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Five Ways Your Workplace Can Make You an Ethical Leader

Five Ways Your Workplace Can Make You an Ethical Leader

South Africa has seen its fair share of unethical leadership in recent years, with the political and economic infrastructure being manipulated and managed for the benefit of a few. However, even though we know that this behaviour is unethical, the business world remains a complicated place with many grey areas which regularly test our moral compass.

Leaders, as the responsible people in the organisation, are often seen to be the ethical navigators and feel responsible for the misdemeanours or transgressions of others. Despite our best efforts, we cannot change the behaviour and motivation of others. However, without clarification of the expectations of the organisation, we cannot expect people to always know whether they are doing the right thing.

This does, unfortunately, mean that leaders have a role to play in ensuring that people remain within the moral conditions laid out by the organisation, and can be held accountable if these conditions are not in place.

In this article, we outline five conditions that you can apply to ensure that you are acting as an ethical leader. We hope to offer you some guidance which can protect you and your organisation from the unintended consequences of unethical behaviour.

 

Five Ways Your Workplace Can Make You an Ethical Leader

 

Codes of Conduct and Best Practice guidelines

Putting into a place a set of rules and regulations which stipulate the nature of managing unethical, illegal or morally challenging situations in the workplace, is a vital step for your organisation. When we don’t know what is expected of us, it’s easy for situations to unravel and ethics can become an emotional area to solve after the fact. Deciding on the policies which work for the team as well as unpacking the ethical challenges of your industry, the best practice guidelines for managing them, and how to regulate your organisation’s daily work, is a great way to collaborate on governance for which everyone has agreed to and is then responsible for upholding.

 

Training on ethics and company culture

Having the ability to make ethical decisions is not a given skill. Educating your employees will empower them to make informed decisions about their actions, and is essential to ensure that your staff are able to make ethical decisions. Providing regular training and seminars is one method, and can include the following:

  • Updates on the latest best practice guidelines
  • Updates on national and international industry rules and regulations
  • Instilling commitment for your corporate values
  • Providing guidance through challenging situations
  • Encouraging them to speak up about mistakes and uncomfortable ethical behaviours where the team can discuss and learn from their mistakes or the challenges of others.

 

Consistency

One of the key behaviours of ethical leadership is consistency and fairness. If only certain policies are respected, individuals are dealt with in disparaging ways, or consequences for unethical behaviours are inconsistently punished – then your organisation is in trouble. People notice when they are not managed fairly, and inconsistency can quickly deteriorate the trust, collaborative spirit, and psychological safety of people at work. Being consistent in what is regulated and how it is fairly implemented is key to ensuring that your reputation and codes of conduct are upheld inside and outside of the workplace.

 

Integrity

Do what you say, and admit when you don’t. Being an ethical leader means being a role model for best practice. This requires you to know your core values and to behave them. As an example, it is one thing to say that you want everyone to be punctual but you are late for meetings, or that you respect your employees’ health but then send them tasks when they are on sick leave, or that you value work-life balance but you yourself always work overtime. Integrity is a highly necessary part of ethical leadership because, without it, your team will inevitably see you as false and will lose trust and respect for you. In order to be an ethical organisation, you as the leader have to be willing to follow the same protocols of behaviour that you set out for your staff.

 

Check your motivations

While there are many definitions of leadership, there is one concept that underpins them all. The idea of being responsible for something greater than oneself, and while there have been many tyrannical leaders in history, the true meaning of a leader is one who is not motivated by self-advancement but rather by the progress of the team and company as a whole. If you want to be an ethical leader you need to become aware of your motivations and be vigilant with yourself. Make sure that you know who you are and how your behaviours impact those around you. If you are making decisions which drive your own success or financial gain, you will not only lose the commitment of your staff, but you are setting an example that individual gain is more valuable than collective success.

 

In conclusion

As you can see, ethical leadership is as much about your own behaviour and intentions as it is about setting up clear and consistent procedures to guide ethical decision making. Being an ethical leader is not a simple task and requires regular self-awareness, education, and policymaking in collaboration with your team.

We wish you the best of luck in implementing our suggestions, and please do contact us on info@4seeds.co.za if you have questions or need assistance.

Four Ways to Become a Meaningful Leader

Four Ways to Become a Meaningful Leader

 

Often when we find ourselves in a position of leadership, a great amount of effort needs to be made to put on a good front. This is with good reason because we can’t expect our team to follow us if we aren’t confident about the steps ahead and how we will achieve our outcomes. While having a confident and strong sense of direction as a leader is essential to building trust, collective action and results, this representation of leadership as a guiding light without fear is detrimental to the humans behind the frontline.

Leadership is a space where failures are unacceptable and where predictions about the future need to be correct (or at least account for possible obstacles and setbacks). This expectation of our leaders can place an incredible amount of pressure on the people we look up to, to lead the way.

In the changing world of work as it is today, there is space for us to become a different type of leader. One who is a mentor on one hand, and a student on the other. One who is motivated and engages others in most situations, and one who is in need of support and engagement from others in difficult moments.

In order for leaders and their organisations to thrive in today’s world, there needs to be a synergy between leadership and self-leadership, and between clear implementation and learning through failure.

This shift towards meaningful leadership for the future requires leaders to become conscious, curious, and aware of their limitations and how they can engage a learning mindset.

4Seeds focuses on supporting the leaders of tomorrow. We believe that everyone has the potential for great leadership with the right mindset, skills and self-awareness. It is our mission to empower leaders to become equipped for their roles and grow into their unique leadership style for the happiness of their team and the overall performance of the business as a whole.

Because it is our burning desire to co-create meaningful, happy and engaged workplaces across South Africa, we have designed an intensive two-day workshop called The Meaningful Leadership Development Programme. This programme is intended to build self-awareness, practical skills, and leadership theory which support resilient, authentic and conscious leadership behaviours.

