Isolation is becoming more common in today’s working world. We’re working remotely, and individually on tasks and, as a result, our working lives are becoming busier and more stressful. Because of the increased pressure to perform under challenging circumstances, we often forget about the people around us on a daily basis, and how our workplace relationships can support our individual success. We tend to think of social interactions as the food of procrastination, and building workplace relationships is often low on our list of priorities when deadlines are looming.
Ongoing research into the Science of Human Happiness is proving how workplace relationships can build motivation. In fact, healthy workplace relationships may be the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to persevering towards the end of the year.
In this article, we’ll expand on some of the recent findings which support how workplace relationships can build motivation. As we approach the end of the year, there’s no better time to bring people together to appreciate accomplishments, celebrate successes, and make plans for the future.
1) Connection is a core motivator
As explained in our last blog about the Self-Determination Theory, one of the core drivers of building internal motivation is connection to others. There’s a difference between setting one’s own goals and those that are set by the team.
Connection to others acts as accountability measurement – when we’re responsible for the execution of part of a project, we’re more likely to persevere, perform, and stay motivated so that we can play our part for the whole group. This brings a sense of responsibility which is greater than when we work alone.
2) Emotions are contagious
Recent research into human emotions has found that emotions are contagious and take under a minute to spread. This is true for both negative and positive emotions, and while stress, anxiety, and negativity spread like wildfire in companies, the same is true for motivation, inspiration, and positivity.
Surrounding ourselves with healthy workplace relationships builds motivation because we can be inspired by colleagues to persevere and be reminded of the bigger picture. Positive workplace relationships can also bring humour and light-hearted fun into the workplace, thus reducing stress and increasing the sense of well-being.
3) Connection Boosts Health and Performance
Humans are social creatures by nature. Our brains are wired to connect, and recent research has found that disconnection and isolation can actually present as physical pain. A sense of connection has also been found to reduce cardiovascular illness and boost our immune system.
When we’re ill or feel pain, we can’t think clearly or perform at our optimum, we’re more likely to take sick leave, and our concentration, clarity, and motivation suffer. Healthy workplace relationships can build motivation by increasing positive emotions and physical health, thus boosting the fundamental building blocks of performance and efficiency.
4) Cooperation Give us Perspective
When we work alone, we often find ourselves thinking in linear and often self-destructive ways. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves, over and above what’s expected from our work tasks.
Workplace relationships can help to us to gain perspective on our current thinking, highlighting ways to look at a solution differently, and offer some humour into our challenges. Positive workplace relationships provide a safe platform for us to learn, collaborate, and share information, which in turn can help us to discover new solutions or find a new perspective on our current situation. When we have a new strategy or a helping hand, we can go about our work tasks with a renewed sense of motivation.
In Conclusion: Workplace Relationships Can Build Motivation
As the year draws to a close, it’s the perfect time to appreciate and reach out to the people with whom we have good workplace relationships. Celebrate successes, commiserate mistakes, and gain new perspective on current challenges. Connections in the workplace are essential to staying healthy, reaching goals, and keeping motivated in these last few months. Learn to take the time to build positive workplace relationships, and motivation and efficiency will follow.
Are you interested in a year-end function that boosts connection for the long term? Are you looking to host an event that supports healthy workplace relationships while celebrating at the same time?
At 4Seeds we specialise in building positive workplaces through the use of scientific, practical, and fun workshops. We develop bespoke and affordable events that are tailored to your company’s needs. If you’re interested in hosting an event with a difference then get in touch with us on email@example.com.
We look forward to working with you to create community and connection in your company.
As the year starts to wind down and we begin to reflect on the past year in anticipation of another year end, motivation can be a huge challenge. It’s sometimes difficult to stay dedicated to what we want to achieve when the finish line is in sight. Keeping ourselves motivated at work and at home takes intentional action, clear objectives, and using our social networks to keep us accountable.
Before we unpack some proven strategies to keep you motivated, it’s important to understand how motivation works. A key framework for understanding motivation is the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) which was developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan.
