Often when we find ourselves in a position of leadership, a great amount of effort needs to be made to put on a good front. This is with good reason because we can’t expect our team to follow us if we aren’t confident about the steps ahead and how we will achieve our outcomes. While having a confident and strong sense of direction as a leader is essential to building trust, collective action and results, this representation of leadership as a guiding light without fear is detrimental to the humans behind the frontline.
Leadership is a space where failures are unacceptable and where predictions about the future need to be correct (or at least account for possible obstacles and setbacks). This expectation of our leaders can place an incredible amount of pressure on the people we look up to, to lead the way.
In the changing world of work as it is today, there is space for us to become a different type of leader. One who is a mentor on one hand, and a student on the other. One who is motivated and engages others in most situations, and one who is in need of support and engagement from others in difficult moments.
In order for leaders and their organisations to thrive in today’s world, there needs to be a synergy between leadership and self-leadership, and between clear implementation and learning through failure.
This shift towards meaningful leadership for the future requires leaders to become conscious, curious, and aware of their limitations and how they can engage a learning mindset.
4Seeds focuses on supporting the leaders of tomorrow. We believe that everyone has the potential for great leadership with the right mindset, skills and self-awareness. It is our mission to empower leaders to become equipped for their roles and grow into their unique leadership style for the happiness of their team and the overall performance of the business as a whole.
Because it is our burning desire to co-create meaningful, happy and engaged workplaces across South Africa, we have designed an intensive two-day workshop called The Meaningful Leadership Development Programme. This programme is intended to build self-awareness, practical skills, and leadership theory which support resilient, authentic and conscious leadership behaviours.
In the article below, we will unpack some of the core concepts behind our Meaningful Leadership theory and how these elements impact the path of a leader – from one who needs to control and “be perfect”, to one who is able to be humble, honest and more resilient for themselves as well as the teams and the organisations they lead.
How to become a Meaningful Leader
There is a misconception that leadership requires us to know others better than we know ourselves. This results in many leaders focusing on their external experiences, and relationships with others more than on their internal world. However, the true essence of a great leader is one who knows themselves so well that they become a role model to others just by virtue of truly being themselves.
How you choose to learn more about yourself is up to you; however knowing your strengths, your weaknesses, your limitations, your triggers, and your assumptions about the world is a good starting point.
During the two-day Meaningful Leadership Development Programme, we take you through a self-mastery process where you are able to gain awareness in a supportive and collaborative learning environment while gaining the skills and knowledge needed to continue your leadership journey with self-awareness.
“The point is not to become a leader, the point is to become more yourself.” – Warren Bennis
Become more mindful
Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”
It’s a term that has gained much traction in the media over the past decade, with extensive research showing the benefits of how mindfulness can transform your daily life and bring you more happiness.
In leadership, this concept of mindfulness has another dimension, in how we interact with the world around us and how we notice its effect on ourselves. Mindfulness assists us to manage stress, build resilience, and helps us to become more emotionally intelligent.
The Meaningful Leadership Development Programme includes elements of mindfulness as a fundamental resource for those who want to have a more positive and resilient outlook. During the workshop, we provide different practical methods which will give you space to start acknowledging how your actions, emotions and thoughts influence those around you, and how you can become more conscious in your daily actions to have a more positive impact on the world.
On the leadership journey there are always plenty unknown, potentially diabolical consequences for everything we do. Because of this inevitability, many leaders become driven to control, predict, project, plan, and play it safe. While this risk adversity is a helpful quality in order to guide an organisation to success, being able to stay curious is the true sign of a great leader. It shows the difference between a manager and a leader.
Curiosity takes vulnerability, which is why many people believe that asking questions shows weakness and incompetence. However, the opposite is in fact true. If we don’t ask questions, how will we know what we don’t know? How will we find new solutions, and how will we learn from our mistakes so we can progress?
Curiosity is the sign of a Meaningful Leader because without it, arrogance, fear and control become necessary to retain a position of authority. It takes a great leader to admit mistakes, be humble when they don’t know, and be open to new lines of enquiry.
Becoming a curious leader with a growth mindset sets the tone for developing a learning organisation. An organisation which has the ability to ask questions, be creative, experiment (with conditions), and explore the learnings from every failure to become stronger. Curiosity is the quality which leaders need to engage with to guide their organisations into the uncertain future ahead. It’s the difference between an organisation with or without a future.
“Replace your fear of the unknown with curiosity.”
Resilience is something that every leader needs in bucket loads. It’s the ability to bounce back from adversity, to learn and grow from difficulties, and to make lemonade when life throws you lemons.
Luckily for us all, resilience is a learnt skill. While some of us have a higher level of resilience because of our lives up to this point, we all have the capacity to grow and develop our resilience muscles.
A resilient leader is one who is able to manage struggles with grace, adapt to challenges quickly, and who has the capacity to thrive from difficulty rather than just survive. In the times we live in, resilience is becoming a vital and essential skill for the Meaningful Leader.
In our two-day Meaningful Leadership Development Programme, we explore the foundational theories and practices of resilience and how you can begin building your resources to manage stress and failure with greater ease and purpose.
“Life doesn’t become any easier or more forgiving, we just become stronger and more resilient.”
Being a leader in today’s world is a challenge, to say the least. At 4Seeds we believe you have what it takes to create a powerful and memorable impact on your team, organisation and society as a whole.
If you are interested in becoming more self-aware, mindful, curious, and resilient so that you can take your leadership to the next level, then send us an email to email@example.com to find out more about how our two-day Meaningful Leadership Development Programme can help you.
