Quick Contact
Quick Contact
A Three-Step Reflection Process for You and Your Team

A Three-Step Reflection Process for You and Your Team

The end of the year is just over a month away. On the one hand, we’re eagerly counting the days until the end of the year so that we can go on our well-deserved holidays, and on the other we’re aware of what’s in our inbox to be completed before the Christmas shutdown. This time of the year is often associated with pausing, looking back, and taking stock. If you were to ask yourself whether 2019 was a good year for you or not, your answer will most likely be based on your experiences during the year. There were no doubt some happy moments, and obviously some sad or less enjoyable ones. However, some experiences weigh more than others, so your reflection process will be a subjective tally, and you’ll decide whether it was a good or not so good year.

Reflection is commonly used to assess our personal and professional life but seldom do we use the power of reflection process within a team and consciously take the time in our companies to reflect and celebrate. When I talk about celebrating, I’m not referring to the traditional year-end functions or team-building activities, but the process of really going inward and reflecting on the team’s successes, learnings, and challenges.

Past research suggests that focusing, planning, and setting meaningful goals for the future is important to increase well-being and positive functioning. Also, the main goal theory researchers, Locke and Latham state that goal setting is an effective way to receive feedback on performance and progress. During the year, we tend to focus on completing goals, sometimes perhaps even doing it without questioning whether we’re moving towards the goal or away from it. We don’t often take the time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished and whether what we’re doing makes any sense. We’re extremely focused on getting things done and meeting deadlines.

It’s very important to engage with a reflection process in your team and spend time, especially at this time of the year, to look at what has happened over the past year. It’s good to assess the goals you’ve achieved, which ones weren’t met, and what you’ve learned as a team. You’ll also need to consider what you’re taking into next year and what you’re leaving behind.


A Three-Step Reflection Process for You and Your Team

The following exercise will assist you to consciously monitor your progress and take you through a three-step reflection process you can use in your team and company to accurately review 2019.


Step 1: Explaining the Process and Intent of Goal Monitoring

This stage is self-explanatory and doesn’t require much elaboration. From the outset, you’ll need to tell your team what you’re going to do, why you’re doing it, and what the purpose is. This is to make sure that there is no resistance and that they all participate honestly. Highlight the importance for them as a team as well as individuals.


Step 2: Create Review Questions

Together with the team, think of questions that will help them track their 12-month progress. Start with light questions and then move onto meatier ones. Some examples are:

  • What did we accomplish over the last 12 months that we’re proud of?
  • What experiments did we attempt, and how successful were we with them?
  • What are some of the things we’ve learned about ourselves in the last year?
  • What are the things we want to take into next year?
  • What didn’t work for us in the past year that we want to stop doing?
  • What do we want to recognise ourselves for?
  • What are some of our goals for the upcoming year?
  • How do we want to celebrate our wins?


Step 3: Plan Future Review Meetings

Invite the team to schedule a 30-minute meeting once a month – or once every quarter – to review progress made. Waiting to do this at the end of the year can be a long time, and bringing in frequent check-ins maintains motivation, energy, and commitment. Also, it’s important to give regular feedback on whether they’re progressing in the right direction or not. Make the meeting non-negotiable, and if for some reason it can’t happen, reschedule it rather than cancelling it.

This three steps reflection process is easy to follow and doesn’t require any preparation. Your team will give you all the answers so make sure you really listen to them. It’s things like this which open communication, establish future developmental areas, and highlight past successes. It also brings to the forefront any weaknesses and highlights what didn’t work. We need to talk about all of it. Make sure that you focus on growth, achievements and acknowledge the members of your team. It’s also extremely important to end the session on a high note.

You might be concerned that you don’t have the time for a reflection process at this time of year and that it sounds like a lengthy process, but it shouldn’t take you more than an hour to 90 minutes. Trust me, it’s time well spent time investing in your team and giving them the necessary energy to be more engaged in their work at this time of the year.

