Four easy ways to train your brain to be happy

Four easy ways to train your brain to be happy

Happiness is a concept, a feeling, and a state of being that we wish for others and for ourselves. When parents are asked what they’d like for their children, the answer is almost always: “For them to be happy”. When we write birthday cards or cards for weddings, christenings, or graduations, we always wish happiness on the person or couple.

Happiness is an essential ingredient in our life, but one we don’t often give much conscious thought to. We know that it’s a fluctuating emotion, and that outside situations often determine whether we’re happy or not. However, that’s not the happiness I’m referring to. I’m talking about the happiness that you can control; an inner feeling that isn’t dependent on the external environment.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly made us aware of what makes us happy and what drains us. It won’t come as a surprise that studies have shown that our happiness levels have dropped significantly by between 10% and 20% over the last four months. Other emotions such as anger, disgust, anticipation, and distrust have all increased. You might even question how we can talk about happiness during this pandemic, but it’s precisely in this time that we need tools to help buffer against all the negativity that’s around at the moment.

Everyone wants to be happy! It’s something we all share; a golden thread that runs through our collective lives, and connects us as human beings. For some, it’s more conscious than for others. Happiness is so much more than a nice feeling, and it’s very definitely something that can be physically felt. When people are happy, their prefrontal cortex (located in the forehead, and responsible for allowing us to think, make decisions, focus, and achieve our goals) is noticeably more active. Besides allowing us to think, the prefrontal cortex has another important function. It regulates our emotions, and assists us to recover from negative thoughts and feelings. If we learn to train our brain, we can indirectly influence our psychological and emotional well-being.

Four easy ways to train your brain

There are many ways to train our brain to be happy without the use of chemical substances, but in this blog I’ll focus on four.

  1. Ten minutes of quietening the mind stimulates the prefrontal cortex, and provides feelings of joy, calmness, serenity, and well-being. These are ten powerful minutes in which you can empty the thoughts from your head. It’s like having a brain break.

 

  1. Loving kindness meditation (LKM). This is a meditation where you intentionally send love, kindness, protection, and well-being to your loved ones as well as to yourself. Visualise the loved one in front of you, and send them abundant love. It sounds strange, but if we’re honest, we do this naturally for the people we care about and love.

 

  1. Gratitude awareness. Take a couple of minutes to become aware of who and what you’re grateful for in the day. This can be gratitude for people, situations, events, or the beauty of your surroundings, relationships, and life. You can have fun here and write the list in a journal, take a snapshot of it, draw it, sing it, dance it, or just think it.

 

  1. Strengths mindfulness. Reflect on the day and list strengths that you applied. Again, it’s a conscious decision to focus on the inner strengths that you used in certain situations during the day, without being mindless. This can vary from being patient and kind to an infuriated colleague or client, to using humour or empathy in a difficult situation.

 

The benefit of training your brain to be happier will be a more productive and focused mind, and it will make you happier. It’s within your control and your choice to pursue happiness in your life. I know you might not feel you can right now, as there are many worries and concerns, but take one very small step towards reclaiming your inner happiness and you’ll soon notice that you’re able to cope with your day a little better.

 

Eight steps for leaders on giving constructive feedback

Eight steps for leaders on giving constructive feedback

Most leaders that I meet feel uncomfortable with, and even dread, giving feedback to their staff. It shouldn’t be that way! Feedback is a gift that we give people to help them grow, but, sadly, many of us have had bad experiences with it in the past. It might have been a punishment session where we were criticised, and left feeling demotivated, deflated, and discouraged.

As we get older, the kind of feedback we receive changes, but it shouldn’t always be that way. Think back to your childhood where your parents were your biggest fans. They were your cheerleaders who supported you and encouraged you to always do your best. The feedback you got from them would have been honest, but most likely gentle, and it would have been on the things you did well, and where you could improve. Their intention always came from their heart with love, and with the underlying desire for you to grow. Maybe your parents didn’t always strike the right chord, or use the correct words, but you knew that they gave you advice because they loved you.

Fast forward to now in your workplace. Many leaders believe that: ‘If you don’t hear from me, then you’re doing a great job; otherwise I’ll tell you.’ With that approach, feedback will indeed only be associated with criticism, and not with growth or care. Often, feedback is negatively associated with performance reviews, where there is sometimes a one-size-fits-all approach.

So, what seems to be the problem that leaders have in giving feedback? In my opinion, there are five common concerns: (1) They don’t know how to do it properly because they haven’t been shown how; (2) They’re worried about hurting the other person’s feelings; (3) They’re worried that the person will only hear the negative feedback and not the positive, so are unsure how to find the ideal balance between the two; (4) They’re worried that the person will leave demotivated and will have no interest in improving; or (5) Their feedback style is authoritarian and a bit blunt.

