It’s a known fact that in an organisation, culture is taken for granted. That is, until it becomes a toxic and destructive environment to be working in. When that happens, we wonder how it ever got to that point. By that time, the toxic culture has seeped through every part of your organisation, and has infiltrated your people, processes, structures, and systems. It may even have impacted on your clients and suppliers. This will happen faster than you think, and the way out is not easy. It is something that can be done, but it will be a lengthy process. So, it’s very important that, as a leader, you keep your eye on the ball, and mindfully observe your culture.
Now’s the time for leaders to be very conscious of their organisation’s culture. Virtual teams are developing more and more, and flexitime and home-office working seem to be the new norm. As euphoric as we might be that we don’t have to get up early, we can avoid the traffic to get to the office on time, we’re able to spend quality time with the kids, and can even play some sport whenever it suits us, we have to keep in mind the new virtual culture that’s developing around us. And it’s always best to be aware – and proactive – on how you want to direct it. If you don’t, it will develop by itself and you might not like the outcome.
What is culture?
Every organisation has its own unique culture. It’s the shared purpose of management and employees. Your shared purpose will be the reason you exist as a business, and it’s not to make a profit. Professor Edgar Schein, a former professor of the MIT Sloan School of Management in the US, defines culture as ‘shared assumptions and beliefs that a group of people learn from one another through working together.’ These assumptions often occur on a subconscious level, and by seeing others perform them, we start to do the same. It moves on to the next person, and the next. This behaviour – positive or negative – becomes acceptable, and it’s then passed on to new employees. As an example, if we don’t address tardiness to online meetings, it becomes acceptable to be five or 10 minutes late, and soon the entire virtual team will be doing it. This will have a knock-on effect, which will make having candid conversations difficult, and it will affect efficiency, trust, and other work-related matters.
In a nutshell, culture is your team’s rules that everybody begins to use. The rules may not serve your macro strategy or goal, and that’s where the conflict will start to come in.
It’s up to leaders to be proactive in directing the culture of virtual teams. Which behaviours are positive, drive the objective of the team, and will drive higher performance? Be clear on what that behaviour is, and don’t let it evolve. Which behaviours are you starting to notice that concern you? Start to address these with your virtual team as it’s likely that the behaviours haven’t embedded themselves, and can be changed without too much effort. Involve your team in these discussions, and form the culture collectively. Discuss – and even debate – the rules, because everybody needs to agree on them and live them out. Be agile with your culture, review it, assess it, and change it. Remember to keep your eye on it all the time.
This new virtual working concept will give rise to a different culture, and you have the opportunity to give your old one an overhaul. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the working world has changed, and it has brought about change in how your virtual teams operate. Embrace the new door that has opened, walk through it, and create the culture you have always dreamed of.
Ever wondered what company culture will be like post-COVID-19? With the pandemic forcing many to work from home, people have had to adjust to a new working norm. But just how much of this change in culture will remain as we begin to return to normal?
Let’s be honest, the pandemic will have lasting effects on corporate culture. Companies have had to adapt to a digital workforce in order to survive, and working from home only emphasised the importance of efficient technology, communication, collaboration, and leadership. This has marked a permanent turning point in the reshaping of corporate culture – the beliefs and behaviours that influence how a company’s staff and management operate.
While working from home, employees have experienced a number of perks, such as being able to maximise their productivity, and establish a healthier work-life balance. Companies have had to be more accommodating, and to some extent employees were given the opportunity to design life their way. Flexitime hours allow some to start early and finish at 4, to take a longer lunch break with no need to travel or sit in traffic for hours. Remote working tools such as video conferencing, emailing, and messaging have helped pave the way during this time, and have demonstrated that working from home is possible and cost-effective for many companies and its employees. This is quite possibly the future of the work environment.
One of the biggest challenges comes with supporting employees’ well-being; a crucial barometer for success. Leaders need to recognise that not every call, email, or meeting should be all about work. It should also be about what companies can do to support their employees, and how their employees are doing.
We’re beginning to see shifts in the dynamic of workforces around the globe, with a continuation in remote working and fewer people in the office. So, what can we expect to see once we break through to the other side of the pandemic?
Flexible working will become the norm
Significant shifts in working patterns were already in motion before the outbreak of the virus, with technology such as laptops, cell phones, and remote tools allowing our work to become more portable. A survey done in 2019 found that 61% of global organisations offered their staff some form of remote working policy, with 77% of people saying that working from home has improved their overall health and well-being.
