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Four Warning Signs of an Overwhelmed Leader

Four Warning Signs of an Overwhelmed Leader

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


  • Micromanagement

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.

Case Study: Promoted to manager, now what?

Case Study: Promoted to manager, now what?

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 info@4seeds.co.za to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our expert team.

Why Self-Management Matters in the Workplace

Why Self-Management Matters in the Workplace

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.


How to Become an Agile Leader

How to Become an Agile Leader

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

Six Things Employees Really Want in 2019

Six Things Employees Really Want in 2019

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.

2. Communication

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.

3. Recognition

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.

6. Connections

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.

Eight Unknown Indicators of a Positive Organisational Culture

Eight Unknown Indicators of a Positive Organisational Culture

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
  • Burnout

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

  • Value Integrity

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.

  • Commitment to Excellence

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 Sense of Humour

“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?

  • Flexibility

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 info@4seeds.co.za and we’ll be happy to get involved.

The times are changing and we’re here to support you on your route to success.

Company Culture: A Call for More Civility in the Workplace

Company Culture: A Call for More Civility in the Workplace

In the workplace there is little room for civility and kindness unless it is ingrained in a company culture. Business tends to lean towards being hard-nosed and competitive with people adopting the “what’s in it for me” attitude. This has resulted in an unspoken culture of incivility in companies, a behaviour that we’ve all probably engaged in from time to time but one which we don’t approve of. Incivility means that we’re disrespectful and undignified towards others, and express this by not listening attentively, by looking at our phone while someone is speaking to us, working on our laptop while talking, taking credit for a job that we didn’t do, blaming others and not taking ownership when we make a mistake, walking away from people while they’re still talking, publicly mocking or belittling people, being dismissive towards others, ignoring or excluding people in conversations, and withholding information. We may not be doing these things with malice but rather from a place of ignorance; however, in a workplace environment incivility in a company culture comes at a high cost. It doesn’t matter if you’re directly involved or if you’re observing incivility towards a colleague, it affects you just as much!

Incivility can be summarised as being blatantly rude towards others and not respecting diversity. Most leaders are actively doing their best to promote and get a healthy balance within their teams and using diversity to appreciate and leverage off each other’s many and varied talents, skills, strengths, ideas and perspectives. Incivility simply pours ice cold water over diversity. Research shows that incivility within a company culture results in decreased work performance, reduced creativity and brainstorming by up to 39%, disengagement in meetings, a lack of attention to instructions, and emotional exhaustion. Incivility comes at a high cost to organisations, but it is seldom ring-fenced as such. We think that people are under pressure to perform and busy with work tasks which makes multi-tasking acceptable, when in actual fact it is not. We’ll start to see little cliques developing within our teams and will notice that some of our colleagues are more isolated from the team than they should be. We all see it, but we don’t always take the time to stop, think about it and reflect over its impact on others, the team and our organisation. We may be directly involved and know how emotionally draining it feels to be sidelined or bullied by others, but we don’t often stand up for ourselves. We see it, we hear it, we feel it, but we don’t do enough about it to stop it, and we allow this uncivil behaviour of others to wash over us. Incivility in the workplace is not ok and it’s not acceptable. The change can come from leadership and be filtered down, but it can also start with you and be filtered down to your co-workers.

To shift the lever from incivility to being civil and respectful can start with being kind and empathetic towards others by using these tools.

