South Africa has seen its fair share of unethical leadership in recent years, with the political and economic infrastructure being manipulated and managed for the benefit of a few. However, even though we know that this behaviour is unethical, the business world remains a complicated place with many grey areas which regularly test our moral compass.
Leaders, as the responsible people in the organisation, are often seen to be the ethical navigators and feel responsible for the misdemeanours or transgressions of others. Despite our best efforts, we cannot change the behaviour and motivation of others. However, without clarification of the expectations of the organisation, we cannot expect people to always know whether they are doing the right thing.
This does, unfortunately, mean that leaders have a role to play in ensuring that people remain within the moral conditions laid out by the organisation, and can be held accountable if these conditions are not in place.
In this article, we outline five conditions that you can apply to ensure that you are acting as an ethical leader. We hope to offer you some guidance which can protect you and your organisation from the unintended consequences of unethical behaviour.
Five Ways Your Workplace Can Make You an Ethical Leader
Codes of Conduct and Best Practice guidelines
Putting into a place a set of rules and regulations which stipulate the nature of managing unethical, illegal or morally challenging situations in the workplace, is a vital step for your organisation. When we don’t know what is expected of us, it’s easy for situations to unravel and ethics can become an emotional area to solve after the fact. Deciding on the policies which work for the team as well as unpacking the ethical challenges of your industry, the best practice guidelines for managing them, and how to regulate your organisation’s daily work, is a great way to collaborate on governance for which everyone has agreed to and is then responsible for upholding.
Training on ethics and company culture
Having the ability to make ethical decisions is not a given skill. Educating your employees will empower them to make informed decisions about their actions, and is essential to ensure that your staff are able to make ethical decisions. Providing regular training and seminars is one method, and can include the following:
- Updates on the latest best practice guidelines
- Updates on national and international industry rules and regulations
- Instilling commitment for your corporate values
- Providing guidance through challenging situations
- Encouraging them to speak up about mistakes and uncomfortable ethical behaviours where the team can discuss and learn from their mistakes or the challenges of others.
One of the key behaviours of ethical leadership is consistency and fairness. If only certain policies are respected, individuals are dealt with in disparaging ways, or consequences for unethical behaviours are inconsistently punished – then your organisation is in trouble. People notice when they are not managed fairly, and inconsistency can quickly deteriorate the trust, collaborative spirit, and psychological safety of people at work. Being consistent in what is regulated and how it is fairly implemented is key to ensuring that your reputation and codes of conduct are upheld inside and outside of the workplace.
Do what you say, and admit when you don’t. Being an ethical leader means being a role model for best practice. This requires you to know your core values and to behave them. As an example, it is one thing to say that you want everyone to be punctual but you are late for meetings, or that you respect your employees’ health but then send them tasks when they are on sick leave, or that you value work-life balance but you yourself always work overtime. Integrity is a highly necessary part of ethical leadership because, without it, your team will inevitably see you as false and will lose trust and respect for you. In order to be an ethical organisation, you as the leader have to be willing to follow the same protocols of behaviour that you set out for your staff.
Check your motivations
While there are many definitions of leadership, there is one concept that underpins them all. The idea of being responsible for something greater than oneself, and while there have been many tyrannical leaders in history, the true meaning of a leader is one who is not motivated by self-advancement but rather by the progress of the team and company as a whole. If you want to be an ethical leader you need to become aware of your motivations and be vigilant with yourself. Make sure that you know who you are and how your behaviours impact those around you. If you are making decisions which drive your own success or financial gain, you will not only lose the commitment of your staff, but you are setting an example that individual gain is more valuable than collective success.
As you can see, ethical leadership is as much about your own behaviour and intentions as it is about setting up clear and consistent procedures to guide ethical decision making. Being an ethical leader is not a simple task and requires regular self-awareness, education, and policymaking in collaboration with your team.
We wish you the best of luck in implementing our suggestions, and please do contact us on email@example.com if you have questions or need assistance.