Although adjusting to a new way of working can prove challenging, employees have now experienced first-hand how they can balance their work and personal responsibilities around their day, showing them just how feasible remote working can be, and that there is no longer a need to be primarily office-based.
Co-working spaces will become more popular
Of course, working remotely doesn’t necessarily have to mean working from the confines of your own home. As lockdown restrictions ease, employees have the flexibility to mix up their working environments, allowing them to work in spaces where they feel most productive. For some, this could be a coffee shop or a dedicated co-working space – particularly as interaction with other people can help to inspire and motivate some to stay focused and productive.
As remote working habits continue to increase, we’ll start to see shifts in our working lifestyles. Commuting time will be cut down and stress levels will reduce, giving employees the opportunity to make the most of their working hours and choose who they spend their working time with.
Increased video calls
The use of video conferencing has proved highly effective, becoming an essential for everyone to stay connected, both professionally and personally. Video calls allow us to connect with people across the globe in an effort to replicate that all-important face-to-face communication. It has given companies an opportunity to expand their teams on a global scale, but also keep their local employees connected while working from home.
When we think about office culture, we tend to think of office banter, coffee catch-ups, team lunches, or after-work drinks. The rise in remote working has removed this physical contact between colleagues. Video conferencing is therefore going to become a key component in ensuring that strong communication is maintained, and keeps operations flowing.
Communication will be the core
Communication is the biggest challenge for companies who are moving into a remote environment. There are many positives to be gained by making the shift, however businesses will only take up new working patterns if they can ensure that their employees are able to carry out their roles as effectively as they would have before. Effective communication is at the core of a seamless and effective workflow, and will likely be the biggest make-or-break when it comes to remote working.
Companies will need to ensure that the correct resources are allocated, and that the necessary steps are put into place – and are effectively implemented – to see changes to their company culture. If they can develop strong methods for communicating, then many of the other ‘issues’ that come from working remotely will resolve themselves.
Providing emotional along with technical support
While technology is the key to keeping a remote workforce functioning at a high level, it will come down to leaders to create a culture of mutual support, teambuilding, and forging healthy bonds. It will be up to them to carry through the ‘new’ company culture. Ultimately, companies will want employees looking out for each other, building trust, connecting with their colleagues, and offering support.
The employee experience will be supported by embedding the right policies, practices, and expectations. Not every chat, call, or email will be business-related – personalisation will need to come into play too.
Relationships among teams will improve; having all experienced the effects of the pandemic creates bonds in relationships, bringing new levels of connection.
To keep things from falling through the cracks, it is essential to implement the right tools (project management, time management, video conferencing and others). Developing techniques for working efficiently from separate locations, as well as focusing on exciting collaborating strategies, will ensure that productivity stays high – or even increases.
All of this means better collaboration and more enthusiasm for teamwork and shared success.
The pandemic has challenged and shaken us up in almost every way. It’s been sudden, profound, and life-changing. Companies have been forced to make major changes, and, in the process, are seeing the workplace – and the world – differently. Employees can choose where they work and who they work with. This is playing a significant role in the new dynamic of company culture, which will ultimately change our everyday lifestyles as we know it.
If you need help supporting change in your company culture, or changing your current one, please get in touch with the team at 4Seeds. We’re all about cultivating happy employees and better support structures.
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyone’s lives upside down. For some, the change has been more dramatic than for others. The same can be said about most companies, which will have had to become extremely agile in the way they have managed their teams, serviced their customers, and delivered value to their shareholders. Old ideas and thoughts of “it can’t be done” suddenly became “it can be done”, and “this is very ‘doable’”. Decisions that usually took a while to make were taken in days, and sometimes even hours.
We were all booted out of our comfort zones into the unknown. Creativity, innovation, and seeking new ways of achieving the impossible flowed through every company!
This blog is the first in a two-part series on why happiness matters in the workplace. In the second part, I will provide practical tips on how to start implementing happiness in your company.
In the past few years, there has been a call for companies to focus on honouring stakeholder rather than shareholder returns. This focus has uplifted the well-being in four domains: leaders, employees, customers, and the community. Some companies have made this shift from the industrial revolution age to the human revolution of leading; however, they still remain in the minority.
COVID-19, as disastrous as its global impact has been, has fast-tracked the emphasis companies are placing on the well-being of their leaders and employees. Perhaps for the first time, they’re genuinely realising that without their people, there will be no business to service customers, no growth, and inability to maintain their competitive advantage. The pandemic has started to bring humanity back into the workplace, and to give employees a voice.