What is the Self-Determination Theory?
Most of us recognise motivation as either intrinsic (self-initiated) or extrinsic (for rewards or recognition). While motivation can be either internally driven, or for external gains such as money or social recognition, the Self-Determination Theory posits that motivation exists in a continuum. An example of this is training for a marathon which may be motivated both intrinsically (for the love of running) and extrinsically (for social recognition). Self-Determined motivation therefore needs us to focus on what is driving us on both sides for most cases- however true intrinsic motivation is also possible and achievable.
The Self-Determination Theory also presents the idea that motivation is driven by our desire to meet three universal human needs:
Basically put, we all have the innate human desire to grow, learn, and accomplish our goals. We want to feel as if we’re accomplished, competent, and that we’re valuable contributors. We also want to determine our own goals, have our own ideas, and craft our own identity, without being controlled or told what to do. Lastly, as humans we’re naturally social. We need to feel connected to others, understood, and that we belong. Each of these three universal human needs underpins what is at the core of our motivation.
In this article we will share three proven strategies to keep you motivated, guided by these three universal human needs. These strategies work to increase your sense of accomplishment, to empower your sense of autonomy over your own life, and to support you to remember and connect with your social networks so that you can continue to succeed and feel driven towards reaching all your personal goals for 2019.
3 Proven Strategies to Keep You Motivated
1) Motivated by Competence: Reflect on your achievements, and re-evaluate your goals
Often when we set goals at the beginning of the year, we write down big and often unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve. Taking time now to reflect on what you have accomplished can help you to recognise your achievements, thus boosting your motivation to pursue what is still on your list. Once you’re feeling more competent in what you have done, it will make it easier to re-evaluate what you still want to achieve. Re-evaluating your goals requires you to be realistic about what you can do, and asking these questions can help:
- “Is this goal actually my goal?” and “What is driving this goal? Is it an intrinsic desire or is it extrinsically motivated?”
- “Is this goal realistic for me to achieve?” and if not “How can I make this goal more specific and realistic?”
2) Motivated by Autonomy: Reward yourself for your personal accomplishments, and remember to rest
When you start to reflect on your year and all the efforts you’ve made, you may realise just how tired you are. It’s really important for your resilience and stamina to know when you need to rest and restore your energy. We’re not machines and without enough rest we’re unlikely to reach the finish line successfully. Knowing when to reward yourself for work done – and when you deserve a break – can be difficult, because we’re often our harshest critics. This this is where your autonomy can come into play.
Ask yourself these questions:
- “What am I proud of that I have achieved this year?”
- “What is the best way to reward myself for my hard work?”
- “What is the best way for me to restore my energy?”
It’s also important to keep the bigger picture in mind. Why have you been so driven and what are you working towards? When we remember what we’re moving towards we learn to see that life’s biggest accomplishments are a marathon, not a sprint. They take time, and usually you’re the only one who will give yourself that time. Make sure you’re using your autonomy to increase your stamina, so as not to exhaust yourself to the point of burn-out.
3) Motivated by Connection: Appreciating and Engaging in Your Social Networks
Motivation is largely impacted by our social circumstances, and there is a growing body of research which is proving the value and importance of gratitude. When we learn to focus on what we have, and feel appreciation for the moments, achievements, and the people who have positively impacted us, we become more productive and satisfied and feel more connected. When you start to feel your motivation wane (especially at this time of year), reflect on the people who have supported your goals so far. Write down their names and the ways they’ve helped or supported you in achieving your goals. If it feels appropriate, tell them. Sharing your appreciation may be just what they need to feel uplifted and motivated.
Practicing gratitude can be extremely helpful in team meetings. Try asking your team to:
- Write down the names of 10 people who have supported them this year.
- Share one quality or strength they appreciate in each of their team members.
- Write down the resources they need to reach their goals, and then ask people for help.
We often feel isolated when we want to succeed because we want to feel wholly responsible for our achievements. When we learn to ask for help we’re more likely to actually reach the finish line.
