As South Africa approaches the six-month mark under lockdown restrictions, I don’t believe there’s a single person who doesn’t want things to go back to normal. But what most of us have probably realised is that things aren’t going to be normal for at least a few more months – if not years. Some things will never be the same again!
To stop, or at least to slow down, the impact of COVID-19, we have had to change almost everything we do: the way we work, exercise, socialise, shop, educate our children, and take care of our families. Every single country aimed to ‘flatten the curve’ by imposing social-distancing measures, but this brought about a shift in the working world, for companies and employees alike.
Now that the government has eased the nationwide lockdown to alert level 2, businesses and employers will again have to be innovative to keep their companies going and their people working. The COVID-19 pandemic is not a temporary disruption; it’s the start of a completely different way of life. We don’t know exactly what this new future looks like, of course, but we do know that working remotely isn’t just a cute new trend. It’s a new reality, and it’s here to stay.
No one can predict the number of people who will become unemployed, but it’s already evident that many thousands of businesses across all sectors will never operate fully again, and thousands of people will lose their jobs. Sadly, those with no capacity to work from home, and the people who don’t have the skills or experience to find work will be most affected in the post-pandemic economy.
Fast-forward a few months to when we move to alert level 1. What happens then? Does everyone simply return to work as usual? What sort of work environment will we be walking into? How many jobs will still be available? Will the experience of living through COVID-19 suggest that going back to old ways might not be such a good idea? And, of course, we need to remember that no one knows how long COVID-19 will be around.
As with everything, there are pros and cons of working from home. Imposing one-size-fits-all policies on it will come at a cost to everyone. Some people simply cannot work from home because they miss the office banter, time away from families, and the support. Others have found that they have so much more time on their hands, are getting much more work done, have read books which have been on their bedside table for too long, have reconnected with their families, and to some it’s felt like a bit of a holiday, with less stress and no company politics.
What employees do want, however, is to still feel that they’re connected to their colleagues, and part of a team. With the help of evolving applications, companies are succeeding at this, whether through virtual weekly meetings, or just by encouraging people to call each other, rather than emailing and texting. After all, we’re creatures of habit, and most of us get used to routines – many may even like them – and few want them to be disturbed. As time goes on, though, all of us will begin to adapt to a new routines, working spaces, and a different kind of relationships.
COVID-19 has not been without a silver lining. Carbon emissions have gone into free fall; air pollution has evaporated, leaving cities tolerable for children to play outside; traffic commutes have become more manageable; companies have saved on office expenses; and there has been a re-flourishing of the sense of community, supporting local businesses, and building together to get through this hardship.
The point is that the virus has given us a glimpse of how we might live and work very differently, and perhaps more in tune with the future.
Most leaders that I meet feel uncomfortable with, and even dread, giving feedback to their staff. It shouldn’t be that way! Feedback is a gift that we give people to help them grow, but, sadly, many of us have had bad experiences with it in the past. It might have been a punishment session where we were criticised, and left feeling demotivated, deflated, and discouraged.
As we get older, the kind of feedback we receive changes, but it shouldn’t always be that way. Think back to your childhood where your parents were your biggest fans. They were your cheerleaders who supported you and encouraged you to always do your best. The feedback you got from them would have been honest, but most likely gentle, and it would have been on the things you did well, and where you could improve. Their intention always came from their heart with love, and with the underlying desire for you to grow. Maybe your parents didn’t always strike the right chord, or use the correct words, but you knew that they gave you advice because they loved you.
Fast forward to now in your workplace. Many leaders believe that: ‘If you don’t hear from me, then you’re doing a great job; otherwise I’ll tell you.’ With that approach, feedback will indeed only be associated with criticism, and not with growth or care. Often, feedback is negatively associated with performance reviews, where there is sometimes a one-size-fits-all approach.
So, what seems to be the problem that leaders have in giving feedback? In my opinion, there are five common concerns: (1) They don’t know how to do it properly because they haven’t been shown how; (2) They’re worried about hurting the other person’s feelings; (3) They’re worried that the person will only hear the negative feedback and not the positive, so are unsure how to find the ideal balance between the two; (4) They’re worried that the person will leave demotivated and will have no interest in improving; or (5) Their feedback style is authoritarian and a bit blunt.
On the other hand, receivers may perceive feedback as personal criticism and a threat to their self-confidence, self-efficacy, and self-worth.
The eight steps on giving constructive feedback
As my passion is to provide as many tools and techniques as I can for leaders to lead better, I’m going to share a practical, constructive feedback tool that can assist both the giver and the receiver. Before you start shifting your mindset and viewing feedback as an opportunity to grow and develop, and as the highest expression of care you can give a team member, if you find that the word “feedback” has a negative and emotionally charged meaning, then replace it with a neutral word that carries no judgement. Try using words such as “evaluation”, “constructive feedback”, “observation”, or “learning opportunity”.
This eight-step process created by Hugo Alberts and Lucinda Poole can be easily applied.
- Accept internal discomfort – Embrace that you might feel uncomfortable giving feedback, and that many emotions will come up for you. Acknowledge the discomfort, and then breathe deeply into your body, calming yourself and making sure that you come across in a composed and calm way.