It may sound absurd, but incorporating well-being into your company means allowing happiness to filter in. Bringing humanity into an organisation means making happiness a primary strategic goal of executive leadership. Of course, making a profit will remain the primary motive, but it cannot be at the cost of having unhappy leaders, employees, or customers.
What is happiness?
The happiness concept has been around for the last 30 years. It’s not a ‘phase’; it’s here to stay, and will in future gain more and more momentum. Right now, happiness has already infiltrated psychology, medicine, and education, and it’s starting to gain traction in business and government. Danish philosopher Knud Ejler Løgstrup says that, as a leader, you have an ethical obligation to treat those around you in such a way that it increases their level of happiness. You may have never considered that, as part of your leadership role, you need to ensure that your employees are happy.
So, what is happiness? Is it a frivolous topic to align with leadership, organisations, or politics?
Most leaders feel that happiness doesn’t belong in the workplace, and certainly not in politics. Happiness is everyone’s own personal affair, isn’t it? And it’s up to everyone to work on their happiness levels in their own time. Well, it doesn’t quite work like that, because people can’t compartmentalise their lives into these various domains. Instead, they all interlink with each other. Think about it this way, you can’t be happy at work and unhappy in your personal life, as the one spills over into the other.
The simplest definition of happiness is to experience frequent positive emotions, combined with a sense that, overall, life is satisfactory and fulfilling. It might seem like a broad definition, but to ensure that employees experience mostly positive emotions at work, and are generally satisfied and fulfilled by their work, suddenly doesn’t sound so easy anymore. Of course, the positive benefits happiness brings to the workplace are immense: increased productivity, creativity, learning, resilience, and better decision-making. Also, it reduces absenteeism, stress, depression, and disengagement. These can all severely impact the bottom line, teamwork, and culture.
Alexander Kjerulf, one of the world’s leading experts on happiness at work said that “happiness is not only an integral part of leading, but should be the ultimate goal of leadership.”
How much do you make happiness a critical part of your leadership role?
“True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers; not the enrichment of the leaders.” – Robert Townsend, US business executive.
Teams produce synergies and a form of collaboration that individuals can’t do on their own, either from a capacity or an ability factor. Working side by side, collaborating, sharing ideas, finding solutions, and supporting each other is what team members should be doing, and, in most cases, want to do. A team that trusts each other is incredibly powerful, as they will achieve a level of performance, productivity, and satisfaction that one person on their own is not able to. However, if two or more people work together, something creeps in that has a significant impact on a team’s performance levels. This is what is known as TRUST.
What is trust?
Trust is something that everyone approaches differently. For some, trust is given to a person, and then “points” are deducted for every breach that happens. For others, you’ll start at zero and will have to earn their trust through actions. The approach you apply doesn’t matter; it’s based on your personality, style, and life experience. Either way, trust is something that holds much gravitas, but it can often be left entirely on its own to develop within teams.
Trust is defined as a psychological state in which we expect positive actions and behaviour from others, to a commitment made. A trust equation has therefore been designed, and it says that trust equals credibility plus reliability plus intimacy. So, it’s about doing what we promised to do, or even said we would do, every single time. We tend to trust people based on their behaviour, and then label them as trustworthy when they meet our expectations. The intimacy variable means that people communicate, participate, and engage actively with others. This variable can often be overlooked, but as social creatures we generally trust when people interact with us.
Trust in teams
In teams, trust means that people are willing to be vulnerable. This usually results in team members working and co-operating with one another. Trust also reduces conflict because people are comfortable – and will be confident – to express opposing values and opinions. It will allow for team participation, sharing of knowledge and information, and innovation. It also builds social bonds.
Distrust, on the other hand, is counterproductive, and carries an intangible cost for the organisation as a whole. Time is wasted because people have to deal with hidden agendas, unproductive meetings, incomplete work, miscommunication, or having to micro-manage others. When there is distrust, leaders will visibly perform control checks on all their staff. Distrust slows down the wheels of effectiveness and efficiency. For employees, it zaps all their psychological and cognitive energy, so much so that they become disengaged and lack motivation. It creates cliques in teams, something that needs to be carefully managed, as it can escalate to such an extent that people will leave. If left unaddressed, distrust becomes a cancer and will infiltrate the organisation’s culture, resulting in a toxic working environment. It will also eat away at the bottom line. However, this is something that we allow to continue, all too often.
If you become aware that there is no trust in your team, you need to start with these six small steps. Rebuilding trust takes patience and continuous work, but it is something that can be achieved with dedication and commitment.