We wish you luck on your journey to becoming a more Meaningful Leader.
Everyone wants to be more grateful in their life, and we all value this desirable human characteristic greatly. However, few of us are actually mindfully grateful. There are many definitions of gratitude: From a Positive Psychology point of view, it is not just an act of being kind to others by saying thank you; it’s a positive emotion that serves a biological purpose and one where the effect can be measured. There are also many synonyms for gratitude; the most used ones are acknowledgement, appreciation, and thankfulness.
The Harvard Medical School defines gratitude as: “A thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power”.
Gratitude is about counting one’s blessings regardless of whether life is going well or not. We are, however, more prone to think about what we’re grateful for when things in our life aren’t going as well as we would like them to. What’s important about gratitude is that it’s not about what you did to others or what you achieved in a day, but acknowledging that you received something from someone else that you value and appreciate. The purpose of being grateful is to make life better for ourselves and others and to overcome the human tendency to take things, people or situations for granted. You shouldn’t feel entitled to the benefits, or to resent others for their benefits, or to take full credit for your own success. There were always others involved who supported, guided and believed in you.
According to Robert Emmons, an American Professor of Psychology, gratitude has two stages to it. In stage one we are focused on our own internal world and are consciously aware of the goodness of our life. We feel positive and find life worth living. We are able to appreciate life’s richness as well as those who have contributed to it. In stage two the focus shifts to the external world and we absorb the beauty and goodness in other people, animals, nature, and the world.
But why do we struggle so much with this hugely inspiring characteristic? Gratitude doesn’t come naturally for most of us, whereas resentment and entitlement do. Gratitude is a virtue, which means that it needs to be taught, modelled, and regularly practised until it becomes an automatic habit.
To complicate matters, gratitude has been identified as a trait (a genetically determined characteristic), an emotion, and a mood. It starts off as an emotional reaction of feeling thankful and recognising the contribution others have made to our life and well-being. It then develops into a mood of a subtle, longer duration of conscious state, and ends as a permeable character trait.
The Benefits of Enhancing Our Gratitude
There are many benefits to enhancing our level of gratitude:
- Promotes optimal functioning
- Promotes feelings of empathy, forgiveness and helping others
- Facilitates coping with stress and loss
- Reduces upward social comparison which often results in envy and resentment
- Reduces materialistic striving
- Improves self-esteem
- Allows us to savour positive and pleasant memories
- Builds social resources
- Motivates moral and ethical behaviour
- Fosters goal attainment
- Promotes physical health
- Increases one’s spirituality
Growing Your Gratitude
After reading those powerful benefits, I’m sure that you’re excited to learn and grow your level of gratitude. Here are some ideas on how to do just that:
- If you enjoy journaling, this one’s for you! Take five minutes at the start or end of your day where you write down what you are grateful for. It can cover a wide range of things from the mundane to the magnificent. You do need to vary it and challenge yourself to look for new gratitude nuggets every day. It’s a powerful tool for you to reflect and notice who or what you are thankful for. Writing it down is important because on days where you feel low you can look at the things that you are grateful for.
- Express gratitude directly to another person. Write them a note or letter expressing what you appreciate about them as a person, or what they did for you. You can either read it to them or leave it in a place where they’ll find it. It’s very special to hear what impact one has made in another person’s life. Expect some tears with this one!
- Take note of an ungrateful thought that pops into your head and consciously reframe it to a positive one. We all have thoughts that aren’t positive and that entail negative language. It can be about us, others, or a certain situation. If we don’t manage or become aware of these thoughts, they can turn into stories that we buy into and so it is important to catch them, question them, and reframe them into positive ones. Ask yourself what you are learning, and what makes the situation good as it is. It does take some practice to catch those thoughts.
Whichever idea you use, remain curious and open-minded. If one suggestion doesn’t work, swop it for another one. Experiment and play with this. Keep it varied and fresh. As we are at halfway through the year, it’s the ideal time to reflect and express gratitude to the people who have supported you so far.
Have fun and spread gratitude!
Happiness is our business at 4Seeds, which means that we know the powerful benefits that it can bring to your team morale, motivation levels, productivity, and overall organisational performance.
Sadly though, happiness is still an elusive topic for many managers, which often leads to stress and confusion about how to lead teams towards more joy, satisfaction, and happiness in the workplace. Most organisations have challenges, deadlines and ongoing developments, which means that ignoring employee happiness on your strategic agenda can reduce your team’s resilience and increase their stress which in turn will lead to high absenteeism rates and staff turnover. It is therefore essential for any company’s profitability to increase their employees’ happiness.
At 4Seeds we aim to make team happiness not only possible, but practical and sustainable through our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop. It takes place over four half days (or two full days), and introduces the best practices based on the latest research in the Science of Human Happiness.
There is a plethora of research exploring the benefits of Positive Psychology for the workplace, however, this article will unpack the key approaches included in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop, and will share some of the latest findings about how these practices can benefit your employees, teams, leaders, and your organisation.
Why Crafting Your Team Happiness is essential to your business
Increased positive emotions at work
We are all aware of the impact that negative emotions have on our motivation, our health and our desire to socialise, and recent science shows that the exact opposite of this is true for positive emotions. Positive emotions such as joy, contentment and gratitude at work can radically reduce our stress levels. This, in turn, results in less sick leave and lower rates of staff turnover; two of the biggest costs of any company.
Positive emotions are also contagious and make us more “likeable”. This likeability translates to increased leadership following and building more positive relationships in the workplace.