Motivation can be difficult when we’re tired and isolated. Self-Determination is a spectrum which may require external support to achieve our personal goals. The important take-home message is that motivation is governed by our internal needs. If we remind ourselves of our accomplishments, acknowledge the people that support us, and remember to rest and restore, we’re more likely to reach the finish line without illness or exhaustion.
Are you booking your year-end function? Are you looking for one with sustainable results and a real sense of personal and team satisfaction? Then 4Seeds is the perfect company to organise this for you. We develop bespoke events to suit your team’s needs, and make sure that everyone walks away feeling motivated, satisfied, and connected.
If you’re interested in one of these bespoke events, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unhappiness in teams, just like joy and sadness, is contagious. In fact, research has proven that our emotions are contagious within seven minutes. This means that just one unhappy employee can have a negative impact on a team or organisation in only seven minutes.
While we have all probably experienced the impact of unhappiness in teams, there is a great need for organisations to cultivate a more positive workplace culture which will improve the well-being of employees. Happiness is becoming the new measure of job satisfaction; in fact, happiness at work has become so important to people that it’s one of the primary reasons why people choose to either leave or stay in their job.
In this article, we will show why unhappiness is an important indicator for your team’s performance, how to notice the signs of unhappiness, and what to do to combat the spread of unhappiness in your organisation.
Ten Signs of Unhappiness in Your Team
As we have mentioned in previous articles, there is extensive research proving the effect happy employees have on organisations. However, there is also a lot of information showing the impact and substantial costs that unhappy employees can have on the organisation and its bottom line.
Becoming aware of the warning signs of unhappiness in your team is a good starting point. This requires keeping your finger on the pulse of the team, noticing toxic or negative behaviours before they spread.
Ten Warning Signs of Unhappiness in Your Team are:
- Reduced organisational commitment
- Poor time management – leaving early and arriving late
- High staff turnover
- Low levels of accountability
- Increased micromanaging
- Low levels of volunteerism and organisational citizenship
- Poor engagement, productivity, and performance
- Limited problem-solving and innovation ability
- Poor workplace relationships
- Increased stress, burn-out, and absenteeism
Based on these findings – which is by no means an exhaustive list – it becomes apparent even to the most traditional of leaders, that happiness at work is not just a nice-to-have, but is in fact vital for the economic viability of a business and the sustainable productivity of its workforce.
Five Factors that Cause Unhappiness in Teams, and How to Combat Them
While unhappiness in teams is more prevalent than we would like it to be, research is being done to understand its causes and influences, and how we can increase happiness at work.
4Seeds is passionate about this illuminating and evolving research into Positive Psychology and positive organisations. We strive to build happy cultures for organisations which in turn cultivates an engaged, productive, and committed workforce, delivering a more sustainable positive impact on society. This is our philosophy.
Here are the five key factors which cause unhappiness in teams, and what we are doing to combat them.
1) Unsupportive Management
Research has shown that poor leadership is the predominant reason why people leave their jobs. While this may be a hard pill to swallow, it is fact. Happiness levels in organisations need to start at the top!
Our Meaningful Leadership Development Programme is designed to equip new and experienced leaders with the soft skills and personal mastery needed to lead others effectively. At 4Seeds we believe that with a combination of self-awareness, strong soft skills, and the passion to make a meaningful impact, any leader can create a positive culture at work. Read more about the Meaningful Leadership Development Programme.
2) Lack of Tools and Research to Complete the Job
Job performance and productivity require each individual to have clarity on their role and the resources (tangible and intangible) to meet the job demands competently. If one does not have the resources (time, equipment, knowledge, supervision, or confidence) to achieve the outcomes of their job, they can quickly become disinterested, disengaged and depressed. Achievement is one of the fundamental pillars of happiness, so organisations need to provide the necessary resources for each individual to fulfil their role effectively.
4Seeds specialises in employee engagement. From organisation-wide assessments to bespoke interventions, we are the perfect learning and development partner to assist you to build and sustain the resources and human capacities needed for your teams to move from unhappy to engaged. Read more about our service offerings.