In the article below, we will unpack some of the core concepts behind our Meaningful Leadership theory and how these elements impact the path of a leader – from one who needs to control and “be perfect”, to one who is able to be humble, honest and more resilient for themselves as well as the teams and the organisations they lead.

 

How to become a Meaningful Leader

 

  1. Become self-aware

There is a misconception that leadership requires us to know others better than we know ourselves. This results in many leaders focusing on their external experiences, and relationships with others more than on their internal world. However, the true essence of a great leader is one who knows themselves so well that they become a role model to others just by virtue of truly being themselves.

How you choose to learn more about yourself is up to you; however knowing your strengths, your weaknesses, your limitations, your triggers, and your assumptions about the world is a good starting point.

During the two-day Meaningful Leadership Development Programme, we take you through a self-mastery process where you are able to gain awareness in a supportive and collaborative learning environment while gaining the skills and knowledge needed to continue your leadership journey with self-awareness.

“The point is not to become a leader, the point is to become more yourself.” – Warren Bennis

 

  1. Become more mindful

Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”

It’s a term that has gained much traction in the media over the past decade, with extensive research showing the benefits of how mindfulness can transform your daily life and bring you more happiness.

In leadership, this concept of mindfulness has another dimension, in how we interact with the world around us and how we notice its effect on ourselves. Mindfulness assists us to manage stress, build resilience, and helps us to become more emotionally intelligent.

The Meaningful Leadership Development Programme includes elements of mindfulness as a fundamental resource for those who want to have a more positive and resilient outlook. During the workshop, we provide different practical methods which will give you space to start acknowledging how your actions, emotions and thoughts influence those around you, and how you can become more conscious in your daily actions to have a more positive impact on the world.

 

  1. Become curious

On the leadership journey there are always plenty unknown, potentially diabolical consequences for everything we do. Because of this inevitability, many leaders become driven to control, predict, project, plan, and play it safe. While this risk adversity is a helpful quality in order to guide an organisation to success, being able to stay curious is the true sign of a great leader. It shows the difference between a manager and a leader.

Curiosity takes vulnerability, which is why many people believe that asking questions shows weakness and incompetence. However, the opposite is in fact true. If we don’t ask questions, how will we know what we don’t know? How will we find new solutions, and how will we learn from our mistakes so we can progress?

Curiosity is the sign of a Meaningful Leader because without it, arrogance, fear and control become necessary to retain a position of authority. It takes a great leader to admit mistakes, be humble when they don’t know, and be open to new lines of enquiry.

Becoming a curious leader with a growth mindset sets the tone for developing a learning organisation. An organisation which has the ability to ask questions, be creative, experiment (with conditions), and explore the learnings from every failure to become stronger. Curiosity is the quality which leaders need to engage with to guide their organisations into the uncertain future ahead. It’s the difference between an organisation with or without a future.

“Replace your fear of the unknown with curiosity.”

  1. Become resilient

Resilience is something that every leader needs in bucket loads. It’s the ability to bounce back from adversity, to learn and grow from difficulties, and to make lemonade when life throws you lemons.

Luckily for us all, resilience is a learnt skill. While some of us have a higher level of resilience because of our lives up to this point, we all have the capacity to grow and develop our resilience muscles.

A resilient leader is one who is able to manage struggles with grace, adapt to challenges quickly, and who has the capacity to thrive from difficulty rather than just survive. In the times we live in, resilience is becoming a vital and essential skill for the Meaningful Leader.

In our two-day Meaningful Leadership Development Programme, we explore the foundational theories and practices of resilience and how you can begin building your resources to manage stress and failure with greater ease and purpose.

“Life doesn’t become any easier or more forgiving, we just become stronger and more resilient.”

 

In conclusion

Being a leader in today’s world is a challenge, to say the least. At 4Seeds we believe you have what it takes to create a powerful and memorable impact on your team, organisation and society as a whole.

If you are interested in becoming more self-aware, mindful, curious, and resilient so that you can take your leadership to the next level, then send us an email to info@4seeds.co.za to find out more about how our two-day Meaningful Leadership Development Programme can help you.

We wish you luck on your journey to becoming a more Meaningful Leader.

 

Four Reasons Why Crafting Your Team Happiness is Essential to your Business

Four Reasons Why Crafting Your Team Happiness is Essential to your Business

Happiness is our business at 4Seeds, which means that we know the powerful benefits that it can bring to your team morale, motivation levels, productivity, and overall organisational performance.

Sadly though, happiness is still an elusive topic for many managers, which often leads to stress and confusion about how to lead teams towards more joy, satisfaction, and happiness in the workplace. Most organisations have challenges, deadlines and ongoing developments, which means that ignoring employee happiness on your strategic agenda can reduce your team’s resilience and increase their stress which in turn will lead to high absenteeism rates and staff turnover. It is therefore essential for any company’s profitability to increase their employees’ happiness.

At 4Seeds we aim to make team happiness not only possible, but practical and sustainable through our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop. It takes place over four half days (or two full days), and introduces the best practices based on the latest research in the Science of Human Happiness.

There is a plethora of research exploring the benefits of Positive Psychology for the workplace, however, this article will unpack the key approaches included in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop, and will share some of the latest findings about how these practices can benefit your employees, teams, leaders, and your organisation.

Why Crafting Your Team Happiness is essential to your business

Increased positive emotions at work

We are all aware of the impact that negative emotions have on our motivation, our health and our desire to socialise, and recent science shows that the exact opposite of this is true for positive emotions. Positive emotions such as joy, contentment and gratitude at work can radically reduce our stress levels. This, in turn, results in less sick leave and lower rates of staff turnover; two of the biggest costs of any company.

Positive emotions are also contagious and make us more “likeable”. This likeability translates to increased leadership following and building more positive relationships in the workplace.

In our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop we unpack the true nature of emotions, we do emotional intelligence self-assessments, and learn some of the key practices to increase the number of positive emotions we experience at work.

Capitalised character strengths

Our character strengths are those behaviours, talents and skills that come so naturally to us that they are effortless to express, build our confidence and help us to excel. So why wouldn’t companies want their employees to use their strengths at work?

