaboration. There will also be compassion, respect and understanding underlying interactions. If you’ve ever been in toxic team environment you’ll know the signs – taking credit for someone else’s work, backstabbing, rumour spreading, unequal opportunities for expression, and bullying. A positive team environment is perhaps one of the key elements to creating a positive organisational culture because once teams are working together effectively and supportively, it can quickly spread into the culture of the rest of the organisation. If you want to identify whether you’re in a positive organisation, start to notice whether you have collaboration, peer support, learning through doing (reflection and problem solving), and both formal and informal meeting opportunities.

  • A Sense of Humour

“A good sense of humour is an escape valve for the pressures of life.”

In South Africa we’re incredibly lucky to have a culture of humour. To laugh at ourselves, at what doesn’t work, at our frustrations and at each other in a kind way is one of our biggest weapons against the potential slip into negativity. A good sense of humour creates a light and playful culture within an organisation and can really be the antidote to daily stress as it releases endorphins and reduces cortisol (our stress hormone) built up throughout the day. Do you laugh enough in your organisation?

  • Flexibility

Unfortunately, in the traditional working paradigm, the elimination of humanity is standard operating procedure. A progressive, positive organisation considers the individual, and with that comes a flexibility in management of resources, time, expectations, methodology and differences in outcome – of course without compromising the quality of the organisation’s objectives. Flexibility while challenging to manage can be a vital way for employees to experience autonomy and acknowledgement because when we’re seen and heard as ourselves we’re more in control (over time use, task completion and work-life balance) and will experience a rise in intrinsic motivation and commitment to the organisation.

  • Emphasis on environment, family and health

In this millennial world, the nature of our organisations has changed. From CSI (Corporate Social Investment) initiatives, family fun days, unconventional team building events and wellness programmes, there’s a revolution happening when it comes to an organisation’s responsibility to support, respect and act towards improving the lives of its employees and the greater community. This is becoming more common in organisations across the board, but provides a good indicator to see whether you’re in fact working in an organisation that has positive intentions.

Take Home Message

There’s a lot of pressure to be a better organisation, a better leader and a better person. This article is not intended to cause guilt, blame or negative sentiments towards your organisation because it doesn’t meet these criteria. Rather, it may help to explain why you’re experiencing conflicts and chaos at work and will hopefully give you a starting point to begin making positive changes in your work place.

If you’re not sure where to start, then don’t worry. 4Seeds is passionate about building skills and resources for happier workplaces in South Africa and we’d love to help you.

We’ll gladly come to your office for a FREE 30-minute Positive Workplace Talk to help start the conversation and to build awareness about how you and your organisation can become healthier, happier and more successful. If you’re interested, or know someone who may need us, then send an email to info@4seeds.co.za and we’ll be happy to get involved.

The times are changing and we’re here to support you on your route to success.