- Be the exemplary role-model by doing what you promised to do, and within the set timeline.
- Have conversations with the team on how everyone would benefit if they all under-promised and over-delivered.
- Be courageous and tackle difficult topics together. Have transparent conversations.
- Invite people to present their ideas in meetings. Be careful not to be judgemental.
- Care for others in a genuine and sincere way. Share life and work stories with each other.
- Set clear expectations by clarifying roles, tasks, and commitment dates.
Trust is broken quickly, and requires a lot of energy and time to rebuild. In some extreme cases, the damage is so severe that it cannot be fixed. Transform distrust into trust with your teams – it’s what leaders do to have happy and productive employees.
COVID-19 is impacting every single person on the planet! Life will never be the same as it was before the pandemic, for any one of us. So many things have already changed in our working environments, our companies, politics, healthcare, travel, and education. Some businesses will be forced to close, and new careers will be born. In all of this, there is so much that is unknown about what the future holds. Some people see 2020 as the most exciting and vibrant time to live in, and others believe that it’s a period of doom and despair. Regardless of which way you look at it, life will never be the same again. It’s now important to understand – psychologically and emotionally – that our old life has ended, and that we need to transition to a new one. We need to slowly start to create a new life for ourselves and for our loved ones.
This week’s blog is on a rather unusual topic: how to give yourself permission to grieve your old life and find meaning in a new one. For the past five months, I haven’t been in a single coaching session where the topic of COVID-19 hasn’t come up. People share their fears, their apprehension of the unknown, and the pain it has caused them. I have noticed that my clients are, unknowingly, grieving the end of the life they knew before this pandemic. Under normal circumstances, we battle to grieve the loss of a loved one, but how do we grieve for something that’s not a person, but an actual life that involves us?
Grieving is a very healthy and important process of letting go of a loved one. It’s a deeply painful, emotional process, and it brings up many emotions such as denial, anger, betrayal, disappointment, guilt, sadness, and relief. There will be days where you’ll want to talk about your loss, and others where you don’t even have the energy to get out of bed. Grieving means being consciously present and feeling the pain, as well as remembering the happy moments you shared together.
There’s no difference between grieving for a loved one and grieving for your old life. You’ll go through the same grieving stages, and you need to give yourself permission to grieve. In doing so, you’ll begin the process of transforming from your old life to creating your new one. Also, what’s very important is that you don’t have to do anything on your own. When you see that you’re unable to progress in your grieving, please ask for help from family, friends, or a professional like myself.
The five stages of grieving
The Grief Model, developed by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in the late 1960s, comprises of five stages. They can be summarised using the acronym DABDA.
Denial: This is the first stage where you’re in utter shock, disbelief, and denial about the impact the pandemic will have on your life. You feel numb by what’s happening around you, and cannot comprehend its gravitas. You feel like you’re watching a bizarre science-fiction movie. Your body and mind are in shock, and you shift into survival mode, only taking in as much information as you can comprehend. Life feels empty, meaningless, and hopeless.
Anger: Once denial wears off, anger sets in. All too often we struggle with anger as an emotion, because we believe that it’s not socially acceptable. Remember that in this instance, it has its right place. Give it room to unfold, and feel it in your inner being. You’ll become angry at the injustice of life, the pandemic, and, if you’re religious, even at God. The anger is about why this has happened to you and your loved ones, making your life unfair. Don’t bottle it up! Give yourself permission to feel it, process it, and then release it. It will feel like an intense muscle cramp: it hurts, it’s debilitating, and it makes you draw in your breath from the pain. Exhale slowly, breathe, and relax into the anger until it slowly begins to become less tense, and the muscle cramp starts to ease. Processing your anger is an very critical stage to work through, and one you can easily get stuck in.
Bargaining: This is the start of your transformation and creative process. It’s like seeing the light at the end of tunnel. You’ll become resourceful, hopeful, creative, and will be optimistic that bit by bit you can claim back some old parts of yourself and your old life.
Depression: After having experienced the bargaining stage, you may think that the depression stage is going a step backward, but in actual fact it isn’t. It’s about learning to surrender what you can’t control, and putting all your energy and focus into what you do have control over. There will be days where you become withdrawn and slump into a depressed mood, and this will be the preamble to surrendering to your new life. You may be quite negative, feel sad, low, and lonely, and can even lose your zest for life. You could even begin to wonder if you’ll ever be happy again, and have the quality of life you had before the pandemic. What’s very important in this stage is to surround yourself with people who care about you, and to set small daily goals to keep working on.