Unfortunately, humans have a natural tendency to focus on weakness. This means that we take what we are good at for granted, and focus on where we can improve; the impact of which is actually detrimental to employee performance. A large-scale research survey performed by UK’s Corporate Leadership Council found that leaders who focused on an employee’s weaknesses to assist their development actually reduced their performance by 27%. It is apparent that focusing on weaknesses is not the key to employee productivity, so why not try a strengths-based focus?

Employees who use their strengths are 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs. This seems to be reason enough, however, research performed by Gallup (an American analytics and advisory company based in Washington, D.C.) shows that it also increases company profits by between 14% and 29%.

Using strengths in the workplace has profound benefits for the individual employee as well as on team performance. Strengths help us be more confident and focused, and assist us to become more collaborative when we see the benefits that everyone brings to the team’s success.

Our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop uncovers the value of each individual’s character strengths, and helps teams to recognise the unique profile that each person can bring, and how they can capitalise on these to succeed both individually and collectively.

Optimised engagement through flow experiences

Employee engagement has been a hot topic in industrial psychology for the past decade. The concept of Flow psychology has also become a common term. It is described as the sense of competence and control, loss of self-consciousness, and such an intense absorption in the task at hand that you lose track of time (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).

These flow experiences result in increased intrinsic motivation, a higher level of work commitment, and of course high levels of concentration, focused attention and long experiences of selective calm which can combat everyday work stress (Goleman, 2013).

Flow experiences can be few and far between in the bullpen environment at work, however with the practical advice we share in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop, you can not only increase the flow experiences of your employees at work, but in turn boost your overall team engagement, sense of achievement, and life satisfaction. Powerful stuff, right?

Finding and pursuing meaning at work

We have moved away from meaning and purpose being concepts kept to religious institutions or conversations with close friends. Recent research shows that meaning and purpose are key parameters of why people choose to stay in a certain organisation or why they choose to leave, and that meaning actually trumps compensation in terms of the reason someone stays at their job.

Generating a sense of meaning and purpose in your employees can help increase their commitment to company objectives, their level of engagement, and their overall sense of happiness and life satisfaction.

In our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop we uncover the core values of each individual in the team, as well as their individual sense of purpose. We also unpack how these translate into the meaning they experience at work and how this can be increased on a team and organisational level.

Crafting Your Team Happiness – creating conditions for the future

The key principles of Positive Psychology that we introduce in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop are not only important to develop individual happiness, but do in fact boost your bottom line as well. Companies are no longer just a place to work and receive a salary; they are where we spend most of our day, and the ideal place to introduce the principles of Positive Psychology.

If you are interested in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop, or would like more information on how you can start to boost positive emotions at work, harness your team’s character strengths, increase your employee engagement, or bring more meaning and purpose into your organisation, then send an email to info@4seeds.co.za.

Happiness is core to the future success of any company who wants to stay relevant and thrive. We wish you all the best on your journey.

Two Methods for Creating a Giving Culture at Work (and Helping Build a Successful Organisation)

Two Methods for Creating a Giving Culture at Work (and Helping Build a Successful Organisation)

The organisational behaviour of reciprocity is not an unknown in our everyday working lives. We share information, collaborate on projects, and hopefully recognise how our efforts impact the greater objectives of the company. These are the foundations of reciprocity in the workplace, and they exist everywhere where individuals work together to achieve collective success.

However, when you first think about the idea of a giving culture at work, it may feel as if you’re going against your natural evolutionary instinct to compete for resources and thus survive and outlive your competition. If this is your first response, then it may be helpful to consider recent research in the field of neurobiology. An experiment performed by neuroscientists James Rilling and Gregory Berns at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, found that the act of helping people activated the part of our brain associated with rewards and experiencing pleasure. This literally means that we are biologically programmed to feel good by reducing the suffering of others.

So, if reciprocity is an innate human trait, then how can we harness this basic social behaviour to create a culture which benefits the individual, team, and organisation as a whole?

  • Firstly, we need to generalise this reciprocal tendency to create a pay it forward culture.
  • Secondly, we need to employ a culture of gratitude which can act as a buffer against stress and promote an ongoing giving culture through the reinforcement of proactive, prosocial behaviours.

 

Paying it forward

At its core, reciprocity comes from the foundational understanding that “if I scratch your back, you’ll scratch mine.” Reciprocity can therefore come from a place of indebtedness, which quickly leads to resentment and fatigue. Luckily, growing research in the field of positive organisational behaviours is proving that reciprocity with the intention of appreciation and gratitude elicits powerful effects on workplace effectiveness with long-term and sustainable company success.

A clear example of paying it forward is the Starbucks Coffee experiment where a researcher paid for the coffee of the person behind them, and then that person paid for the coffee of the person behind them, without expectation or instructions given by the researcher. In St. Petersburg Florida, this  process continued for 11 hours, and when the individuals were interviewed, they explained that they “wanted to show their appreciation for the kindness they had received.”

This case study is a perfect example of how we can create a pay it forward culture of generalised reciprocity in an organisation. If person A shows proactive, helpful behaviour towards person B and this organically flows through person C, D, E and F, then indirectly person A will receive helpful behaviour in the future.

This requires a giving mindset (which we will discuss in the gratitude part of this article) and trust in the system that they will receive help in the future. This indirect closing of the circle is necessary as reciprocity by its very nature requires an exchange. We will only offer kindness and gratitude if at some point we receive (even indirectly) the same treatment. We are unlikely to continue helping others if we don’t receive help ourselves, just as we are unlikely to continue showing gratitude to someone if we receive no appreciation ourselves. This is where gratitude becomes vital for sustaining the giving culture.