- Create a safe space – It’s common for the receiver to feel nervous, anxious, fearful, and maybe even stressed. Leaders need to be aware of this, and empathise with them. It’s up to the leader to create a safe space by choosing an environment that is friendly, warm, and non-hostile. Offering a warm and friendly greeting with some small talk always helps everyone to feel at ease.
- State your intention – Make it clear that your goal is to see how you can work together to improve their work. Let them know that you welcome a two-way dialogue, where you’re both free to express personal and professional views.
- Separate the person’s work from the person – Arguably, one of the things that makes receiving feedback the most difficult is that it’s often taken as a personal critique. Take a moment to clarify that you’re evaluating their work, and not them as a person.
- Reframe the amount of feedback as an indication of care – Where you have a lot of critical feedback to give, highlight your level of care by saying something like: “I’m being thorough because I care about this. Your work matters to me.”
- Encourage a growth mindset – Highlight that the feedback can be taken as an opportunity for growth and learning, and integrate this type of language into your comments. Give detailed and precise praise wherever you can, and instil a sense of hope and faith in their capability for change and improvement.
- Acknowledge the subjective nature of the situation – Recognise that your feedback projects your personal views and opinions on not only their work, but also on the subject matter. Acknowledge this as you provide feedback by saying things like: “In my opinion…”, and “I believe that…”
- End on a positive note – Conclude by highlighting and celebrating positive attributes of their work. Express your joy in what they did well.
When giving constructive feedback, ask yourself “How can I assist and support this team member in reaching their next growth level?” If you embrace feedback with that mindset, you can’t do anything wrong because your intent and heart will lead the way.
It’s human nature for people to want to evolve, which means that we strive to grow, develop, and self-actualise. No-one is happy to stagnate or stay too long in a comfort zone. Everybody needs a stretch goal to work towards, and a challenge and opportunity to upskill into becoming a better version of themselves. Sometimes we aren’t ready for the growth spurt, and may feel overwhelmed by the mere thought of it. At other times, we need someone to champion us on, to believe in us, and to hold us accountable for our commitments. Or we need an independent sounding board who can challenge our thinking and behaviour. Regardless of what it is you need, a coach can support you to grow to your optimum.
It’s a known fact that all sportspeople have coaches that help them to bring out their best. In the working environment, it’s becoming acceptable for executives, leaders, and managers to make use of coaches in the workplace, but this is still a small minority. However, in mainstream everyday life, very few would use the services of a coach. People are generally misinformed and incorrectly educated about coaching, so they shy away from the service. But now with COVID-19 impacting our entire life, coaching becomes an essential service to consider. This is especially so if, as a leader, you need tools to cope with the daily stresses of the pandemic, gain new focus, grow as a leader, set realistic goals, or need a sounding board to explore opportunities. In this article, I will address some of the primary coaching myths and misconceptions.
What is Coaching?
There are endless definitions for coaching, but, for now, let’s keep it simple. Coaching is a process that improves a person’s performance. It focuses on the current moment and not on the past, because what has happened has happened and cannot be changed. The only change that is possible – and that you have control over – is your approach to, and attitude about the future. A coach will partner with you to find new ways of doing things, thinking about concepts, and behaving differently; all in the spirit of maximising your potential. So, it’s about creating awareness, learning new ways, choosing to act, and self-reflecting on the progress.
Eight Workplace Coaching Myths
1. Coaching is just glorified therapy
These two modalities cannot – and should not – be compared to each other. Therapy works from the context that something in your past needs to be ‘fixed’, and so it delves into your history and childhood. Coaching is a catalyst process where you and the coach work in the ‘here and now’ on methods that can catapult you forward in attaining your goals and providing personal growth. Coaching views you as wholesome and healthy, with all the necessary resources to achieve your potential.
2. Coaching needs a lot of my time
One of the core principles of coaching is that it’s a non-dependent model, so coaches do their best to create no co-dependency. Coaching sessions can vary from one or two sessions to three- or six-month programmes in which you meet your coach every two weeks for an hour or 90 minutes. But if you want to grow and develop, you do need to invest the time for the action items that you have identified.
3. Coaching is for people who have problems at work
Coaching is not a remedial performance review process. I can’t express that more strongly. Nor is it a process that will transfer a leader’s problem to the coach. Instead, coaching is there to support you to get unstuck in your thinking or behaviour, to get committed, and to become re-engaged by developing new tools to increase performance. Through coaching, you understand how your current behaviour is hindering your growth, and you and the coach jointly explore ways to create a positive shift.
4. I am successful, so I don’t need a coach
Ironically it’s precisely at this time when you need a coach the most because they will support you to maintain this level of peak performance or grow you to the next level. Coaching is most successful when a person is already motivated, committed, and thriving, but wants to continue to explore their blind spots and have a neutral sounding board.
5. Coaching is the same as mentoring
Think of it this way: the mentor is the wise sage who has been there done that and has the t-shirt. A coach guides you on your journey of peak performance without being the expert. Mentoring is an informal, unstructured approach which answers your questions and provides advice. In contrast, coaching is more structured, sets clearly-defined goals and milestones of success, and holds you accountable.