  1. Saying thank you can go a very long way. These are two very simple and easy words that we only use 10% of the time at work. Be civil by thanking the people around you for their contribution, for their ideas and for their commitment. Thank you is also about acknowledging the person and being respectful of their work, time, ideas and resources. It’s about not taking other people for granted. Make a conscious effort to thank people more often.
  2. Share resources and knowledge: At work we often hold onto our knowledge believing that if we share it with others it may make us perhaps dispensable or vulnerable as others can use our work, ideas and concepts. Quite the contrary is true! When we share our knowledge and resources, we make room for innovation and allow for creativity with new ideas and concepts. Sharing is definitely caring, and often through conversation entirely novel ideas emerge. Not to mention that nowadays most of the knowledge can be googled and doesn’t have the prestige and power it did 20 or 30 years ago. Share your time and knowledge openly, frequently and generously.
  3. Give feedback generously and express gratitude: Giving someone feedback goes a level deeper than simply saying thank you as you have to be more specific. Articulate clearly what you liked about what they did and want more of, or what you think could be improved on. The art here is not to be general, but to really take the time to be specific about their behaviour, language, skill or process as that depth helps people to make the necessary change, by either repeating a behaviour, tweaking it or mastering it. Also, share what you’re grateful for in the person, and acknowledge them for the strengths and values they bring to your work.
  4. Attentive listening and attention: How often do you catch yourself listening with one ear, nodding away to the person talking, but already thinking of something else? It’s an unhealthy habit many of us have developed that is completely rude. We know very well what it feels like to be on the receiving end and we don’t like it at all, so be civil and don’t do it to others. Stop what you’re doing and honour what the person has come to share with you. Listen attentively to them about what they want or need from you. Tune into their mind and way of thinking so that you can solve a problem quicker or address their concern without miscommunication. Listening saves time and demonstrates respect towards the other person.

The time has come to reduce incivility in the workplace and to shift into humane engagements that value respect and honour diversity and kindness. Don’t wait for others to kick-start this; be courageous and start with your team and your co-workers.

Take this brief civility assessment to establish what your score is as well as areas that you can improve on: http://www.christineporath.com/take-the-assessment/

Do your bit to change your workplace into a happy environment.

Leaders, It’s Time for a Mindset Shift!

Leaders, It’s Time for a Mindset Shift!

To lead ourselves can often be a challenge in itself. But when we lead a team or a company, the responsibility for ensuring productivity and motivation becomes all the more complex. Often leaving leaders feeling overwhelmed and under-satisfied.

There are many reasons for this, but this overwhelm is often related to three prominent limiting beliefs which society has cultivated, and which we have held close to our hearts for what I believe to be way too long.

This toxic triad includes a fixed mindset, a weakness focus and the belief that belonging and diversity are incompatible. When in effect, this combination leads to disconnection, hopeless and loss of esteem in self and society. An exhausting and destructive situation for any team or company to find itself in.

In this article, I will unpack these three beliefs and introduce a potential antidote for each one, which when applied in the leadership of teams can:

  • Increase collective achievement
  • Boost collaboration and innovation
  • Encourage individual growth and development


So, let’s get started.


Shifting from The Toxic Triad

For as long as we can remember, there has always been a focus on what is not working, on where we are weak, and the differences between “us” and “them”. This worldview potentially served our empires, agricultural settlements and self-preservation efforts. However, as we move towards a more global community and economy, with every waking (and sleeping) moment, the need to build positive, collaborative efforts becomes of utmost importance. For us to begin breaking down these barriers, we need to know more about these three limiting beliefs and begin seeing how they are playing out in our daily lives.


Number 1: The Fixed Mindset

A fixed mindset is defined as when people believe that their basic qualities, talents and intelligence are fixed traits; that they are fully developed and thus unchangeable. This fixed mindset is what leads us to say things like: “I am not good enough” or “I am really bad at…”.

A fixed mindset can cause:

  • Avoidant behaviours,
  • Fear of failure,
  • Reduced engagement,
  • Increased depression and
  • A higher risk of burnout.

But is there a plus side to this fixed mindset? The good news is that there definitely is. A fixed mindset is not fixed! Our brains can rewire and learn. And when we begin to notice the difference between “not good enough” and “not good enough YET”, we will start to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

We can begin to look at our staff, our teams, our products and our companies as constantly evolving and pliable. This is a necessary move for any company looking to keep learning and developing. When our perspective shifts, we open ourselves up to real growth; and in fact, make success more likely.


Number 2: The Weakness Focus

We tend to focus on our development areas, our weakest links and lowest test scores. We do this because as a human race we want to succeed, improve and be better than those that came before us (including the you of yesterday). And while we know that this mentality has, in a way, led us to become incredible innovators, problem-solvers and constructors of our world, we are also stuck focusing on what is not working well.

This weakness focus leads to:

  • Reduced self-esteem,
  • Lowered efficiency,
  • Narrow-mindedness and
  • Reduced problem-solving ability.