Acceptance: The fifth stage is to surrender and accept. It’s the key to your freedom and transformation. Acceptance means you’ve come to embrace your new reality, but it doesn’t mean you approve of it. You’ll start to understand that this is the new norm by which you’re going to live, and will begin to adjust accordingly. You’ll re-organise your roles and responsibilities, and will bring in different structures, methods, routines, and ways of doing things. You’ll do your best to establish meaning and purpose in new activities and tasks, and will accept that you’ll never replace the old with the new. When you realise that it’s time to create something totally new, you’ll find that this is where the power of transformation happens.
Give yourself permission to grieve. It’s very necessary and will serve you to move through the challenges of COVID-19. Accept that you won’t ever return to your old life – and savour that – but equally you’ll look forward and take steps to creating a new meaningful life. Use all the support you can get to assist you during this transformational time.
As South Africa approaches the six-month mark under lockdown restrictions, I don’t believe there’s a single person who doesn’t want things to go back to normal. But what most of us have probably realised is that things aren’t going to be normal for at least a few more months – if not years. Some things will never be the same again!
To stop, or at least to slow down, the impact of COVID-19, we have had to change almost everything we do: the way we work, exercise, socialise, shop, educate our children, and take care of our families. Every single country aimed to ‘flatten the curve’ by imposing social-distancing measures, but this brought about a shift in the working world, for companies and employees alike.
Now that the government has eased the nationwide lockdown to alert level 2, businesses and employers will again have to be innovative to keep their companies going and their people working. The COVID-19 pandemic is not a temporary disruption; it’s the start of a completely different way of life. We don’t know exactly what this new future looks like, of course, but we do know that working remotely isn’t just a cute new trend. It’s a new reality, and it’s here to stay.
No one can predict the number of people who will become unemployed, but it’s already evident that many thousands of businesses across all sectors will never operate fully again, and thousands of people will lose their jobs. Sadly, those with no capacity to work from home, and the people who don’t have the skills or experience to find work will be most affected in the post-pandemic economy.
Fast-forward a few months to when we move to alert level 1. What happens then? Does everyone simply return to work as usual? What sort of work environment will we be walking into? How many jobs will still be available? Will the experience of living through COVID-19 suggest that going back to old ways might not be such a good idea? And, of course, we need to remember that no one knows how long COVID-19 will be around.
As with everything, there are pros and cons of working from home. Imposing one-size-fits-all policies on it will come at a cost to everyone. Some people simply cannot work from home because they miss the office banter, time away from families, and the support. Others have found that they have so much more time on their hands, are getting much more work done, have read books which have been on their bedside table for too long, have reconnected with their families, and to some it’s felt like a bit of a holiday, with less stress and no company politics.
What employees do want, however, is to still feel that they’re connected to their colleagues, and part of a team. With the help of evolving applications, companies are succeeding at this, whether through virtual weekly meetings, or just by encouraging people to call each other, rather than emailing and texting. After all, we’re creatures of habit, and most of us get used to routines – many may even like them – and few want them to be disturbed. As time goes on, though, all of us will begin to adapt to a new routines, working spaces, and a different kind of relationships.
COVID-19 has not been without a silver lining. Carbon emissions have gone into free fall; air pollution has evaporated, leaving cities tolerable for children to play outside; traffic commutes have become more manageable; companies have saved on office expenses; and there has been a re-flourishing of the sense of community, supporting local businesses, and building together to get through this hardship.
The point is that the virus has given us a glimpse of how we might live and work very differently, and perhaps more in tune with the future.
COVID-19 is mercilessly sweeping through our country, and affecting our lives, our economy, and our businesses. Sadly, there have been many casualties along the way, and some businesses will be forced to shut their doors. However, there will be some that will manage to get through these tough times, largely because of the support of their employees. At this stage, a company’s financial reserves do play a critical role, but ultimately it’s the people – the heartbeat of a business – who make everything happen. This means that if you want your business to survive, thrive, and gain a competitive advantage, it’s the ideal time to invest in the well-being of your people.
Psychological Capital, also referred to as PsyCap, was pioneered by Fred Luthans, a management professor specialising in organisational behaviour at the University of Nebraska, in 2002. It’s defined as an individual’s positive psychological state of development, characterised by hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism. The underlying principle of PsyCap is to grow people psychologically, rather than to train them. Companies often spend time and money growing people’s explicit knowledge by enhancing their skills and competencies, but don’t invest the same kind of resources in growing tacit knowledge, such as people’s mindsets, attitudes, and psychological stamina. Research has continuously demonstrated the benefit of rolling out PsyCap in companies, starting with increased performance, engagement, and job satisfaction, and carrying through to personal life satisfaction, well-being, and health benefits.