Over the last few years, the number of private sector and government scandals have increased drastically. Every day, unethical and disgraceful behaviour and decisions are exposed, which obviously raises the question of where were the leaders at the time? Did they really not know what was going on within their company, did they turn a blind eye, or did they actively participate? When there is unethical leadership in an organisation, the implications are severe and often affect many employees and their families. Society is shocked, even enraged, by this behaviour, and call for justice to be served. However, the damage has been done, and people tend to lose trust in corporate governance and leadership. Unethical leadership seeps through society and leaves a vile taste in our mouths.
It is only in recent years that leaders have embraced an ethical consciousness in the management of an organisation, and have made ethical leadership a strategic executive topic. The word “ethics” originated from the Greek word “ethos” which means advocating moral behaviour and requirement. Ethics can, therefore, be inferred to mean to behave in an acceptable manner that is good and does no harm, opposed to doing “bad”. Being ethical is honouring your values and moral principles which enables you to behave legally and morally correctly, thus protecting the larger community. Ethical dilemmas arise if there is uncertainty and conflict between different people’s interests, values, and beliefs. In an organisation, ethical behaviour is commonly referred to as a “Code of Conduct” or “Best Practice” where both require the organisation’s culture to drive ethical behaviour. Ethical leadership is about living out these critical high-standard principles, which is done through an active process of enquiry. It is also about developing an enquiring mindset that continuously asks explorative questions. Taking it a step further, it is extending this concept to the entire organisation which gives each and every person the permission to enquire and ask questions.
A leader’s character plays a role in their ethical performance. Jones (1995) said that ethical behaviour is a personal disposition, and a character that you are born with, rather than one that has been acquired through training and learning. An ethical leader has a conscious mind, and is self-controlled and aware of the dire consequences of unethical behaviour. It is not a risk they’re willing to take as it would conflict with their inner values and beliefs. Zander (1992) identified ten characteristics of an ethical leader:
The Ethical Leader
- being humble
- being concerned for the greater good
- being honest and straightforward
- honouring commitments
- striving to be fair
- taking responsibility for their actions and behaviour
- showing respect for each individual
- encouraging others to develop
- serving others, and
- showing courage to stand up for what is wrong.
In a business environment, ethical leadership can be summarised as: (1) being honest, (2) being trustworthy, and (3) having integrity. Trust is related to demonstrating consistent, reliable, and predictable behaviour. Ethical leaders treat people with respect, dignity, fairness, are transparent in their communication, and have no double standards. Gallup, in their 2004 survey which comprised of 50 000 employees spread over 27 countries, demonstrated that respect is the primary characteristic in the workplace that people value the most. It is therefore no surprise to see it as a main characteristic in ethical leadership behaviour. Integrity is a very sought after characteristic in the business environment, and it means being honest with oneself and others, learning from mistakes, and engaging in a constant process of self-development and improvement. Demonstrating this behaviour ensures that the leader is a role model, and this should encourage others to behave in the same manner. The concept of “follow-the-leader” applies.
For leaders to roll out ethics within an organisation, they use their internally designed values. On the one hand, an organisation’s values are aimed at achieving the strategic goals, but on the other hand they are the collective moral compass of behaviours in an organisation. Researchers Blanchard & Peale (1996) identified five organisational values that support driving ethical behaviour throughout an entire organisation:
- Pride – having high esteem and respect for what the organisation stands for, the values, the people, and the mannerism in which the organisation is operating.
- Patience – being humble and accepting that it takes time to implement strategies that support the organisation to reach its strategic goals.
- Prudence – exercising sound judgement and not making risky decisions in good as well as in challenging times in the organisation.
- Persistence-the continuous quest to take all the necessary steps and actions to achieve a goal. Overcoming overwhelm, and moving forward with an ethical obligation to attain a goal.
- Perspective – the capacity and ability to determine what is truly important in any given situation.