On the other hand, receivers may perceive feedback as personal criticism and a threat to their self-confidence, self-efficacy, and self-worth.

 

The eight steps on giving constructive feedback

As my passion is to provide as many tools and techniques as I can for leaders to lead better, I’m going to share a practical, constructive feedback tool that can assist both the giver and the receiver. Before you start shifting your mindset and viewing feedback as an opportunity to grow and develop, and as the highest expression of care you can give a team member, if you find that the word “feedback” has a negative and emotionally charged meaning, then replace it with a neutral word that carries no judgement. Try using words such as “evaluation”, “constructive feedback”, “observation”, or “learning opportunity”.

This eight-step process created by Hugo Alberts and Lucinda Poole can be easily applied.

  1. Accept internal discomfort Embrace that you might feel uncomfortable giving feedback, and that many emotions will come up for you. Acknowledge the discomfort, and then breathe deeply into your body, calming yourself and making sure that you come across in a composed and calm way.
  2. Create a safe space It’s common for the receiver to feel nervous, anxious, fearful, and maybe even stressed. Leaders need to be aware of this, and empathise with them. It’s up to the leader to create a safe space by choosing an environment that is friendly, warm, and non-hostile. Offering a warm and friendly greeting with some small talk always helps everyone to feel at ease.
  3. State your intention Make it clear that your goal is to see how you can work together to improve their work. Let them know that you welcome a two-way dialogue, where you’re both free to express personal and professional views.
  4. Separate the person’s work from the person Arguably, one of the things that makes receiving feedback the most difficult is that it’s often taken as a personal critique. Take a moment to clarify that you’re evaluating their work, and not them as a person.
  5. Reframe the amount of feedback as an indication of care Where you have a lot of critical feedback to give, highlight your level of care by saying something like: “I’m being thorough because I care about this. Your work matters to me.”
  6. Encourage a growth mindset Highlight that the feedback can be taken as an opportunity for growth and learning, and integrate this type of language into your comments. Give detailed and precise praise wherever you can, and instil a sense of hope and faith in their capability for change and improvement.
  7. Acknowledge the subjective nature of the situation Recognise that your feedback projects your personal views and opinions on not only their work, but also on the subject matter. Acknowledge this as you provide feedback by saying things like: “In my opinion…”, and “I believe that…”
  8. End on a positive note Conclude by highlighting and celebrating positive attributes of their work. Express your joy in what they did well.

 

When giving constructive feedback, ask yourself “How can I assist and support this team member in reaching their next growth level?” If you embrace feedback with that mindset, you can’t do anything wrong because your intent and heart will lead the way.

Busting Eight Coaching Myths in the Workplace

Busting Eight Coaching Myths in the Workplace

It’s human nature for people to want to evolve, which means that we strive to grow, develop, and self-actualise. No-one is happy to stagnate or stay too long in a comfort zone. Everybody needs a stretch goal to work towards, and a challenge and opportunity to upskill into becoming a better version of themselves. Sometimes we aren’t ready for the growth spurt, and may feel overwhelmed by the mere thought of it. At other times, we need someone to champion us on, to believe in us, and to hold us accountable for our commitments. Or we need an independent sounding board who can challenge our thinking and behaviour. Regardless of what it is you need, a coach can support you to grow to your optimum.

It’s a known fact that all sportspeople have coaches that help them to bring out their best. In the working environment, it’s becoming acceptable for executives, leaders, and managers to make use of coaches in the workplace, but this is still a small minority. However, in mainstream everyday life, very few would use the services of a coach. People are generally misinformed and incorrectly educated about coaching, so they shy away from the service. But now with COVID-19 impacting our entire life, coaching becomes an essential service to consider. This is especially so if, as a leader, you need tools to cope with the daily stresses of the pandemic, gain new focus, grow as a leader, set realistic goals, or need a sounding board to explore opportunities. In this article, I will address some of the primary coaching myths and misconceptions.

 

What is Coaching?

There are endless definitions for coaching, but, for now, let’s keep it simple. Coaching is a process that improves a person’s performance. It focuses on the current moment and not on the past, because what has happened has happened and cannot be changed. The only change that is possible – and that you have control over – is your approach to, and attitude about the future. A coach will partner with you to find new ways of doing things, thinking about concepts, and behaving differently; all in the spirit of maximising your potential. So, it’s about creating awareness, learning new ways, choosing to act, and self-reflecting on the progress.