In our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop we unpack the true nature of emotions, we do emotional intelligence self-assessments, and learn some of the key practices to increase the number of positive emotions we experience at work.
Capitalised character strengths
Our character strengths are those behaviours, talents and skills that come so naturally to us that they are effortless to express, build our confidence and help us to excel. So why wouldn’t companies want their employees to use their strengths at work?
Unfortunately, humans have a natural tendency to focus on weakness. This means that we take what we are good at for granted, and focus on where we can improve; the impact of which is actually detrimental to employee performance. A large-scale research survey performed by UK’s Corporate Leadership Council found that leaders who focused on an employee’s weaknesses to assist their development actually reduced their performance by 27%. It is apparent that focusing on weaknesses is not the key to employee productivity, so why not try a strengths-based focus?
Employees who use their strengths are 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs. This seems to be reason enough, however, research performed by Gallup (an American analytics and advisory company based in Washington, D.C.) shows that it also increases company profits by between 14% and 29%.
Using strengths in the workplace has profound benefits for the individual employee as well as on team performance. Strengths help us be more confident and focused, and assist us to become more collaborative when we see the benefits that everyone brings to the team’s success.
Our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop uncovers the value of each individual’s character strengths, and helps teams to recognise the unique profile that each person can bring, and how they can capitalise on these to succeed both individually and collectively.
Optimised engagement through flow experiences
Employee engagement has been a hot topic in industrial psychology for the past decade. The concept of Flow psychology has also become a common term. It is described as the sense of competence and control, loss of self-consciousness, and such an intense absorption in the task at hand that you lose track of time (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).
These flow experiences result in increased intrinsic motivation, a higher level of work commitment, and of course high levels of concentration, focused attention and long experiences of selective calm which can combat everyday work stress (Goleman, 2013).
Flow experiences can be few and far between in the bullpen environment at work, however with the practical advice we share in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop, you can not only increase the flow experiences of your employees at work, but in turn boost your overall team engagement, sense of achievement, and life satisfaction. Powerful stuff, right?
Finding and pursuing meaning at work
We have moved away from meaning and purpose being concepts kept to religious institutions or conversations with close friends. Recent research shows that meaning and purpose are key parameters of why people choose to stay in a certain organisation or why they choose to leave, and that meaning actually trumps compensation in terms of the reason someone stays at their job.
Generating a sense of meaning and purpose in your employees can help increase their commitment to company objectives, their level of engagement, and their overall sense of happiness and life satisfaction.
In our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop we uncover the core values of each individual in the team, as well as their individual sense of purpose. We also unpack how these translate into the meaning they experience at work and how this can be increased on a team and organisational level.
Crafting Your Team Happiness – creating conditions for the future
The key principles of Positive Psychology that we introduce in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop are not only important to develop individual happiness, but do in fact boost your bottom line as well. Companies are no longer just a place to work and receive a salary; they are where we spend most of our day, and the ideal place to introduce the principles of Positive Psychology.
If you are interested in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop, or would like more information on how you can start to boost positive emotions at work, harness your team’s character strengths, increase your employee engagement, or bring more meaning and purpose into your organisation, then send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happiness is core to the future success of any company who wants to stay relevant and thrive. We wish you all the best on your journey.
Kindness and Civility: A Context
Instilling kind, respectful and civil behaviour among co-workers in an organisation is so important to having an engaged, creative and motivated team. However, this is a culture that needs to be implemented and actively driven, or exactly the opposite will occur and we’ll have bullying, mobbing, rudeness, complaining, and gossiping; things that are exceptionally draining and unproductive in the workplace.
It may be standard etiquette to say please and thank you, and to greet people, but when it comes to our working environment, this etiquette often falls away. Common courtesy doesn’t seem to prevail. Often, the language used among co-workers is hard, negative and pessimistic. You can see this in their verbal communication as well as in their written correspondence. Our external environment does shape our minds, which means that we become negative in our thoughts, actions and behaviours. It infiltrates so slowly that we don’t often notice it or know where or when it started. The negativity filters through to our work ethics, productivity, performance, care for each other, and affects our health and mindset. It’s not a healthy environment to be working in, however, it is a reality I see very often in organisations. Organisations expect exceptional performance from their staff, but don’t provide the ideal positive environment for them to flourish.
The executive leaders of an accounting firm called us into their organisation to assess what was happening with their staff. They saw and felt the negativity within the organisation, with people complaining endlessly but not proactively doing anything to solve matters. Endless problems without effective solutions seemed to be the norm. Corridor gossip was around every corner, and regardless of how many corrective reprimanding actions were implemented, people never raised the bar of their performance or productivity. The executives were at their wits end, and admitted that the punishment approach for poor performance was not successful; quite the contrary. They hoped and trusted that we could assist them in changing the negative and toxic environment within the organisation.
Staff were demotivated, uncommitted, disengaged, and made countless errors in their work. The negativity could be felt by everyone, even outsiders interacting with the organisation for the first time, and it filtered through to every business unit.
We were called in to help this organisation to instill a culture of kindness and civility throughout the organisation.