3) Little Opportunity for Professional Growth
As we all know, growth and development are invaluable to our motivation at work. Why should we work if we don’t know where it will lead? Learning and development are fundamental to every organisation that wants to train and maintain its staff.
4Seeds offers workshops and trainings which serve to build the skills needed to survive and thrive in the modern workplace. From resilience and stamina, to strengths-based work efficacy, we have 12 training modules which can be tailor-made to suit your employees’ learning and development needs. Read more about our Positive Team Building Interventions.
4. Poor Internal Processes and Systems
As W. Edwards Deming (American engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant) so aptly put it “eighty-five percent of the reasons for failure are deficiencies in the systems and process rather than the employee. The role of management is to change the process rather than badgering individuals to do better.”
Effectively, systems and processes within an organisation take strategy, innovation, foresight, and a willingness to learn and adapt along the way. Ours is to be an objective, external partner to your strategic development. We have expertise in corporate governance, systems thinking, industrial psychology, and leadership, and can provide a fresh perspective to take your company into the future. To learn more about this offering, please get in touch with us at email@example.com
5. Dissatisfaction with Colleagues
Team dynamics and conflicts are inevitable. Without the skills and insight to respect diversity and share frustrations, collaborate on ideas and build trust, any team is just waiting for unhappiness to strike. Positive co-worker relationships are considered one of the top five reasons why people stay at their jobs. So, creating positive, respectful and collaborative working relationships is vital to the productivity and happiness of each respective individual involved.
At 4Seeds we are experts in building human capital and positive relationships. Our Positive Team Building packages provide a choice of 12 topics. Each one of these topics will upskill the individuals on your team while cultivating a positive, cohesive working culture. The workshops can be done individually or grouped together into a more integrated team-building strategy. Read more about our Positive Team Building Workshops.
Unhappiness in teams can no longer be an afterthought. If future leaders begin building happiness into their strategy for the years to come, we are more likely to create a stable, lucrative, empowering, and happy economy.
4Seeds is dedicated to this mission and have made it our core purpose to build happier organisations in South Africa. We would love to hear from you and assist your organisation to go from unhappy to satisfied, from unfulfilled to engaged, and from individual surviving to collective thriving.
Get in touch with us to learn more about our services and how we can help you.
The concept of the pursuit of happiness is everywhere – in our offices, communities and, and even in our homes! And obviously, it’s companion unhappiness is rife in society which ensures we buy more, consume more and desire more in order to heal our unhappiness. We’re constantly asking ourselves if we’re happy and what recipe would make us happier: More money? A bigger house? A more prestigious job? A better partner?
But if you’ve pursued any of the above goals, you’ll know that once you get there, somehow you still feel incomplete and not happy… yet. So, you pursue the next goal, the next achievement, and buy yourself your next possession; always hoping to find the happiness you so desperately want and deserve.
So, if the answer to what makes us happy isn’t the perfect life with all the bells and whistles, then what can make us happy? The answer to this question is in understanding human nature.
In this article, we’ll will explain how and why we function as we do, and how unhappiness has served our evolution as a species. This is not to say that we should be unhappy or strive for dissatisfaction by any means, what we’ll aim to explain is why we are this way so that we can better understand, learn, and grow from simply surviving to thriving.
Unhappiness as a Means of Survival
As we all know, our survival as a species has required us to be alert and aware of dangers so that we can protect ourselves and our loved ones. While we have evolved massively into a modern, tech-savvy, and aware species, this instinct is still intact and is controlled by the oldest part of our brains, known as the reptilian brain.
This reptilian brain is situated at the back of the brain and is responsible for fight, flight, freeze, feed, and fornication. So, while the threats may have changed in our environment, we’re still wired to scan for danger.
In Positive Psychology this is known as the negativity bias, and while it is necessary for human survival on a day to day basis, it can limit our ability to be happy. If we’re constantly looking for the negative in our environments, how can we home in on the positive?