 

Eight Workplace Coaching Myths

1.     Coaching is just glorified therapy

These two modalities cannot – and should not – be compared to each other. Therapy works from the context that something in your past needs to be ‘fixed’, and so it delves into your history and childhood. Coaching is a catalyst process where you and the coach work in the ‘here and now’ on methods that can catapult you forward in attaining your goals and providing personal growth. Coaching views you as wholesome and healthy, with all the necessary resources to achieve your potential.

 

2.     Coaching needs a lot of my time

One of the core principles of coaching is that it’s a non-dependent model, so coaches do their best to create no co-dependency. Coaching sessions can vary from one or two sessions to three- or six-month programmes in which you meet your coach every two weeks for an hour or 90 minutes. But if you want to grow and develop, you do need to invest the time for the action items that you have identified.

 

3.     Coaching is for people who have problems at work

Coaching is not a remedial performance review process. I can’t express that more strongly. Nor is it a process that will transfer a leader’s problem to the coach. Instead, coaching is there to support you to get unstuck in your thinking or behaviour, to get committed, and to become re-engaged by developing new tools to increase performance. Through coaching, you understand how your current behaviour is hindering your growth, and you and the coach jointly explore ways to create a positive shift.

 

4.     I am successful, so I don’t need a coach

Ironically it’s precisely at this time when you need a coach the most because they will support you to maintain this level of peak performance or grow you to the next level. Coaching is most successful when a person is already motivated, committed, and thriving, but wants to continue to explore their blind spots and have a neutral sounding board.

 

5.     Coaching is the same as mentoring

Think of it this way: the mentor is the wise sage who has been there done that and has the t-shirt. A coach guides you on your journey of peak performance without being the expert. Mentoring is an informal, unstructured approach which answers your questions and provides advice. In contrast, coaching is more structured, sets clearly-defined goals and milestones of success, and holds you accountable.

 

6.     Coaching is expensive

Costs vary based on the coach’s level of experience, years of training, and professional credentials, but most companies are willing to pay for this kind of service. Different rates apply for personal and professional coaching, and it’s always best to research this upfront. Nowadays, coaching is effective and efficient as it can be done online, which saves time and travelling costs. Also, 4Seeds has substantially reduced coaching fees during the COVID-19 pandemic as we want to help you grow and cope with your workplace challenges in these difficult times.

7.     Coaching is only for senior management

Coaching is for everybody, in any company, and at any level. If you want to grow and develop, then coaching is for you regardless of where you are in the organisation’s structure.

 

8.     I will lose face with my team if I hire a coach

Your team needs to understand that coaching is about self-development and growth, and that you’re striving to be a better leader and role-model. You can even invite them to give you feedback during the process, or share why you’re behaving differently. Include them in the process.

Coaching in the workplace is here to stay, and it will play an even more impactful role in a leader’s career path. It’s a safe and confidential environment where you can explore your thoughts, ideas, and feelings, and you’ll have time to reflect on – and to let go of – habits that are no longer working for you.

Contact us today on info@4seeds.co.za about your coaching needs and desires. We can support you to become your best possible self.

Working efficiently in the digital world

Working efficiently in the digital world

Gone are the days when the office was somewhere employees spent time at during working hours. Today’s always-connected, instant-access environment has blurred the lines between the office, and the place where work actually gets done.

The digital world is profoundly affecting the ways in which people contribute to work, life, and society.

Offices are becoming digital, and employees are communicating and collaborating in new and exciting ways. It’s now the norm to have meetings from different locations, be they offices, homes, or countries, and companies are finding that working remotely not only provides a more flexible work environment, but also helps increase productivity and job satisfaction. According to the Digital Marketing Institute, employees who work remotely are 91% more productive, and with the demand for specific skills at an all-time high, remote working offers a solution for companies to find the right people without them having to be based in the same place.

While the move to transform digitally has led to many jobs being lost, it has also opened new, productive, innovative, and rewarding forms of job creation. COVID-19 has certainly accelerated the changes. New technologies have given companies the opportunity to offer employees flexibility, which means that even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, people can carry on productively, with limited impact, in a secure and collaborative way.

In order for employees to work efficiently in different locations, companies have had to embrace the evolution, and create strong digital cultures to support changes in working styles. They now need to offer a consumer-like user experience which is aligned with today’s working environment, and one which allows employees to work more transparently.

Companies have had to define ‘their’ digital workspace, offer virtual assistance to support virtual work environments, and provide the right tools and information. They have given their staff choice and flexibility. In doing so, they have found that by incorporating the technologies that employees already use, such as email, instant messaging, social media, and virtual meeting tools, communication barriers have disappeared. This has empowered employees, and allowed them to work more efficiently and successfully.