Focusing on weaknesses also makes us tired; we become exhausted with our fear of failure. This in turn drains us of our creativity, playfulness and hope. In essence, a weakness focus in the workplace has a detrimental effect on our productivity, innovation and satisfaction with the end product.

As a leader, we tend to look at what went wrong, and we can forget what our people bring to the table. We all have strengths; some are better at execution while others are the relationship builders. Every individual within your team and company has a unique set of strengths and talents, and when these become the focus, we begin to build people and products which are collectively amazing.

When we work outside of our strengths, we become tired; however, when we work using our strengths not only do we become elated, motivated and dedicated, but we accomplish our goals and share the good news with others. A strengths-based approach is the number one most important leadership capacity you can develop for your company.


Number 3: Unity and Diversity are Incompatible

Compatibility is a curious concept. When we think of a romantic relationship where people are considered compatible, it is because they share something in common, have similar values and enjoy similar activities. They are familiar to each other and therefore it is more comfortable for them to settle with each other. However, many long-time married couples will agree that the most important thing is not in fact compatibility, but rather understanding. It is the differences we see in each other that keep our interest, teach us humility, and keep us learning.

So why should it be any different in a workplace?

Even people who appear the same, are all different. In fact, a quote from Gallup’s book Strengths Based Leadership (Rath and Conchie, 2008) describes this point perfectly:

Look at people’s strengths, not their gender, race, or age.

When we think of diversity, we think of demographics; however, if we were to assess the strength distribution of a workforce, we would see the multifaceted and unique combination of strengths a group of individuals has. With this knowledge, we can see that we are all different, from a twin sibling or a life partner, and more often than not, that is why we grow, innovate, and develop. It is through the collaborative efforts of individuals with differing views that great products and services are created. In fact, Rath and Conchie say that: “the more diverse the team is in age, gender, and ethnicity, […], the greater the level of engagement. And the greater the engagement, the greater the productivity and retention.”

It is therefore imperative that we shift the belief that homogeneity is better than diversity and begin recognising the potential that unique individuality can bring to a team and company. Only when we notice the individual talents and strengths of our employees can we begin to live our potential.


In Closing

We are all familiar with the effects of the toxic triad. We have all in some or other way felt drained by our work, isolated or frustrated with our colleagues and employees, or limited in our cognitive capacity because of reduced motivation and disconnection from our work. Burnout, depression, low self-esteem, ruined relationships and lost opportunities are all results of this inhibiting combination of limiting beliefs.

Aren’t you tired of being tired, not good enough and isolated? The leaders who are moving companies across the globe towards becoming more meaningful and successful are those that are aware and active in shifting away from what was not working to what is. Don’t get left out or stuck in a rut. Move yourself and your company forward by focusing on strengths, noticing what growth is happening and recognising the value of diversity for success.

Good luck on your journey😊



Rath, T. & Conchie, B. (2008) Strengths-Based Leadership. Gallup Press.

The Next Six Traits to Becoming a Meaningful Leader

The Next Six Traits to Becoming a Meaningful Leader

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the first six practical steps to develop your meaningful leadership skills. In this blog, I will cover the remaining six; but first a reminder of what a Meaningful Leader is.

4Seeds has coined the term, which combines transformational, authentic and servant leadership into a new style call Meaningful Leadership. All of the above leadership styles want to create a positive lasting change, ensure that employees have a deep and meaningful connection to their work, and assist employees to achieve their potential by using their strengths.

In Part 1 we outlined the first six practical steps that you need to develop as a Meaningful Leader, these are:

  • Use positive we language throughout your communication;
  • Uphold and honour commitments made at all times which will drive accountability, respect and trust for the team and for yourself;
  • Compassion-based economics refers to finding the right balance of placing your people first and at the same time ensuring that performance is upheld;
  • Learn to become an active observer of situations, and gather important facts and information before making decisions;
  • Self-awareness of the impact your leadership style, actions and moods have on your team’s performance, morale and commitment; and
  • Openly embrace failure as part of a learning and growing culture.