 

An attitude of gratitude

At first, gratitude may be thought of as fluffy emotional stuff, but it has been proven to have profound benefits on our workplace well-being. Some of the latest research findings are:

  • A daily gratitude practice can decrease stress hormones by 23%.
  • Grateful people are more optimistic, and optimism has a direct positive effect on our immune systems.
  • Appreciation from management increased work commitment by 80%.
  • Grateful brains release Dopamine which leads to an increase in productivity by 31%.

It is obvious that on an individual level gratitude is highly beneficial to our physical and mental health as well as our productivity at work.

However, how does an attitude of gratitude increase a giving culture at work?

Recent research into the neurobiology of compassion has shown that receiving gratitude (through words, touch or actions) generates Oxytocin – the neurotransmitter responsible for nurturance, trust and bonding. This release of Oxytocin causes us to behave compassionately towards others therefore paying forward the positive emotions we have just experienced.

An attitude of gratitude at work is a simple and effective way to create more givers in the workplace. Givers, as described by Adam Grant in his book Give and Take, are those individuals that help when the benefits to others exceed their own personal costs. He says that a taker is someone who helps whenever the benefits to themselves exceed their own personal costs. Plainly said – more givers in an organisation will lead to increased proactive behaviours, collaborative intentions, and a culture of working for the greater good of the organisation, not just for personal gain.

In the average workplace there will be a mix of givers, matchers and takers, and a lack of appreciation is the number one reason why people are leaving their jobs. Instilling an attitude of gratitude will not only make the takers in your organisation feel appreciated and experience more happy hormones, which will encourage them to give more in the future as they got something back in return, but they will also be more likely to show gratitude to others. Both of these reciprocal processes will ensure that a giving culture can be sustained.

In conclusion

This article may have taken some of you outside your comfort zone, or otherwise just offered a scientific perspective on a giving culture, but the aim has been to show the innate desire of humans to reciprocate kindness and appreciation.

While we have been programmed to compete against each other, we are hardwired to feel good by acting in prosocial ways. By harnessing the two strategies of paying it forward and instilling an attitude of gratitude in your organisation, you will not only be improving the well-being of your employees but creating a major culture shift which will lead to increased connectivity, civility, cohesion, and collaboration at work.

If you have a story to share or questions for the 4Seeds team about this article, please leave a comment below.

 

Two Essential Strategies for Building Organisational Resilience

Two Essential Strategies for Building Organisational Resilience

In the world, as it is right now, we are in a constant state of change, greeting the uncertain and unfamiliar on a daily basis. Whether it’s as small as changing the office layout, or the ever-uncertain economic or political landscape, the need for resilience to keep calm and carry on is greater than ever. But how do we develop our resilience, and is it possible to build resilience on an organisational level?

Resilience is a complex resource which is more present for some of us than others. It is, however, a learned skill which means that we can all become more resilient – with the right internal and external factors. Resilience is a subjective experience of how we manage stress and bounce back from adversity; however, everything we do exists within the context of who, where and how we interact with the world around us. Organisation resilience, therefore, requires individual resources who collectively make an organisation more resilient, while also having organisation level resources which in turn support the development of individual resilience. Make sense?

Humans are social creatures – whether, in the workplace, the home environment or social gatherings, we thrive from belonging and being supported by others. In the history of humanity, the civilisations which were the most successful were those that were able to gather their respective strengths for the benefit of the group so they could adapt effectively for survival. This same condition is the state of the current working environment – organisations need to gather their resources (personnel and tangible) in order to adapt and be flexible to constant and inevitable change. Individually we are weak, but collectively we are strong. This same mentality can be seen in the reason why we have teams. One individual is not as effective or productive as a group can be, and we, therefore, work together to achieve a common goal. This is where the concept of organisational resilience comes in.

Organisations need to remain innovative, flexible and agile in the face of constant change, and organisational resilience allows the organisation to turn failures and potential threats into opportunities for transformation and growth.

So how can we build our resilience resources on an organisational level? This article aims to explain the three components we need to focus on when we want to develop resilience in our organisation, and how we can support ourselves and each other in the workplace to not only bounce back but to thrive in the face of adversity.

Cynthia and Mark Lengnick-Hall (2005 and 2009) are experts in the field of organisational resilience. Their research findings have found that there are three sources of organisational resilience. These are organisation-level cognitive, behavioural, as well as contextual capabilities and routines which foster resilience in the face of setbacks. In the section below we will unpack the cognitive and behavioural strategies (contextual strategies will be explained in another article so we don’t overload you).

Each of these components are based on the paper Developing a Capacity for organizational resilience through strategic human resource management (Lengnick-Hall et al., 2011):

Three cognitive strategies for organisational resilience

  • Strong core values 
    When confronted with challenges, resilient organisations are able to bounce back because of their alignment to the core values and purpose of the organisation. If any unexpected negative events occur, knowing the core purpose of the organisation can provide the framework for not only adaptation but transformation and growth. Do you and your employees know your core values and purpose?
  • Collective sensemaking 
    As humans, we are programmed to find meaning in situations. If there is a shared space and vocabulary for making sense of an unforeseen event, it can greatly impact how people perceive and are able to support each other to recover and grow.

  • Collective growth mindset 
    We have mentioned the concept of the growth mindset in previous articles, and it is, by no surprise, a fundamental aspect of developing organisational resilience. If we remain in a rigid perspective where expectations are made of how things “should be”, we can quickly become hopeless and disappointed when things don’t work out. Developing a growth mindset in your organisation can help people to reflect, learn and adapt to new experiences more effectively.

