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.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: The Random House Publishing Group.
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
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
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.
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 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?
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 email@example.com and we’ll be happy to get involved.
The times are changing and we’re here to support you on your route to success.
We have all experienced it.
A lack of energy, fatigue, pain, fever, and the inability to get our brains to work effectively. Yet we still we go on, pretending that everything is alright… until it’s not.
This is one of the biggest lies we tell each other, and we do it so many times every day that we’ve probably lost count. We say it to complete strangers, our work colleagues, our bosses, and even our family and friends. But why do we do this, and what implications does it have on our well-being in the long run? Perhaps if we are aware of these, then having a 5-step strategy to combat its effects is just what we need to move from alright to absolutely awesome.
Our Perception of Illness
While we are becoming more aware of the holistic nature of illness and disease, the common perception is that illness is primarily physical. We need to see someone’s illness on the outside of their body to understand it and to empathise with them. For centuries, we have made huge developments in the field of medicine and healthcare; however, in daily life people still understand illness visually and we tend to be less sympathetic to “invisible” illnesses. Even more so those that can be categorised as psychosomatic or “all in your head”. Think about it, how do you react to someone with a broken arm versus someone who admits they suffer from depression?
We may think we have progressed, but in fact our instincts still run a lot of our lives – including our response to illness. We want to be healthy and strong because it’s good for us, but also because on an instinctual level it makes us more likely to reproduce and continue the line of strong offspring who will keep the good genes going. We focus on looking, acting and being strong and attractive, and illness – well that’s not part of the package. So, as we move out of the accepted childhood “booboos”, we become gradually more intolerant of illness, pain and disease (in ourselves and others) because on some level it shows weakness and vulnerability. Of course, this has created the “just fine” culture, where we would rather suffer in silence than admit illness to others. You might think this is farfetched, but how many people at your work have admitted to depression? And perhaps just as importantly, how would you feel about them if they did?
1 in 4 South Africans has been diagnosed with depression, while 80% continue to work, not disclosing their illness to work colleagues. – South African Depression and Anxiety Group
It’s a “just fine” Culture
We live in a cognitive world where technology mediates our activities and disconnects us from the bodies that house these minds. We seem to value mental efforts more than those of the physical – look at the salary of a stockbroker versus that of a plumber. And yet this has not eradicated illness; in fact, perhaps it has made us more susceptible, as we are numbed to the warning signs our bodies give us. Until we can’t anymore.
The gut contains over 100 million neurons and “up to 90% of the cells involved in [stress] responses carry information to the brain rather than receiving messages from it, making your gut as influential to your mood as your head is. Maybe even more.” – Psychology Today
In advertisements, we are sold the high life – the life that less than 2% of the world’s population experience. The truth is that most of us are living in a “just fine” culture, where “getting on with it” and “doing a good enough job” is the reality of our daily lives. And while most of us put a lot of effort to fitting in, moving forward and being better, we have numbed our awareness of our bodies. When things don’t feel right, we just drug ourselves to forget the pain but our bodies are trying to tell us something and we are ignoring the messages.
When we say we are “just fine” and we aren’t, we put our relationships on the line. At work, people expect a certain standard and if you are fine, then why are you not meeting expectations? This can affect your performance reviews as well as your job security. And at home there can be a loss of trust, because when you get a long-term illness because you didn’t pay attention to the warning signs, your family and friends will feel let down and shut out.
So, as you can see, here are some of the reasons (and there are many more) why we find ourselves in the “just fine” culture and some of the repercussions of doing so. So what can we do about it?
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmary.” -The World Health Organization
Our 5-Step Strategy to Combat the “just fine” Blues
It may sound very negative to start by encouraging you to say that you’re not ok, but in fact, all we’re recommending is to admit how you actually feel.
Here is our 5-step strategy to combat the impacts of being “just fine”:
1. Be Mindful
At least once a day take a minute or two to notice what is happening in your body and mind and do a non-judgemental assessment. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling today?”.