Employees now expect a more personal, digitally-driven work experience, and look to their employers to raise employee engagement, allow them to achieve business outcomes faster, and give them the tools to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

It’s also important to remember that the efficiency of an employee’s digital workspace depends on their individual qualities, their environment, and the changes they effect to make these tools work for them so that they can fulfil their job. And with so many benefits to both the employer and the employee, it’s in the employees’ best interests to implement the necessary discipline and dedicated work space to raise their own efficiency levels and be more productive.

Working in the digital world offers flexibility, freedom, and opportunities for employers and employees to create healthier habits while remaining productive. New digital platforms will continue to help companies operate more effectively; however both parties need to play their part in making it an efficient and healthy working environment.

Working remotely is a big drawcard for companies, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It offers employees a lifestyle where they can protect their personal time, but at the same time follow a healthy work-life balance.

Turn your Company Values into your Competitive Advantage

Turn your Company Values into your Competitive Advantage

Most companies implement core values for their business, but few have ever experienced the anticipated positive and lasting impact. When asked, people can’t remember their company’s core values, and have to physically look them up. That’s a clear indication that the core values are not alive, and neither are they actively lived out. They’re just empty, meaningless words which have been framed and stuck up on a wall somewhere in the office, showing that this particular organisational task has been executed. It’s extremely sad to see this, but you’ll be surprised to learn that it’s more the norm than the exception. If you don’t want to take my word for it, the Gallup Survey in 2007 revealed that 27% of employees believe in an organisation’s values, and only 23% apply them in their daily work tasks. This means that employees only align 27% of their decisions with their company’s core values, and the remaining 73% on their own personal values, gut feelings, or common sense. I’m not sure how you feel about that, but as a business owner I think that’s a high risk factor.

 

What are personal core values?

To make sure that we all understand what core values are and how they come about, I’m going to take some time to explain them. Values are things in our life that we find important, and those that we want to invest time and energy in pursuing because they provide us with meaning and fulfilment. Values are our internal guiding compass that show us what is morally right, good, important, and appreciated, thus supporting us to make decisions.

Living by your values means being authentic and true to yourself, and not behaving like you think you ought to be. It’s the person who freely chooses their values based on what’s significant to them, as well as the needs that ought to be fulfilled.

Practically speaking, though, our values can never be fulfilled or attained, and, as such, values serve as intrinsic motivators that shift our behaviour towards continuous striving. Our core values develop during our lifetime, and change depending on what’s significant, important, and meaningful to us at that particular time. They’re formed through a combination of what we value in our life, as well as through past life experiences. Most of us are aware of what gives us value, and understand that the lack of it causes emotional, physical, and cognitive distress. When you live your life according to your core values, you’ll feel fulfilled, authentic and satisfied; your life will feel as if it is in true harmony.

 

What are organisational core values?

Organisational core values are no different to personal values; however they develop differently, and have distinct objectives. In an organisation, it is customary for the executive leaders to design the mission and vision statement which explains why the company exists, and what its unique offering is. Based on these two things, the core values are designed to show how decisions will be made, as well as how people are expected to behave towards their colleagues, customers, and when completing work tasks.

Organisational core values are timeless, and apply in any economic situation as well as in any business cycle, be it a growth or a downsizing one. Think about it for a moment; you don’t change your personal values based on your life circumstances. If a situation causes you distress, you do your best to change it.

 

How organisational core values can be your competitive advantage

In any company, core values are the personality, the philosophy, the beliefs, and the way people behave internally. It really is about the interior heartbeat, and the culture. In today’s times, potential employees will go through your values on your website and establish whether there is value congruency between your and their personal values. They’ll research reviews written by your customers and how you responded to them. But it doesn’t stop there! A potential new recruit will do their own analysis of your organisational core values when they come for their interview. Also, your existing and potential customers will do the same thing; they’ll establish whether your values align with theirs.

The underlying reason is that our core values signal to others how we’re likely to behave, act, and make decisions; establishing if we’re reliable and trustworthy. This factor predicts future behaviour, and minimises upcoming disappointments, risks, and financial losses. Your core values are alive inside and outside your company, and with continuous focus and attention, you can implement something fairly easily so that it’s easy to manage and control it to your competitive advantage.

Ensuring that core values are alive and honoured on a daily basis are signs of a healthy company. Don’t be misled by financially successful companies who display their technical advantages, but don’t mention their human inner core values. These companies will rely heavily on procedures and processes that appear impressive from the outside, but result in bureaucratic red tape and an internal culture that’s stressful, toxic, and laden with conflict. I’m sure you’ve had the pleasure of dealing with this kind of company – they leave you feeling empty and flat as a customer because there’s no customer care or connection.