 

Four behavioural strategies for organisational resilience

  • Learned resourcefulness
    The truly South African saying of ’n boer maak ’n plan is what comes to mind when we think of learned resourcefulness. In order to cope with unforeseen changes, an organisation needs to think outside the box, so that they are able to be creative and innovative with the resources available to craft an unpredictable but robust solution. This requires ingenuity, originality and creativity which is learned over time based on how we manage stress and challenges as a collective.
  • Non-conforming, counterintuitive strategies
    You cannot grow in the same environment which made you shrink. In order to survive and thrive in the face of change and hardship, the resilient organisation is able to find strategies which go against the grain, literally “swimming upstream” to get the job done. We cannot conform to a pre-existing strategy if things change; we need to develop an innovative and counterintuitive strategy which will open new doors and help us move forward.
  • Practical daily habits
    Learned routines in an organisation can quickly fall apart when we are confronted with unseen change. The behavioural element of practising daily habits is not based on routine, but rather habits which form from acting in integrity with the core values of the company. The prerequisite for this behavioural strategy is having a strong knowledge of the core values across the organisation. For example – the value of truth in an organisation can lead to the development of a habit of open dialogue and investigation which will serve the organisation to explore different avenues rather than making assumptions (and blaming) when trouble arises.
  • Behavioural preparedness
    This strategy comes from awareness and planning for the unseen future. Resilient organisations are able to adapt rapidly to problems that arise, abandoning behaviours that do not suit the situation, and being prepared to adapt mentally, physically, and emotionally in order to transform a negative setback into a new opportunity.

 

In conclusion

Resilience is the subjective, individual ability to bounce back from adversity and to grow in the face of challenges. While individual resources are necessary to survive and thrive when change happens, there is a need for greater organisational-level conditions to be present in order for a company to transform and grow in this day and age. Both the cognitive and behavioural strategies mentioned in this article are based on the extensive work of Lengnick-Hall et al., and provide us with a foundation of essential elements from which we can begin building resilience. Your organisation has been, is currently being, or will become, confronted with failures, setbacks and change, because as we know the only constant is change. So, starting to apply these practices into your organisation will give you greater flexibility, innovation and staying power when the going gets tough.

We wish you luck in implementing these strategies, and if you would like further assistance or have questions, our expert team is waiting for your email. Contact us at info@4seeds.co.za.

 

The Secret to Employee Engagement

The Secret to Employee Engagement

Employee engagement has become a topic which has gained much attention over the past few years, with a wave of different strategies, tips and hints on how to get your employees more engaged in the workplace. While most of this advice is helpful, and is calling the attention of executives to the value of engagement in reaching company outcomes, some do not always address the root cause of employee disengagement.

The aim of this article is to reveal the secret to employee engagement – it isn’t your employees! The true measure of increased employee engagement is the organisational climate and culture which permeates on every level. A high level of motivation, proactivity and high productivity cannot be met in the frontlines alone. While every employee has the right to experience personal satisfaction in their work, they also feed into a bigger system of strategy and objectives which allow the organisation to grow and succeed.

At 4Seeds we believe in the power of the individual to influence the success of the whole. Our knowledge and expertise in the field of Positive Psychology has shown us that Positive Organisations are not crafted through short-term quick fixes or one-day team building events.

It is through a carefully managed system of continuous intentional actions that realise the potential of the individual within the structure and framework of the organisation.

In order to achieve sustainable improvements in employee engagement, an organisation and its leaders need to commit to a long-term strategy which puts people first.

The Happiness at Work Model which was designed and developed by the iOpener Institute for People & Performance is a highly valuable and proven method to improve not only employee engagement, but increase the bottom line through improved customer satisfaction, better business practices, and an overarching trust and pride in the organisation.

The Happiness at Work Model lays out the fundamental pillars of a successful organisation, as well as the core drivers of individual and collective success. These pillars provide the structural guidance needed to improve employee engagement – for the long-term. These are illustrated in the image below (courtesy of the iOpener Institute for People & Performance, Oxford, United Kingdom).

 

 

Key Questions that Define Sustainable Employee Engagement

 

“Would you fully engage with someone you didn’t trust?”

This is a key question to ask yourself when deciding to engage in a sustainable employee engagement strategy. If an employee receives mixed messages from company communications, they are unlikely to put their best foot forward; guarding themselves against being damaged. Trust in an organisation comes from developing transparent, open and reliable communication channels on every level of the organisation. It is the responsibility of the culture in the organisation to support the development of psychological safety and mixed messages, and varied responses from management and a lack of transparency can severely affect the development of trust in the organisation’s goals, management and agenda.

“Why would an employee be committed to your organisation’s mission?”

A key overarching symbol of engagement is commitment to the mission and vision of the organisation. Without a sense of how they meaningfully contribute towards the objectives of the organisation, employees are unlikely to feel fully committed which will in turn affect their level of engagement in daily tasks. Leaders need to provide sounds reasons and regular reminders of how amazing the organisation is and the impact its work has on its stakeholders, consumers and society as a whole. These regular reminders of the value of each person’s work in making a positive impact will grow pride in the organisation and its mission.

“If you don’t know that you have done well, why would you keep trying?”

We have mentioned the value of recognition and feedback many times in the past for its profound effect on the self-confidence, motivation, and positive emotions employees experience at work. However, there remains an assumption in many organisations that feedback is a formal, regulated quarterly review process. This attitude towards recognition hinders the constant employee engagement which so many organisations desire. However, in answering the question, an informal, continuous culture of celebration is vital for sustainable engagement and is the responsibility of every manager and leader within the organisation.

 

In Conclusion

This article serves to highlight the necessity of organisations to take responsibility for the structures and systems which can lead to employee engagement. While each employee needs to be groomed and developed individually, the secret to sustainable employee engagement lies in the trust, pride and recognition that exists in the culture of the organisation. Alter these consciously and systemically, and employee engagement will be just one of the positive side effects.

4Seeds is the ONLY accredited provider of Happiness at Work in South Africa. Our Happiness at Work organisational change management intervention has shown proven effectiveness across the board.

For more information on this powerful investment and how it can help you boost customer service, reduce employee turnover, and provide tangible results for stakeholders, contact us on info@4seeds.co.za.

 

Everything You Need to Know About Flow Psychology

Everything You Need to Know About Flow Psychology

What is Flow, and Why Do we Need it at Work?

Flow psychology is one of the main concepts behind employee engagement in Positive Psychology theory. First researched and coined by Positive Psychology co-founder Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow has gained a lot of attention in recent years because of its powerful personal and organisational benefits.