Approach and process
We engaged with the organisation for a year as changing a culture is exactly the same as acquiring a new habit. It takes time to accept that change is needed, and to unlearn and then relearn new behaviours. In addition, the new culture had to filter through from top to bottom as well as sideways in the organisation. Co-workers who were resistant to the change required additional time to air their concerns and opinions. And, to truly complete the cycle, the new culture had to be documented in all procedures, policies and training materials. It is not a quick fix approach, however the six key items we focused on were:
- Kindness board: I’m aware that this sounds rather cheesy, but it works. We mounted a large white board in the organisation’s corridor, where people were able to write thank you messages and stick Post-it notes up for people they wanted to thank for the support they had given them during the week. They had to list the person’s name, what they did, and what impact it had on them. It could vary from a co-worker assisting them with a task, to taking over their shift, handling a difficult customer situation, to bringing them a cup of coffee. On Friday mornings, the team would gather around the board and read the comments, often adding more notes. The board gave them a place to consciously acknowledge and say thank you to each other. It raised people’s positive emotions, and they started to pay kindness forward. That’s the amazing thing with kindness – if you receive it, you want to pass it on to someone else.
- Sharing resources and knowledge was our next approach. Resources are always scarce in an organisation, and we begin to hold onto them. The same applies with knowledge – we are not generous with sharing it! For resources and knowledge to be shared, trust has to be present, which is why we needed to first build it up. Trust can only be built at work through consistently doing what we have committed to. We started with exactly that low base of ensuring that people deliver their work to one another on time, every time. If an unforeseen situation arose that would cause a delay, they had to inform the person waiting for the work, and brainstorm how resources or knowledge sharing could be applied.
- Providing specific feedback and recognition was definitely underutilised. The motto in the organisation was that if nothing was said then it was a job well done, and if not you would know about it. Communication here needed to be a two-way street. People wanted to receive regular feedback on their tasks so that they know what was appreciated, and so that they were clear on how to repeat that specific action / behaviour again. Recognition is saying thank you to a person for work done. It means: “I see you, I validate you, I recognise your work, and I thank you for it.” Everybody had to learn to provide feedback and recognition to one person every day while being specific and detailed in doing so.
- Starting meetings on a positive note was unheard of. Meetings were generally started with what hadn’t worked on a certain project, what complaints were on the table, and any urgent decisions that needed to be made, etc. Meetings were started in a reactive, negative mindset which led to staff going into problem-solving mode and not into opportunity-thinking mode. Things were fixed, but they weren’t solved in a creative manner. We asked that every meeting start off on a positive note, where either they thanked people for excellent work, shared positive news, or expressed gratitude for projects / tasks that had gone well. The result was that they focused on how this positivity could be repeated, and they felt safe which led to everyone being innovative and creative. The tough decisions were still made, but from a different approach.
- Apologising for mistakes appears to be difficult in the workplace. Instead, stories are formed on why something couldn’t be achieved, and looking to pass the blame. This process is an exceptionally negative downward spiral process, and is futile. We spend hours trying to pass the buck, whereas sometimes it’s often about taking ownership of the mistake, as you are likely to be part of it, and finding solutions to fix it. We instilled the concept that they had permission to challenge each other when they went into storytelling and blaming others. They had the code word “stories”, and as everybody knew what that meant, they were not permitted to go on with their story but had to sit down and ask introspective questions that we had taught them.
- Addressing issues of incivility and disrespect meant that people were given a voice to raise, either in writing or verbally, issues that had occurred in the workplace to the Kindness Committee. The committee would look at each matter raised regardless how significant or not it may appear. They discussed what needed to happen, and responded in person to the person who had raised it. In addition, the committee informed the entire organisation at their monthly information meeting of the matter concerned and how they had dealt with it. It was always done in a positive light, upholding integrity and confidentially where needed.
This six-step process over a year transformed the organisation’s toxic negative working environment to a neutral and positive one. As I do with most of my clients, I build long-lasting relationships with them, supporting them in the transformation and holding them accountable.
The journey has not been easy for them and does require constant attention, but that is what culture is – it demands ongoing care and awareness. Their working environment has remained positive, and if they feel they are falling back they have the tools to go back to.
If your team is experiencing similar challenges and you would like our support, contact us at email@example.com to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our expert team.
The organisational behaviour of reciprocity is not an unknown in our everyday working lives. We share information, collaborate on projects, and hopefully recognise how our efforts impact the greater objectives of the company. These are the foundations of reciprocity in the workplace, and they exist everywhere where individuals work together to achieve collective success.
However, when you first think about the idea of a giving culture at work, it may feel as if you’re going against your natural evolutionary instinct to compete for resources and thus survive and outlive your competition. If this is your first response, then it may be helpful to consider recent research in the field of neurobiology. An experiment performed by neuroscientists James Rilling and Gregory Berns at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, found that the act of helping people activated the part of our brain associated with rewards and experiencing pleasure. This literally means that we are biologically programmed to feel good by reducing the suffering of others.
So, if reciprocity is an innate human trait, then how can we harness this basic social behaviour to create a culture which benefits the individual, team, and organisation as a whole?
- Firstly, we need to generalise this reciprocal tendency to create a pay it forward culture.
- Secondly, we need to employ a culture of gratitude which can act as a buffer against stress and promote an ongoing giving culture through the reinforcement of proactive, prosocial behaviours.
Paying it forward
At its core, reciprocity comes from the foundational understanding that “if I scratch your back, you’ll scratch mine.” Reciprocity can therefore come from a place of indebtedness, which quickly leads to resentment and fatigue. Luckily, growing research in the field of positive organisational behaviours is proving that reciprocity with the intention of appreciation and gratitude elicits powerful effects on workplace effectiveness with long-term and sustainable company success.
A clear example of paying it forward is the Starbucks Coffee experiment where a researcher paid for the coffee of the person behind them, and then that person paid for the coffee of the person behind them, without expectation or instructions given by the researcher. In St. Petersburg Florida, this process continued for 11 hours, and when the individuals were interviewed, they explained that they “wanted to show their appreciation for the kindness they had received.”