The four psychological well-being components
Luthans made it easy for us to implement PsyCap in our companies by coming up with something called the “HERO Within”. This is a combination of four psychological aspects: Hope, Efficacy, Resilience, and Optimism. Investing resources in developing all four will give your business the competitive advantage to ensure that you overcome the pandemic.
Let’s look at each component in more detail, including a tip on how you can implement it in your business.
- Hope: A positive mindset that helps us find solutions and willpower to achieve our goals. Hope can be increased by making sure that goals are broken down into bite-sized chunks. ● Leaders can meet with a coach and have regular informal check-ins to support them to maintain their willpower, and collectively brainstorm new ideas.
- Efficacy: Refers to confidence, conviction, and motivation in our ability to successfully complete a task. ● To enhance efficacy, you need to experience task and goal successes, combined with regular feedback and acknowledgement. For a leader, this means allocating tasks in bite-sizes, taking the time to provide acknowledgement when the job is done, and giving constructive feedback of what the person did really well, and where there is room for improvement.
- Resilience: The ability to bounce back from stressful situations, conflict, or mishaps. ● Resilience can be developed by reframing the situation from a negative obstacle to a positive learning opportunity. This isn’t always easy in the heat of the moment, and so brainstorming about it with others is often very helpful. It can also foster positive relationships.
- Optimism: Having a positive future-orientated mindset. Many people struggle to be optimistic, and feel safer seeing things from a pessimistic point of view. This is because they perceive this to be the reality that is linked with not having expectations and not being disappointed. Optimism must, however, not be confused with luck or fate, but rather thought of as an internal belief that you can and will create a positive future. ● The tool here is to reflect on what you have control over and what you can’t control, and then focus on what you have, and look for the opportunity in every challenge that life presents you.
As you can see, the four components become very interlinked, and working on one will benefit another. You might not feel that your business or team has the time or money to invest in your people right now, but I can’t stress enough that it’s the perfect time to consider this if you want to make it through the pandemic.
Chat to us – we can assist with short workshops to enhance the psychological well-being of your staff.
Most leaders that I meet feel uncomfortable with, and even dread, giving feedback to their staff. It shouldn’t be that way! Feedback is a gift that we give people to help them grow, but, sadly, many of us have had bad experiences with it in the past. It might have been a punishment session where we were criticised, and left feeling demotivated, deflated, and discouraged.
As we get older, the kind of feedback we receive changes, but it shouldn’t always be that way. Think back to your childhood where your parents were your biggest fans. They were your cheerleaders who supported you and encouraged you to always do your best. The feedback you got from them would have been honest, but most likely gentle, and it would have been on the things you did well, and where you could improve. Their intention always came from their heart with love, and with the underlying desire for you to grow. Maybe your parents didn’t always strike the right chord, or use the correct words, but you knew that they gave you advice because they loved you.
Fast forward to now in your workplace. Many leaders believe that: ‘If you don’t hear from me, then you’re doing a great job; otherwise I’ll tell you.’ With that approach, feedback will indeed only be associated with criticism, and not with growth or care. Often, feedback is negatively associated with performance reviews, where there is sometimes a one-size-fits-all approach.
So, what seems to be the problem that leaders have in giving feedback? In my opinion, there are five common concerns: (1) They don’t know how to do it properly because they haven’t been shown how; (2) They’re worried about hurting the other person’s feelings; (3) They’re worried that the person will only hear the negative feedback and not the positive, so are unsure how to find the ideal balance between the two; (4) They’re worried that the person will leave demotivated and will have no interest in improving; or (5) Their feedback style is authoritarian and a bit blunt.
On the other hand, receivers may perceive feedback as personal criticism and a threat to their self-confidence, self-efficacy, and self-worth.
The eight steps on giving constructive feedback
As my passion is to provide as many tools and techniques as I can for leaders to lead better, I’m going to share a practical, constructive feedback tool that can assist both the giver and the receiver. Before you start shifting your mindset and viewing feedback as an opportunity to grow and develop, and as the highest expression of care you can give a team member, if you find that the word “feedback” has a negative and emotionally charged meaning, then replace it with a neutral word that carries no judgement. Try using words such as “evaluation”, “constructive feedback”, “observation”, or “learning opportunity”.
This eight-step process created by Hugo Alberts and Lucinda Poole can be easily applied.
