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Five Ways Your Workplace Can Make You an Ethical Leader

Five Ways Your Workplace Can Make You an Ethical Leader

South Africa has seen its fair share of unethical leadership in recent years, with the political and economic infrastructure being manipulated and managed for the benefit of a few. However, even though we know that this behaviour is unethical, the business world remains a complicated place with many grey areas which regularly test our moral compass.

Leaders, as the responsible people in the organisation, are often seen to be the ethical navigators and feel responsible for the misdemeanours or transgressions of others. Despite our best efforts, we cannot change the behaviour and motivation of others. However, without clarification of the expectations of the organisation, we cannot expect people to always know whether they are doing the right thing.

This does, unfortunately, mean that leaders have a role to play in ensuring that people remain within the moral conditions laid out by the organisation, and can be held accountable if these conditions are not in place.

In this article, we outline five conditions that you can apply to ensure that you are acting as an ethical leader. We hope to offer you some guidance which can protect you and your organisation from the unintended consequences of unethical behaviour.

 

Five Ways Your Workplace Can Make You an Ethical Leader

 

Codes of Conduct and Best Practice guidelines

Putting into a place a set of rules and regulations which stipulate the nature of managing unethical, illegal or morally challenging situations in the workplace, is a vital step for your organisation. When we don’t know what is expected of us, it’s easy for situations to unravel and ethics can become an emotional area to solve after the fact. Deciding on the policies which work for the team as well as unpacking the ethical challenges of your industry, the best practice guidelines for managing them, and how to regulate your organisation’s daily work, is a great way to collaborate on governance for which everyone has agreed to and is then responsible for upholding.

 

Training on ethics and company culture

Having the ability to make ethical decisions is not a given skill. Educating your employees will empower them to make informed decisions about their actions, and is essential to ensure that your staff are able to make ethical decisions. Providing regular training and seminars is one method, and can include the following:

  • Updates on the latest best practice guidelines
  • Updates on national and international industry rules and regulations
  • Instilling commitment for your corporate values
  • Providing guidance through challenging situations
  • Encouraging them to speak up about mistakes and uncomfortable ethical behaviours where the team can discuss and learn from their mistakes or the challenges of others.

 

Consistency

One of the key behaviours of ethical leadership is consistency and fairness. If only certain policies are respected, individuals are dealt with in disparaging ways, or consequences for unethical behaviours are inconsistently punished – then your organisation is in trouble. People notice when they are not managed fairly, and inconsistency can quickly deteriorate the trust, collaborative spirit, and psychological safety of people at work. Being consistent in what is regulated and how it is fairly implemented is key to ensuring that your reputation and codes of conduct are upheld inside and outside of the workplace.

 

Integrity

Do what you say, and admit when you don’t. Being an ethical leader means being a role model for best practice. This requires you to know your core values and to behave them. As an example, it is one thing to say that you want everyone to be punctual but you are late for meetings, or that you respect your employees’ health but then send them tasks when they are on sick leave, or that you value work-life balance but you yourself always work overtime. Integrity is a highly necessary part of ethical leadership because, without it, your team will inevitably see you as false and will lose trust and respect for you. In order to be an ethical organisation, you as the leader have to be willing to follow the same protocols of behaviour that you set out for your staff.

 

Check your motivations

While there are many definitions of leadership, there is one concept that underpins them all. The idea of being responsible for something greater than oneself, and while there have been many tyrannical leaders in history, the true meaning of a leader is one who is not motivated by self-advancement but rather by the progress of the team and company as a whole. If you want to be an ethical leader you need to become aware of your motivations and be vigilant with yourself. Make sure that you know who you are and how your behaviours impact those around you. If you are making decisions which drive your own success or financial gain, you will not only lose the commitment of your staff, but you are setting an example that individual gain is more valuable than collective success.

 

In conclusion

As you can see, ethical leadership is as much about your own behaviour and intentions as it is about setting up clear and consistent procedures to guide ethical decision making. Being an ethical leader is not a simple task and requires regular self-awareness, education, and policymaking in collaboration with your team.

We wish you the best of luck in implementing our suggestions, and please do contact us on info@4seeds.co.za if you have questions or need assistance.

10 Characteristics of Ethical Leaders

10 Characteristics of Ethical Leaders

Over the last few years, the number of private sector and government scandals have increased drastically. Every day, unethical and disgraceful behaviour and decisions are exposed, which obviously raises the question of where were the leaders at the time? Did they really not know what was going on within their company, did they turn a blind eye, or did they actively participate? When there is unethical leadership in an organisation, the implications are severe and often affect many employees and their families. Society is shocked, even enraged, by this behaviour, and call for justice to be served. However, the damage has been done, and people tend to lose trust in corporate governance and leadership. Unethical leadership seeps through society and leaves a vile taste in our mouths.

Being Ethical

It is only in recent years that leaders have embraced an ethical consciousness in the management of an organisation, and have made ethical leadership a strategic executive topic. The word “ethics” originated from the Greek word “ethos” which means advocating moral behaviour and requirement. Ethics can, therefore, be inferred to mean to behave in an acceptable manner that is good and does no harm, opposed to doing “bad”. Being ethical is honouring your values and moral principles which enables you to behave legally and morally correctly, thus protecting the larger community. Ethical dilemmas arise if there is uncertainty and conflict between different people’s interests, values, and beliefs. In an organisation, ethical behaviour is commonly referred to as a “Code of Conduct” or “Best Practice” where both require the organisation’s culture to drive ethical behaviour. Ethical leadership is about living out these critical high-standard principles, which is done through an active process of enquiry. It is also about developing an enquiring mindset that continuously asks explorative questions. Taking it a step further, it is extending this concept to the entire organisation which gives each and every person the permission to enquire and ask questions.