Click here to read the entire article

The Next 6 Traits of a Meaningful Leader

  1. Transparent and Open Communication

We communicate all day from when we wake up in the morning until we go to bed at night. Most of this communication is effortless. However, at work, this simple skill often becomes an art and a science to master. Miscommunication and conflict are among the highest reasons teams don’t perform and commitments are not upheld. As a Meaningful Leader, learn to communicate regularly with your team. Hold daily five to ten-minute scrum chats to establish where everybody is. If priorities are re-arranged or tasks reallocated, explain the reason for your decision. Also, be specific as to why something has been changed, who will be impacted, the new timeline, what’s expected and how you’ll measure progress. It’s unlikely that your team will complain about you over-communicating, so keep the communication flowing!

  1. Reciprocate Positive Relationships

Communication and relationships go hand in hand. Building positive relationships requires a continuous give and take. We need to be respectful of each other, appreciating the diversity of people’s thoughts, ideas and ways of working. Trust is also important so that we know that what we have committed to will be done on time and to the required standard. We have to invest in a relationship for it to become positive, and we can only reciprocate when we get to know each other at work and outside of it. Learn to understand what people value, what they enjoy doing and make them feel comfortable to be themselves without judgement. Set time aside to get to know each team member.

  1. An Open Growth Mindset

Our mindset is the attitude towards ourselves and others and influences our behaviour, thoughts and goal attainment. Balance your attitude towards upholding high-performance standards, while equally learning from your mistakes. It’s not always easy to accept setbacks which may have a cost implication, but we need to embrace them as part of the learning process when they will enhance quality or efficiency in the long run. Incorporate the phrase: “We are not there YET” which brings in the philosophy of continuous innovation, making improvements, taking risks and moving forward.

  1. Take Ownership of Change

Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see.” In a leadership role, you are the conduit through which change flows because you instigate it. This means that you must be comfortable with the fluidity of change and embrace the fact that things at work will change from week to week. To assist you in that process, start by spotting the opportunity and positive forward movement that the change will bring. Likewise, see what potential hindrances may arise and how you collectively can overcome these or find a better solution.

  1. Focus on Others’ Strengths

Focusing on strengths is new in leadership and might still be questioned by some sceptics. We have been trained to focus on our weaknesses and to develop those. However, our strengths are what ensures that we repetitively perform near-perfect work as these come naturally to us and are effortless actions. As a start, a Meaningful Leader should be able to articulate what they are innately good at, being clear about what makes them unique. Once you have done it for yourself, start to see what each team member brings to the table. You can even go a step further and acknowledge the person for the strength. That’s a bonus of appreciation and strengths-spotting.

  1. Embrace Work-life Balance

With the pace of the current working world, managing a healthy work-life balance is becoming a challenge for many people. We are always connected to our work on our phones, laptops and social media; some people even receive their emails on their watches! Our mind seldom rests and we are always thinking of work outside of working hours. As a Meaningful Leader, you set the tone and need to be the primary example that balancing work and life is very important. People who have had a decent night’s rest come to work feeling energised and ready to perform. Consider this when sending or responding to emails. Exercise regularly, let your team see you taking regular breaks throughout the day, and question people who are continuously working late. Encourage people to take their leave without being contactable or responding to emails. You have to set the tone here.



In Conclusion

Regardless of whether you are a new or seasoned leader, these 12 traits are recommended for you to embrace and apply. Leading means managing yourself and your team and very little about your technical skills, albeit that they are most likely how you got this far. Become a leader that your team can approach freely and talk to openly, be seen walking the floor and take time to hear and feel the heartbeat of your team.

The Personal Responsibility of Managing Organisational Change

The Personal Responsibility of Managing Organisational Change

In this world’s ever-changing and challenging economic environment, the need for change is essential to survival. No matter how small, we all know that change is inevitable; however, managing change and remaining flexible in an organisation is something that many leaders have tried, and many companies have not yet mastered.


Change is a necessary part to any company’s success and whether it is incremental or monumental, we need to find strategies to support its flexibility and sustainability.


At times when change happens quickly, organisations can often find themselves in a constant “catch-up” state. This challenge, along with the systemic approach needed to ensure that everyone is along for the ride, can leave leaders in an overwhelmed state with exhausted employees. So how can we manage change more effectively in our organisations?