The final question arises as to why organisations engage in unethical behaviour knowing the risk of being caught out at some stage. The answer cannot possibly be to remain competitive and have a cutting edge advantage, even if it will be for a short amount of time. I believe that market success and ethical leadership go hand in hand, and you cannot have the one without the other. Unethical behaviour leaks to the outside environment, and it won’t be long before society begins to hear about it and stops engaging with the organisation. It pays to be ethical and to uphold ethical leadership and values.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
Leadership is not easy. Often, people find themselves in leadership positions without the adequate leadership skills to effectively manage their team’s performance, well-being and motivation. While these indicators alone serve as signs of a struggling leader, there are some other very clear warning signals that a manager is drowning under the pressure of their new position.
Moving from a team member into a leadership position is not easy, and the skills needed to manage a team are not often offered when someone steps into a new position. Our Meaningful Leadership Development Programme aims to provide new managers with the personal awareness and practical knowledge needed to bridge the gap, and support overwhelmed new leaders.
At 4Seeds we tend to lean towards offering advice and positive practical solutions to common organisational issues; however, in this article we aim to provide some clear indicators of what to look out for in your new leaders and managers.
Four warning signs of an overwhelmed leader
In an ideal world, before starting a new leadership position you would have the space to develop goals as well as a vision of what you want to achieve as a new leader. However, this is almost never the case. One day you’re an employee and the next you’re the manager. When this happens, a new leader won’t have had the time to align their vision with their actions and can easily become overwhelmed by the tasks ahead rather than seeing the bigger picture. This lack of vision and goal alignment can result in new leader starting to micromanage through poor delegation, incomplete information sharing, or excessive meetings. This becomes a challenge because without the adequate skills and support it can lead to mistrust, meaningless tasks and resentment from subordinates.
Constant state of damage control
A common trait of an overwhelmed leader is that they experience “decision freeze”. Paralysed by the pressure to make the right decisions (and the lack of vision mentioned above), the new leader goes into a frozen state of stress. They appear idle to the outsider, halting new ideas and managing issues only when they become urgent. While this can be a common position for many leaders, new and experienced, it is not a sustainable approach and can lead to a highly stressful and tense working environment for the whole team.
Increased rumours and corridor talk
Overwhelmed leaders often deal with their team ineffectively, in one of two ways. Either they will hold an excessive number of meetings, trying to keep everything in their control, or they will let everyone continue as normal and communicate very little with the team. This second style of communication can often lead to team members finding ways to discuss and gossip about leadership outside of formal channels. Corridor talk is dangerous to a new leader and it can quickly break down trust and affect the healthy, transparent dialogue needed to work together effectively.
“Head in the sand” approach
When one is promoted into leadership there are a lot of unspoken expectations and responsibilities that come into play – having a hand on the pulse of the team is just one of them.
An effective leader knows each of their team member’s strengths, goals and working style, and can manage the individual to further the outcomes of the team. However, as a new leader this awareness takes time and as there are so many tangible responsibilities to attend to, they may often neglect (consciously or unconsciously) this subtle but essential duty of their position.
A “head in the sand” approach becomes obvious when decisions are made without the leader’s knowledge, when absenteeism increases, or when employee retention rises. Employees need to be recognised and validated for their individual contributions to the outcomes of the team, the lack of which can quickly lead to dissatisfaction and disengagement. A new leader needs to be able to see the individual value of each team member and communicate this authentically – a skill which is not easy to learn under pressure.
So what now?
Stepping into a leadership position will always be challenging and it will take time to become comfortable with new responsibilities; however, a leader that has been given adequate skills and support will be more resilient to these difficulties and is more likely to succeed in their new role.
Equipping leaders with the skills, knowledge and personal awareness needed to be a meaningful leader is our job. At 4Seeds we believe that all leaders are unique and that with the right knowledge and support they can all become meaningful leaders for their teams and organisations.
Want to upskill your new leaders? Check out our Meaningful Leadership Development Programme.
Leadership: A Context
Most people strive to be promoted and climb the workplace ladder into a higher position, with their eyes set on becoming a manager and then a leader. So, why is it that when they reach the desired point for which they worked so tirelessly, things change drastically. Suddenly a star performer’s productivity and performance drops, their motivation dwindles, they deliver late, their work quality drops, and mistakes creep in. They won’t be sure how it happened and will be like a deer in the headlights, unable to move.