6. Coaching is expensive
Costs vary based on the coach’s level of experience, years of training, and professional credentials, but most companies are willing to pay for this kind of service. Different rates apply for personal and professional coaching, and it’s always best to research this upfront. Nowadays, coaching is effective and efficient as it can be done online, which saves time and travelling costs. Also, 4Seeds has substantially reduced coaching fees during the COVID-19 pandemic as we want to help you grow and cope with your workplace challenges in these difficult times.
7. Coaching is only for senior management
Coaching is for everybody, in any company, and at any level. If you want to grow and develop, then coaching is for you regardless of where you are in the organisation’s structure.
8. I will lose face with my team if I hire a coach
Your team needs to understand that coaching is about self-development and growth, and that you’re striving to be a better leader and role-model. You can even invite them to give you feedback during the process, or share why you’re behaving differently. Include them in the process.
Coaching in the workplace is here to stay, and it will play an even more impactful role in a leader’s career path. It’s a safe and confidential environment where you can explore your thoughts, ideas, and feelings, and you’ll have time to reflect on – and to let go of – habits that are no longer working for you.
Contact us today on firstname.lastname@example.org about your coaching needs and desires. We can support you to become your best possible self.
Gone are the days when the office was somewhere employees spent time at during working hours. Today’s always-connected, instant-access environment has blurred the lines between the office, and the place where work actually gets done.
The digital world is profoundly affecting the ways in which people contribute to work, life, and society.
Offices are becoming digital, and employees are communicating and collaborating in new and exciting ways. It’s now the norm to have meetings from different locations, be they offices, homes, or countries, and companies are finding that working remotely not only provides a more flexible work environment, but also helps increase productivity and job satisfaction. According to the Digital Marketing Institute, employees who work remotely are 91% more productive, and with the demand for specific skills at an all-time high, remote working offers a solution for companies to find the right people without them having to be based in the same place.
While the move to transform digitally has led to many jobs being lost, it has also opened new, productive, innovative, and rewarding forms of job creation. COVID-19 has certainly accelerated the changes. New technologies have given companies the opportunity to offer employees flexibility, which means that even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, people can carry on productively, with limited impact, in a secure and collaborative way.
In order for employees to work efficiently in different locations, companies have had to embrace the evolution, and create strong digital cultures to support changes in working styles. They now need to offer a consumer-like user experience which is aligned with today’s working environment, and one which allows employees to work more transparently.
Companies have had to define ‘their’ digital workspace, offer virtual assistance to support virtual work environments, and provide the right tools and information. They have given their staff choice and flexibility. In doing so, they have found that by incorporating the technologies that employees already use, such as email, instant messaging, social media, and virtual meeting tools, communication barriers have disappeared. This has empowered employees, and allowed them to work more efficiently and successfully.
Employees now expect a more personal, digitally-driven work experience, and look to their employers to raise employee engagement, allow them to achieve business outcomes faster, and give them the tools to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
It’s also important to remember that the efficiency of an employee’s digital workspace depends on their individual qualities, their environment, and the changes they effect to make these tools work for them so that they can fulfil their job. And with so many benefits to both the employer and the employee, it’s in the employees’ best interests to implement the necessary discipline and dedicated work space to raise their own efficiency levels and be more productive.
Working in the digital world offers flexibility, freedom, and opportunities for employers and employees to create healthier habits while remaining productive. New digital platforms will continue to help companies operate more effectively; however both parties need to play their part in making it an efficient and healthy working environment.
Working remotely is a big drawcard for companies, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It offers employees a lifestyle where they can protect their personal time, but at the same time follow a healthy work-life balance.
Most companies implement core values for their business, but few have ever experienced the anticipated positive and lasting impact. When asked, people can’t remember their company’s core values, and have to physically look them up. That’s a clear indication that the core values are not alive, and neither are they actively lived out. They’re just empty, meaningless words which have been framed and stuck up on a wall somewhere in the office, showing that this particular organisational task has been executed. It’s extremely sad to see this, but you’ll be surprised to learn that it’s more the norm than the exception. If you don’t want to take my word for it, the Gallup Survey in 2007 revealed that 27% of employees believe in an organisation’s values, and only 23% apply them in their daily work tasks. This means that employees only align 27% of their decisions with their company’s core values, and the remaining 73% on their own personal values, gut feelings, or common sense. I’m not sure how you feel about that, but as a business owner I think that’s a high risk factor.
What are personal core values?
To make sure that we all understand what core values are and how they come about, I’m going to take some time to explain them. Values are things in our life that we find important, and those that we want to invest time and energy in pursuing because they provide us with meaning and fulfilment. Values are our internal guiding compass that show us what is morally right, good, important, and appreciated, thus supporting us to make decisions.
Living by your values means being authentic and true to yourself, and not behaving like you think you ought to be. It’s the person who freely chooses their values based on what’s significant to them, as well as the needs that ought to be fulfilled.