In this article, we will share what flow is, the benefits of increasing flow at work, and how to increase flow experiences.

Let’s dive in!

 

The Definition of Flow

Have you ever felt as if you lost time and your mind stopped analysing and planning while you were doing something you loved and valued? That was a flow experience. Flow is a unique state of high motivation, achievement, and satisfaction in what you are doing without external motivators or a perceived reward.

According to Csikszentmihalyi (1990), flow is “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved and you’re using your skills to the utmost.

Flow is the unique state that can be reached through the healthy balance of challenge and skills. Have a look at this image.

 

 

 

 

If we are over-challenged and under-skilled we become anxious. However, if we are under-challenged and over-skilled, we become bored. Flow is the perfect “sweet spot” where our skills and our challenge meet.

How to Know When you are in Flow: The Eight Characteristics of Flow

Not sure if you have experienced flow before? Csikszentmihalyi describes flow according to these eight characteristics:

  • Complete concentration on the task at hand
  • Clarity of goals with immediate feedback
  • The transformation of time (either slowing down or speeding up)
  • The experience is rewarding and grows intrinsic motivation
  • There is a feeling of effortless ease
  • There is a healthy balance between challenge and skill
  • Action and awareness are merged (there is a loss of self-consciousness)
  • There is a feeling of confidence and control over the task

 

The Benefits of Flow in the Workplace

The extensive studies exploring the effects of flow for individuals and organisations have found some positive and powerful benefits to this “sweet spot” state.

From the brain perspective, two things happen when we are in flow. Firstly, there are five different neurotransmitters that are released into the system when we are in flow. Each of these contribute to the flow state being innately pleasurable, rewarding and motivating. Secondly, when we are in flow, we have reduced prefrontal activity (the part of our brain responsible for self-consciousness, self-doubt, and time awareness) which means that while we are in flow we are able to turn off our inner critic, forget about our other pressures, remove time urgency, and “be in the moment” with what we are doing.

These two processes of the brain activate some amazing personal benefits to flow including:

  • Increased sense of confidence
  • Increased information retention and learning
  • Increased productivity (even 15% more time in flow can boost productivity by up to 50%!)
  • Better sleep
  • More positive emotions
  • The ability to cope better with stressful situations

While these benefits alone are motivation to want more flow experiences, the more individuals who have flow experiences at work, the more positive benefits for the workplace as a whole. These company benefits include:

  • Improved employee engagement
  • Improved productivity and product output
  • Improved employee morale and intrinsic motivation
  • Greater sense of meaning in work tasks
  • Better overall team performance
  • Increased commitment to company outcomes

Now that you have a better understanding of what flow is and how it can benefit the individual and the company in powerful ways, we’re ready to introduce some methods on how to increase flow experiences at work.

How to Support Flow Experiences at Work

“People reach a flow state three times more often at work than in their free time.” Csikszentmihalyi and LeFevre, 1989

This is an important statistic to consider when thinking about flow. The workplace can be a conductive environment for flow because it already has some key components needed such as clear, structured goals, immediate feedback, and challenges that require a high level of skill to complete.

There are many factors at work that prevent flow experiences, including high levels of occupational stress, poor role clarity, a lack of immediate and specific feedback, or a negative attitude towards one’s work. While an organisation cannot be responsible for many of the individual differences needed for each team member to experience flow, there are some general guidelines that can make your office more conducive to increased flow experiences.

 

Physical Structures for Flow

In recent years, the “bullpen” structure has become more popular for workplaces because it encourages collaboration, information sharing and social bonding, however this nature of working is not conducive to flow. In order to go into a flow state, one needs to be uninterrupted, undisrupted, and able to concentrate. If your organisation enjoys the “bullpen” office layout, then a good idea is to have a quiet zone where people can go to get into flow. Or perhaps look at having sectioned areas where people can do teamwork or individual work.

Sensory deprivation can also help to increase flow states, so become aware of the noise, visual stimulation, and the amount of movement in your office. If there is a constant change in the sensory pace of the environment, it makes it almost impossible for people to go into flow for long periods.

Another consideration is the physical comfort of your employees. When we are uncomfortable (ergonomically, changing desks regularly, or next to the toilet) we are less likely to get into flow as we will be distracted by the desire for more physical comfort. If the body requires attention, the mind will step out of the flow state back into the prefrontal cortex to analyse.

Social Structures for Flow

Flow states require immediate and direct feedback, whether this is from the task itself, management, or team members. The best way to ensure that this happens is to have a communication system in place which provides immediate feedback on completion of the task (an app which gamifies validation is a fun and progressive example, however it may be as simple as a quick daily check-in with each team member).

Another consideration in order for people to go into flow is for them to have fewer distractions – a culture of immediately responding to emails, urgent phone calls, and constant damage control are just a few examples of how your office culture can break down the chances for flow at work.

In Conclusion

A flow state is the optimal state of human functioning where challenge, skill and intrinsic motivation meet. A sure-fire way to enhance performance, boost employee engagement and increase company outputs is to encourage more flow experiences at work. While this is an individual process, there are certain physical and social strategies to consider which can boost the number of flow experiences employees have at work.

We hope you have learnt something new from this article, and welcome your questions and feedback on how this influences the flow states in your organisation.

If you require further assistance, or have some specific concerns or questions, please send us an email to info@4seeds.co.za

Four Warning Signs of an Overwhelmed Leader

Four Warning Signs of an Overwhelmed Leader

Leadership is not easy. Often, people find themselves in leadership positions without the adequate leadership skills to effectively manage their team’s performance, well-being and motivation. While these indicators alone serve as signs of a struggling leader, there are some other very clear warning signals that a manager is drowning under the pressure of their new position.

Moving from a team member into a leadership position is not easy, and the skills needed to manage a team are not often offered when someone steps into a new position. Our Meaningful Leadership Development Programme aims to provide new managers with the personal awareness and practical knowledge needed to bridge the gap, and support overwhelmed new leaders.