The analogy of the startled deer is precisely what happens. The newly-promoted leader enters a state of paralysis where they can’t move, begin to doubt their own abilities, lose confidence, and are unable to make concrete decisions. The senior leaders will ask themselves what has happened to their star performer, the person who was recently promoted and who they were expecting to fire like a rocket.
What has happened to their star performer is that they have become “paralysed” in their new role. They were previously technically competent and highly skilled which made them perform at their best. Senior leaders recognised the potential in their star performer and promoted them to a more senior role with additional responsibility and a few team members reporting to them. What may appear as a formidable gesture turns into a nightmare. The challenge lies in the fact that the star performer has been promoted without the necessary leadership training on how to embrace their new role, tasks and most importantly how to lead their team. The essential people and soft-skills were never imparted, with the newly-appointed leader doing their best to figure it out by themselves. They will have to learn in a DIY style when it comes to leadership, which is not a recommended approach. Unfortunately, we see this situation very often and are called in to assist through coaching, training or workshops. Our next story is precisely about that.
The client was a well-established family-owned business where the owners wanted to grow the business to a level where they could hand over their legacy to the next generation leaders in the next 15 years. The leaders they had identified had been working in the business for the past 10 years which was why promoting them to manager seemed like a natural next step. It was everything but that.
After the initial feelings of elation and pride, the reality set in and the team’s as well the manager’s performance began to drop. Customers complained, mistakes occurred, team morale dipped, and workplace tension was escalating for everybody.
We were called in to help this manager make the transition from previously being part of the team and now being their manager. In addition, we needed to help the manager with some leadership skills.
Approach and process
We engaged with the manager for over 10 months, with meetings every two weeks. We designed a structured plan upfront of what would be key items to focus on as we believe that each situation is unique and each leader requires different skills to develop and grow. However, in this case study we will share three main things we applied to get the transition moving forward.
- Shifting the mindset from team member to manager. This is the most difficult transition to make because their role will have changed completely from one day to another. Yesterday they were part of the team sharing tea breaks and lunches with them, and now they are their manager giving direction on work tasks to be completed. Suddenly, they are accountable for their own work, as well as delegating, and planning. For the manager, this is the most stressful and difficult time to make the transition because they have not yet identified themselves with their new role, and sometimes they will slip back into what’s familiar. The transition occurs gradually but has to be approached consciously. They will need assistance in terms of listing what behaviours they need to let go of and identifying how this can be done by exploring what they can replace them with. This stage requires time and patience as the transition does take about three months.
- Learning to communicate with their team. Communication is a large and important topic for any manager to embrace. It has many components to it such as listening, asking questions, providing feedback, and managing conflict. With this situation, we taught the manager to rely on his natural people strengths. We encouraged him to listen without interrupting, ask questions to understand and not judge, ask for help from senior leaders when he wasn’t sure, and to give his team feedback. He needed to trust his intuition when communicating, and also to learn to find the right balance on when to be empathetic and when to be firm. We raised the communication levels through regular brief face-to-face morning team meetings and used emails more for information sharing rather than for conversations. The last thing we focused on was addressing conflict or disputes very early on and not allowing them to go unaddressed and spiral out of control. We showed him to be mindful to focus on the situation that was under dispute and never the person.
- Building positive trusting relationships seems to be an obvious one, but the words “positive” and “trusting” change the dynamic in relationships. Finding the ideal balance is tricky for even the most seasoned leader. Relationships are about having a sense of awareness for oneself and others, and can be categorised into building social and emotional intelligence. We are all unique human beings who think, feel and sense differently. What motivates one person doesn’t motivate another, and as a leader, it’s learning to build, nurture and maintain different relationships at various levels. The things we specifically focused on here was to let go and to trust the team to do their tasks, learning to not micro-manage and to give continuous feedback on the work completed.
This three-step process was the start for the manager to transform. Many other soft skills and building blocks were shared, but are not discussed in this article. From the day we started the intervention, the manager has grown and developed a level of confidence and self-worth and has set new goals in his personal and professional life. There is nothing more rewarding than to witness an individual growing and developing in both these domains.