2. Self-Compassionate Breaths
We are often our harshest critics and it is the voice in our own heads that we need to combat. Before you jump out of bed in the morning, take four deep breaths and notice how you feel. Make a note of how you could ease any illness or discomfort in the way you go about your day.
3. Communicate Honestly
You don’t have to talk forever about your aching toe (no one likes that), but when people ask you, “how are you?” scan your body and your mind and be honest. The person will most likely be surprised by your response, but you are being truthful and in turn you are also helping to break the cycle of “just fine” for those around you.
4. Take Action
If you are taking the steps above, you will begin to notice more in your body and mind. If you notice pain, discomfort, irregularities or prolonged unpleasant sensations/thoughts, then get help. Consult with a colleague to assist on a project or go to see a doctor or specialist. Don’t wait for the long-term consequences to kick in. Get help and then you can carry on.
It may seem the simplest advice in the world, but if it was that simple we wouldn’t have such a rise in stress-related conditions. We need to break the cycle of presenteeism, of showing up, of being self-destructive and of being a liability to those around us for fear of looking weak. If we can learn to own, admit and accept our vulnerable human form, we are bound to recover faster and come back with more vitality, vigour and capability. And what company wouldn’t want more of that!
4Seeds specialises in the use of Applied Positive Psychology, a fundamental foundation of which is to experience the negative as well as the positive, fully. Of course, we don’t want to emphasise the negative, but rather to accept that we are not machines. As we like to say, “we are not perfect machines always functioning at our peak, we are human, just human”.
I was recently invited to a birthday party by a friend. She had chosen a handful of people from diverse areas of her life with whom she shared meaningful and deep connections. No one knew each other, and as these kinds of conversations go, everybody shared what work they do. When it was my turn, I said that I was a Positive Psychology Practitioner.
The blank stares I received didn’t surprise me, so I explained that I help people to flourish and achieve their optimal potential in their life. This stirred up a debate which continued for the rest of the evening.
The gentleman sitting opposite me was an accountant and I asked him if he thought that he was flourishing in life or languishing. He said that he wasn’t sure as he didn’t know what it meant to flourish. On the way home, I realised that many people would have answered the same way.
That evening led me to write this article on the six items that make up flourishing. The state where people experience a high level of emotional, psychological and social well-being. When people feel well and function optimally, this is flourishing.
Positive Psychology: A New Perspective to Health
To start, let me take a slight detour and explain the term Mental Health. In 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (World Health Organization, 1948, pg. 28). Unfortunately, since 1948 the word ‘health’ has come to be associated with disease, disability, and mental illness.
In the past 60 years, there has been a strong focus on the medical model of diseases and how to cure them. This perspective has often partially, if not completely, omitted the holistic understanding of human health, encompassing psychological, emotional and social well-being. This means that, until recently, we had forgotten to look at what works well in human beings and how to enhance human potential to thrive. The factors that allow us to achieve, succeed and feel satisfaction are still being learnt and understood. The science of Positive Psychology changed this perspective and provided the platform for the plethora of research which supports the understanding of makes humans thrive.
What Does Flourishing Mean?
So now that you have a background of the Positive Psychology perspective on health, we are ready to dive into the concept of flourishing. The Encyclopaedia of Positive Psychology, defines flourishing as a positive mental state and a self-transcending phase which allows a person to prosper and grow beyond themselves in pursuit of meaningful actions and relationships. This also allows them to experience positive emotional vitality and to function well in all areas of their lives (Michalec et. al.,2 2009).
Sadly, only 18% of adults are flourishing according to the criteria, with 65% having modest mental health and as much as 17% of people are languishing. People need psychological, emotional and social well-being in order to flourish and sadly there is the incorrect assumption that being mentally healthy means the person is flourishing. However, the opposite is in fact true.