A leader’s character plays a role in their ethical performance. Jones (1995) said that ethical behaviour is a personal disposition, and a character that you are born with, rather than one that has been acquired through training and learning. An ethical leader has a conscious mind, and is self-controlled and aware of the dire consequences of unethical behaviour. It is not a risk they’re willing to take as it would conflict with their inner values and beliefs. Zander (1992) identified ten characteristics of an ethical leader:

The Ethical Leader

  1. being humble
  2. being concerned for the greater good
  3. being honest and straightforward
  4. honouring commitments
  5. striving to be fair
  6. taking responsibility for their actions and behaviour
  7. showing respect for each individual
  8. encouraging others to develop
  9. serving others, and
  10. showing courage to stand up for what is wrong.

 

In a business environment, ethical leadership can be summarised as: (1) being honest, (2) being trustworthy, and (3) having integrity. Trust is related to demonstrating consistent, reliable, and predictable behaviour. Ethical leaders treat people with respect, dignity, fairness, are transparent in their communication, and have no double standards. Gallup, in their 2004 survey which comprised of 50 000 employees spread over 27 countries, demonstrated that respect is the primary characteristic in the workplace that people value the most. It is therefore no surprise to see it as a main characteristic in ethical leadership behaviour. Integrity is a very sought after characteristic in the business environment, and it means being honest with oneself and others, learning from mistakes, and engaging in a constant process of self-development and improvement. Demonstrating this behaviour ensures that the leader is a role model, and this should encourage others to behave in the same manner. The concept of “follow-the-leader” applies.

For leaders to roll out ethics within an organisation, they use their internally designed values. On the one hand, an organisation’s values are aimed at achieving the strategic goals, but on the other hand they are the collective moral compass of behaviours in an organisation. Researchers Blanchard & Peale (1996) identified five organisational values that support driving ethical behaviour throughout an entire organisation:

Organisational Ethics

  1. Pride – having high esteem and respect for what the organisation stands for, the values, the people, and the mannerism in which the organisation is operating.
  2. Patience – being humble and accepting that it takes time to implement strategies that support the organisation to reach its strategic goals.
  3. Prudence – exercising sound judgement and not making risky decisions in good as well as in challenging times in the organisation.
  4. Persistence-the continuous quest to take all the necessary steps and actions to achieve a goal. Overcoming overwhelm, and moving forward with an ethical obligation to attain a goal.
  5. Perspective – the capacity and ability to determine what is truly important in any given situation.

 

The final question arises as to why organisations engage in unethical behaviour knowing the risk of being caught out at some stage. The answer cannot possibly be to remain competitive and have a cutting edge advantage, even if it will be for a short amount of time. I believe that market success and ethical leadership go hand in hand, and you cannot have the one without the other. Unethical behaviour leaks to the outside environment, and it won’t be long before society begins to hear about it and stops engaging with the organisation. It pays to be ethical and to uphold ethical leadership and values.

 

Two Methods for Creating a Giving Culture at Work (and Helping Build a Successful Organisation)

Two Methods for Creating a Giving Culture at Work (and Helping Build a Successful Organisation)

The organisational behaviour of reciprocity is not an unknown in our everyday working lives. We share information, collaborate on projects, and hopefully recognise how our efforts impact the greater objectives of the company. These are the foundations of reciprocity in the workplace, and they exist everywhere where individuals work together to achieve collective success.

However, when you first think about the idea of a giving culture at work, it may feel as if you’re going against your natural evolutionary instinct to compete for resources and thus survive and outlive your competition. If this is your first response, then it may be helpful to consider recent research in the field of neurobiology. An experiment performed by neuroscientists James Rilling and Gregory Berns at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, found that the act of helping people activated the part of our brain associated with rewards and experiencing pleasure. This literally means that we are biologically programmed to feel good by reducing the suffering of others.

So, if reciprocity is an innate human trait, then how can we harness this basic social behaviour to create a culture which benefits the individual, team, and organisation as a whole?

  • Firstly, we need to generalise this reciprocal tendency to create a pay it forward culture.
  • Secondly, we need to employ a culture of gratitude which can act as a buffer against stress and promote an ongoing giving culture through the reinforcement of proactive, prosocial behaviours.

 

Paying it forward

At its core, reciprocity comes from the foundational understanding that “if I scratch your back, you’ll scratch mine.” Reciprocity can therefore come from a place of indebtedness, which quickly leads to resentment and fatigue. Luckily, growing research in the field of positive organisational behaviours is proving that reciprocity with the intention of appreciation and gratitude elicits powerful effects on workplace effectiveness with long-term and sustainable company success.

A clear example of paying it forward is the Starbucks Coffee experiment where a researcher paid for the coffee of the person behind them, and then that person paid for the coffee of the person behind them, without expectation or instructions given by the researcher. In St. Petersburg Florida, this  process continued for 11 hours, and when the individuals were interviewed, they explained that they “wanted to show their appreciation for the kindness they had received.”