If your newly-appointed manager or leader is experiencing similar challenges, and you’d like our support, contact us at email@example.com to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our expert team.
The concept of leadership does not often consider the role that self-management plays in effectively achieving business outcomes. However, while the demands on leaders increase as our organisations become more positive, there is a need for greater self-management for each individual in the organisation. This need will only grow in the coming years as flexitime, remote offices and digital collaboration becomes the norm.
Before we unravel how to grow self-management in the workplace, we need to define it.
Self-management is the ability of each individual in the organisation to demonstrate the skills needed to manage their own time and work priorities, the insight to manage their own emotions and behaviours, and the confidence to take responsibility for problems that arise and to report back accurately on progress.
In this article we will offer insight into how self-management can be developed in the workplace, and why self-management is valuable for the modern-day workplace.
While this may be challenging for some leaders to read and reflect upon, a growing awareness of how your leadership style can impact the growth and development of self-management in your employees is a strong starting point to grow your business for the modern world.
Self-Management Starts with Self-Awareness
The art of successful self-management is the ability of each individual to reflect on their own internal processes. Social and emotional intelligence and ownership of one’s beliefs and behaviours are key elements of self-awareness, the development of which can create trusting and healthy relationships between leaders and staff as well as between team members.
Each one of these components is a continued learning and growth pathway for individuals, and requires consistent effort in order to gain better management of oneself. As a leader in this process, there are a lot of benefits to you knowing yourself better and providing a pathway for the rest to follow.
If a leader is triggered emotionally or socially, they will be unable to manage the other individual from a healthy and objective viewpoint. Therefore, in order for individuals to become empowered to self-manage, they will need the support of a self-aware role model. The leader in this scenario has to be attuned to their internal world, aware of their own responses, and willing to take responsibility for their emotions and actions so that their staff respect and follow them based on influence instead of authority.
Developing emotional intelligence and awareness of one’s beliefs and behaviours takes curiosity, insight and self-appreciation. But one needs to be willing to not always be right but rather to choose to be authentic.
The process of self-awareness is not easy, however much of the conflicts, disengagement and employee turnover we are experiencing in the workplace are due to mismanaged emotions, limited beliefs and disrespectful behaviours which cause people to become disconnected.
Another element of self-awareness is to become aware of our character strengths. By virtue of the fact that we are innately good at something means we are more intrinsically motivated to perform any actions that use the said strength.
A strength focus is key to self-management, as individuals who know what they are good at and are given the opportunities (and the autonomy) to have their work align with their strengths, will need less management and incentives from leaders as the tasks themselves will provide the motivation to continue working towards their goals and provide quality outputs.
The Role of Leadership in Self-Management at Work
Self-management involves a non-hierarchical approach in the workplace. With working environments becoming less like a food chain of power politics, and organisational commitment at an all-time low, there is a need for individuals to become more autonomous in the workplace.
While this may seem daunting to many leaders who already have a lot on their agenda and a stronghold approach to employee management, the beauty of self-management is that once it has begun, it only needs to be maintained. However, a key element to building a self-management culture is trust – leaders will need to become aware of their own insecurities and ego in order to hand over the responsibility to their staff. While not easy or simple, one cannot be empowered to take care of oneself if someone else it taking care of us. A basic premise of this was first introduced by Stephen Karpman in his Drama Triangle Model.
In any conflict situation we tend to play one of three roles unless we have the self-awareness to step out of the circle:
1) The Victim: Believes they need saving and if not helped will perceive themselves to be persecuted. These individuals will struggle to be independent and find it difficult to make decisions.
2) The Persecutor: Believes they cannot be vulnerable for fear that they become a victim. They are inflexible and use power and criticism, however rarely solve problems or actually help the situation.
3) The Rescuer: Believes they need victims to help and can’t allow people to succeed because then their role is not needed. They become guilty if not helping people and use guilt to keep the dependence of the victim. They often have a martyr style, and are usually worried, overworked and exhausted.