Practically speaking, though, our values can never be fulfilled or attained, and, as such, values serve as intrinsic motivators that shift our behaviour towards continuous striving. Our core values develop during our lifetime, and change depending on what’s significant, important, and meaningful to us at that particular time. They’re formed through a combination of what we value in our life, as well as through past life experiences. Most of us are aware of what gives us value, and understand that the lack of it causes emotional, physical, and cognitive distress. When you live your life according to your core values, you’ll feel fulfilled, authentic and satisfied; your life will feel as if it is in true harmony.
What are organisational core values?
Organisational core values are no different to personal values; however they develop differently, and have distinct objectives. In an organisation, it is customary for the executive leaders to design the mission and vision statement which explains why the company exists, and what its unique offering is. Based on these two things, the core values are designed to show how decisions will be made, as well as how people are expected to behave towards their colleagues, customers, and when completing work tasks.
Organisational core values are timeless, and apply in any economic situation as well as in any business cycle, be it a growth or a downsizing one. Think about it for a moment; you don’t change your personal values based on your life circumstances. If a situation causes you distress, you do your best to change it.
How organisational core values can be your competitive advantage
In any company, core values are the personality, the philosophy, the beliefs, and the way people behave internally. It really is about the interior heartbeat, and the culture. In today’s times, potential employees will go through your values on your website and establish whether there is value congruency between your and their personal values. They’ll research reviews written by your customers and how you responded to them. But it doesn’t stop there! A potential new recruit will do their own analysis of your organisational core values when they come for their interview. Also, your existing and potential customers will do the same thing; they’ll establish whether your values align with theirs.
The underlying reason is that our core values signal to others how we’re likely to behave, act, and make decisions; establishing if we’re reliable and trustworthy. This factor predicts future behaviour, and minimises upcoming disappointments, risks, and financial losses. Your core values are alive inside and outside your company, and with continuous focus and attention, you can implement something fairly easily so that it’s easy to manage and control it to your competitive advantage.
Ensuring that core values are alive and honoured on a daily basis are signs of a healthy company. Don’t be misled by financially successful companies who display their technical advantages, but don’t mention their human inner core values. These companies will rely heavily on procedures and processes that appear impressive from the outside, but result in bureaucratic red tape and an internal culture that’s stressful, toxic, and laden with conflict. I’m sure you’ve had the pleasure of dealing with this kind of company – they leave you feeling empty and flat as a customer because there’s no customer care or connection.
The values best practice
If you want to give your organisational values an overhaul and make sure that they come alive, and aren’t just empty words hanging over the reception area, here are five quick and easy ways to get started.
- Ensure that your values are determined by your employees and not your executive leadership team. As paradoxical as it may sound, staff live them every day and they want to have the autonomy to set and understand them.
- Values are behaviours that result in actions, and actions can be measured. Measure your values and establish which ones are being upheld all the time, which ones aren’t, and start to tweak them.
- Honouring and living organisational core values applies to everybody. The leadership team especially has to proactively model and demonstrate the core values all the time.
- People remember stories, so the best way to reiterate and emphasise core values is through sharing stories where a person in a team lived out a particular value. People will identify with the behaviour – perhaps they even witnessed it – and so they’ll remember it and will do their best to behave like that themselves.
- Reduce or minimise value incongruence by ensuring that your people’s personal values align as much as possible with the company’s. Have one-on-one conversations with people where you sense incongruence. Value incongruence is a key reason for people to leave companies, because they can no longer tolerate the working environment, the decisions made, and the ethics. This is always more expensive, both financially and productivity-wise, than you assume.
Organisational values have – unjustifiably – received a bad name, not by their doing but ours. As leaders we haven’t given values enough attention, and simply hope that, once named, they’ll form themselves.
Start today to take one of your core values and conduct a proper analysis or survey and establish whether it’s relevant to attaining the mission and vision statement. Is it actively lived out, is it clearly defined, and does everybody know how to behave?
As always, if you’d like us to perform this analysis for you, please contact me.
There are days where I don’t want to hear the word COVID-19! I am so tired of the information overload, and my brain is saturated. I don’t want to read or hear any more news about it!
One moment I’m in denial about the new working world, and the next I see the endless opportunities. It’s an emotional roller coaster ride that just doesn’t stop. In every conversation I have with people (online, of course), COVID-19 comes up. We talk about it at the dinner table, with family, friends, clients, and even with suppliers. Everything I do, and every thought I have, seems to revolve around life before, during, and after COVID-19.
I’m sure that you, too, wish you had days where COVID-19 didn’t come into any of your conversations or thoughts. However, as much as I wish the word and its impact on our lives away, I have to be realistic and accept that it’s here to stay – probably for many months, if not years.
The new way of working
I believe that we haven’t felt the true impact of COVID-19 yet, especially in the business world. Many of us are still coming to terms with the new normal, making sure that our employees are screened and safe, that customers keep their distance when being served, that virtual teams have what they need to work remotely, and that we might even have a combination of employees working at the office and others from home. There are so many different, drastic, and vast changes which are happening all at the same time.
COVID-19 didn’t give us the time or luxury to adapt or implement changes in small increments. It’s come in a tsunami wave, and we need to be agile and on our toes all the time. We’re constantly challenged to find that sweet spot of balancing being courageous and driving our business forward, and, equally, being compassionate to people about their health, jobs, and the way forward.