For more information on how you can start creating a healthy workplace culture, contact us on info@4seeds.co.za. Our consultants are available to help you set up a sustainable and strong strategy which puts your best resources – your people – first.




Does Employee Loyalty Exist and How Can You Build it?

Does Employee Loyalty Exist and How Can You Build it?

I was on my way home from a client who’d just told me that they’d lost their star performer, the employee they’d invested all their hope, time, and commitment in. The client was devastated, and asked me does employee loyalty exist? Good question!

In the current working environment, the tables appear to have turned, and employees aren’t staying with one company for a long time anymore, leaving without qualms, for greener pastures. The one reason – well certainly here in South Africa – is that there is a skills shortage, which makes it easier for employees to be selective about their jobs. But could there be other reasons for why people leave their jobs? Remuneration seems like a logical answer, but when conducting deeper research, it’s not the true answer for why we lack employee loyalty. The answer is multi-layered, but can be divided into three core elements: culture, leadership, and employee happiness. I will touch on each of these aspects, but first I’d like to go back a step and explore what employee loyalty means.


Does Employee Loyalty Exist?

Yes, it does. Most would agree that employee loyalty is an employee’s commitment to working hard and being dedicated to the company’s success. It’s about putting the company’s interests first, and in return, expecting reciprocity such as stimulating work, a positive culture, growth opportunities, regular feedback, and collaboration, etc. Remuneration is a given, and is considered a fair exchange between skills, work tasks, experience, and knowledge.

In short, employee loyalty exists but remuneration doesn’t buy it- reciprocity does. This means that there needs to be a fair exchange, and herein lies the challenge. That exchange can become distorted as time goes by, with blurred lines between what the company and the employee expect from each other.


The Difference between Employee Commitment and Employee Loyalty

We need to clarify that commitment and loyalty are not the same things. Most committed employees are naturally loyal, but the reverse doesn’t necessarily hold true. Loyal employees don’t have to be committed. How can that be? Loyal employees are happy with their working environment and happy to perform their tasks. In contrast, a committed employee goes above and beyond and expects more from the company. Loyal employees will be passionate advocates for the company as long as it is good to them and satisfies their needs. A committed employee usually demands a positive working environment, growth, supportive leadership, motivated goals, and an inspiring vision from the leader.


The 3 Components of Employee Loyalty

At the beginning of this article, I said that employee loyalty is based on three things: culture, leadership, and employee happiness.


1.      Organisational Culture for Employee Loyalty

Research into culture, conducted in 2019 by TINYpulse, shows that 43% of people leave their current jobs for one that has organisational culture, even if that would involve taking a salary reduction.

Companies today are facing a culture crisis. Culture is a key differentiator for employees to stay, or to be attracted to work in your organisation. In reality, how many companies really put energy behind their culture? Most have their values stuck up on the wall and believe that a year-end function is enough to keep the culture alive. Maybe that was good enough twenty years ago, but in this current dynamic working environment, it isn’t. Not for the organisation, and not for the employee.

If you want to start changing the culture in your company, you need to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty because this takes time, commitment, and dedication. If you don’t put energy behind your culture, it will form itself, and it seldom develops in a positive way. Employees want to be heard, valued, and appreciated, so make that your starting point. Begin by talking to your employees and find out what frustrates and delights them about their work. You may be wondering what that has to do with culture, but the answers will assist you in establishing patterns and behaviours that need adjusting for positive growth.


2.      Good Leadership Builds Employee Loyalty

The second component is leadership. We’ve all heard so many times that employees leave leaders and not companies. But did you know that the percentage is as high as 70%? That means that with good leadership, companies have it in their control to instil employee loyalty.

We all know that in this day and age, leadership is an enormous responsibility and challenge, but it’s also an exciting one because we’re living in a time where we can explore opportunities and make decisions that shape our kids’ future. Leadership is complex, with a lot of emphasis on acquiring the necessary soft skills to lead people, and I’m a huge advocate that those are absolutely necessary. However, when I speak to employees, three common topics always come up, and I’d like to suggest that leaders start working on them.