This case study is a perfect example of how we can create a pay it forward culture of generalised reciprocity in an organisation. If person A shows proactive, helpful behaviour towards person B and this organically flows through person C, D, E and F, then indirectly person A will receive helpful behaviour in the future.

This requires a giving mindset (which we will discuss in the gratitude part of this article) and trust in the system that they will receive help in the future. This indirect closing of the circle is necessary as reciprocity by its very nature requires an exchange. We will only offer kindness and gratitude if at some point we receive (even indirectly) the same treatment. We are unlikely to continue helping others if we don’t receive help ourselves, just as we are unlikely to continue showing gratitude to someone if we receive no appreciation ourselves. This is where gratitude becomes vital for sustaining the giving culture.

 

An attitude of gratitude

At first, gratitude may be thought of as fluffy emotional stuff, but it has been proven to have profound benefits on our workplace well-being. Some of the latest research findings are:

  • A daily gratitude practice can decrease stress hormones by 23%.
  • Grateful people are more optimistic, and optimism has a direct positive effect on our immune systems.
  • Appreciation from management increased work commitment by 80%.
  • Grateful brains release Dopamine which leads to an increase in productivity by 31%.

It is obvious that on an individual level gratitude is highly beneficial to our physical and mental health as well as our productivity at work.

However, how does an attitude of gratitude increase a giving culture at work?

Recent research into the neurobiology of compassion has shown that receiving gratitude (through words, touch or actions) generates Oxytocin – the neurotransmitter responsible for nurturance, trust and bonding. This release of Oxytocin causes us to behave compassionately towards others therefore paying forward the positive emotions we have just experienced.

An attitude of gratitude at work is a simple and effective way to create more givers in the workplace. Givers, as described by Adam Grant in his book Give and Take, are those individuals that help when the benefits to others exceed their own personal costs. He says that a taker is someone who helps whenever the benefits to themselves exceed their own personal costs. Plainly said – more givers in an organisation will lead to increased proactive behaviours, collaborative intentions, and a culture of working for the greater good of the organisation, not just for personal gain.

In the average workplace there will be a mix of givers, matchers and takers, and a lack of appreciation is the number one reason why people are leaving their jobs. Instilling an attitude of gratitude will not only make the takers in your organisation feel appreciated and experience more happy hormones, which will encourage them to give more in the future as they got something back in return, but they will also be more likely to show gratitude to others. Both of these reciprocal processes will ensure that a giving culture can be sustained.

In conclusion

This article may have taken some of you outside your comfort zone, or otherwise just offered a scientific perspective on a giving culture, but the aim has been to show the innate desire of humans to reciprocate kindness and appreciation.

While we have been programmed to compete against each other, we are hardwired to feel good by acting in prosocial ways. By harnessing the two strategies of paying it forward and instilling an attitude of gratitude in your organisation, you will not only be improving the well-being of your employees but creating a major culture shift which will lead to increased connectivity, civility, cohesion, and collaboration at work.

If you have a story to share or questions for the 4Seeds team about this article, please leave a comment below.

 

Two Essential Strategies for Building Organisational Resilience

Two Essential Strategies for Building Organisational Resilience

In the world, as it is right now, we are in a constant state of change, greeting the uncertain and unfamiliar on a daily basis. Whether it’s as small as changing the office layout, or the ever-uncertain economic or political landscape, the need for resilience to keep calm and carry on is greater than ever. But how do we develop our resilience, and is it possible to build resilience on an organisational level?

Resilience is a complex resource which is more present for some of us than others. It is, however, a learned skill which means that we can all become more resilient – with the right internal and external factors. Resilience is a subjective experience of how we manage stress and bounce back from adversity; however, everything we do exists within the context of who, where and how we interact with the world around us. Organisation resilience, therefore, requires individual resources who collectively make an organisation more resilient, while also having organisation level resources which in turn support the development of individual resilience. Make sense?

Humans are social creatures – whether, in the workplace, the home environment or social gatherings, we thrive from belonging and being supported by others. In the history of humanity, the civilisations which were the most successful were those that were able to gather their respective strengths for the benefit of the group so they could adapt effectively for survival. This same condition is the state of the current working environment – organisations need to gather their resources (personnel and tangible) in order to adapt and be flexible to constant and inevitable change. Individually we are weak, but collectively we are strong. This same mentality can be seen in the reason why we have teams. One individual is not as effective or productive as a group can be, and we, therefore, work together to achieve a common goal. This is where the concept of organisational resilience comes in.

Organisations need to remain innovative, flexible and agile in the face of constant change, and organisational resilience allows the organisation to turn failures and potential threats into opportunities for transformation and growth.

So how can we build our resilience resources on an organisational level? This article aims to explain the three components we need to focus on when we want to develop resilience in our organisation, and how we can support ourselves and each other in the workplace to not only bounce back but to thrive in the face of adversity.

Cynthia and Mark Lengnick-Hall (2005 and 2009) are experts in the field of organisational resilience. Their research findings have found that there are three sources of organisational resilience. These are organisation-level cognitive, behavioural, as well as contextual capabilities and routines which foster resilience in the face of setbacks. In the section below we will unpack the cognitive and behavioural strategies (contextual strategies will be explained in another article so we don’t overload you).