Hedonic Adaptation: A Safety Strategy which Leads to Unhappiness
The second component to our survival is hedonic adaptation or the hedonic treadmill.
The basic concept of the hedonic treadmill is that no matter what happens in our external circumstances, we’ll always return to our individual happiness set point. In fact, this set point is said to make up 50% of our overall happiness and well-being.
This ability for us to return to where we started serves us hugely when we encounter traumatic or difficult times in our lives. However, this hedonic adaptation is happening continuously in our daily lives and may be the root of our unhappiness and feelings of dissatisfaction.
In our offices, homes, and communities we seek structure, routine and stability. This serves us as it helps us feel secure – we can switch off our reptilian brain and be productive. This ability to find a new comfort zone and stick with it is helpful, as the more stability we have around us the more we think we are able to meet our survival, physical, social, emotional, and psychological needs.
While this is true for most of us, there is a downside to hedonic adaptation which is that we become complacent, lacklustre, and jaded by the system we have worked so hard to build and maintain. We adapt to our situation so effectively that we lose our sense of joy and excitement.
Hedonic adaptation leads to discontent with what we have. We stop feeling excited about where we’re going, and adapt so well to our routines that we no longer see our lives for all they encompass. This leads to unhappiness and the pursuit of what could make us happier.
The hedonic treadmill also results in fear of doing something new and stepping out of our comfort zones because it may threaten the status quo we’ve worked so hard to build. We make the decision to rather be comfortable and unhappy, than try something new which we believe could be a threat to our survival and could also make us even more unhappy.
The irony of our unhappiness is that the opposite of this is actually true. Because we have a happiness set point, if we get outside of our comfort zones or have to manage a difficult event, we not only return to this happiness set point but can actually surpass our previous level of happiness and thrive.
Breaking the Cycle of Unhappiness: Moving from Surviving to Thriving
At 4Seeds we design and deliver team, leadership, and organisational programmes which helps us to counter your innate negativity bias with scientific and practical strategies to increase your happiness levels.
We meet individuals where they are, and through a process of scientifically meaningful workshops and interventions can help your organisation step out of its comfort zone, out of fear and stress to develop even greater resilience, productivity, and progress.
Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can move your organisation from surviving to thriving.
Despite research showing the significant link between employee happiness and productivity in the workplace, it seems that very little effort is being made by organisations to instil a happy and positive working environment. Perhaps the idea of focusing on employee well-being or happiness feels like a soft and fuzzy thing which is leaders believe is the employee’s duty to manage. Either that or they think that it’s a modern fad that will hopefully soon pass. The reality is that employee happiness and well-being is here to stay and its voice will become louder and louder in years to come. If they haven’t done so already, employee well-being and happiness are going to become strategic agenda items that will need to be taken serious by board members, and senior and executive leaders.
People spend a lot of their time at work, and have the right to be happy and in a positive vibrant working environment that brings out the best in them. Also, happy employees are statistically known to be more productive, engaged, and motivated, which has a direct impact on an organisation’s bottom line. So, it’s a win-win situation for the individual and the organisation. But we struggle to make the mind shift to instil this positive concept. Why do you think this is the case?
Four key reasons spring to mind: (1) organisations are stuck in their comfort zones, and lack the know-how to roll out this cultural change process. (2) they lack the clarity on how the change will be tangibly measured. (3) they don’t have the budget set aside to engage in this philosophy. (4) they don’t have the time to focus on implementing and training people. Like the saying goes: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
I’m going to address the second point immediately because we can tangibly and easily measure employee happiness and well-being through things such as job satisfaction, volunteering, career development, talent retention, minimal absenteeism, low employee turnover, culture fit, motivation, employee engagement, and many more. The list is endless. On second thoughts, perhaps the terms happiness and well-being are causing confusion, because we’re not clear on what they mean.
What is Happiness?