A complete business overhaul
On reflection, are the changes that COVID-19 is forcing us to embrace in the business world such a bad thing? I can’t speak for you, but I have procedures, systems, and processes in my business that needed to be tweaked, and some even needed a complete overhaul. I never found the time BC (before COVID-19), and often thought that as soon as I finished a certain project, I’d get to it, but somehow I never did. It stayed on my wish list of To Dos for months, and sometimes even years.
COVID-19 has shone a bright floodlight on every angle of my business. It’s highlighted what’s working exceptionally well, and exposed the processes that aren’t. It was painful to face reality, but if I’m honest with myself, I knew BC that those areas weren’t working optimally. Now I have to be agile and either adjust the process or do away with it completely.
I told myself that it’s not the time to be emotional and sentimental about structures I’d worked hard for in my business. Rather, it’s time to be level-headed and future-thinking. I asked myself whether certain processes were relevant, and whether they were working at their best. If they weren’t, I questioned whether I could amend them, and if not then I need to stop doing whatever it was.
COVID-19 has given me the courage and creativity to perform a profound business overhaul, and make very swift and sobering decisions. Some of them were difficult to make and I felt sad because of them. I tossed procrastination out the window, rolled up my sleeves, and went back to basics on many structures and processes. I’m in the process of learning to run a lean business. COVID-19, as disrupting as it has been to my business, has brought an intense overhaul in the business. This is something that I’m humbled and grateful for. I hope you find the courage and wisdom to see the opportunity that it has brought you. Maybe you can’t see it right now as you are still in the fight, flight and freeze mode, but hopefully you’ll soon see that this profound disruption was necessary in our business world. As uncertain and rocky as the future might seem to you, you will get through this and adapt your business. You’re more resilient and creative than you give yourself credit for. In the bigger picture, COVID-19 has taught us to appreciate and acknowledge that our people are our most precious and powerful factor to our business. Cherish them!
With the announcement of the nationwide lockdown, companies have become despondent, and absolutely terrified that their business may shut down. It’s at times like these that optimists would say that ’n boer maak ’n plan, and, in some cases, this is true. Many businesses will rise to the challenge, make a full recovery, and inspire others to do the same.
Companies have been forced to become smarter and more flexible. Most have discovered that their teams can actually work from home. Some employees have adopted a new sense of work-life balance, and many others are more connected than ever before. Boomers have literally become Zoomers! Apart from that, e-commerce and direct-to-consumer experience companies are achieving accelerated growth, and e-health, e-legal, and other e-solutions are popping up rapidly. This is really good news if you’re in a business where you can ride the wave!
If you’re not, however, you may be one of those companies who will experience a defensive reflex to keep the spiralling losses under control, especially if you’re in high-impact industries like construction, tourism, and entertainment. It’s important to remember that no-one will be entirely spared from the impact of this pandemic. It will have a profound impact on all aspects of every business, and it is totally understandable that in times where demand is plummeting, and the future outlook is uncertain, companies will refocus all their efforts on the essential business processes to keep the business afloat!
Amidst these massive disruptions, a combination of short- and long-term innovation responses can provide a ray of hope for businesses. If history has taught us anything, it is that we are capable of finding interesting ways to reinvent ourselves – often bouncing back even stronger than before!
Just as the pandemic has revealed differences regarding the preference to work from home, experience with remote learning, entertainment, and consumption will also shape consumer attitudes toward digital and physical experiences. Differences in consumer preferences may generate valuable business opportunities, new products and services, and new business models.
To ensure that your company responds efficiently to new opportunities, you may wish to consider expanding your brainstorming to include external input. Ideas from customers, partners, and other external parties may offer invaluable insight, and a way to get ahead of the curve when it comes to market trends and reprioritisations. You might find that communication and collaboration are more crucial than ever, and that you’ll need to adapt your processes, find ways to streamline your workflows, increase productivity, and reduce wastage.
There’s no way around it. The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed our daily lives, and the same is true for our businesses. One thing is for sure, though. It has encouraged innovation, and we’re starting to see a true entrepreneurial spirit emerge. There’s a change from victim mentality to that of being a leader; businesses and communities are supporting each other, “local is lekker”, and sharing, collaborating, and innovating is at its best! And as the world begins to emerge from the crisis, we will find new ways to interact, entrepreneurs will actualise previously untenable business opportunities and reassess innovation strategies, consumers will be able to take advantage of new environments, and policy and regulations will adapt to keep everyone safer in the future.
“The only way to discover the limits of what’s possible is to go beyond them to the impossible.” (Arthur C Clarke)
COVID-19 has turned everyone’s lives, hopes, and dreams inside out, and upside down. No-one, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity has been left untouched by the ramifications of this worldwide pandemic. Perhaps at the beginning of lockdown the thought of staying at home sounded exciting and different. We could finally do all the things we wanted, such as spend time with our families, pursue our hobbies, watch TV, or sleep late. But soon all those ideas became a little less exciting, and the novelty wore off. If we had ever thought about something like this in our lifetime, maybe it was associated with a “Big Bang”. I don’t believe that anybody would have believed that it would be an invisible virus that would have such a huge impact on the entire world!