Most adults just function in their personal and professional lives when they have the capacity to be so much more than they are right now. They face the challenge of not knowing how to practically shift from being OK to being awesome.
You may be wondering why such emphasis is placed on flourishing and why it isn’t OK to languish. The many benefits of flourishing will convince you:
- Higher academic achievements,
- Increased creativity,
- Goal setting mastery skills,
- Higher levels of self-control and
- Enhanced self-efficacy, and
In a nutshell, the experience of flourishing is about positive human functioning. And who doesn’t want more of that?
The Six Components of Flourishing
Flourishing comprises of these six basic components. Read through the list and see which ones apply to you every day, and which are less frequent in your life. From here you will be able to make a more informed judgement about how much you are flourishing in life and you can then start your process of moving towards a life filled with more satisfaction and vigor.
- Self-acceptance is the acknowledgement of all parts of your personality. Liking and accepting yourself, including your best and worst qualities. Self-acceptance is about having a positive attitude and using positive language with yourself. It’s also about being kind and patient with yourself which includes feeling positive about your past and present life.
- Personal growth is actively challenging yourself to become a better version of yourself on a regular basis. It’s about continuously developing and improving your knowledge by engaging in activities that contribute to society’s well-being.
- Personal life is linked to experiencing a life that has direction, meaning and purpose through pursuing goals that are important and valued by you. It’s a feeling that you belong and are worthy in the community and the world.
- Environmental mastery is making sense of what is going on around you and effectively exploring opportunities that come your way. It’s about feeling a sense of control of the complex external environment around you.
- Autonomy is the independence to manage, think, express and apply your ideas, even when you’re under social pressure. It’s about being self-determined and regulating your behaviour to be aligned with your internal standards and values.
- Positive relations are about creating trusting, warm and loving relationships with others. It means being kind, courteous, empathetic and helpful to strangers and equally upholding positive, intimate, fulfilling relations with loved ones. It’s also about accepting other people’s diverse opinions and ideas without judgement.
Now that you know what the six components are that lead to flourishing, you can hopefully identify one or two that you want to develop. It needs to be noted that it isn’t good enough to flourish here and there as that doesn’t drive optimal human functioning. To thrive and achieve your potential that you are destined to, you need to flourish on most of the time.
Besides reaching your potential, flourishing has an added benefit of reducing the psychological wear and tear your daily life has on you. Flourishing serves as a protective buffer against depression, psychological illness, stress, low immunity and cardiovascular disease as well as having many other benefits. In this busy day and age, working on increasing your flourishing components is not a nice-to-have, but a must-have if you want to experience a fulfilling and satisfying life.
3 Activities to Start Flourishing
In closing I would like to leave you with three activities to kick-start your flourishing development:
Firstly, have a positive attitude towards everyone you meet. Acknowledge them for what they bring to your life and openly show appreciation. Go out of your way to thank people or perform random acts of kindness.
Secondly, enrol in a new learning activity be it a short course, a weekend workshop, or read a thought-provoking book.
Thirdly, accept yourself for who you are. At the end of the day jot down the strengths that you used during the day. And if you haven’t done so yet, take the Flourishing Scale Assessment below.
Remember you have every right to flourish and be the very best version of yourself. All you need to do is reach out and claim it.
Flourishing Scale (Diener et al., 2009)
Below are eight statements which you may agree or disagree with. Indicate your response to each statement using the 1 to 7 scale below.
7 = strongly agree
6 = agree
5 = slightly agree
4 = mixed or neither agree or disagree
3 = slightly disagree
2 = disagree
1 = strongly disagree
_______ 1. I lead a purposeful and meaningful life.
_______ 2. My social relationships are supportive and rewarding.
_______ 3. I am engaged and interested in my daily activities.
_______ 4. I actively contribute to the happiness and well-being of others.
_______ 5. I am competent and capable in the activities that are important to me.
_______ 6. I am a good person and live a good life.
_______ 7. I am optimistic about my future.
_______ 8. People respect me.
Add the responses, varying from 1 to 7, for all eight items.