 

The values best practice

If you want to give your organisational values an overhaul and make sure that they come alive, and aren’t just empty words hanging over the reception area, here are five quick and easy ways to get started.

  1. Ensure that your values are determined by your employees and not your executive leadership team. As paradoxical as it may sound, staff live them every day and they want to have the autonomy to set and understand them.
  2. Values are behaviours that result in actions, and actions can be measured. Measure your values and establish which ones are being upheld all the time, which ones aren’t, and start to tweak them.
  3. Honouring and living organisational core values applies to everybody. The leadership team especially has to proactively model and demonstrate the core values all the time.
  4. People remember stories, so the best way to reiterate and emphasise core values is through sharing stories where a person in a team lived out a particular value. People will identify with the behaviour – perhaps they even witnessed it – and so they’ll remember it and will do their best to behave like that themselves.
  5. Reduce or minimise value incongruence by ensuring that your people’s personal values align as much as possible with the company’s. Have one-on-one conversations with people where you sense incongruence. Value incongruence is a key reason for people to leave companies, because they can no longer tolerate the working environment, the decisions made, and the ethics. This is always more expensive, both financially and productivity-wise, than you assume.

 

In closing

Organisational values have – unjustifiably – received a bad name, not by their doing but ours. As leaders we haven’t given values enough attention, and simply hope that, once named, they’ll form themselves.

Start today to take one of your core values and conduct a proper analysis or survey and establish whether it’s relevant to attaining the mission and vision statement. Is it actively lived out, is it clearly defined, and does everybody know how to behave?

As always, if you’d like us to perform this analysis for you, please contact me.

 

Don’t make these four post-COVID leadership mistakes

Don’t make these four post-COVID leadership mistakes

It’s the beginning of June, and most businesses have received government permission to open up after ten weeks of lockdown. For some, it will be the first full week back at the office, for others that happened a few weeks ago, and for some working from home remains the norm. There is an optimistic buzz on the roads as we pick up the vibes of what we know to be our normal working day.

Since the start of the lockdown, we’ve been overloaded with an abundance of expert opinions on why we can’t and won’t go back to the old way of working. We may agree with some of these views, while we won’t consider others because we can’t begin to imagine the working world operating in this new dimension. Regardless of how challenging it will be, you have to embrace finding a new normal for your team, and your business.

But what is this new normal everybody keeps referring to? On its own, the term is a contradiction as something new cannot be normal. It can be unique, novel, exciting, different, or transformational, but not normal. The biggest mistake leaders can make now is to go back into their businesses thinking that by tweaking one or two procedures, and being open to flexible home-office working, virtual teams, and digital customer support, that they’ve done what’s needed to be this ‘new normal’. But that’s not how it works! To use an analogy, you cannot edit an existing painting with a few paintbrush strokes, hoping to give it an entirely new look. You have to be courageous to put that painting aside, fetch a brand new canvas, and start creating a new work of art. The same applies in your business. Don’t return to work thinking that by rewriting your procedures, or being more digitally savvy you’ve done enough. This way of thinking will be a quick-fix solution, but one that won’t see you through the next year.

 

Four leadership mindset shifts

As a leader, you have to make four radical mindset shifts:

  1. Become a human strategist. This means being a leader with heart, compassion, empathy, and emotion. By sharing a part of your own life, emotions, fears, needs, and vulnerability you will help your team to trust and respect you as a role model. Then it’s about striking the balance between bringing in direction, focus, and setting the path for the future.
  2. Collectively assess and question every procedure and policy. Encourage the team to critically consider whether certain procedures and policies are necessary. Ask them to question whether it is needed, whether it serves any purpose, whether it can be done differently, and – most importantly – whether it can be simplified. Consider the KISS principle (Keep It Short and Simple).
  3. Embrace the shift to increased digital working. This way of working is something your employees and customers are used to now, and most even prefer it. Make sure that you have the necessary resources and training available on how to become efficient and skilled digital workers.
  4. Say goodbye to 9 to 5 working hours. Instead, say hello to the flexibility to work anywhere and at any time. Start to measure output, and value the person’s contribution rather than their physical hours in an office or time spent on a task.

I understand that some of these shifts might be easier than others. Make small adjustments and lean on your team for input and guidance. You don’t have to do this alone, and nobody is expecting you to.