Right now, everyone is experiencing an array of emotions ranging from high to low. We also have a steady stream of questions which don’t have answers, and an existential fear of what the future will hold. The media and social media platforms provide an overload of information, which we’re struggling to absorb, arrange, and understand. Every now and again, what we hear gives us a glimmer of hope that it will be over soon, and that the ramifications aren’t as severe. At other times, we’re overloaded with doom and gloom. Subconsciously, our minds are absorbing the news, but we can’t cope with the volume and negativity of it, and many of us feel overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, hopeless, and scared for the future. These emotions are all absorbed by our bodies, and we begin to show somatic symptoms of headaches, irritability, anger, lack of sleep, mood swings, or binge eating. Life with COVID-19 is testing us in terms of patience, compassion, self-love, empathy, and goal orientation.
I’m sure you’ve set some goals for 2020. These may be part of a New Year’s resolution, or your annual personal development process. These goals have now been turned on their head, and tossed out the window. Some may be on hold, others could be unattainable, and some may even be future dreams. Either way, your goals have undergone a change process. We need goals in our life because they give us meaning and structure. They help us stay motivated and focused, and, in the time of COVID-19, setting goals becomes a key coping strategy. That being said, we need to change our expectation of goal-setting in these times to ensure that our goals remain realistic and attainable. So, our goals need to be short-term, and we need to lower the standard of attainment. You might not agree with me on these two points, but we’re in an abnormal situation both emotionally and psychologically, and we can’t expect the same results as we would in any normal situation. You would be creating unrealistic demands on yourself, and setting yourself up for failure if you put more pressure on yourself; something you really don’t need right now. Slow and steady wins the race!
Five Easy Steps to Set Goals During Lockdown
I’m going to outline how you can set realistic goals during this time. These will make you feel more in control, with autonomy over the things you want to achieve. In the words of Stephen Covey, “Begin with the end in mind.” Begin with the outcome in mind, and then set the goals you want to achieve in the short-term. This easy and practical five-step process will help you turn problems into goals, and will allow you to take proactive control of your life.
Step 1: Define Short-term
You need to define what the short-term means for you. It can be as short as a week, month, or a quarter, but right now it’s not advisable to plan for longer than six months. Life is too fluid and unpredictable, so planning for longer can be too ambitious.
Step 2: Set the final goal
Setting goals isn’t as easy as it sounds. Most of the time we aren’t sure what we want or really need. So, you can approach it in one of two ways, and choose the method that feels natural to you, knowing that there is no right or wrong way – just your unique way. You can either say what you don’t want, or you can work from the point where you wake up in the morning and you’re living your ideal life. If you choose option 1, where you write down everything you don’t want, your next step is to list the things you have direct control over. Focus on these, and discard the ones you can’t control. Next, re-phrase what you don’t want to what the opposite would look or feel like. So, “I don’t want to continuously feel anxious,” would be “I want to feel calm and in control.” Continue until you have completed the entire list. If you choose option 2, you have visualised the final outcome and need to write down what you would like and need to get to the final destination. Complete this sentence: “I need to have …”. As an example, you could write, “I need to have a reliable income.” The power of these two approaches is that you have made a list of what you want to focus on, and what you need in your life right now.
Step 3: Prioritise your goals
You’re likely to have a long list of wants and needs, and this can sometimes feel quite overwhelming. You cannot realistically focus on everything on your list in the short term, and this means that you have to decide what’s important and urgent right now. The things that are the most pressing can be attended to quickly, and the more important ones will require some more planning and time. Research has proven that we can’t actively focus on more than three or four goals at one time. When one goal is attained, then you can relook at your list and add a new one to work on.
Step 4: Further rank your goals
Differentiate between whether the goal means that you need to act or think differently. Is it about behaving differently to get to the end result, or does it mean that you need to think differently? This information will help you to deepen your plan of action, what support you may need, and the length of time required. We all know that changing our thinking might require a big adjustment and getting into action.
Step 5: Plan of action
With your goals set out in front of you, brainstorm some things that you can do to move one step closer to achieving the goals. Don’t judge your ideas; simply write them down. You’ll revisit your ideas many times, and will adjust them as you go along. As mentioned before, focus on small incremental progress steps rather than huge leaps. The continuous progress, regardless how small, will assist you to feel positive, experience positive emotions, reduce worrying, and make you feel more in control.
In Conclusion: Short-term and small goals provide stability
Thanks to COVID-19, you’ll have to reassess old goals and introduce new ones. Having small goals to focus on every day will give you stability, purpose, and meaning. You’ll start to feel in control over your problems, and notice that you’re proactively addressing them. Becoming active also reduces anxiety and feelings of overwhelm, so get that piece of paper out and start with your five-step goal plan now. The positive outcome will surprise you.
We wish you awareness, resilience, and perseverance during this time. Please reach out to us via email@example.com with your questions and feedback.