Each of these components are based on the paper Developing a Capacity for organizational resilience through strategic human resource management (Lengnick-Hall et al., 2011):

Three cognitive strategies for organisational resilience

  • Strong core values 
    When confronted with challenges, resilient organisations are able to bounce back because of their alignment to the core values and purpose of the organisation. If any unexpected negative events occur, knowing the core purpose of the organisation can provide the framework for not only adaptation but transformation and growth. Do you and your employees know your core values and purpose?
  • Collective sensemaking 
    As humans, we are programmed to find meaning in situations. If there is a shared space and vocabulary for making sense of an unforeseen event, it can greatly impact how people perceive and are able to support each other to recover and grow.

  • Collective growth mindset 
    We have mentioned the concept of the growth mindset in previous articles, and it is, by no surprise, a fundamental aspect of developing organisational resilience. If we remain in a rigid perspective where expectations are made of how things “should be”, we can quickly become hopeless and disappointed when things don’t work out. Developing a growth mindset in your organisation can help people to reflect, learn and adapt to new experiences more effectively.

 

Four behavioural strategies for organisational resilience

  • Learned resourcefulness
    The truly South African saying of ’n boer maak ’n plan is what comes to mind when we think of learned resourcefulness. In order to cope with unforeseen changes, an organisation needs to think outside the box, so that they are able to be creative and innovative with the resources available to craft an unpredictable but robust solution. This requires ingenuity, originality and creativity which is learned over time based on how we manage stress and challenges as a collective.
  • Non-conforming, counterintuitive strategies
    You cannot grow in the same environment which made you shrink. In order to survive and thrive in the face of change and hardship, the resilient organisation is able to find strategies which go against the grain, literally “swimming upstream” to get the job done. We cannot conform to a pre-existing strategy if things change; we need to develop an innovative and counterintuitive strategy which will open new doors and help us move forward.
  • Practical daily habits
    Learned routines in an organisation can quickly fall apart when we are confronted with unseen change. The behavioural element of practising daily habits is not based on routine, but rather habits which form from acting in integrity with the core values of the company. The prerequisite for this behavioural strategy is having a strong knowledge of the core values across the organisation. For example – the value of truth in an organisation can lead to the development of a habit of open dialogue and investigation which will serve the organisation to explore different avenues rather than making assumptions (and blaming) when trouble arises.
  • Behavioural preparedness
    This strategy comes from awareness and planning for the unseen future. Resilient organisations are able to adapt rapidly to problems that arise, abandoning behaviours that do not suit the situation, and being prepared to adapt mentally, physically, and emotionally in order to transform a negative setback into a new opportunity.

 

In conclusion

Resilience is the subjective, individual ability to bounce back from adversity and to grow in the face of challenges. While individual resources are necessary to survive and thrive when change happens, there is a need for greater organisational-level conditions to be present in order for a company to transform and grow in this day and age. Both the cognitive and behavioural strategies mentioned in this article are based on the extensive work of Lengnick-Hall et al., and provide us with a foundation of essential elements from which we can begin building resilience. Your organisation has been, is currently being, or will become, confronted with failures, setbacks and change, because as we know the only constant is change. So, starting to apply these practices into your organisation will give you greater flexibility, innovation and staying power when the going gets tough.

We wish you luck in implementing these strategies, and if you would like further assistance or have questions, our expert team is waiting for your email. Contact us at info@4seeds.co.za.

 

Resilience- The New Workplace Buzzword

Resilience- The New Workplace Buzzword

The Context

Every now and again, buzzwords creep into our business language. The main one at the moment is resilience, with leaders wanting to build resilient teams and raise people’s resilience in the workplace. But what is resilience? Can it be developed or even influenced? Many people refer to it as the stand-up syndrome, or the ability to persevere during tough times. Let’s begin by looking at the roots and definition of resilience.

Resilience in the face of challenging situations has been around for centuries, as is evident in myths, fairytales, art, and literature which portrays heroes and heroines. And it continues in today’s thriving movie industry. Just look at Aquaman, The Avengers, Wonder Woman, Black Panther, or Spiderman to name a few. It is only recently though that individual resilience is spilling over into the workplace.

Resilience was first studied as a scientific concept in the 1970s while researching children who were classified as high-risk problem children. Over the next three decades, further research was conducted which indicated that resilience led to increased positive behaviour, academic achievements, a happier and more satisfying life, and a decrease in mental illness, emotional distress, criminal behaviour, and risk-taking activities. Looking at these benefits, it’s no wonder that everybody wants to increase their resilience, especially leaders in the workplace. But resilience is more than just bouncing back from adversity. It has two important benchmark criteria: firstly that you are doing better than anticipated from the adversity, and secondly that there has been a positive outcome. It’s not just about bouncing back and being in the same state of mind as before. Growth needs to happen based on a “threatening” situation. You can obviously appreciate that resilience takes time, practice, and a mindset to develop. In a work context, adverse situations are often present, but do we always come out better than expected or grow from it? Our case study is about how to implement resilience in a working environment.

 

Client Background

Our client is in the insurance industry and has a solid track record of delivering excellent customer service. They go the extra mile with every client, and through their stellar quality work, outperform their competitors. The company is a medium-sized business with approximately thirty employees, which made it easy to engage with every employee and make a lasting and positive impact. The Managing Director had scheduled a strategy session with the team, and wanted to include tools and techniques to support the employees to be resilient in an anticipated challenging year ahead.