- Accept internal discomfort – Embrace that you might feel uncomfortable giving feedback, and that many emotions will come up for you. Acknowledge the discomfort, and then breathe deeply into your body, calming yourself and making sure that you come across in a composed and calm way.
- Create a safe space – It’s common for the receiver to feel nervous, anxious, fearful, and maybe even stressed. Leaders need to be aware of this, and empathise with them. It’s up to the leader to create a safe space by choosing an environment that is friendly, warm, and non-hostile. Offering a warm and friendly greeting with some small talk always helps everyone to feel at ease.
- State your intention – Make it clear that your goal is to see how you can work together to improve their work. Let them know that you welcome a two-way dialogue, where you’re both free to express personal and professional views.
- Separate the person’s work from the person – Arguably, one of the things that makes receiving feedback the most difficult is that it’s often taken as a personal critique. Take a moment to clarify that you’re evaluating their work, and not them as a person.
- Reframe the amount of feedback as an indication of care – Where you have a lot of critical feedback to give, highlight your level of care by saying something like: “I’m being thorough because I care about this. Your work matters to me.”
- Encourage a growth mindset – Highlight that the feedback can be taken as an opportunity for growth and learning, and integrate this type of language into your comments. Give detailed and precise praise wherever you can, and instil a sense of hope and faith in their capability for change and improvement.
- Acknowledge the subjective nature of the situation – Recognise that your feedback projects your personal views and opinions on not only their work, but also on the subject matter. Acknowledge this as you provide feedback by saying things like: “In my opinion…”, and “I believe that…”
- End on a positive note – Conclude by highlighting and celebrating positive attributes of their work. Express your joy in what they did well.
When giving constructive feedback, ask yourself “How can I assist and support this team member in reaching their next growth level?” If you embrace feedback with that mindset, you can’t do anything wrong because your intent and heart will lead the way.
It’s human nature for people to want to evolve, which means that we strive to grow, develop, and self-actualise. No-one is happy to stagnate or stay too long in a comfort zone. Everybody needs a stretch goal to work towards, and a challenge and opportunity to upskill into becoming a better version of themselves. Sometimes we aren’t ready for the growth spurt, and may feel overwhelmed by the mere thought of it. At other times, we need someone to champion us on, to believe in us, and to hold us accountable for our commitments. Or we need an independent sounding board who can challenge our thinking and behaviour. Regardless of what it is you need, a coach can support you to grow to your optimum.
It’s a known fact that all sportspeople have coaches that help them to bring out their best. In the working environment, it’s becoming acceptable for executives, leaders, and managers to make use of coaches in the workplace, but this is still a small minority. However, in mainstream everyday life, very few would use the services of a coach. People are generally misinformed and incorrectly educated about coaching, so they shy away from the service. But now with COVID-19 impacting our entire life, coaching becomes an essential service to consider. This is especially so if, as a leader, you need tools to cope with the daily stresses of the pandemic, gain new focus, grow as a leader, set realistic goals, or need a sounding board to explore opportunities. In this article, I will address some of the primary coaching myths and misconceptions.
What is Coaching?
There are endless definitions for coaching, but, for now, let’s keep it simple. Coaching is a process that improves a person’s performance. It focuses on the current moment and not on the past, because what has happened has happened and cannot be changed. The only change that is possible – and that you have control over – is your approach to, and attitude about the future. A coach will partner with you to find new ways of doing things, thinking about concepts, and behaving differently; all in the spirit of maximising your potential. So, it’s about creating awareness, learning new ways, choosing to act, and self-reflecting on the progress.
Eight Workplace Coaching Myths
1. Coaching is just glorified therapy
These two modalities cannot – and should not – be compared to each other. Therapy works from the context that something in your past needs to be ‘fixed’, and so it delves into your history and childhood. Coaching is a catalyst process where you and the coach work in the ‘here and now’ on methods that can catapult you forward in attaining your goals and providing personal growth. Coaching views you as wholesome and healthy, with all the necessary resources to achieve your potential.
2. Coaching needs a lot of my time
One of the core principles of coaching is that it’s a non-dependent model, so coaches do their best to create no co-dependency. Coaching sessions can vary from one or two sessions to three- or six-month programmes in which you meet your coach every two weeks for an hour or 90 minutes. But if you want to grow and develop, you do need to invest the time for the action items that you have identified.