This case study is a perfect example of how we can create a pay it forward culture of generalised reciprocity in an organisation. If person A shows proactive, helpful behaviour towards person B and this organically flows through person C, D, E and F, then indirectly person A will receive helpful behaviour in the future.
This requires a giving mindset (which we will discuss in the gratitude part of this article) and trust in the system that they will receive help in the future. This indirect closing of the circle is necessary as reciprocity by its very nature requires an exchange. We will only offer kindness and gratitude if at some point we receive (even indirectly) the same treatment. We are unlikely to continue helping others if we don’t receive help ourselves, just as we are unlikely to continue showing gratitude to someone if we receive no appreciation ourselves. This is where gratitude becomes vital for sustaining the giving culture.
An attitude of gratitude
At first, gratitude may be thought of as fluffy emotional stuff, but it has been proven to have profound benefits on our workplace well-being. Some of the latest research findings are:
- A daily gratitude practice can decrease stress hormones by 23%.
- Grateful people are more optimistic, and optimism has a direct positive effect on our immune systems.
- Appreciation from management increased work commitment by 80%.
- Grateful brains release Dopamine which leads to an increase in productivity by 31%.
It is obvious that on an individual level gratitude is highly beneficial to our physical and mental health as well as our productivity at work.
However, how does an attitude of gratitude increase a giving culture at work?
Recent research into the neurobiology of compassion has shown that receiving gratitude (through words, touch or actions) generates Oxytocin – the neurotransmitter responsible for nurturance, trust and bonding. This release of Oxytocin causes us to behave compassionately towards others therefore paying forward the positive emotions we have just experienced.
An attitude of gratitude at work is a simple and effective way to create more givers in the workplace. Givers, as described by Adam Grant in his book Give and Take, are those individuals that help when the benefits to others exceed their own personal costs. He says that a taker is someone who helps whenever the benefits to themselves exceed their own personal costs. Plainly said – more givers in an organisation will lead to increased proactive behaviours, collaborative intentions, and a culture of working for the greater good of the organisation, not just for personal gain.
In the average workplace there will be a mix of givers, matchers and takers, and a lack of appreciation is the number one reason why people are leaving their jobs. Instilling an attitude of gratitude will not only make the takers in your organisation feel appreciated and experience more happy hormones, which will encourage them to give more in the future as they got something back in return, but they will also be more likely to show gratitude to others. Both of these reciprocal processes will ensure that a giving culture can be sustained.
This article may have taken some of you outside your comfort zone, or otherwise just offered a scientific perspective on a giving culture, but the aim has been to show the innate desire of humans to reciprocate kindness and appreciation.
While we have been programmed to compete against each other, we are hardwired to feel good by acting in prosocial ways. By harnessing the two strategies of paying it forward and instilling an attitude of gratitude in your organisation, you will not only be improving the well-being of your employees but creating a major culture shift which will lead to increased connectivity, civility, cohesion, and collaboration at work.
If you have a story to share or questions for the 4Seeds team about this article, please leave a comment below.
Employee engagement has become a topic which has gained much attention over the past few years, with a wave of different strategies, tips and hints on how to get your employees more engaged in the workplace. While most of this advice is helpful, and is calling the attention of executives to the value of engagement in reaching company outcomes, some do not always address the root cause of employee disengagement.
The aim of this article is to reveal the secret to employee engagement – it isn’t your employees! The true measure of increased employee engagement is the organisational climate and culture which permeates on every level. A high level of motivation, proactivity and high productivity cannot be met in the frontlines alone. While every employee has the right to experience personal satisfaction in their work, they also feed into a bigger system of strategy and objectives which allow the organisation to grow and succeed.
At 4Seeds we believe in the power of the individual to influence the success of the whole. Our knowledge and expertise in the field of Positive Psychology has shown us that Positive Organisations are not crafted through short-term quick fixes or one-day team building events.
It is through a carefully managed system of continuous intentional actions that realise the potential of the individual within the structure and framework of the organisation.
In order to achieve sustainable improvements in employee engagement, an organisation and its leaders need to commit to a long-term strategy which puts people first.
The Happiness at Work Model which was designed and developed by the iOpener Institute for People & Performance is a highly valuable and proven method to improve not only employee engagement, but increase the bottom line through improved customer satisfaction, better business practices, and an overarching trust and pride in the organisation.
The Happiness at Work Model lays out the fundamental pillars of a successful organisation, as well as the core drivers of individual and collective success. These pillars provide the structural guidance needed to improve employee engagement – for the long-term. These are illustrated in the image below (courtesy of the iOpener Institute for People & Performance, Oxford, United Kingdom).
Key Questions that Define Sustainable Employee Engagement
“Would you fully engage with someone you didn’t trust?”
This is a key question to ask yourself when deciding to engage in a sustainable employee engagement strategy. If an employee receives mixed messages from company communications, they are unlikely to put their best foot forward; guarding themselves against being damaged. Trust in an organisation comes from developing transparent, open and reliable communication channels on every level of the organisation. It is the responsibility of the culture in the organisation to support the development of psychological safety and mixed messages, and varied responses from management and a lack of transparency can severely affect the development of trust in the organisation’s goals, management and agenda.
“Why would an employee be committed to your organisation’s mission?”
A key overarching symbol of engagement is commitment to the mission and vision of the organisation. Without a sense of how they meaningfully contribute towards the objectives of the organisation, employees are unlikely to feel fully committed which will in turn affect their level of engagement in daily tasks. Leaders need to provide sounds reasons and regular reminders of how amazing the organisation is and the impact its work has on its stakeholders, consumers and society as a whole. These regular reminders of the value of each person’s work in making a positive impact will grow pride in the organisation and its mission.