We were invited to facilitate a half-day workshop on developing resilience. The purpose was to impart knowledge and tools for the team on how to increase their level of resilience, and manage difficult situations and/or aggravated customers. It was about boosting the team with practical know-how so that they could thrive in the coming year.

 

Approach and Processes

We started off by providing background information on what resilience is, the benefits of developing it for both an individual as well as for the organisation, and ended off by sharing practical tools on how to build and maintain resilience. We also played a fun physical game with the team to assist them to transpose the learned material into real work-life situations. In this case study we will share two main resilience tools that you can apply in managing your day-to-day irritations, frustrations, and disappointments.

 

Tool 1 – Question your Internal Beliefs

In a moment of distress we seldom start by looking at ourselves, but rather jump right into being reactive and finding fault in the situation, which leads to us going down the blame and fault-finding path. This is not a helpful process for us. We taught the team to reverse this by questioning their assumptions and beliefs about the situation that was causing them distress; first looking inwards and then identifying their thinking traps. The practical tool to apply is the ABCDE method in which the following steps are followed.

The “A” stands for Adversity, and you need to pinpoint and name the situation that is causing you distress.

The “B” stands for Beliefs, and these are the assumptions you are making on what is causing you the actual distress. These are you sinkholes in your thinking.

The “C” stands for the Consequences of holding onto these beliefs around the adversity. It is very helpful to gain clarity of the consequences of holding onto the assumptions and beliefs.

The “D” stands for Disputation. Here we question ourselves whether the beliefs and assumptions are the only feasible explanation for the adversity. We begin to become open-minded and curious about possible alternative reasons. We challenge our thinking by looking for evidence and pondering the implications of our beliefs, assumptions and consequences.

Finally, the “E” stands for Energization. In this last step, we become energized by removing the limiting and negative assumptions around the adversity which usually results in us moving towards a positive action.

 

Tool 2 – Examine the External Environment

Only in this tool do we look outwards at the external environment that is adding to the level of distress we are experiencing. It can be friction with a colleague, time management, unreasonable work deadlines, or not having the necessary resources available. We imparted a short, practical tool for the team called ADAPT, and designed a plan of action to work through the adverse situation.

The first “A” stands for Attitude and is about questioning your mindset and exploring which thinking sinkholes are in the way. It also includes examining your emotions and the perception you have.

The “D” stands for Defining the problem and setting a realistic goal.

The second “A” stands for generating Alternative solutions. Brainstorming different ways of how you can accomplishing the set goal and writing down some alternative ideas.

The next step, the “P”, stands for Predicting the consequences. This entails examining the alternative solutions generated in the previous step, and evaluating their level of effectiveness. You start to look at things from all angles, and place yourself in other people’s shoes.

And the final step, the “T”, stands for Testing it. Moving into action and implementing the plan.

 

Impact and Results

This two-step process was a start for the team to adjust their thinking towards life’s challenges. It was about accepting that life is fluid, and that irritating, frustrating and annoying situations will happen to all of us on a regular basis. We cannot prevent them from happening, however we are in control of our thoughts, we can regulate our emotions, and we can choose how we will react and grow from the challenge.

For organisations, teaching people resilience skills is very beneficial to their profitability and productivity. In a recent study by Gallup in 2018, figures showed that 23% of people suffer from permanent burnout, and 44% from occasional burnout.

If your employees or leaders are experiencing similar challenges, and you’d like our support, contact us on info@4seeds.co.za to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our expert team.

 

The Secret to Employee Engagement

The Secret to Employee Engagement

Employee engagement has become a topic which has gained much attention over the past few years, with a wave of different strategies, tips and hints on how to get your employees more engaged in the workplace. While most of this advice is helpful, and is calling the attention of executives to the value of engagement in reaching company outcomes, some do not always address the root cause of employee disengagement.

The aim of this article is to reveal the secret to employee engagement – it isn’t your employees! The true measure of increased employee engagement is the organisational climate and culture which permeates on every level. A high level of motivation, proactivity and high productivity cannot be met in the frontlines alone. While every employee has the right to experience personal satisfaction in their work, they also feed into a bigger system of strategy and objectives which allow the organisation to grow and succeed.

At 4Seeds we believe in the power of the individual to influence the success of the whole. Our knowledge and expertise in the field of Positive Psychology has shown us that Positive Organisations are not crafted through short-term quick fixes or one-day team building events.

It is through a carefully managed system of continuous intentional actions that realise the potential of the individual within the structure and framework of the organisation.

In order to achieve sustainable improvements in employee engagement, an organisation and its leaders need to commit to a long-term strategy which puts people first.

The Happiness at Work Model which was designed and developed by the iOpener Institute for People & Performance is a highly valuable and proven method to improve not only employee engagement, but increase the bottom line through improved customer satisfaction, better business practices, and an overarching trust and pride in the organisation.

The Happiness at Work Model lays out the fundamental pillars of a successful organisation, as well as the core drivers of individual and collective success. These pillars provide the structural guidance needed to improve employee engagement – for the long-term. These are illustrated in the image below (courtesy of the iOpener Institute for People & Performance, Oxford, United Kingdom).

