Happiness is a concept, a feeling, and a state of being that we wish for others and for ourselves. When parents are asked what they’d like for their children, the answer is almost always: “For them to be happy”. When we write birthday cards or cards for weddings, christenings, or graduations, we always wish happiness on the person or couple.
Happiness is an essential ingredient in our life, but one we don’t often give much conscious thought to. We know that it’s a fluctuating emotion, and that outside situations often determine whether we’re happy or not. However, that’s not the happiness I’m referring to. I’m talking about the happiness that you can control; an inner feeling that isn’t dependent on the external environment.
COVID-19 has undoubtedly made us aware of what makes us happy and what drains us. It won’t come as a surprise that studies have shown that our happiness levels have dropped significantly by between 10% and 20% over the last four months. Other emotions such as anger, disgust, anticipation, and distrust have all increased. You might even question how we can talk about happiness during this pandemic, but it’s precisely in this time that we need tools to help buffer against all the negativity that’s around at the moment.
Everyone wants to be happy! It’s something we all share; a golden thread that runs through our collective lives, and connects us as human beings. For some, it’s more conscious than for others. Happiness is so much more than a nice feeling, and it’s very definitely something that can be physically felt. When people are happy, their prefrontal cortex (located in the forehead, and responsible for allowing us to think, make decisions, focus, and achieve our goals) is noticeably more active. Besides allowing us to think, the prefrontal cortex has another important function. It regulates our emotions, and assists us to recover from negative thoughts and feelings. If we learn to train our brain, we can indirectly influence our psychological and emotional well-being.
Four easy ways to train your brain
There are many ways to train our brain to be happy without the use of chemical substances, but in this blog I’ll focus on four.
- Ten minutes of quietening the mind stimulates the prefrontal cortex, and provides feelings of joy, calmness, serenity, and well-being. These are ten powerful minutes in which you can empty the thoughts from your head. It’s like having a brain break.
- Loving kindness meditation (LKM). This is a meditation where you intentionally send love, kindness, protection, and well-being to your loved ones as well as to yourself. Visualise the loved one in front of you, and send them abundant love. It sounds strange, but if we’re honest, we do this naturally for the people we care about and love.
- Gratitude awareness. Take a couple of minutes to become aware of who and what you’re grateful for in the day. This can be gratitude for people, situations, events, or the beauty of your surroundings, relationships, and life. You can have fun here and write the list in a journal, take a snapshot of it, draw it, sing it, dance it, or just think it.
- Strengths mindfulness. Reflect on the day and list strengths that you applied. Again, it’s a conscious decision to focus on the inner strengths that you used in certain situations during the day, without being mindless. This can vary from being patient and kind to an infuriated colleague or client, to using humour or empathy in a difficult situation.
The benefit of training your brain to be happier will be a more productive and focused mind, and it will make you happier. It’s within your control and your choice to pursue happiness in your life. I know you might not feel you can right now, as there are many worries and concerns, but take one very small step towards reclaiming your inner happiness and you’ll soon notice that you’re able to cope with your day a little better.
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 email@example.com 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.
Most companies implement core values for their business, but few have ever experienced the anticipated positive and lasting impact. When asked, people can’t remember their company’s core values, and have to physically look them up. That’s a clear indication that the core values are not alive, and neither are they actively lived out. They’re just empty, meaningless words which have been framed and stuck up on a wall somewhere in the office, showing that this particular organisational task has been executed. It’s extremely sad to see this, but you’ll be surprised to learn that it’s more the norm than the exception. If you don’t want to take my word for it, the Gallup Survey in 2007 revealed that 27% of employees believe in an organisation’s values, and only 23% apply them in their daily work tasks. This means that employees only align 27% of their decisions with their company’s core values, and the remaining 73% on their own personal values, gut feelings, or common sense. I’m not sure how you feel about that, but as a business owner I think that’s a high risk factor.
What are personal core values?
To make sure that we all understand what core values are and how they come about, I’m going to take some time to explain them. Values are things in our life that we find important, and those that we want to invest time and energy in pursuing because they provide us with meaning and fulfilment. Values are our internal guiding compass that show us what is morally right, good, important, and appreciated, thus supporting us to make decisions.