This is the start of a series of posts I will share on transforming and growing your business, leadership skills, and teams. Remember that this is the crucial time to invest in your people. Call us for a free 30-minute no-obligation conversation on how we can support you and your team.

 

The Organisational Empathy Revolution is Here. Are You Ready?

The Organisational Empathy Revolution is Here. Are You Ready?

Empathy isn’t something that we’re hearing for the first time, but what is unique is that it’s finding its way into our business culture and vocabulary. In fact, in 2017 the Merriam-Webster dictionary identified empathy as the fourth most searched word of the year. This means that it really matters to us, and it’s here to stay. Instilling empathy in the workplace isn’t one of those nice-to-haves that you need to implement so that your people are happy and productive. Quite the opposite! It’s a long-term strategic culture decision that an organisation makes if it wants to experience satisfied customers, an engaged workforce, and a financially healthier business.

 

What is Empathy?

The most common definition of empathy is the ability to understand and experience the feelings and thoughts of another person. The aim is to get a better understanding of the other person’s perspective on a situation. Expressing empathy creates a positive and trusted connection among people; however, as always, we’re complex creatures and so we need to distinguish between the different types of empathy. American Psychologists, Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman classified empathy into the following three types.

  1. Cognitive empathy: the ability to distil how a person is feeling, and understand their thoughts. Developing cognitive empathy means being a good communicator because you can connect with the person at their ideal cognitive point.
  2. Emotional empathy: the ability to experience the feelings of another person. It’s about really understanding and intensely relating to another person’s emotions. Emotional Intelligence is the skill that assists you to build emotional connections with others.
  3. Compassionate empathy: is a combination of cognitive and emotional empathy, but has the additional component of being able to assist the person to take action to resolve their situation.

We all like to be understood and for others to consider – or at least listen to – our perspective. So, empathy is a two-way street, and you’ll receive as much as you give. It requires patience and practice, but it enriches relationships, minimises conflict, and improves problem-solving.

 

Empathy in the Workplace

The workplace is busy and we can get distracted by many things that continuously call for our attention. A client’s urgent deadline, a project that requires our input, wrapping our head around new systems, and managing a demanding colleague are all examples of things that distract us from focusing on empathy. We think that once a particular manic period is over, and a certain project has been completed, we’ll focus on empathy, but that day seldom comes because something more pressing always gets in the way. Empathy isn’t something you can squeeze into your workplace culture when you have time. It’s a strategic decision you make if you want to ensure your organisation remains profitable.

Sounds harsh, I know, but it’s the reality. Let’s look at some facts and figures to substantiate my comments.

  • The 2017 Gallup State of the Global Workplace report showed that high-performing employees who are not engaged at work will consider leaving. The only thing that would keep them there is empathy. Employers need to provide an environment in which high-performing employees are recognised and supported to achieve their career goals, where their needs are met, and where there is a work-life balance.
  • The 2018 Bussinessolver® State of Workplace Empathy reveals that 93% of employees say they’re more likely to stay with an empathetic employer. This figure proves that empathy as an organisational culture isn’t a nice-to-have, but a must-have. In fact, 92% of employees believe that empathy is undervalued in their organisation.
  • In the same survey, CEOs unanimously link an organisation’s financial performance to the level of empathy. The reason for the financial boost is that employees would be willing to work overtime for an empathetic organisation.
  • The 2016 Harvard Business Review highlighted that the ten most empathetic companies generate 50 percent more earnings than those at the bottom of the index.
  • Finally, Businessolver’s 2018 survey has ascertained that instilling empathy as a core value into the DNA of a business has a direct bearing on the workplace culture, innovation, productivity, and profitability.

These facts and figures might feel overwhelming to you, but you should use them as a motivator and a little nudge to start introducing empathy as a core value in your organisation.

 

What organisations aren’t acknowledging

All the surveys and statistics show that empathy in the workplace really does matter, but you have to decide whether you’re ready to embrace this change. Can you accept that empathy is what is going to motivate, unite, and connect people within your organisation? You may be sceptical and follow the “wait and see” approach, or believe that empathy doesn’t really apply to you. Then perhaps you should consider these four facts that all call for empathy in the workplace.

Firstly, women are becoming an equal representation in the workforce, and feel that organisations are only 33% empathetic and can do more. Women are dissatisfied with organisations’ low levels of empathy, and CEOs are aware that women in leadership positions would enhance the empathy quotient.

Secondly, employees are increasingly concerned and fearful about the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in the workspace. Are we even sure how AI will impact on our job security and the ability to connect with customers and colleagues?

Thirdly, despite the technology and online platforms, employees still value face-to-face communication the most because it’s easier to share and feel each other’s empathy. More efficient communication methods such as video conferences, emails, and text message definitely lose the empathy factor.