Do you see yourself in this triangle? I am sure you can see how this cycle perpetuates itself unless we have the insight to remove ourselves from it. If we start to adopt this lesson into leadership, we can begin to see how empowering others to step out of the triangle and into their own power is essential for self-management and healthy, trusting relationships.
This first step of self-awareness can help leaders shift from instructing authority figures to guiding role models. Employees can move from being victims into self-confident drivers of their own lives, and those that have the tendency to rescue can begin to look within and take responsibility for themselves and respect the decisions of others without becoming involved. Once out of the drama triangle, each individual can begin to align to the culture of the organisation and benefit the bottom line from their own autonomy rather than from an unconscious external motivation.
Self-management inherently considers each individual empowered to execute their role in the organisation. However, leadership still plays a vital role in this non-hierarchical process as only once leaders trust and support self-management, and take responsibility for their own self-development, can each individual in the organisation actually take responsibility for themselves.
Through a self-management culture, the daily burden of micromanagement, sleepless nights and fear of delegation can be reduced, leaving leaders to do what they do best; sculpt the vision of the organisation and create the systems that progress its mission.
Our first article on agile leadership was written on 5 September 2016. That’s almost three years before the phrase “agile leadership” became a familiar business buzzword. Today, we hear and read about agile leaders, agile managers, agile employees, and agile organisations all the time. While reading through that blog, I feel that we were on the button with our comments, but would like to add some new wisdom and information.
Defining Agile Leadership
Let’s start by defining what an agile leader is, and how it differs from previous names such as authentic, transformational, democratic, or autocratic leader. An agile leader can lead a wide range of complex and diverse circumstances, and is able, in a crisis situation, to realign human resources where most needed. In the current VUCA (vulnerable, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) business world, agile leaders are nimble and light on their feet; able to adjust their decisions, focus, and attention on the spur of the moment, while innovating, inspiring and motivating their team to commit to the new strategy.
Characteristics of Agile Leaders
Leadership experts and researchers have identified that an agile leader demonstrates four core characteristics:
- A deep sense of purpose of why their team and organisation exists, and what they intend to achieve. This sense of purpose brings focus, clarity, meaning, a sense of belonging, and direction.
- Being comfortable with the complex unknown means having a vigilant eye for change and opportunities. Feeling confident, positive and familiar with the uncertainty and navigating through it.
- Experimenting and trying things out which speaks directly to being open-minded, growing and learning. Being courageous and brave to charter unknown waters. Inspiring others to be creative and innovative.
- A lifelong student who never stops learning, exploring and growing. Conscientiously expanding their knowledge and competencies. And if they don’t know, then being streetwise enough to know where to go to find the information.
Here is the original article written on 5 September 2016:
The silly season is over and we can now begin to slowly get back into our work routines. It’s time to start planning our next twelve months with hope and optimism, and gearing ourselves up for a new year with inspiring strategies and stretch goals. We all have ideas as to how we’ll grow our businesses to the next level, but every plan is only as good as the person who executes it.
This raises a question for leaders: “What do my employees want in 2019?”
Besides having secure jobs that provide them with satisfaction, here are six things that employees want from their organisations because they provide fulfilment for them.
1. Meaning and Purpose
Research has shown that employees are yearning for work that provides them with meaning. This translates to them understanding whose life they enrich through their work. For them, it’s about establishing a personal connection to the work, and understanding how it contributes to others or society. Also, meaningful work means giving employees work challenges that are not mundane or routine based. These are projects that stretch and grow them but don’t set them up for failure.
Communication is such a vast topic, and can span from listening to receiving feedback and managing conflict. Although these may all be applicable, what employees want the most is to engage in dialogue in a kind, respectful and fair manner. They want to know that their ideas are heard and seriously considered. It’s important to them to receive regular feedback on their work as well as suggestions on what they’re doing well and where there is room for improvement.
Conveying appreciation for work done is the foundation to motivate and stimulate engagement. Employees want to know that you, the leader, have seen their work and taken the time to praise them for it. They want to be recognised for their strengths, skills and the effort they applied to a task, which will result in them repeating the positive behaviour. This will in turn raise service quality, performance standards and customer satisfaction.