Living by your values means being authentic and true to yourself, and not behaving like you think you ought to be. It’s the person who freely chooses their values based on what’s significant to them, as well as the needs that ought to be fulfilled.
Practically speaking, though, our values can never be fulfilled or attained, and, as such, values serve as intrinsic motivators that shift our behaviour towards continuous striving. Our core values develop during our lifetime, and change depending on what’s significant, important, and meaningful to us at that particular time. They’re formed through a combination of what we value in our life, as well as through past life experiences. Most of us are aware of what gives us value, and understand that the lack of it causes emotional, physical, and cognitive distress. When you live your life according to your core values, you’ll feel fulfilled, authentic and satisfied; your life will feel as if it is in true harmony.
What are organisational core values?
Organisational core values are no different to personal values; however they develop differently, and have distinct objectives. In an organisation, it is customary for the executive leaders to design the mission and vision statement which explains why the company exists, and what its unique offering is. Based on these two things, the core values are designed to show how decisions will be made, as well as how people are expected to behave towards their colleagues, customers, and when completing work tasks.
Organisational core values are timeless, and apply in any economic situation as well as in any business cycle, be it a growth or a downsizing one. Think about it for a moment; you don’t change your personal values based on your life circumstances. If a situation causes you distress, you do your best to change it.
How organisational core values can be your competitive advantage
In any company, core values are the personality, the philosophy, the beliefs, and the way people behave internally. It really is about the interior heartbeat, and the culture. In today’s times, potential employees will go through your values on your website and establish whether there is value congruency between your and their personal values. They’ll research reviews written by your customers and how you responded to them. But it doesn’t stop there! A potential new recruit will do their own analysis of your organisational core values when they come for their interview. Also, your existing and potential customers will do the same thing; they’ll establish whether your values align with theirs.
The underlying reason is that our core values signal to others how we’re likely to behave, act, and make decisions; establishing if we’re reliable and trustworthy. This factor predicts future behaviour, and minimises upcoming disappointments, risks, and financial losses. Your core values are alive inside and outside your company, and with continuous focus and attention, you can implement something fairly easily so that it’s easy to manage and control it to your competitive advantage.
Ensuring that core values are alive and honoured on a daily basis are signs of a healthy company. Don’t be misled by financially successful companies who display their technical advantages, but don’t mention their human inner core values. These companies will rely heavily on procedures and processes that appear impressive from the outside, but result in bureaucratic red tape and an internal culture that’s stressful, toxic, and laden with conflict. I’m sure you’ve had the pleasure of dealing with this kind of company – they leave you feeling empty and flat as a customer because there’s no customer care or connection.
The values best practice
If you want to give your organisational values an overhaul and make sure that they come alive, and aren’t just empty words hanging over the reception area, here are five quick and easy ways to get started.
- Ensure that your values are determined by your employees and not your executive leadership team. As paradoxical as it may sound, staff live them every day and they want to have the autonomy to set and understand them.
- Values are behaviours that result in actions, and actions can be measured. Measure your values and establish which ones are being upheld all the time, which ones aren’t, and start to tweak them.
- Honouring and living organisational core values applies to everybody. The leadership team especially has to proactively model and demonstrate the core values all the time.
- People remember stories, so the best way to reiterate and emphasise core values is through sharing stories where a person in a team lived out a particular value. People will identify with the behaviour – perhaps they even witnessed it – and so they’ll remember it and will do their best to behave like that themselves.
- Reduce or minimise value incongruence by ensuring that your people’s personal values align as much as possible with the company’s. Have one-on-one conversations with people where you sense incongruence. Value incongruence is a key reason for people to leave companies, because they can no longer tolerate the working environment, the decisions made, and the ethics. This is always more expensive, both financially and productivity-wise, than you assume.
Organisational values have – unjustifiably – received a bad name, not by their doing but ours. As leaders we haven’t given values enough attention, and simply hope that, once named, they’ll form themselves.
Start today to take one of your core values and conduct a proper analysis or survey and establish whether it’s relevant to attaining the mission and vision statement. Is it actively lived out, is it clearly defined, and does everybody know how to behave?