At 4Seeds we tend to lean towards offering advice and positive practical solutions to common organisational issues; however, in this article we aim to provide some clear indicators of what to look out for in your new leaders and managers.

Four warning signs of an overwhelmed leader

 

  • Micromanagement

In an ideal world, before starting a new leadership position you would have the space to develop goals as well as a vision of what you want to achieve as a new leader. However, this is almost never the case. One day you’re an employee and the next you’re the manager. When this happens, a new leader won’t have had the time to align their vision with their actions and can easily become overwhelmed by the tasks ahead rather than seeing the bigger picture. This lack of vision and goal alignment can result in new leader starting to micromanage through poor delegation, incomplete information sharing, or excessive meetings. This becomes a challenge because without the adequate skills and support it can lead to mistrust, meaningless tasks and resentment from subordinates.

 

  • Constant state of damage control

A common trait of an overwhelmed leader is that they experience “decision freeze”. Paralysed by the pressure to make the right decisions (and the lack of vision mentioned above), the new leader goes into a frozen state of stress. They appear idle to the outsider, halting new ideas and managing issues only when they become urgent. While this can be a common position for many leaders, new and experienced, it is not a sustainable approach and can lead to a highly stressful and tense working environment for the whole team.

 

  • Increased rumours and corridor talk

Overwhelmed leaders often deal with their team ineffectively, in one of two ways. Either they will hold an excessive number of meetings, trying to keep everything in their control, or they will let everyone continue as normal and communicate very little with the team. This second style of communication can often lead to team members finding ways to discuss and gossip about leadership outside of formal channels. Corridor talk is dangerous to a new leader and it can quickly break down trust and affect the healthy, transparent dialogue needed to work together effectively.

 

  • “Head in the sand” approach

When one is promoted into leadership there are a lot of unspoken expectations and responsibilities that come into play – having a hand on the pulse of the team is just one of them.

An effective leader knows each of their team member’s strengths, goals and working style, and can manage the individual to further the outcomes of the team. However, as a new leader this awareness takes time and as there are so many tangible responsibilities to attend to, they may often neglect (consciously or unconsciously) this subtle but essential duty of their position.

A “head in the sand” approach becomes obvious when decisions are made without the leader’s knowledge, when absenteeism increases, or when employee retention rises. Employees need to be recognised and validated for their individual contributions to the outcomes of the team, the lack of which can quickly lead to dissatisfaction and disengagement. A new leader needs to be able to see the individual value of each team member and communicate this authentically – a skill which is not easy to learn under pressure.

 

So what now?

Stepping into a leadership position will always be challenging and it will take time to become comfortable with new responsibilities; however, a leader that has been given adequate skills and support will be more resilient to these difficulties and is more likely to succeed in their new role.

Equipping leaders with the skills, knowledge and personal awareness needed to be a meaningful leader is our job. At 4Seeds we believe that all leaders are unique and that with the right knowledge and support they can all become meaningful leaders for their teams and organisations.

Want to upskill your new leaders? Check out our Meaningful Leadership Development Programme.

Why Self-Management Matters in the Workplace

Why Self-Management Matters in the Workplace

The concept of leadership does not often consider the role that self-management plays in effectively achieving business outcomes. However, while the demands on leaders increase as our organisations become more positive, there is a need for greater self-management for each individual in the organisation. This need will only grow in the coming years as flexitime, remote offices and digital collaboration becomes the norm.

 

Before we unravel how to grow self-management in the workplace, we need to define it.

 

Self-management is the ability of each individual in the organisation to demonstrate the skills needed to manage their own time and work priorities, the insight to manage their own emotions and behaviours, and the confidence to take responsibility for problems that arise and to report back accurately on progress.

In this article we will offer insight into how self-management can be developed in the workplace, and why self-management is valuable for the modern-day workplace.

While this may be challenging for some leaders to read and reflect upon, a growing awareness of how your leadership style can impact the growth and development of self-management in your employees is a strong starting point to grow your business for the modern world.

Self-Management Starts with Self-Awareness

 

The art of successful self-management is the ability of each individual to reflect on their own internal processes. Social and emotional intelligence and ownership of one’s beliefs and behaviours are key elements of self-awareness, the development of which can create trusting and healthy relationships between leaders and staff as well as between team members.

Each one of these components is a continued learning and growth pathway for individuals, and requires consistent effort in order to gain better management of oneself. As a leader in this process, there are a lot of benefits to you knowing yourself better and providing a pathway for the rest to follow.

If a leader is triggered emotionally or socially, they will be unable to manage the other individual from a healthy and objective viewpoint. Therefore, in order for individuals to become empowered to self-manage, they will need the support of a self-aware role model. The leader in this scenario has to be attuned to their internal world, aware of their own responses, and willing to take responsibility for their emotions and actions so that their staff respect and follow them based on influence instead of authority.

Developing emotional intelligence and awareness of one’s beliefs and behaviours takes curiosity, insight and self-appreciation. But one needs to be willing to not always be right but rather to choose to be authentic.

The process of self-awareness is not easy, however much of the conflicts, disengagement and employee turnover we are experiencing in the workplace are due to mismanaged emotions, limited beliefs and disrespectful behaviours which cause people to become disconnected.

Another element of self-awareness is to become aware of our character strengths. By virtue of the fact that we are innately good at something means we are more intrinsically motivated to perform any actions that use the said strength.

A strength focus is key to self-management, as individuals who know what they are good at and are given the opportunities (and the autonomy) to have their work align with their strengths, will need less management and incentives from leaders as the tasks themselves will provide the motivation to continue working towards their goals and provide quality outputs.

 

The Role of Leadership in Self-Management at Work

 

Self-management involves a non-hierarchical approach in the workplace. With working environments becoming less like a food chain of power politics, and organisational commitment at an all-time low, there is a need for individuals to become more autonomous in the workplace.