“If you don’t know that you have done well, why would you keep trying?”
We have mentioned the value of recognition and feedback many times in the past for its profound effect on the self-confidence, motivation, and positive emotions employees experience at work. However, there remains an assumption in many organisations that feedback is a formal, regulated quarterly review process. This attitude towards recognition hinders the constant employee engagement which so many organisations desire. However, in answering the question, an informal, continuous culture of celebration is vital for sustainable engagement and is the responsibility of every manager and leader within the organisation.
This article serves to highlight the necessity of organisations to take responsibility for the structures and systems which can lead to employee engagement. While each employee needs to be groomed and developed individually, the secret to sustainable employee engagement lies in the trust, pride and recognition that exists in the culture of the organisation. Alter these consciously and systemically, and employee engagement will be just one of the positive side effects.
4Seeds is the ONLY accredited provider of Happiness at Work in South Africa. Our Happiness at Work organisational change management intervention has shown proven effectiveness across the board.
For more information on this powerful investment and how it can help you boost customer service, reduce employee turnover, and provide tangible results for stakeholders, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The other day I stumbled across an article that I wrote in September 2017. Reading through it, I realised that engagement is an even more pertinent topic than it was back then, and that I have deepened my knowledge on engagement since then and would like to share it with you.
Today, employee engagement is a necessity for organisations who want to remain commercially successful. In addition, employee engagement is essential for employees to be happy in their work, to find meaning in life, and to have an opportunity to be productive.
Let’s begin by defining engagement because there are many definitions of this term. Researchers classify employee engagement as a unique, persistent and pervasive psychological state that uses self-investment of personal resources and energy to express oneself in work tasks and connect with others.
What that means in layman’s terms is that engagement involves an emotional, physical and cognitive focus; so we commonly refer to it as combining the head-heart and hands into a work task. Engagement is often used interchangeably with job satisfaction, attitude, behaviour, involvement, and commitment. In as much as thinking isn’t incorrect, the key and critical component to engagement is the psychological state of the employee during their work experience.
You may be wondering why it’s challenging for people to be engaged at work, and the answer lies in the words: psychological safety.
When people engage they are attentive, connected and completely integrated with a task and/or person, and for that to happen people need to feel safe in their environment, safe to be themselves, safe to bring their authenticity to the work environment, safe with the people they work with, and safe with their leader; they need to feel that they can trust.
Safety is the second most important need that has to be fulfilled in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and if we don’t feel safe we aren’t able to deliver our best thinking, decision making, and tasks. So ask yourself how safe your employees feel in their work environment.
Here is the original article written in September 2017
The engagement concept has become a workplace buzzword over the past seven years. Every organisation wants the best part of their workforce to be fully or semi engaged, and less disengaged. However, many attempts have failed to create this shift, and our engagement levels remain at around 13 to 19 percent. This means that a lot of employees are disengaged at work. So, what are we missing?
We know a lot about engagement, and equally are left with many unanswered questions. There are so many definitions of the term “engagement”. There’s a very definite lack of consensus of what engagement is, what factors make it up, or how to practically measure it. Some people refer to engagement as employee engagement, while others as job or work engagement. There are several words all referring to the same thing, but it’s confusing when there isn’t an overarching consensus. This is a huge problem, but one that is often overlooked and brushed aside because that’s for the researchers to dwell on – as leaders we just want to have engaged employees.
Engagement is not an old concept. In 1990, Dr William A. Kahn, a professor of Organisational Behaviour at Boston University, was the first researcher who spoke about the word personal engagement when he contemplated how much a person brings of themselves to their work tasks and performance. He was way ahead of the curve and nobody was interested in the topic back then.
After that, no one spoke about engagement for 12 years, until 2002 when it reappeared as being the opposite to burnout. This development can be seen as reasonable, but it still didn’t explain the factors that make up engagement. And again, there was no traction on the topic until in 2010 when it started becoming a management and organisation buzzword.
Engagement is believed to have many benefits to both the individual and the organisation. Some of the benefits have been scientifically validated, and others widely speculated on. We would like to ask leaders and organisations to be cautious when rolling out an engagement strategy because it requires planning, thought and dedication. A hasty, unclear strategic plan can do more harm to employee happiness than is often anticipated.
Some facts to consider are:
- Engagement isn’t a noun, it’s a verb. You don’t DO engagement, you become actively engaged with your activities and tasks. Engagement is who you are and become as an organisation, similar to your culture.
- Define what engagement means in your organisation and perhaps write down some examples.
- Be specific about what the benefits, rewards and recognition for becoming more engaged are for employees. You are expecting more input from your workforce, which means that you have to be transparent and reciprocate fairly.
- We take the worldview that engagement is a positive construct from which the individual and the organisation will benefit. But, what if it doesn’t have such a tremendous benefit for the individual? What about when going the extra mile brings their work-life out of kilter and negatively affects their personal relationships?
- Let’s be considerate. Not every human being has the physical or psychological ability to operate at high levels of engagement. There could be limitations and illnesses to consider, and they are doing their best every day, albeit that the organisation doesn’t see it as good enough.
- Lastly, is engagement the utopia solution we are making it to be? Is it the be-all and end-all where the individual and organisation has a perfect win-win? Is this approach realistic?