As always, if you’d like us to perform this analysis for you, please contact me.
The flight, fright, and freeze mode that COVID-19 initially had on us is slowly wearing off. We no longer have that permanent deer in the headlight look on our faces from the impact that it has had on our entire life. The original shock is over, and bit by bit we’re starting to live in this new COVID-19 world.
Some people who previously had to work from home and conduct all their meetings online are beginning to return to work. However, others have either chosen to continue to work from home, or have been asked to. This means that most teams don’t work in the same space. This new way of working doesn’t appeal to everyone. Some will welcome this new working style, while others prefer to be in the same space as the people they work with.
Being physically separated isn’t easy because it impacts communication levels, motivation, engagement, and well-being. These are some of the things which were already difficult to manage before COVID-19 (BC), when we all worked in the same location, but now they’ve become more complicated. As much as we highlight the positive aspect – and there are many – the biggest and most threatening challenge for a leader will be to ensure that his team remains connected. Team members always need to feel that they belong, are part of, and contribute to, the organisation, and that isolation and psychological distancing will not affect them.
I want to share my top three recommendations to ensure that your team remains high performers, and that they experience positive morale, engagement, and job satisfaction.
Three ways to manage your team
We’ve had to let go of all our expectations about the way we operated BC. Previously unthinkable concepts have become a reality, and leaders and team members have had to adapt quickly and come to terms with this new way of working.
- Unsynchronised working hours: People are no longer allowed to gather at the same space, and neither do they work similar hours. Even with flexi-time, you could rely on the fact that most of your team were at the office at a certain time during the day. Now, people work different hours which may not coincide with the time that their colleagues are at the office. We need to trust, become more open-minded, and give people the autonomy to work the hours that suit their lifestyle and energy levels. We need to stop micro-managing people, and give them the freedom to craft their jobs, their tasks, and the structure of their day. As a leader, your role is to become more explicit in articulating what needs to be done, and what your expectations are. There will be team members who were dependent on you micro-managing them, and you’ll need to mentor them to become more self-sufficient.
- Increase communication and connection levels: As highlighted previously, one of the glaring downsides of working virtually will be the risk that team members may feel socially disconnected from one another. They may feel as if they’re not really a unit that collaborates, shares, and cares for one another. To prevent this from happening, you need to take an extremely active role in staying connected through short text messages, virtual coffee chats, and social events. Make it a daily priority to be in touch with at least one person, and then every week or second week have short check-ins. These meetings are not to be confused with the standard production and update meetings, as they’re about connecting with your team and making sure that they’re feeling emotionally, psychologically, and physically supported.
- Provide learning buddies and resources: Many employees are in uncharted territory, and have to learn new technical skills, working routines, and behaviours of working effectively and efficiently, while being physically apart. Support them by creating a buddy system so that they can learn from one another and feel socially connected. Learning together with a peer is less overwhelming, builds trust, and fosters stronger working relationships. Encourage this, and make sure that your team has options available to learn new skills.
The time has come to create a safe learning environment; one in which everyone has a voice to contribute and share their thoughts. Give them the space and the permission to walk this uncharted territory together. No-one has been in this situation before, so we don’t have the answers, but we can discover them together.
There’s no denying it: remote working is the new normal! The benefits of a digital workspace have become apparent to employers and employees, and nobody’s going back to the old ways.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged businesses to reinvent themselves. In some cases, businesses have had to make the difficult decision of whether to close their doors, or to extend themselves into the digital age. We’re beginning to not only work remotely, but also to modify the way we do business. Most people have discovered that many jobs can actually be done remotely, and that a majority of employees actually prefer to work from home if at all possible.
Companies are starting to invest in technologies and systems that facilitate the digital workstation, giving employees the tools they need to connect, collaborate, and perform their core responsibilities from anywhere, at any time. There are, however, people who are still sceptical, so let’s explore the benefits that your company could be missing by not embracing the digital workspace.