While this may seem daunting to many leaders who already have a lot on their agenda and a stronghold approach to employee management, the beauty of self-management is that once it has begun, it only needs to be maintained. However, a key element to building a self-management culture is trust – leaders will need to become aware of their own insecurities and ego in order to hand over the responsibility to their staff. While not easy or simple, one cannot be empowered to take care of oneself if someone else it taking care of us. A basic premise of this was first introduced by Stephen Karpman in his Drama Triangle Model.

In any conflict situation we tend to play one of three roles unless we have the self-awareness to step out of the circle:

 

1)      The Victim: Believes they need saving and if not helped will perceive themselves to be persecuted. These individuals will struggle to be independent and find it difficult to make decisions.

2)      The Persecutor: Believes they cannot be vulnerable for fear that they become a victim. They are inflexible and use power and criticism, however rarely solve problems or actually help the situation.

3)      The Rescuer: Believes they need victims to help and can’t allow people to succeed because then their role is not needed. They become guilty if not helping people and use guilt to keep the dependence of the victim. They often have a martyr style, and are usually worried, overworked and exhausted.

 

 

Do you see yourself in this triangle? I am sure you can see how this cycle perpetuates itself unless we have the insight to remove ourselves from it. If we start to adopt this lesson into leadership, we can begin to see how empowering others to step out of the triangle and into their own power is essential for self-management and healthy, trusting relationships.

This first step of self-awareness can help leaders shift from instructing authority figures to guiding role models. Employees can move from being victims into self-confident drivers of their own lives, and those that have the tendency to rescue can begin to look within and take responsibility for themselves and respect the decisions of others without becoming involved. Once out of the drama triangle, each individual can begin to align to the culture of the organisation and benefit the bottom line from their own autonomy rather than from an unconscious external motivation.

Self-management inherently considers each individual empowered to execute their role in the organisation. However, leadership still plays a vital role in this non-hierarchical process as only once leaders trust and support self-management, and take responsibility for their own self-development, can each individual in the organisation actually take responsibility for themselves.

Through a self-management culture, the daily burden of micromanagement, sleepless nights and fear of delegation can be reduced, leaving leaders to do what they do best; sculpt the vision of the organisation and create the systems that progress its mission.

 

Four Strategies to Make Your Team Building More Effective

Four Strategies to Make Your Team Building More Effective

Whether it’s a fun day out, or a more in-depth process, team building is essential to training and maintaining your staff while building relationships in your organisation. However, all too often, these events can become costly and do not reap the rewards they were intended to. In fact, in some cases, team building events can actually cause further damage to the relationships within an organisation. While there are potentially countless reasons why your team building doesn’t work, there are some strategies you can adopt when preparing for your next team building intervention that will ensure that your organisation gets the results it needs.

Because of the complicated nature of team dynamics, the costs involved, and the time lost, there is often a tendency to avoid planning regular events. However, effective team building does not need to become a burden. At 4Seeds, we are experts in organising effective team building interventions with sustainable results. In this article, we will share our four strategies for effective team building which will help you prepare for, and run, your next intervention successfully.

 

How to Make Team Building Have Sustainable Results

 

  • Needs Analysis

    Why are you organising a team building? The reason why many team building interventions fail is because the purpose of the intervention is unclear. If you don’t know why you want to engage in team building, you are unlikely to get results. Gaining an understanding of what the underlying needs are of your team is essential.

    By brainstorming, doing a survey, or asking your team directly, you can uncover what is wanted and needed from their work, relationships and team dynamics. From there, you will have the clarity to start researching the best options for your team building intervention that will address your needs more effectively.

 

  • Activity Selection

    Deciding what kind of activity is the most suitable for your team intervention takes some effort. Having a good sense of what your team needs will help to support this process – however, you will still need to answer two key questions: “Should the intervention be short- or long-term?”. For example, if your team needs stress relief then a short-term intervention is sufficient, but if they are struggling with effective problem solving, a long-term intervention will probably be more suitable to increase the collaborative efforts and overall morale in meeting the challenge effectively.

    The second question is: “Should the intervention be organisation-wide or team specific?”. Most organisations go for a specific team intervention, however in cases where organisational trust needs to be developed or a team needs to align their values to the organisation’s culture, a whole organisation approach is the only effective way of getting sustainable results.

 

  • Team Participation

    Whole team participation is essential to effectively building strong relationships at work. Without the whole team being part of the decisions made, you will not get the buy-in needed in order to get long-lasting results.

    Once the needs of the team have been identified, and you have researched appropriate options, start to consider what is most suitable for the whole team. Can everyone participate? What is the level of physical fitness needed for the activity, and does your whole team have what is needed to take part? Finding activities that will foster a healthy sense of competition without fear of failure is key to effective team participation, and the best fit for the team is best decided by the team instead of for the team.

 

  • Sustainability

    Sustainability of team building processes is essential in order to really get results in the long-term, however often team buildings occur in isolation from the working environment. Retreats, days out, or work-away experiences are a fantastic way to restore the morale and energy in a team, and often this is when the most creative ideas are uncovered and the strongest bonds are made.

    Unfortunately, in many cases these amazing results quickly dissipate on returning to the workplace. If the ideas which were formed and the relationships that were built are not supported in the working environment, people will become jaded and are likely to engage less and less with each team building event. So, in order to have sustainable improvements after a team building event, it is essential to incorporate changes, introduce structures, and support the individuals after the event. Having regular check ins with the team to build onto the work that has been done and to note any further needs, is a cost effective strategy to get more sustainable team building.

 

Are you planning on running a team building intervention? Are you looking for an accountable and professional team building partner?

4Seeds is a consulting company which supports the development of happiness in the workplace. We believe that only with satisfied individuals can teams thrive. We have made it our mission to provide short- and long-term team building interventions that support this vision. With our team of playful and professional facilitators, we are the ideal partner to support your teams and organisation to thrive.

Get in touch with us now for a free 30 minute consultation. Email us at info@4seeds.co.za to get started.