The possible range of scores is from 8 (lowest possible) to 56 (highest possible). A high score represents a person with many psychological resources and strengths.
To lead ourselves can often be a challenge in itself. But when we lead a team or a company, the responsibility for ensuring productivity and motivation becomes all the more complex. Often leaving leaders feeling overwhelmed and under-satisfied.
There are many reasons for this, but this overwhelm is often related to three prominent limiting beliefs which society has cultivated, and which we have held close to our hearts for what I believe to be way too long.
This toxic triad includes a fixed mindset, a weakness focus and the belief that belonging and diversity are incompatible. When in effect, this combination leads to disconnection, hopeless and loss of esteem in self and society. An exhausting and destructive situation for any team or company to find itself in.
In this article, I will unpack these three beliefs and introduce a potential antidote for each one, which when applied in the leadership of teams can:
- Increase collective achievement
- Boost collaboration and innovation
- Encourage individual growth and development
So, let’s get started.
Shifting from The Toxic Triad
For as long as we can remember, there has always been a focus on what is not working, on where we are weak, and the differences between “us” and “them”. This worldview potentially served our empires, agricultural settlements and self-preservation efforts. However, as we move towards a more global community and economy, with every waking (and sleeping) moment, the need to build positive, collaborative efforts becomes of utmost importance. For us to begin breaking down these barriers, we need to know more about these three limiting beliefs and begin seeing how they are playing out in our daily lives.
Number 1: The Fixed Mindset
A fixed mindset is defined as when people believe that their basic qualities, talents and intelligence are fixed traits; that they are fully developed and thus unchangeable. This fixed mindset is what leads us to say things like: “I am not good enough” or “I am really bad at…”.
A fixed mindset can cause:
- Avoidant behaviours,
- Fear of failure,
- Reduced engagement,
- Increased depression and
- A higher risk of burnout.
But is there a plus side to this fixed mindset? The good news is that there definitely is. A fixed mindset is not fixed! Our brains can rewire and learn. And when we begin to notice the difference between “not good enough” and “not good enough YET”, we will start to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
We can begin to look at our staff, our teams, our products and our companies as constantly evolving and pliable. This is a necessary move for any company looking to keep learning and developing. When our perspective shifts, we open ourselves up to real growth; and in fact, make success more likely.
Number 2: The Weakness Focus
We tend to focus on our development areas, our weakest links and lowest test scores. We do this because as a human race we want to succeed, improve and be better than those that came before us (including the you of yesterday). And while we know that this mentality has, in a way, led us to become incredible innovators, problem-solvers and constructors of our world, we are also stuck focusing on what is not working well.
This weakness focus leads to:
- Reduced self-esteem,
- Lowered efficiency,
- Narrow-mindedness and
- Reduced problem-solving ability.
Focusing on weaknesses also makes us tired; we become exhausted with our fear of failure. This in turn drains us of our creativity, playfulness and hope. In essence, a weakness focus in the workplace has a detrimental effect on our productivity, innovation and satisfaction with the end product.
As a leader, we tend to look at what went wrong, and we can forget what our people bring to the table. We all have strengths; some are better at execution while others are the relationship builders. Every individual within your team and company has a unique set of strengths and talents, and when these become the focus, we begin to build people and products which are collectively amazing.
When we work outside of our strengths, we become tired; however, when we work using our strengths not only do we become elated, motivated and dedicated, but we accomplish our goals and share the good news with others. A strengths-based approach is the number one most important leadership capacity you can develop for your company.
Number 3: Unity and Diversity are Incompatible
Compatibility is a curious concept. When we think of a romantic relationship where people are considered compatible, it is because they share something in common, have similar values and enjoy similar activities. They are familiar to each other and therefore it is more comfortable for them to settle with each other. However, many long-time married couples will agree that the most important thing is not in fact compatibility, but rather understanding. It is the differences we see in each other that keep our interest, teach us humility, and keep us learning.