Employees have the ability to work remotely, and with maximum flexibility. In so doing, there’s no compromise to the company’s efficiency, its productivity, or its ability to meet its goals. There are no limits to the concepts of place or time, and there are any number of technologies available. In addition, employees are unfettered by time restrictions, giving them more choices as to when they will work. Given those choices, employees can schedule work times to suit themselves, and will probably put in more time than necessary.
BC (before COVID), employees may have felt that they were isolated and away from their team and support system. With so many options available, everyone can easily interact with each other in virtual meetings. The ability exists to share and discuss documents, data, and images, and people can exchange ideas about things that they’re working on. They can also collaborate on projects together, despite the geographic distances that may separate them. And it’s generally easier to keep everyone engaged and in step, because people are almost always online in some way.
Company cultures are beginning to adapt, and we’re seeing happier employees who are more engaged, have better ideas, and are more innovative.
There are many benefits for both employees and employers.
Employees produce more when they have a healthy work-life balance. And because they can work from home, they’re less likely to call in sick, because in many cases they can still work from home.
Employees are generally happier, and are more likely to offer the best of their skills and talents to the company. They tend to be more engaged, productive, efficient, and offer better customer experience.
Staff turnover is reduced because employees feel trusted, rewarded, and appreciated. Companies which offer flexible work arrangements find it easier to attract potential employees.
Employees and employers recognise and value the importance of the seamless integration of the various digital technologies in the workspace. This enables the improved management of workforce resources, team communications, training, performance statistics and reviews, and HR matters. The workspace can be brought together by means of communication applications such as chat, video conferencing, and conference calls.
This should be the foremost reason to transform your organisation into a digital workspace. Everyone will benefit massively from this.
Employees will have more hours in the day, more flexibility, and so many more added personal benefits and savings. They won’t have to pay for public transport, or for petrol and car servicing, or parking, and they’ll save on commuting time. There will also be less time spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic, probably resulting in less road rage. And they’ll be in much better shape to start their day!
Companies will enjoy reduced (or eliminated) office and building costs, office-related issues, building maintenance, staff refreshments, stationery, and much more.
Change is never easy, but with COVID-19 as the biggest factor – it’s really a game changer – can your business really afford not to invest in the digital future and the future of your company?
It’s the beginning of June, and most businesses have received government permission to open up after ten weeks of lockdown. For some, it will be the first full week back at the office, for others that happened a few weeks ago, and for some working from home remains the norm. There is an optimistic buzz on the roads as we pick up the vibes of what we know to be our normal working day.
Since the start of the lockdown, we’ve been overloaded with an abundance of expert opinions on why we can’t and won’t go back to the old way of working. We may agree with some of these views, while we won’t consider others because we can’t begin to imagine the working world operating in this new dimension. Regardless of how challenging it will be, you have to embrace finding a new normal for your team, and your business.
But what is this new normal everybody keeps referring to? On its own, the term is a contradiction as something new cannot be normal. It can be unique, novel, exciting, different, or transformational, but not normal. The biggest mistake leaders can make now is to go back into their businesses thinking that by tweaking one or two procedures, and being open to flexible home-office working, virtual teams, and digital customer support, that they’ve done what’s needed to be this ‘new normal’. But that’s not how it works! To use an analogy, you cannot edit an existing painting with a few paintbrush strokes, hoping to give it an entirely new look. You have to be courageous to put that painting aside, fetch a brand new canvas, and start creating a new work of art. The same applies in your business. Don’t return to work thinking that by rewriting your procedures, or being more digitally savvy you’ve done enough. This way of thinking will be a quick-fix solution, but one that won’t see you through the next year.
Four leadership mindset shifts
As a leader, you have to make four radical mindset shifts:
- Become a human strategist. This means being a leader with heart, compassion, empathy, and emotion. By sharing a part of your own life, emotions, fears, needs, and vulnerability you will help your team to trust and respect you as a role model. Then it’s about striking the balance between bringing in direction, focus, and setting the path for the future.
- Collectively assess and question every procedure and policy. Encourage the team to critically consider whether certain procedures and policies are necessary. Ask them to question whether it is needed, whether it serves any purpose, whether it can be done differently, and – most importantly – whether it can be simplified. Consider the KISS principle (Keep It Short and Simple).