The 4Seeds Team
After the address by President Cyril Ramaphosa regarding our economic rehabilitation, and the update on the lockdown conditions in South Africa on Tuesday 23 April 2020, it’s understandable that as business owners and employees, we’re nervous about our future. We know that in order to flatten the curve, we’re going to need more time to recover, and for most there will be an uncomfortable feeling when we look into this uncharted and uncertain future. Finding ways to relieve anxiety is the best we can do for now, and we’ve put together three simple mindfulness practices to do just that, and to help you keep calm while in lockdown.
Before we dive into these three practices, we need to unpack the why, what, and how of anxiety. Having a solid understanding of anxiety is already a step in the right direction towards relieving its effects.
While depression is concern about past events, anxiety grows from having overwhelming feelings of stress, fear, and worry about the future. These thoughts and uncomfortable feelings can manifest into the following symptoms:
- Raised blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
- Racing, or unwelcome thoughts
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Lack of concentration
- Increased body tension
Are you experiencing any of these symptoms?
Diagnosing anxiety disorders needs to be done by a trained health professional, and usually you should approach it from a holistic perspective when wanting to reduce the symptoms of prolonged anxiety.
This article in no way aims to provide an alternative to conventional medical intervention; however, through it we will increase your awareness of the symptoms of anxiety, and offer three simple mindfulness practices to relieve anxiety during this challenging time.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines mindfulness 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.”
Before moving into any mindfulness practices, please remember that it’s not about judging your thoughts, or trying to push them away. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s the non-judgemental observation of your thoughts; noticing the impact they have on your body and emotions.
This approach may sound simplistic, but it’s not. Mindfulness requires the constant and repetitive retraining of the brain from being involved in the thoughts and stories, to becoming a quiet and non-judgemental observer. This takes time, practice, patience, and self-compassion. However, there are many benefits of practicing mindfulness regularly.
Three Simple Mindfulness Practices to Relieve Anxiety During Lockdown
Practice 1: Pay attention to your thoughts
A strong starting point for relieving your anxiety is to become aware of the thoughts you have that cause anxious feelings. As humans, we think rapidly and continuously. This has served us in our survival as a species because it allows us to predict threats, and plan our escape. However, despite the power of the mind to think in creative and adaptive ways, most people stick with similar, familiar thought patterns. Our brains tend to follow the most used pathways, so, when you start to pay attention to your thoughts, you’ll notice similar sequences and patterns of reasoning.
This first practice of mindfulness is to notice the thought patterns that elicit an anxious response in your body. Start noticing the unconscious and unhelpful stories your mind is looping through. This is a powerful first step in developing your mindfulness practice.
Practice 2: Do what makes you happy
In unprecedented times such as these, we’re being given the opportunity to engage in activities outside of our usual routines. Being able to play, relax, laugh, read, or cook, has become more rare in society over recent years as workplace demands and digital communication have increased. However, during lockdown, we’re being given the time and space to remember what we enjoy doing. This in itself may require you to shift your mindset around lockdown. If you do more of the things you enjoy, you’ll not only have time to move more easily, experience more positive emotions, and feel a deep sense of accomplishment, you’ll also be actively, consciously relieving your anxious symptoms.
This second mindfulness practice we’re encouraging you to try is to engage fully in what you enjoy doing. Use this time to completely release any thoughts while doing it. This is the practice of flow; it allows you to become completely absorbed in what you’re doing, and performing it for the pure inherent joy of doing it, rather than its outcome. Take the time to remind yourself of what you enjoy doing, and do it often. This simple mindfulness practice will allow you to combat your fears and worries for the future by helping you to stay present. You’ll experience more joy and positive emotions in your day. Give it a try – you’ve got nothing to lose!
Practice 3: Be Grateful
Gratitude has, over the past decade, become a common household concept. From social media posts to art and spiritual teachings, gratitude has become increasingly more recognised as an important emotion to experience and express.
The feeling of gratitude has been found to have dramatic physical and psychological benefits, and requires relatively little effort to practice.
Our final mindfulness practice to relieve anxiety during lockdown is to take the time to acknowledge and appreciate what you already have. Whether it’s taking stock at the end of each day as you get into bed, writing letters or journal entries, or simply expressing it to your loved ones, taking the time to notice what you’re grateful for is a powerful antidote to depression and anxiety. It reminds us to be in the present moment, find meaning and pleasure in the past, and feel positive emotions and hope for the future. Whether it’s as simple as being grateful for your morning cup of coffee or the roof over your head, finding at least three things that you’re grateful for will help you to remain calm, and keep an optimistic focus on your situation.
If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, and the various techniques which have been developed to combat depression, anxiety, and stress, look into the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn.
In Conclusion: Mindfulness Practices Relieve Anxiety
During these challenging, isolating, and worrying times, it’s imperative that we find ways to manage our anxieties and worries about the future. While traditional medical diagnosis and treatment may be necessary to manage stress from this uncertainty, what we’ve provided are three simple practices to relieve anxiety during lockdown. Each practice is not only simple and practical to do, it will help you to experience greater ease with your current situation, and help you to grow and become more resilient as we step into the unknown future.