Finally, empathetic organisations attract and retain talent because it drives collaboration and innovation, and makes employees feel like they belong.

 

In Summary

Empathy impacts on how we engage with others in the workplace and outside of it, as well as how we experience our daily life. The chances are that if you encountered empathy today, you’ll pay it forward and give to someone else.

Be part of the empathy revolution, and start thinking how you can instil a more empathetic culture into your organisation today.

 

How to Keep Calm and Carry on During the Corona Crisis

How to Keep Calm and Carry on During the Corona Crisis

The time has never been more clearly upon us to be aware of ourselves and to take care of our physical, mental and emotional health. As leaders there is huge pressure to find ways to keep your employees and business running during this time of self-isolation, social distancing and economic lock down.

While I would love to be able to offer you solutions of how you can innovate your business to manage the current Corona Crisis,  there is no one-stop-shop solution to managing the unknown. In this article I would like to share some simple but effective strategies to—

  • keep calm and carry on during the Corona Crisis.
  • harness your internal resources to manage stress;
  • find rational ways to keep your team united; and
  • help innovate your business to cope with the current uncertainty.

 

How to Keep Calm and Carry on During The Corona Crisis

 

Keep Calm

As we all know from personal experience, no great ideas come when we are highly stressed — in fact it’s science. When we are in a high stress situation, our system goes into fight or flight mode. This serves an evolutionary purpose by focusing our attention to the direct, immediate threat and in this way helps us survive. However, in order to respond rationally and effectively in crisis we need to be able to think broadly, to see the bigger picture and to respond with innovative ideas. We cannot do this when we are in fight or flight mode.

While there is no perfect recipe for managing stress that can be offered to everyone, we all have ways and means of accessing our inner resources to keep calm and carry on. We have learned coping strategies which work for us, that can assist in lowering heart rate, increasing positive emotions and supporting us in releasing stress. Whether that is going for a walk, cooking, meditating or reading a book; there has never been a more important time in history for us to make use of these stress management strategies. So if you are feeling overwhelmed, fearful of the future or unsure what to do to keep calm and carry on during the Corona Crisis, step one is to relieve your stress by doing the things you enjoy. This will not only curb your anxiety and fear but will boost your positive emotions whilst increasing your capacity to think creatively about what needs to happen next.

 

Reflect and Prepare  

Once you are able to take deep breaths and think clearly, you can begin to strategise and problem‑solve your current challenges. While the Corona Crisis is a case study of the unknown, take the time now, while business is slow, to reflect on your current business practices and how you want to evolve. While it may seem counterintuitive to be doing this during a crisis, how you prepare for the future is largely dependent on your ability to think clearly and creatively about how you operate now and where you want your business to go.

 

Communicate: Openly, Honestly and Passionately

While everyone is social distancing, self-isolating, and trying to carry on during the Corona Crisis, there is no more important time than now to keep your communication channels open and responsive. Have meetings virtually, use online apps for task and project management, engage in your core values and communicate these clearly with your employees. Calmly keep them in the loop. Share the business’s challenges, concerns and fears and how you are strategizing and preparing for the coming times. This will not only ensure you maintain and build healthy relationships but will also show your employees that you value them, and reassure them that you are taking steps to ensure the future of your business.

 

Innovate

This is definitely not business as usual, so take this time to review how you could be working differently. At 4Seeds we are experts in guiding leaders to shift into a growth mindset, to become strengths-focused and to transform business culture. While just staying afloat is where most leaders are focused, this is a necessary time to start incorporating these approaches into your business focus.

Let’s take ‘strengths focus’, as an example. This is about acknowledging the inherent characteristics of each employee and how that can be used to best benefit business practices. If there is someone who is innately funny, light-hearted and playful, task them with fun ways to keep spirits high through humour. If someone else is passionate about learning, task them with researching what other businesses are doing in your industry. And if someone is inherently brave and courageous, get them to engage with clients, shareholders or thought leaders; put them on the frontlines and see them flourish. Make use of the skills, internal resources and passions (strengths) of your employees to help your business keep calm and carry on during the Corona Crisis.

 

Candid Conversations for Leaders in Crisis

4Seeds is hosting a supportive online forum for leaders, entrepreneurs, business owners and the self-employed, where we come together to share, innovate and be supported with skills, community knowledge and resources. This community space enables to individuals to better manage their daily work and personal lives during these turbulent times. 