- Embrace the shift to increased digital working. This way of working is something your employees and customers are used to now, and most even prefer it. Make sure that you have the necessary resources and training available on how to become efficient and skilled digital workers.
- Say goodbye to 9 to 5 working hours. Instead, say hello to the flexibility to work anywhere and at any time. Start to measure output, and value the person’s contribution rather than their physical hours in an office or time spent on a task.
I understand that some of these shifts might be easier than others. Make small adjustments and lean on your team for input and guidance. You don’t have to do this alone, and nobody is expecting you to.
This is the start of a series of posts I will share on transforming and growing your business, leadership skills, and teams. Remember that this is the crucial time to invest in your people. Call us for a free 30-minute no-obligation conversation on how we can support you and your team.
Empathy isn’t something that we’re hearing for the first time, but what is unique is that it’s finding its way into our business culture and vocabulary. In fact, in 2017 the Merriam-Webster dictionary identified empathy as the fourth most searched word of the year. This means that it really matters to us, and it’s here to stay. Instilling empathy in the workplace isn’t one of those nice-to-haves that you need to implement so that your people are happy and productive. Quite the opposite! It’s a long-term strategic culture decision that an organisation makes if it wants to experience satisfied customers, an engaged workforce, and a financially healthier business.
What is Empathy?
The most common definition of empathy is the ability to understand and experience the feelings and thoughts of another person. The aim is to get a better understanding of the other person’s perspective on a situation. Expressing empathy creates a positive and trusted connection among people; however, as always, we’re complex creatures and so we need to distinguish between the different types of empathy. American Psychologists, Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman classified empathy into the following three types.
- Cognitive empathy: the ability to distil how a person is feeling, and understand their thoughts. Developing cognitive empathy means being a good communicator because you can connect with the person at their ideal cognitive point.
- Emotional empathy: the ability to experience the feelings of another person. It’s about really understanding and intensely relating to another person’s emotions. Emotional Intelligence is the skill that assists you to build emotional connections with others.
- Compassionate empathy: is a combination of cognitive and emotional empathy, but has the additional component of being able to assist the person to take action to resolve their situation.
We all like to be understood and for others to consider – or at least listen to – our perspective. So, empathy is a two-way street, and you’ll receive as much as you give. It requires patience and practice, but it enriches relationships, minimises conflict, and improves problem-solving.
Empathy in the Workplace
The workplace is busy and we can get distracted by many things that continuously call for our attention. A client’s urgent deadline, a project that requires our input, wrapping our head around new systems, and managing a demanding colleague are all examples of things that distract us from focusing on empathy. We think that once a particular manic period is over, and a certain project has been completed, we’ll focus on empathy, but that day seldom comes because something more pressing always gets in the way. Empathy isn’t something you can squeeze into your workplace culture when you have time. It’s a strategic decision you make if you want to ensure your organisation remains profitable.
Sounds harsh, I know, but it’s the reality. Let’s look at some facts and figures to substantiate my comments.
- The 2017 Gallup State of the Global Workplace report showed that high-performing employees who are not engaged at work will consider leaving. The only thing that would keep them there is empathy. Employers need to provide an environment in which high-performing employees are recognised and supported to achieve their career goals, where their needs are met, and where there is a work-life balance.
- The 2018 Bussinessolver® State of Workplace Empathy reveals that 93% of employees say they’re more likely to stay with an empathetic employer. This figure proves that empathy as an organisational culture isn’t a nice-to-have, but a must-have. In fact, 92% of employees believe that empathy is undervalued in their organisation.
- In the same survey, CEOs unanimously link an organisation’s financial performance to the level of empathy. The reason for the financial boost is that employees would be willing to work overtime for an empathetic organisation.
- The 2016 Harvard Business Review highlighted that the ten most empathetic companies generate 50 percent more earnings than those at the bottom of the index.
- Finally, Businessolver’s 2018 survey has ascertained that instilling empathy as a core value into the DNA of a business has a direct bearing on the workplace culture, innovation, productivity, and profitability.