4. Job crafting
This is giving employees the choice as to how to complete a task. It may be scary for some leaders because they feel they’re giving away control, but employees want the freedom to decide how they perform a certain task. It’s important for leaders to give them the autonomy to bring in their creativity, personality and unique strengths. Leaders can set the boundaries of when they want something done which will ensure that it’s within the organisation’s policies and standards, but thereafter it’s good to give your employees free reign.
5. Work-life balance
The traditional 9 to 5 working day may look good on paper, but in reality, we often commit more time to work then that. Employees want the agility to combine their lives with work, and vice versa, which will give them the flexibility to decide when they want to play and when they need to work. Again, stipulate the boundaries of the 40-hour work week, the need to complete tasks on time, and to come to the office at least once a week or whatever applies to your organisation and industry. Be mindful that people are productive at different times of the day, in different environments, and in various circumstances. As much as many organisations are doing their best to hold onto the traditional working hours, flexi-time will become the accepted norm.
We know that relationships are a key factor to our happiness, and having healthy, trusting relationships at work matters to us. Employees want good camaraderie and friendships with their co-workers because that reduces stress, enhances trust, and opens up communication. Make it easy for employees to have a social area where they can connect and exchange work experiences with their colleagues.
Employees aren’t demanding the impossible from their organisations, and with some effort and changes, every organisation can meet these six needs. Let’s be honest; we all want positive, fulfilling and happy work environments, and it doesn’t take much to make it happen.
While the ever-present stress of working in today’s world puts strain on individuals and organisational cultures, there are some fundamental environmental and cultural factors which can ease the pressure. Unfortunately, even though we may want to do our best work and have a positive work experience, this is often compromised by factors outside our control, and these unresolved conflicts impact overall organisational culture and business success.
Most organisations don’t plan on being negative environments for their employees’ well-being; however if they don’t pay attention to the unseen culture of the organisation, it can lead to some serious negative side effects, including:
- High absenteeism
- Stress-related health conditions
- Reduced productivity
- Unhealthy and toxic communication habits
- Politics and internal conflicts
- High levels of dissatisfaction
These side effects speak for themselves in terms of the impact they have on organisational culture and employee well-being; however, what often happens is that we leave them untouched hoping they’ll resolve themselves. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and prolonged negative work environments usually lead to:
- High staff turnover
- Reduced work satisfaction which impacts commitment and motivation
- Low staff morale and team unity
- Higher amounts of HR issues relating to employee conflicts
So how can we tell that we’re working in a negative work environment? Well, there are a range of factors, but the truth is – you’ll feel it. Mistrust, closed communication, reduced collective problem solving, increased discomfort and reduced motivation are key indicators that your organisation is on a downwards slope.
But how do you know if you’re working in a positive organisation?
In South Africa there appears to be a lot of focus on logistical elements of organisational management which, while important, can lead to the people focus being less highly regarded. In this article we aim to highlight the key signs of whether you’re working in a positive organisation, and through it we hope to expose you to the often unseen elements which impact your employees and, in the end, directly impact your bottom line success.
Indicators of a Positive Organisational Culture
It is all well and good to have a values list stuck up on a wall in the office, however truly positive organisations bring their values to life. It’s simple to say, “we value diversity”, however is your organisation really upholding this value? Does everyone have equal representation? Can everybody share from their personal viewpoint without being shut down or silenced?
Value integrity comes in many forms from the words said, the actions performed, and the morals upheld in the organisation. These will differ depending on the values of your organisation, however one of the key indicators of whether you value integrity in your organisational culture is whether your own personal values are in accordance with those laid out by your organisation. If there is a connection on a personal level, it will filter out into every level of the organisation.
- A Relaxed and Productive Environment Organisational Culture
While it may seem obvious that we need to work in an environment that is conductive to concentration and productivity, this may not always be the reality. Bull pens, casual interruptions, social media access and colleague conversations can all have an impact on our capacity to do the “deep work” that truly improves organisations. Another area to consider when reviewing your working environment is whether you’re relaxed in your work space. Our brains require a baseline level of relaxation before we’re able to fully commit our attention to the task at hand, so notice whether your work space allows you to relax and concentrate fully on your tasks. A positive organisation should be encouraging a conducive environment through physical, sensory and mental conditions, as much as is possible within the given industry.