Understanding Organisations as Organisms: The Bottom-up Approach

In many organisations, the decision to change comes from senior management on a macro level and filters to the rest of the organisation via the hierarchy. This is the usual form of organisational structuring and forms part of the problem when leaders want to execute transformational changes on the ground. There are many reasons why this approach doesn’t work, some of which include:

  • Employees are expected to make changes but have not been included in the decision-making.
  • There is a flow of responsibility down the hierarchy where those lower down are expected to make more changes then those at the top.
  • Poor communication of the vision across the organisation relating to how the individual contributes to the outcome. This leads to a lack of trust and high levels of resistance to change.

So can we counter these issues without completely restructuring our organisations?

We know that organisations are organisms consisting of an intricate interplay between different moving (independently-thinking) parts. In order for an organism to function effectively, all parts need to perform their role so that they can contribute to the overall success of the whole. When we apply this analogy to an organisation, each individual within the company needs to buy-in, commit and apply a growth mindset so that the organisation as a whole can function and change effectively.

This is where the bottom-up approach to change management comes in. Each individual involved in the change needs a level of autonomy and needs to be considered as a key role player from conception to implementation. There are many factors one needs to consider for everyone within an organisation to buy into the change:

  • Individuals need to see the value of their role in the change.
  • They need to be part of creating a coherent vision of the future of the company.
  • They need security that the risk of change is outweighed by the personal benefits they will receive from its success.
  • And finally, people need role models who can elicit trust in the change and show courage and resilience. Although this is the fourth point, it can often be the catalyst of the others.


Personal Responsibility: The One for All Approach

We are all familiar with Gandhi’s quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world”; however, there is often a lot of resistance when it comes to applying this within an organisational framework. People generally don’t want to put themselves on the line, or be the leaders of change within an organisation. The reality of this is that we are quick to identify the changes needed, both in systems and in others, but rarely take on the responsibility of being the agent of change. This is understandable; however, the good news is that we can start… small. By committing to change on a personal level, we can in turn influence change in the greater whole.

As mentioned before, organisations are systemic organisms, which means that a successful organisation relies on the flexibility, growth and commitment of each individual within the whole. In order for us to manage effective change, we need to implement these changes within ourselves first. This process is important for each individual within the organisation, but perhaps even more importantly, it needs to be the leaders who engage in the change first.

As proactive leaders, there is the tendency to see the focus points for change or the development areas of others, and while this is a necessary and key role of management, we can often forget to include ourselves. The reality of this can result in the misalignment between expectations of others versus expectations of ourselves. We cannot expect others to make changes we are not willing to commit to ourselves.


Role Modelling: A Solid Foundation for Building Trust and Commitment

Remember the saying: “Do as I say, not as I do”? Leadership role modelling is when leaders embody the expectations they have of others. Rather than making external changes, the leader is willing to make changes within themselves first, to become role models of the new and desired change. For example: If you want people to ask for feedback more regularly, you should probably start asking for feedback yourself. By buying into a new culture or process yourself, you are in fact creating a spin-off effect where people will be more motivated to take on new beliefs and behaviours.

Leadership role modelling is a powerful way to elicit effective change in your organisation as it grows trust and presents a living example of the positive impact of the change in your organisation.

Here are some key attributes to being a good role model:

  • Self-awareness
  • High standards for yourself
  • An open-minded approach to learning and feedback
  • Integrity
  • Value congruence

In Conclusion

Organisational change is a reality and is becoming more frequent in today’s economy. So, in order to manage this change and have lasting, positive results there needs to be a shift from the traditional top-down approach of responsibility and communication. Rather, a bottom-up approach is required to get each individual in the organisation to commit to the change process, and the earlier the better. In fact, if decision-making becomes an organisation wide process, there is likely to be a greater sense of meaning and unity in the company vision. Another vital aspect to effecting organisational change is ensuring leadership role modelling. When leaders are willing to make the changes in themselves, they set a standard of behaviour for others, and when they are willing to change and grow on a personal level, they can be the catalysts of collective change in the organisation. It is with a combination of personal responsibility, commitment to change, integrity and an open communication process across (not down the organisation), that you, as a proactive leader, can become the agent of the change you wish to see in your company.

What are you doing to manage positive change in your organisation?