Happiness is a construct most of us have experienced in some parts of our lives, and most people are mildly happy for the majority of their life span. Philosophers and social humanistic researchers have defined the term happiness in many ways so that not one agreed definition exists. The reason for the disagreement lies in the fact that happiness has two components to it. We speak of hedonic and eudamonic happiness. Hedonic happiness is the happiness most people are familiar with, which is to experience pleasant emotions and situations. We pursue positive events and activities to forego negative experiences, hence pleasure over pain is the motto. Eudamonic happiness is more intense, and requires personal commitment. It is engaging in activities in which one finds meaning, pursues growth and self-actualisation, and is virtuous by being naturally and morally right. Hedonic happiness focuses on the individual and has a selfish component to it, whereas eudamonic happiness is focused on the collective social well-being and is performed for the higher good of society. For organisations, there is a balancing act because both forms of happiness need to be integrated into the workplace. Events such as monthly pizza lunches will be fleeting and will tick the box of hedonic happiness because they disburse positive emotions and experiences, but aren’t long-lasting so we need to do them more often.
How to Kick-Start Happiness
To assist you to introduce the concept of happiness in the organisation, I’m going to share five practical steps to kick-start your process.
Step 1: Design a bespoke happiness survey for your organisation and then distribute it to all employees electronically
Honestly, this is more difficult than it sounds because you’ll want to ensure that you’re asking relevant happiness questions that will give you a true indication of how happy people are at work. Perhaps you’ll even bundle questions into sub-categories that you can use as measurement tools – things like job satisfaction, workplace trust, social relationships, working environment, safety, job crafting, etc. You need to set a substantial amount of time aside to establish what information you want to collect from your staff. Phrase questions in a simple and open-ended manner so that everybody, regardless of their position in the organisation, can effortlessly answer them. Have a look at our free happiness at work assessment to inspire you:
Step 2: Brief people about the happiness survey
If you want to get a significant amount of people participating in your happiness at work survey, you’ll need to brief people accordingly. Writing one email is not going to be enough for people to willingly spend time on the survey. Leaders will have to verbally communicate why the organisation is doing the survey, what the intention behind it is, what happens with the results, who sees them, what type of feedback they’ll get, as well as when they will receive it. The survey has to guarantee confidentially and be anonymous if you want truthful answers.
Step 3: Create readiness through positive language
You may not notice, but most language used in an organisation, regardless of whether it is written or spoken, is negative and has a deficit tone to it. Start by rephrasing words like “problems” with “challenges” or “opportunities”. Speak of “strengths” instead of “weaknesses”. Break the traditional corporate lingo, and be a bit more light-hearted and positive in your terminology. Bring in simple human appreciation concepts of being kind, considerate, and caring towards one another. Be mindful that what you hear consciously and subconsciously impacts on your performance, mindset, and attitude.
Step 4: Overcome resistance
Not everybody is going to be excited about this new concept. Perhaps your organisation has tried something like this before and you weren’t successful. People will remember that. Maybe they’re scared of the changes because they’re not sure how it will impact either them personally or their work. To reduce resistance, include the people affected by the change from the outset. Communicate often, answer their questions, and address their concerns. Listen to them and make an effort to understand where their fear is coming from.
Step 5: Do it in bite-sized chunks
It’s totally common that once you’ve assessed the data from the survey, analysed it, and interpreted it, you’ll be ready to jump into action. You’re going to have lots of things that you want to change immediately, but you need to be mindful of going slowly. Take a step back and find two or three activities that you can work on. Choose something that will get quick results, something a little bit more medium term, like in four to six months’ time, and then something that will take a full twelve months. Focus on three things only. Once you’ve accomplished one goal satisfactorily, give feedback to the entire organisation, and then choose a new thing on your list.
Making Happiness Permanent
Instilling a positive and happy culture in your organisation takes time and continuous practice. If you want to make this an effective and permanent part of the organisation’s culture, you’ll need a dedicated person to focus on this full time. Depending on the size of the organisation it may be part of the HR department’s role, but in a larger organisation you’re likely to employ an internal happiness officer or use an external consultant. Should you feel overwhelmed with the task of implementing a happy work culture in your organisation, please speak to one of our consultants for a free one-hour consultation.
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.