We wish you awareness, resilience, and perseverance during this time. Please reach out to us via firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions and feedback.
The 4Seeds Team
When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the extension to the nationwide lockdown, we were all forced to find internal resources to manage our stress, and our worries about the effect this will have on our companies, the South African economy, and our country as a whole. What we all need now is strategies to build resilience in the face of uncertainty, and to find ways to not only cope, but to thrive through this adversity.
This article will outline how South Africa is already a resilient nation, and will make you aware of the five most common pitfalls that impair resilience, and that reduce our ability to manage and grow from adversity.
South Africans Are Already Resilient
Because of our challenging and tumultuous past, South Africans have developed an incredible level of resilience, compared to other nations. According to the 2019 FM Global Resilience Index, South Africa ranks number 47. Updated annually, the FM Global Resilience Index is the only tool that compares risk in nearly 130 countries. While you may wish South Africa featured higher up on the scale, it’s important to note that we’re within the second quartile, which for a small developing nation really puts us on the map. The FM Global Resilience Index assesses businesses in different countries according to the following measures:
- Economic Resilience
- Risk Quality
- Supply Chain
It’s estimated that the coronavirus pandemic will potentially cause an estimated drop in our economy of between 2% and 4%, which is extremely high. However, we have the ability to bounce back from this tragic global pandemic.
South Africa has a highly innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. We have overcome many challenges in the past, and have continued to grow despite our many setbacks.
We have the capacity, the energy and the will to overcome this global shutdown by further strengthening our resources, and building resilience in the face of uncertainty.
Watch Out: The Five Pitfalls that Impair Resilience
Resilience is one of those traits that we admire in others, and often wish we had more of in ourselves. It’s a key ingredient that we use as a buffer to ensure that we don’t spiral downwards too much when challenges or traumas happen. Resilience is a crucial coping tool that helps us to manage daily life with much more ease. Most of us learn to become resilient through life experiences, but how can you start building resilience in the face of uncertainty right now? A powerful way is to start noticing these five pitfalls.
- Jumping to conclusions
At times like these, we’re being asked to slow down and not act in haste. While it may be extremely challenging to make decisions during this time of uncertainty, it’s important to remind ourselves that we must not respond reactively.
We don’t have the facts, and we don’t have a blueprint for how to manage these uncharted waters. Rather, we need to keep our cool and not make rash decisions or come to unsubstantiated conclusions.
Become aware of where you may be falling into this trap. Not only does it impact your mental health, but acting reactively can prevent you from being resilient and moving in the right direction with conviction and with confidence.
- Tunnel vision
In times of stress, it’s normal for the human brain to go into fight-or-flight mode. When we’re in a place of fear, we’re not able to see the bigger picture, and can quickly only see doom and gloom, or the worst-case scenario.
While preparing for the worst may seem like your only option, it’s important to remember to take a step back and to look at the bigger picture. Look for ways to innovate, solve problems, and respond with resilience rather than with fearful tunnel vision.
Use this opportunity to learn to be open-minded. Direct your energy towards innovative and strategic conversations based on resilience, forward-thinking, and your organisation’s vision for the future.
While the coronavirus pandemic is a global issue, we can still make the mistake of personalising it, and thus reducing our capacity for resilience – and tolerance.
When we personalise things, we will only see our own faults and how we have not been proactive or resourceful enough to prepare for what’s happening. The best way to avoid this pitfall is to remind ourselves that no one knew this would happen, and no one could have adequately prepared for this uncertainty.
You and your organisation are not the problem! We’re all in this together, and there is nothing you could have done that would have prevented the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is one of the most common pitfalls. Externalising is the process of blaming outside factors for the problem, and not considering your own contribution to either the problem, or the solution.
At times such as these, it’s easy to look at authority figures and government officials with a magnifying glass, seeking the faults in their actions, and only putting a negative perspective on how the situation is being managed.
A key part of building resilience is being aware of the positive aspects of adversity, remaining optimistic, and finding the lessons in the challenges. The best way to get around this pitfall is to pause when you feel like criticising the actions being taken by decision makers, and be humble and proactive about how your actions could help to improve things. We’re all affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s up to each of us to look for solutions and to develop strategies to manage this situation.
While this may be the hardest pitfall to avoid, we need to become aware of what we assume others are thinking or feeling. The truth is we’re all responsible for our own well-being, resilience, and solutions. There is no advice you can give another person right now. If you feel you have advice to give, perhaps it’s YOU that needs to hear it.
Be careful of telling others how you think they should be managing their stress or feelings. Don’t assume that you know or understand. Take responsibility for your own situation, and find your best strategies for managing this uncertainty.
At this time of nationwide lockdown and ever-increasing uncertainty, resilience is our best resource for managing stress and finding positive solutions and ways forward. As South Africans, we’re already a resilient nation. We’re enthusiastic, optimistic, and creative, and we need to harness these strengths during this time.
These are some key behaviours and limiting beliefs which we need to become aware of. We need to preserve our energy and maintain our well-being, individually, organisationally, and collectively in order to manage this uncertainty. Remember to keep a check on these things, and in return you’ll be giving yourself greater resources to build resilience and bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.