A positive organisation prioritises quality as much as quantity when it comes to outcomes for its clients. This is a balancing act and requires attention to both features when considering employee performance. While this may seem obvious and most organisations already have quality audits to ensure they’re producing the best products, what can often be forgotten is the people side of what it takes to achieve excellence. A positive organisational culture should be supporting the employees within the organisation to upskill, learn, and progress in their careers, and experience personal development through their roles. When an organisation commits to the individual improvement of its employees, the overall quality of their outcomes grows exponentially. Is your organisation committed to excellence?
- Open and Honest Communication
Corridor talk, internal politics and a lack of transparency are just some of the common problems experienced in many organisations. When open communication is not present, this can often lead to mistrust, a lack of psychological safety and employees wanting to “vent” to their peers which fuels the cycle to continue. Open communication can be either formal or informal, written or verbal. A positive working environment and an organisational culture with open communication will be easy to identify as there will be fewer cliques, less gossip, rumours, politics and uncertainty.
- Collaboration and Support
A healthy and positive team environment is one that supports creativity, problem solving and collaboration. There will also be compassion, respect and understanding underlying interactions. If you’ve ever been in toxic team environment you’ll know the signs – taking credit for someone else’s work, backstabbing, rumour spreading, unequal opportunities for expression, and bullying. A positive team environment is perhaps one of the key elements to creating a positive organisational culture because once teams are working together effectively and supportively, it can quickly spread into the culture of the rest of the organisation. If you want to identify whether you’re in a positive organisation, start to notice whether you have collaboration, peer support, learning through doing (reflection and problem solving), and both formal and informal meeting opportunities.
“A good sense of humour is an escape valve for the pressures of life.”
In South Africa we’re incredibly lucky to have a culture of humour. To laugh at ourselves, at what doesn’t work, at our frustrations and at each other in a kind way is one of our biggest weapons against the potential slip into negativity. A good sense of humour creates a light and playful culture within an organisation and can really be the antidote to daily stress as it releases endorphins and reduces cortisol (our stress hormone) built up throughout the day. Do you laugh enough in your organisation?
Unfortunately, in the traditional working paradigm, the elimination of humanity is standard operating procedure. A progressive, positive organisation considers the individual, and with that comes a flexibility in management of resources, time, expectations, methodology and differences in outcome – of course without compromising the quality of the organisation’s objectives. Flexibility while challenging to manage can be a vital way for employees to experience autonomy and acknowledgement because when we’re seen and heard as ourselves we’re more in control (over time use, task completion and work-life balance) and will experience a rise in intrinsic motivation and commitment to the organisation.
- Emphasis on environment, family and health
In this millennial world, the nature of our organisations has changed. From CSI (Corporate Social Investment) initiatives, family fun days, unconventional team building events and wellness programmes, there’s a revolution happening when it comes to an organisation’s responsibility to support, respect and act towards improving the lives of its employees and the greater community. This is becoming more common in organisations across the board, but provides a good indicator to see whether you’re in fact working in an organisation that has positive intentions.
Take Home Message
There’s a lot of pressure to be a better organisation, a better leader and a better person. This article is not intended to cause guilt, blame or negative sentiments towards your organisation because it doesn’t meet these criteria. Rather, it may help to explain why you’re experiencing conflicts and chaos at work and will hopefully give you a starting point to begin making positive changes in your work place.
If you’re not sure where to start, then don’t worry. 4Seeds is passionate about building skills and resources for happier workplaces in South Africa and we’d love to help you.
We’ll gladly come to your office for a FREE 30-minute Positive Workplace Talk to help start the conversation and to build awareness about how you and your organisation can become healthier, happier and more successful. If you’re interested, or know someone who may need us, then send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to get involved.
The times are changing and we’re here to support you on your route to success.