3. Coaching is for people who have problems at work
Coaching is not a remedial performance review process. I can’t express that more strongly. Nor is it a process that will transfer a leader’s problem to the coach. Instead, coaching is there to support you to get unstuck in your thinking or behaviour, to get committed, and to become re-engaged by developing new tools to increase performance. Through coaching, you understand how your current behaviour is hindering your growth, and you and the coach jointly explore ways to create a positive shift.
4. I am successful, so I don’t need a coach
Ironically it’s precisely at this time when you need a coach the most because they will support you to maintain this level of peak performance or grow you to the next level. Coaching is most successful when a person is already motivated, committed, and thriving, but wants to continue to explore their blind spots and have a neutral sounding board.
5. Coaching is the same as mentoring
Think of it this way: the mentor is the wise sage who has been there done that and has the t-shirt. A coach guides you on your journey of peak performance without being the expert. Mentoring is an informal, unstructured approach which answers your questions and provides advice. In contrast, coaching is more structured, sets clearly-defined goals and milestones of success, and holds you accountable.
6. Coaching is expensive
Costs vary based on the coach’s level of experience, years of training, and professional credentials, but most companies are willing to pay for this kind of service. Different rates apply for personal and professional coaching, and it’s always best to research this upfront. Nowadays, coaching is effective and efficient as it can be done online, which saves time and travelling costs. Also, 4Seeds has substantially reduced coaching fees during the COVID-19 pandemic as we want to help you grow and cope with your workplace challenges in these difficult times.
7. Coaching is only for senior management
Coaching is for everybody, in any company, and at any level. If you want to grow and develop, then coaching is for you regardless of where you are in the organisation’s structure.
8. I will lose face with my team if I hire a coach
Your team needs to understand that coaching is about self-development and growth, and that you’re striving to be a better leader and role-model. You can even invite them to give you feedback during the process, or share why you’re behaving differently. Include them in the process.
Coaching in the workplace is here to stay, and it will play an even more impactful role in a leader’s career path. It’s a safe and confidential environment where you can explore your thoughts, ideas, and feelings, and you’ll have time to reflect on – and to let go of – habits that are no longer working for you.
Contact us today on firstname.lastname@example.org about your coaching needs and desires. We can support you to become your best possible self.
Gone are the days when the office was somewhere employees spent time at during working hours. Today’s always-connected, instant-access environment has blurred the lines between the office, and the place where work actually gets done.
The digital world is profoundly affecting the ways in which people contribute to work, life, and society.
Offices are becoming digital, and employees are communicating and collaborating in new and exciting ways. It’s now the norm to have meetings from different locations, be they offices, homes, or countries, and companies are finding that working remotely not only provides a more flexible work environment, but also helps increase productivity and job satisfaction. According to the Digital Marketing Institute, employees who work remotely are 91% more productive, and with the demand for specific skills at an all-time high, remote working offers a solution for companies to find the right people without them having to be based in the same place.
While the move to transform digitally has led to many jobs being lost, it has also opened new, productive, innovative, and rewarding forms of job creation. COVID-19 has certainly accelerated the changes. New technologies have given companies the opportunity to offer employees flexibility, which means that even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, people can carry on productively, with limited impact, in a secure and collaborative way.
In order for employees to work efficiently in different locations, companies have had to embrace the evolution, and create strong digital cultures to support changes in working styles. They now need to offer a consumer-like user experience which is aligned with today’s working environment, and one which allows employees to work more transparently.
Companies have had to define ‘their’ digital workspace, offer virtual assistance to support virtual work environments, and provide the right tools and information. They have given their staff choice and flexibility. In doing so, they have found that by incorporating the technologies that employees already use, such as email, instant messaging, social media, and virtual meeting tools, communication barriers have disappeared. This has empowered employees, and allowed them to work more efficiently and successfully.
Employees now expect a more personal, digitally-driven work experience, and look to their employers to raise employee engagement, allow them to achieve business outcomes faster, and give them the tools to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
It’s also important to remember that the efficiency of an employee’s digital workspace depends on their individual qualities, their environment, and the changes they effect to make these tools work for them so that they can fulfil their job. And with so many benefits to both the employer and the employee, it’s in the employees’ best interests to implement the necessary discipline and dedicated work space to raise their own efficiency levels and be more productive.
Working in the digital world offers flexibility, freedom, and opportunities for employers and employees to create healthier habits while remaining productive. New digital platforms will continue to help companies operate more effectively; however both parties need to play their part in making it an efficient and healthy working environment.
Working remotely is a big drawcard for companies, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It offers employees a lifestyle where they can protect their personal time, but at the same time follow a healthy work-life balance.