 

 

Key Questions that Define Sustainable Employee Engagement

 

“Would you fully engage with someone you didn’t trust?”

This is a key question to ask yourself when deciding to engage in a sustainable employee engagement strategy. If an employee receives mixed messages from company communications, they are unlikely to put their best foot forward; guarding themselves against being damaged. Trust in an organisation comes from developing transparent, open and reliable communication channels on every level of the organisation. It is the responsibility of the culture in the organisation to support the development of psychological safety and mixed messages, and varied responses from management and a lack of transparency can severely affect the development of trust in the organisation’s goals, management and agenda.

“Why would an employee be committed to your organisation’s mission?”

A key overarching symbol of engagement is commitment to the mission and vision of the organisation. Without a sense of how they meaningfully contribute towards the objectives of the organisation, employees are unlikely to feel fully committed which will in turn affect their level of engagement in daily tasks. Leaders need to provide sounds reasons and regular reminders of how amazing the organisation is and the impact its work has on its stakeholders, consumers and society as a whole. These regular reminders of the value of each person’s work in making a positive impact will grow pride in the organisation and its mission.

“If you don’t know that you have done well, why would you keep trying?”

We have mentioned the value of recognition and feedback many times in the past for its profound effect on the self-confidence, motivation, and positive emotions employees experience at work. However, there remains an assumption in many organisations that feedback is a formal, regulated quarterly review process. This attitude towards recognition hinders the constant employee engagement which so many organisations desire. However, in answering the question, an informal, continuous culture of celebration is vital for sustainable engagement and is the responsibility of every manager and leader within the organisation.

 

In Conclusion

This article serves to highlight the necessity of organisations to take responsibility for the structures and systems which can lead to employee engagement. While each employee needs to be groomed and developed individually, the secret to sustainable employee engagement lies in the trust, pride and recognition that exists in the culture of the organisation. Alter these consciously and systemically, and employee engagement will be just one of the positive side effects.

4Seeds is the ONLY accredited provider of Happiness at Work in South Africa. Our Happiness at Work organisational change management intervention has shown proven effectiveness across the board.

For more information on this powerful investment and how it can help you boost customer service, reduce employee turnover, and provide tangible results for stakeholders, contact us on info@4seeds.co.za.

 

Everything You Need to Know About Flow Psychology

Everything You Need to Know About Flow Psychology

What is Flow, and Why Do we Need it at Work?

Flow psychology is one of the main concepts behind employee engagement in Positive Psychology theory. First researched and coined by Positive Psychology co-founder Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow has gained a lot of attention in recent years because of its powerful personal and organisational benefits.

In this article, we will share what flow is, the benefits of increasing flow at work, and how to increase flow experiences.

Let’s dive in!

 

The Definition of Flow

Have you ever felt as if you lost time and your mind stopped analysing and planning while you were doing something you loved and valued? That was a flow experience. Flow is a unique state of high motivation, achievement, and satisfaction in what you are doing without external motivators or a perceived reward.

According to Csikszentmihalyi (1990), flow is “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved and you’re using your skills to the utmost.

Flow is the unique state that can be reached through the healthy balance of challenge and skills. Have a look at this image.

 

 

 

 

If we are over-challenged and under-skilled we become anxious. However, if we are under-challenged and over-skilled, we become bored. Flow is the perfect “sweet spot” where our skills and our challenge meet.

How to Know When you are in Flow: The Eight Characteristics of Flow

Not sure if you have experienced flow before? Csikszentmihalyi describes flow according to these eight characteristics:

  • Complete concentration on the task at hand
  • Clarity of goals with immediate feedback
  • The transformation of time (either slowing down or speeding up)
  • The experience is rewarding and grows intrinsic motivation
  • There is a feeling of effortless ease
  • There is a healthy balance between challenge and skill
  • Action and awareness are merged (there is a loss of self-consciousness)
  • There is a feeling of confidence and control over the task

 

The Benefits of Flow in the Workplace

The extensive studies exploring the effects of flow for individuals and organisations have found some positive and powerful benefits to this “sweet spot” state.

From the brain perspective, two things happen when we are in flow. Firstly, there are five different neurotransmitters that are released into the system when we are in flow. Each of these contribute to the flow state being innately pleasurable, rewarding and motivating. Secondly, when we are in flow, we have reduced prefrontal activity (the part of our brain responsible for self-consciousness, self-doubt, and time awareness) which means that while we are in flow we are able to turn off our inner critic, forget about our other pressures, remove time urgency, and “be in the moment” with what we are doing.

These two processes of the brain activate some amazing personal benefits to flow including:

  • Increased sense of confidence
  • Increased information retention and learning
  • Increased productivity (even 15% more time in flow can boost productivity by up to 50%!)
  • Better sleep
  • More positive emotions
  • The ability to cope better with stressful situations

While these benefits alone are motivation to want more flow experiences, the more individuals who have flow experiences at work, the more positive benefits for the workplace as a whole. These company benefits include:

  • Improved employee engagement
  • Improved productivity and product output
  • Improved employee morale and intrinsic motivation
  • Greater sense of meaning in work tasks
  • Better overall team performance
  • Increased commitment to company outcomes

Now that you have a better understanding of what flow is and how it can benefit the individual and the company in powerful ways, we’re ready to introduce some methods on how to increase flow experiences at work.