Please don’t get me wrong! I am an avid supporter and lobbyist for employee engagement in the workplace. However, I want to challenge you to think about the engagement concept from a long-term moral and ethical angle before you go ahead and quickly roll out something that will make employees happy.
I hope that you have gained further insight on engagement and its importance in the workplace. It starts with the employee because they get to choose whether they want to engage or not. As an organisation you cannot force people to become engaged; however you can create possibilities that enable employees to engage.
Relationships: A Context
Building positive, trusting relationships is paramount in every organisation to ensure that communication is flowing, ideas are emerging, people are volunteering to assist and support one another, information is being shared, and collaboration occurs.
In his hierarchy of needs, Maslow reiterates that people need to feel loved and have a sense that they belong to a community. We all want to be liked, wanted, needed and loved, and this is no different to wanting to experience it in a work environment. Toxic working relationships cause distrust, miscommunication, frustration and loneliness. They drain us emotionally, physically and physiologically. They zap our energy, and influence our performance and productivity. They make us dread going to work, and we can even become physically ill from toxic relationships.
We experienced a situation in an organisation a while back where the team was talking to one another but not truly communicating. They were polite, friendly and respectful, but they didn’t listen to each other. They didn’t air the conflict that was very noticeable in the room. Many difficult conversations were swept under the carpet which resulted in the team not being able to make decisions that mattered to the business. Each team leader was bickering about what wasn’t right, and whose fault it was. People were beating around the bush in conversations instead of saying what they truly felt and thought.
Throughout this process, people became cynical and expressed snide remarks that were hurtful. It didn’t take long for trust to break down and relationships to become superficial.
We were called in to help this team to build trusting, positive relationships.
Approach & Process
We engaged with the team over eight months and had to start gently before we were able to go a level deeper. The four key items we focused on were:
- Sharing what they appreciated and valued about one another. This was a new concept for the team as they were accustomed to talking about what was wrong and what someone didn’t do. They had to sit back and recognise the strength of a fellow team member and openly share it. To stretch them a little further, we asked them to articulate how a team member made their work easier.
- Learning to listen and not to interrupt was our next approach. To allow a team member to complete their sentence in full. To hold back on any knee-jerk reaction, and to hear what the person was saying. To make notes of thoughts and ideas that were coming up for the listener and to go back to them when it was their turn to speak.
- Engaging in open-ended questions that allow for clarification and expansion of viewpoints. Not to make any assumptions or judgement about what was being said, but rather to ask to ensure deep understanding. To summarise if needed based on what was heard.
- Express one’s feeling was the last aspect we brought in as this was going to force the team to show vulnerability and humility. Baring their heart on how they felt about a decision or situation. But having learned the previous tools, they were in a strong position to be heard and understood by their colleagues.
This four-step process rebuilt open, candid communication in the team which had a ripple effect on their trust and relationships. I still engage with them on odd occasions and can say that I’m delighted that they have upheld these strategies. Their relationships have remained positive and the once poor level of communication has completely turned around.
If your team is experiencing similar challenges and you would like our support contact us at email@example.com to schedule a 30 minute free consultation with our expert team.
We’ve noticed that a new Key Performance Indicator (KPI) has popped up in many Leaders’ Performance Assessments, namely the measurement of Return on Relationships. If it is not on yours yet, it will be coming soon!
In the 80s and 90s, we measured Return on Investment (ROI). In the early 2000s the entire IT platform dominated our world, and now the new buzzword is Return on Relationships (ROR).
What do we mean when we talk about Return on Relationships? Is it networking, socialising, or customer liaison? The answer is “all of the above” – but it is also much more, including building, nurturing, trusting and maintaining connections with our teams. A Meaningful Leader will know the value of positive relationships and will spend a fair amount of time nurturing good team relationships.
Connecting with people mainly covers giving people our undivided attention and time; communicating through dialogue and listening deeply to each other’s needs. When we mindfully connect with others, we build rapport, trust and loyalty with each other. By doing these we remove judgement, bias and perceptions about one another, therefore allowing us to work together in an optimal team environment. We would be willing and open to provide feedback to each other, brainstorm new solutions to complex work situations, and challenge each other’s thinking. Connecting with people reduces conflict, misunderstandings and having arbitrary, meaningless conversations.
Humans are social beings, which means that we need social interactions and connections with other people. If someone has been deprived of social connectivity they withdraw and become unmotivated and unengaged with work and life. In an experiment conducted on baby monkeys, the babies were given the choice to either be deprived of motherly affection or food. It came as a surprise that the babies did not choose to fulfil their primary need for food, but rather chose motherly love. This indicates their instinct that connections matter more than actual food.
Improving Organisational Relationships
You might be thinking that this is all well and good, but how can you improve or enhance connectivity with your team? How do you build relationships especially with team members that you don’t know or even particularly like? The answer is – and you might not like it – deep listening. Make a concerted effort to spark up a conversation with them and then listen beyond the noise. Listen with openness and curiosity. Listen to find meaning in what the person has to say. Ask questions to clarify and understand. Discard any perceptions and do your best to put yourself in their shoes. That may be a good starting point to build relationships.
After that, shift the dial on intensity and frequency until connecting with others becomes a way of working. The benefits, in the end, are far greater as people will support you on your own tasks and challenges through their insights and ideas, which will deepen the connection. Nevertheless, in the beginning, you have to invest conscious effort, practice and discipline. If, as a leader, you are sincere about people being the most valuable and valued asset, connecting is a brilliant starting point.
As February is the month of relationships, we encourage you to have belly-to-belly conversations with your teams. Let us know how it goes!