It is at times like these that we need to think creatively, innovatively and collaboratively. 4Seeds is passionate about building value-driven, people-centred organisations. We care about the journey to becoming an effective leader by providing leaders with the resources to manage themselves, their teams and their businesses with confidence and competence. We are offering this online meeting space bi-weekly as a way to play our part in supporting the well-being of our clients, our economy and our country.

Join us on Tuesday evening at 19:00 – 20:30 (Book your seat) or Thursday morning at 10:30 – 12:00 (Book your seat).

Log in via Zoom from the comfort of your office, home or “personal isolation zone” to connect, network, support and learn together with a community of like-minded leaders just like you.  

Preventing crises in the workplace through positive team building

Preventing crises in the workplace through positive team building

It has been said that around 95% of organisations are either completely unprepared – or seriously underprepared – for crises, even the known ones. Most crises in the workplace stem from personal conflict, which often leads to a decline in morale, and gives way to a type of “don’t care” attitude. By having regular team interventions, we may gain not only insight into ourselves and our clients, but we can also mitigate current and future risks.

Employees play an essential role in a crisis, and should practice certain strategies in order to avoid conflict in the workplace. These would be things like discipline, respecting their workplace, being unbiased, knowing when is the right time to involve HR, actively listening to others, and applying empathy. Team leaders must  actively foster positive relationships within their teams, and plan team building events that are fun and motivational. It’s essential to work on team skills such as communication, planning, problem-solving and conflict resolution, and to encourage team members to spend time together outside of work.

Not surprisingly, the first stage of a crisis is prevention. Amazingly, it is usually skipped altogether, even though it’s the least costly and the simplest way to control a potential crisis. The problem may be that crises are accepted by many executives as an unavoidable condition of everyday existence.

 

Understanding crisis prevention

Crisis prevention plans are intended to help individuals in the workforce to prevent minor problems from escalating into crisis events. A crisis is defined as a difficult or dangerous time in which a solution is needed, and fast! In order for an organisation to survive a crisis, drastic and extreme measures are sometimes taken. The key to crisis prevention is to have level-headed, positive, creative, and loyal team members who support each other as well as the organisation wholeheartedly.

Being able to effectively respond in the event of a crisis is critical to an organisation’s survival. Whether or not it is prepared for a potential crisis depends on both leadership and the workforce within the organisation. Training, equipping, and supporting teams plays an important role in crisis prevention.

 

Crisis communication

Team building is the most important investment you can make for your staff. It builds trust, mitigates conflict, encourages communication, and increases collaboration. Accept the fact that every member of your team is a public relations representative as well as a crisis manager, no matter what their “official” role might be.

Keeping yourself and your team feeling empowered, with a strong sense of belonging, will naturally result in a stronger sense of responsibility. When individuals in the working environment feel as if they are valued, they will own their positions with a higher sense of duty, and communicate more openly. This is all generated through strong team building and strong leadership.

 

Crisis prevention

This is a fundamental, ethical, and responsibility issue which needs to be addressed during team interventions. Team members should not only have the confidence and be comfortable enough to act intuitively, but they must also feel a sense of duty and responsibility to act with initiative.

Whether a team member acts on their own in a corrective manner, or lets management know about an issue which poses potential risk to the organisation, IS NOT, in fact, the major issue. Whether a team member acts AT ALL, is.

Companies sometimes misclassify a problem, focusing on the technical aspects and ignoring issues of perception. Companies and teams must make plans for dealing with crises: action plans, communication plans, fire drills, and essential relationships, etc. Making a plan to deal with a variety of undesirable outcomes if disaster does strike is vital. It’s worth remembering that Noah started building the ark before the rain began.

 

Crisis management

Crisis management helps employees as well as organisations to cope with difficult times in the best possible way. There is an art to managing an emergency situation in the workplace, through effective planning and quick action. This needs to be done by leaders and employees during times of crisis.

Most importantly, once the organisation or team is out of crisis, it’s the leader’s duty to communicate the lessons learnt so that employees do not make the same mistakes again.

 

In conclusion

Almost every crisis contains the seeds of success as well as the roots of failure. Finding, cultivating, and harvesting that potential success is the essence of crisis management. And the essence of crisis mismanagement is the propensity to take a bad situation and make it worse.

In short, a good team will always be the perfect adherent to crisis prevention, while a not-so-good team, will run a bigger risk of falling into crisis. Discipline, both in the self and for authority, is what will prevent a constant state of crisis within an organisation, and lead to positive team building.

Four Ways that Healthy Workplace Relationships Can Build Motivation

Four Ways that Healthy Workplace Relationships Can Build Motivation

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 info@4seeds.co.za.

We look forward to working with you to create community and connection in your company.