How to Support Flow Experiences at Work

“People reach a flow state three times more often at work than in their free time.” Csikszentmihalyi and LeFevre, 1989

This is an important statistic to consider when thinking about flow. The workplace can be a conductive environment for flow because it already has some key components needed such as clear, structured goals, immediate feedback, and challenges that require a high level of skill to complete.

There are many factors at work that prevent flow experiences, including high levels of occupational stress, poor role clarity, a lack of immediate and specific feedback, or a negative attitude towards one’s work. While an organisation cannot be responsible for many of the individual differences needed for each team member to experience flow, there are some general guidelines that can make your office more conducive to increased flow experiences.

 

Physical Structures for Flow

In recent years, the “bullpen” structure has become more popular for workplaces because it encourages collaboration, information sharing and social bonding, however this nature of working is not conducive to flow. In order to go into a flow state, one needs to be uninterrupted, undisrupted, and able to concentrate. If your organisation enjoys the “bullpen” office layout, then a good idea is to have a quiet zone where people can go to get into flow. Or perhaps look at having sectioned areas where people can do teamwork or individual work.

Sensory deprivation can also help to increase flow states, so become aware of the noise, visual stimulation, and the amount of movement in your office. If there is a constant change in the sensory pace of the environment, it makes it almost impossible for people to go into flow for long periods.

Another consideration is the physical comfort of your employees. When we are uncomfortable (ergonomically, changing desks regularly, or next to the toilet) we are less likely to get into flow as we will be distracted by the desire for more physical comfort. If the body requires attention, the mind will step out of the flow state back into the prefrontal cortex to analyse.

Social Structures for Flow

Flow states require immediate and direct feedback, whether this is from the task itself, management, or team members. The best way to ensure that this happens is to have a communication system in place which provides immediate feedback on completion of the task (an app which gamifies validation is a fun and progressive example, however it may be as simple as a quick daily check-in with each team member).

Another consideration in order for people to go into flow is for them to have fewer distractions – a culture of immediately responding to emails, urgent phone calls, and constant damage control are just a few examples of how your office culture can break down the chances for flow at work.

In Conclusion

A flow state is the optimal state of human functioning where challenge, skill and intrinsic motivation meet. A sure-fire way to enhance performance, boost employee engagement and increase company outputs is to encourage more flow experiences at work. While this is an individual process, there are certain physical and social strategies to consider which can boost the number of flow experiences employees have at work.

We hope you have learnt something new from this article, and welcome your questions and feedback on how this influences the flow states in your organisation.

If you require further assistance, or have some specific concerns or questions, please send us an email to info@4seeds.co.za

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.

 

3 Strategies to Make Conflict Your Friend and Change Differences into Potential

3 Strategies to Make Conflict Your Friend and Change Differences into Potential

 

An organisation is an organism – a (hopefully functional) system of individuals working together in teams to achieve the overall objectives of the business. However, each individual is different, and we all have our own beliefs, behaviours, strengths and desires. It is inevitable that the moment we work with others there will be conflict – conflict that we will all understand, perceive and behave differently towards. Here are just a few examples of what makes us different:

  • Age
  • Gender/identity/sexual orientation
  • Faith/religion
  • Cultural background
  • Belief systems
  • Personal values
  • Life experiences
  • Education
  • Work ethic
  • Personality profile
  • Character strengths

In a positive organisation, diversity is considered an asset, as the more differences that exist in a team the more innovative, effective and representative the business becomes. Positive conflict resolution thus plays a vital role in ensuring people see eye to eye and work collaboratively to achieve business outcomes.
 

Positive Conflict Resolution

So what is positive conflict resolution? It involves the willingness of all parties to forgive each other without punishment, to seek understanding and compromise and find ways to respect and tolerate each other for the greater good of the organisation. While this may sound like an ideal, and  difficult to achieve, it all starts with the collective desire to grow ourselves and others, to bring out the best in the people around us and believe that that they are doing the same for us.

Below are 3 fundamental strategies to start making conflict your friend and start bringing positivity into your working environment.
 

Unity

Organisations have a vision and mission, and each individual forms a vital part of achieving these goals. It is this common shared purpose that makes people show up for work, achieve their individual tasks and feel a sense of meaning from their contribution. This is the common ground which supports positive conflict resolution; however, this shared purpose needs to be communicated clearly (both verbally and written).

Another perspective to consider when driving home the idea of unity, and one of the fundamental principles of Buddhism, is the acknowledgement of our common humanity and our shared suffering. This takes empathy and may not be easy for everyone, but a good starting point would be “I recognise your humanity, I acknowledge that we are all trying to do our best, I respect your suffering because I too am suffering in my own way.”

While this may seem a bit fluffy, it is beginning to build a culture where everyone is heard, respected and validated. By having your employees acknowledge their similarities, a sense of unity is built, and people can resolve conflicts easier with the objective of reducing suffering and achieving the shared mission and vision in the organisation.

Trust

Trust in an elusive concept and can truly make or break an organisation’s employee job satisfaction and retention. Trust in an organisation involves each individual holding the firm belief in the reliability, integrity and capability of the organisation to meet their needs without doubts and suspicions.
 
Trust is developed over time from an ongoing sense of psychological safety – with colleagues, leaders and from the overall actions of the company. In order for employees to feel confident to trust, their Triune Brain needs to be satisfied.