So why should it be any different in a workplace?
Even people who appear the same, are all different. In fact, a quote from Gallup’s book Strengths Based Leadership (Rath and Conchie, 2008) describes this point perfectly:
“Look at people’s strengths, not their gender, race, or age.”
When we think of diversity, we think of demographics; however, if we were to assess the strength distribution of a workforce, we would see the multifaceted and unique combination of strengths a group of individuals has. With this knowledge, we can see that we are all different, from a twin sibling or a life partner, and more often than not, that is why we grow, innovate, and develop. It is through the collaborative efforts of individuals with differing views that great products and services are created. In fact, Rath and Conchie say that: “the more diverse the team is in age, gender, and ethnicity, […], the greater the level of engagement. And the greater the engagement, the greater the productivity and retention.”
It is therefore imperative that we shift the belief that homogeneity is better than diversity and begin recognising the potential that unique individuality can bring to a team and company. Only when we notice the individual talents and strengths of our employees can we begin to live our potential.
We are all familiar with the effects of the toxic triad. We have all in some or other way felt drained by our work, isolated or frustrated with our colleagues and employees, or limited in our cognitive capacity because of reduced motivation and disconnection from our work. Burnout, depression, low self-esteem, ruined relationships and lost opportunities are all results of this inhibiting combination of limiting beliefs.
Aren’t you tired of being tired, not good enough and isolated? The leaders who are moving companies across the globe towards becoming more meaningful and successful are those that are aware and active in shifting away from what was not working to what is. Don’t get left out or stuck in a rut. Move yourself and your company forward by focusing on strengths, noticing what growth is happening and recognising the value of diversity for success.
Good luck on your journey😊
Rath, T. & Conchie, B. (2008) Strengths-Based Leadership. Gallup Press.
You’re sitting in a team or leadership meeting where an important decision needs to be made but something just doesn’t feel right. The arguments presented appear sound and well-researched but still something feels off. It’s a hunch, a sense that you have, a gut feeling! Do you make it known to the other team members? And say what? “My gut tells me this isn’t the right decision but I can’t tell you why”. People might stare at you in disbelief, wondering about your mental well-being.
This has happened to all of us at some point in our lives. Sometimes we listen to our gut and at other times we don’t, but in hindsight we frequently wish we had. We’ve all heard of successful business owners and entrepreneurs who follow their gut feeling even when the logical, factual information says something else. Richard Branson is one of these people – he mostly makes gut decisions and his business success speaks for itself.
The gut is often referred to as our second brain; rational thinking occurs in the brain but insights arise from our gut. These two “brains” are connected through the spinal cord. Starting at our prefrontal cortex (just behind the forehead) down the brain stem at the back of our neck to our spine and our central neural system. Life experiences are stored in different areas of our body; it’s all neatly compartmentalised.
The nervous system is the high-speed fibre optic highway that connects these stored experiences in a flash and gives us this somatic gut feeling. It must be noted that as we age our intuitive sensory muscles become stronger. This is because with age we experience many rich life experiences, situations and events that make our brain gut repository so much deeper. Traditionally we used to label it “wisdom”.
Good leaders take their gut feelings seriously
The challenge comes when we don’t take our gut feeling seriously and ignore it as being some odd feeling or strange mood we’re in. Life can get loud and busy with so much going on, that the gut is often not heard. However, we should become more attuned to our gut because it picks up many subconscious clues that our logical brain doesn’t always notice. To tune into the gut, we need to start creating mental introspective pauses so that we can understand the subtle message our inner guiding compasses wishes to share with us. Like the brain, the gut is there to serve us with good intention and keep us protected.
Life is about using the brain and the gut to understand and assess situations based on past experiences and emotions. It isn’t a case of either or, but combined usage to make decisions that are good for our head and heart.
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