These facts and figures might feel overwhelming to you, but you should use them as a motivator and a little nudge to start introducing empathy as a core value in your organisation.
What organisations aren’t acknowledging
All the surveys and statistics show that empathy in the workplace really does matter, but you have to decide whether you’re ready to embrace this change. Can you accept that empathy is what is going to motivate, unite, and connect people within your organisation? You may be sceptical and follow the “wait and see” approach, or believe that empathy doesn’t really apply to you. Then perhaps you should consider these four facts that all call for empathy in the workplace.
Firstly, women are becoming an equal representation in the workforce, and feel that organisations are only 33% empathetic and can do more. Women are dissatisfied with organisations’ low levels of empathy, and CEOs are aware that women in leadership positions would enhance the empathy quotient.
Secondly, employees are increasingly concerned and fearful about the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in the workspace. Are we even sure how AI will impact on our job security and the ability to connect with customers and colleagues?
Thirdly, despite the technology and online platforms, employees still value face-to-face communication the most because it’s easier to share and feel each other’s empathy. More efficient communication methods such as video conferences, emails, and text message definitely lose the empathy factor.
Finally, empathetic organisations attract and retain talent because it drives collaboration and innovation, and makes employees feel like they belong.
Empathy impacts on how we engage with others in the workplace and outside of it, as well as how we experience our daily life. The chances are that if you encountered empathy today, you’ll pay it forward and give to someone else.
Be part of the empathy revolution, and start thinking how you can instil a more empathetic culture into your organisation today.
With the announcement of the nationwide lockdown, companies have become despondent, and absolutely terrified that their business may shut down. It’s at times like these that optimists would say that ’n boer maak ’n plan, and, in some cases, this is true. Many businesses will rise to the challenge, make a full recovery, and inspire others to do the same.
Companies have been forced to become smarter and more flexible. Most have discovered that their teams can actually work from home. Some employees have adopted a new sense of work-life balance, and many others are more connected than ever before. Boomers have literally become Zoomers! Apart from that, e-commerce and direct-to-consumer experience companies are achieving accelerated growth, and e-health, e-legal, and other e-solutions are popping up rapidly. This is really good news if you’re in a business where you can ride the wave!
If you’re not, however, you may be one of those companies who will experience a defensive reflex to keep the spiralling losses under control, especially if you’re in high-impact industries like construction, tourism, and entertainment. It’s important to remember that no-one will be entirely spared from the impact of this pandemic. It will have a profound impact on all aspects of every business, and it is totally understandable that in times where demand is plummeting, and the future outlook is uncertain, companies will refocus all their efforts on the essential business processes to keep the business afloat!
Amidst these massive disruptions, a combination of short- and long-term innovation responses can provide a ray of hope for businesses. If history has taught us anything, it is that we are capable of finding interesting ways to reinvent ourselves – often bouncing back even stronger than before!
Just as the pandemic has revealed differences regarding the preference to work from home, experience with remote learning, entertainment, and consumption will also shape consumer attitudes toward digital and physical experiences. Differences in consumer preferences may generate valuable business opportunities, new products and services, and new business models.
To ensure that your company responds efficiently to new opportunities, you may wish to consider expanding your brainstorming to include external input. Ideas from customers, partners, and other external parties may offer invaluable insight, and a way to get ahead of the curve when it comes to market trends and reprioritisations. You might find that communication and collaboration are more crucial than ever, and that you’ll need to adapt your processes, find ways to streamline your workflows, increase productivity, and reduce wastage.
There’s no way around it. The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed our daily lives, and the same is true for our businesses. One thing is for sure, though. It has encouraged innovation, and we’re starting to see a true entrepreneurial spirit emerge. There’s a change from victim mentality to that of being a leader; businesses and communities are supporting each other, “local is lekker”, and sharing, collaborating, and innovating is at its best! And as the world begins to emerge from the crisis, we will find new ways to interact, entrepreneurs will actualise previously untenable business opportunities and reassess innovation strategies, consumers will be able to take advantage of new environments, and policy and regulations will adapt to keep everyone safer in the future.
“The only way to discover the limits of what’s possible is to go beyond them to the impossible.” (Arthur C Clarke)