Positive Psychology is a word that is slowly filtering through into our work, social and personal lives. However, few people know what it is, where it originated, and why it has become such a much-talked-about concept. People often think that Positive Psychology is a new trend, industry or hype that has recently emerged. But if you trace its roots, you’ll find that it goes as far back as 400 BC to the ancient Greek times where Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics spoke about the importance of human happiness, virtues, fulfilling one’s potential, and living ethically. Since then, the idea of happiness has been a common thread through the eras of the Stoics, Christianity, Renaissance, Existentialist philosophers, right up to the beginning of the 21st century before WWI after which it lost its direction for a while.
Before the outbreak of WWI, the science of Positive Psychology had three distinct intentions:
- to cure mental illness.
- to make people happier.
- to study geniuses and highly talented people.
So, Positive Psychology already had an umbrella function back then, but with the outbreak of the war psychology got stuck on focusing on mental illness and spent little time on mental health. The reason for this was twofold: The war produced many war veterans and family members who needed to be treated and cured of the gruesome traumas, and institutions provided sponsorship funding for curing mental diseases. The result was that for 50 years psychology has honed in on curing mental illnesses, and this pathology has taken its toll on society and human science. This changed in 1998 when Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, who at the time was the President of the American Psychology Association, rebirthed the concept of balanced positive living, fulfilling one’s potential and having meaning and purpose in life. Seligman was purely bringing to light what past philosophers and scientists such as Freud, Jung, Skinner, Watson, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Maslow and Rodgers had been working on for decades. In a nutshell, one could say that Positive Psychology has a short history but a long past.
What is Positive Psychology?
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of optimal human functioning. It hones in on what is right about people by uncovering their strengths and promoting positive thriving. It focuses on factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive such as: building positive emotions, optimising character strengths, setting meaningful goals, being mindful and present in life activities, nurturing trusting and deep relationships, developing a growth learning mindset, and cultivating resilience strategies.
So, if Positive Psychology is “happiology” that only focuses on the optimistic side of life, especially with stats relating to the high levels of depression, anxiety, burnout and other mental health challenges, is it a naïve unrealistic science? No, it’s not. Positive Psychology doesn’t deny or ignore the existence of negative emotions, feelings, situations or life events. It accepts and embraces them as being a normal part of life. However, what it does do is make individuals aware that they are not living from their optimal level, and then gives them practical tools and resources to pull them out of a downward slope quicker. Positive Psychology is an applied science that offers people balance to their previous skewed weakness or disease-orientated approach. It’s a holistic science that explores people’s strengths alongside their weaknesses. As it’s a science, the activities and exercises provided have undergone rigorous scientific testing and peer reviews. It isn’t self-help which is a critical distinguishing point; what is provided works. As much as Positive Psychology is about scientific theories, models and practical exercises, it is also about transformation and personal development. It has the ability to grow people to reach their level of optimal flourishing; a level very few people have experienced, but one each and every one can and has the right to.
Positive Psychology versus Traditional Psychology
Positive Psychology and traditional psychology complement each other and are not in competition with one another. They simply have two different focal points which are both extremely necessary and needed in the modern world. Traditional psychology focuses on mental illnesses, commonly referred to as the disease model of what is wrong with a person, and aims to remediate the situation. Positive Psychology tries to work from the approach and build on what is strong.
In the words of Abraham Maslow, “The science of psychology has been far more successful on the negative than on the positive side; it has revealed to us much about man’s shortcomings, his illnesses, his sins, but little about his potentialities, his virtues, his achievable aspirations, or his psychological height. It is as if psychology has voluntarily restricted itself to only half its rightful jurisdiction, and that the darker, meaner half.”
Bringing the two psychologies together allows us to work with people in a complete and holistic manner. Another main distinguishing point is that traditional psychology is responsible for making a person function and Positive Psychology to make a person flourish – it’s like working with minus and plus signs. Both psychologies complement each other and a person can successfully engage with both modalities at the same time.
The Benefits of Positive Psychology
Now that you have some background on the roots and definition of Positive Psychology, let’s explore why this concept has become invaluable to our life. Positive Psychology, otherwise known as “happiness science”, has the following benefits:
- It teaches us to shift our perspective from an overly negative bias to a balanced viewpoint.
- It is present-orientated living in the here and now.
- It instils an open-mindset of continuous learning and development.
- It assists us to be more grateful and mindful of our surroundings and activities, thereby removing us from the debilitating autopilot mode.
- It deepens our ability to savour positive life experiences.
- It helps us to build trusting and meaningful relationships with family, friends and work colleagues.
- It teaches us to have more positive emotions and moods than negative ones.
- It opens our hearts to volunteer work and acts of kindness.
- It helps us to find meaning and purpose in tasks and activities.
- It allows us to be engaged and fully participate in life.
- It enhances our social and emotional intelligence.
- It strengthens and develops neurons through the process of neuroplasticity.
- It assists us to use our character strengths more often.
The end result is that we don’t overthink things, are able to bounce back from adverse daily situations, and it enhances our overall well-being. From a work perspective, we become more productive, find meaning in tasks through having flow moments, experience job satisfaction and cope better with stress, anxiety, feelings of overwhelm and frustration.
The best news is that happiness drives success and not the other way around. Becoming happier in life is a journey, not an outcome to ever accomplish, so it’s a path that can be learned and practised by everybody.
In our fast-moving world, Positive Psychology and happiness are not things to be ignored, but rather very important tools that can help you to flourish, to manage your life better, to act as a buffer against physical or mental illness, and to lead the authentic life you are born to lead.