The theory of the Triune Brain states that in order to learn, explore and grow, an individual’s reptilian brain – which supports their survival – needs to be satiated. They need to be out of fight or flight mode in order to really thrive. Conflict, while necessary and inevitable, is one area where unnecessary stress can build, and if not managed correctly can affect the individual’s ability to contribute and be productive.

Thus in order for employees to develop trust in the organisation, there needs to be:

  • Healthy, honest and transparent communication
  • Consistency in the enforcement of company policies across the board
  • Timeous reparation of confusions or misunderstandings
  • A shared belief in the organisation’s capacity to do good, for the good of their staff

Culture

Implementing a positive conflict resolution culture in your organisation requires consistency and a set of standards and expectations for all individuals, with no exclusions or special allowances – the CEO is as liable as the grounds staff to manage conflict in a healthy way.   In order to implement an effective conflict resolution policy, it is important to write down your organisational values and how these translate to the treatment of employees. Have these written up, signed by staff, and posted around the office to remind everyone of how to treat each other.

Another strategy is to encourage ongoing conversations where employees can air their concerns or questions. This makes them feel included, important and respected and can set the tone for the way the organisation’s culture grows. When people are heard and respected the differences in their opinions are more manageable as people do not need to fight for power and can build the psychological safety and confidence needed to really bring their best to work.

 

In Conclusion: Differences into Potential

Conflict is your friend.

It is through conflict that we learn more about each other, gain perspective on ourselves and harness the power of diversity. We are all different and conflict is inevitable; however, with a shared sense of unity, a strong trust in the organisation and a culture of healthy and safe conflict management, your employees will find their voice, express their best ideas and become more productive and collaborative. This culture of positive conflict resolution will enhance the overall effectiveness of the organisation to grow and thrive in expected and unexpected ways.

 

 

Five Reasons Why You Need a Coach in 2019

Five Reasons Why You Need a Coach in 2019

There is a reason why coaching is one of the fastest-growing professions in the world. A coach provides new insights on personal struggles, perspective on workplace challenges, and accountability for your best possible self. A coach offers a safe and supportive learning environment where you can grow and progress your communication, life satisfaction and overall well-being. And, as time moves faster and the demands for it increase exponentially, the need for coaching to support your growth and progress at work and at home is greater than ever.

Coaching, while a relatively new profession, has already had a dramatic influence on some of the greatest athletes, CEO’s and innovators of our time. These graphs published by the International Coach Federation (ICF) show the value of coaching for productivity and interpersonal skills at work:

coaching_benefits

No matter what you do, or where you find yourself, a coach is someone who is invested in your personal and professional success, at times even more than you are. Below are five reasons why you should invest in a coach for 2019.

 

A Coach Keeps You Focused on What is Important

There are countless demands for our attention and a myriad of personal goals we set for ourselves, daily as well as at certain intervals in the year. New Year’s resolutions are just one example of the milestones we set for ourselves in order to aid our progress and growth. However, as we all know, despite our best intentions we often lose sight of these goals due to distractions and urgent deadlines, leaving us feeling agitated and dissatisfied with ourselves. A coach is an excellent resource to keep you on track with the goals you have set for yourself.  

 

A Coach Provides Accountability

A coach becomes your personal accountability partner. Once you’ve decided what you want to work towards, your coach will remind you and keep you in check. Often, what we need in order to stay motivated despite our daily challenges is someone reminding us who we are, what we want and who we want to become. A coach knows your needs and goals and will support you to reach your potential, in your own time and on your terms.  

A Coach Helps You Save Time and Stress Less

Time is one of our biggest stresses in this day and age. We are constantly required to attend to different projects and people, despite having our own agenda and needs. The inherent stress of managing our relationships, tasks and personal and professional goals can become overwhelming, leading to health risks and negative consequences. A lot of our working hours are spent in a state of high stress and low mindfulness. A coach can help you to build the skills you need to manage pressure without becoming worn out. A coach is an antidote to stress, providing you with a sounding board for worries and concerns, and a fresh perspective on challenging situations.  

A Coach Can Help You Build Confidence and Keep Motivated

Motivation is a tricky thing, and we often find ourselves weakened by failures and setbacks. We become self-critical, and in turn, avoid or resolve ourselves to not achieving our potential. A coach can become an essential resource at these times, providing you with perspective, inspiration and objectivity which is impossible to achieve on your own. When you have a mirror to show you your blind spots, you can become aware of your limiting behaviours and harmful thinking patterns, and in turn, find new ways of living and working which can boost your motivation and show you your true potential.  

 

A Coach Can Help Increase Employee Engagement and Allow Your Business To Gain a Competitive Advantage

A recent study by ICF found that 65% of employees with a coaching culture were highly engaged. This is a massive improvement on the 13% engagement findings of Gallup from 2015. A coach provides powerful individual progress which improves the team and organisational effectiveness. In a competitive and challenging economic climate, this becomes a vital resource to leverage off and set your business apart from the pack.  

Are You Ready to Kickstart your Best Year Yet?

At 4Seeds we provide ICF-accredited coaching packages which suit any position or budget. With our professional and caring team of coaches, we can provide you with the motivation, accountability, engagement and insight to make 2019 your best year yet!   Click here to book a free meet and greet.