First, employees aren’t always clear about their roles and responsibilities, as they have not been well defined. Second, they’re unsure how their work contributes to the team’s goals and therefore to the company’s success, which makes them feel that their work doesn’t matter. Third, they feel as if they’re not being listened to when they make suggestions or give ideas.


3.      Employee Happiness is Key to Employee Loyalty

The third and final component is employee happiness. I’m not talking about pool tables or Friday pizzas, but rather about getting to understand what makes people happy in the workplace. The answer might surprise you, but employees are looking for mental stimulation. They want to work on tasks that are not boring and routine-based, but ones that allow them to think and apply their skills and knowledge. I know we all have to perform standard tasks that we don’t enjoy that much but are part of our job, but it’s about mixing in activities that challenge us.

You can approach this in two ways: (1) you can assign activities to employees based on your assessment of their skills and competency, or (2) you could make a list of activities that need to be done, stick it up on the office noticeboard, and let people write their names next to the thing they want to do, preferably with a buddy. The key message here is to give employees autonomy to choose that thing that they want to step up to.

A much overlooked aspect of employee happiness, is that employees want to feel emotionally safe at work. This means that they can express themselves freely, receive support during challenging times and when they make a mistake, and are able to build trusting relationships.


In Conclusion: Employee Loyalty Exists but it Takes Effort

Employee loyalty is certainly difficult to attain, and companies have to work hard to ensure that their star performers stay. I have provided three areas for you to start working on so that you can ensure that your employees – who are your biggest asset – stay for a long time and give you the commitment and hard work that you’re expecting from them.

Don’t forget that I’m an email away if you need support. Contact me on info@4seeds.co.za.


Four Reasons Why Regular Rest Boosts Employee Engagement

Four Reasons Why Regular Rest Boosts Employee Engagement

While we all know how good a holiday feels, or how much more productive we are after a restful night’s sleep, demands on our workforce are at an all-time high. There is increased awareness about how regular rest boosts employee engagement, but despite this, recent research has shown that stress in the workplace is higher than it has ever been. In this article, we will share some of the latest scientific findings which prove how regular rest boosts employee engagement and productivity at work. While we may think of rest as a nice-to-have, it is, in fact, a key component of healthy and effective employees, who contribute to the success of your business in the long run.


The Impact of Stress on Company Outcomes

Stress and its effects on employees has received more attention from scientists the world over in recent years. It has been called “the number one silent killer” because of its impact on our health, performance, and company outcomes. However, despite this, most organisations still expect more input, commitment, and engagement from their staff. This is not to say that companies should not expect a lot from their staff; rather focus attention on reducing the harmful effects of sustained stress for the benefit of the company as well as its employees.

Recent research done by The American National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety found that healthcare expenditure is 50% higher in individuals with high-stress levels. This means that high-stress workplaces increase their healthcare expenses by 50% every year because of the negative impact of prolonged stress on their employees. Another study, completed by Forbes in 2015, showed that 60% of absenteeism can be attributed to the side effects of psychological stress.

Some other negative effects on health and well-being include:

  • Increased cardiovascular illness
  • A lowered immune system which makes us more susceptible to illness
  • Increased irritability and reduced time invested in workplace relationships
  • Increased burn-out and mental illness
  • Increased mistakes and ineffectiveness
  • Reduced efficiency and problem-solving ability
  • Poor quality of work outcomes
  • Increased staff turnover
  • Increased absenteeism and prolonged disability leave.

In short, unmanaged stress can result in a dramatic rise in annual company costs. While we know that stress is inevitably part of all workplaces, company outcomes improve when more emphasis is placed on creating a healthy workplace culture that identifies, manages, and mitigates stress. Employee well-being and productivity increase in direct proportion.


Four Reasons Why Regular Rest Boosts Employee Engagement

In today’s working world, stress is an inevitable part of our working lives. In some cases, stress and burn-out are worn as a badge of honour, showing off our dedication and commitment to our jobs. People are rewarded with promotions based on the amount of time they put in outside of working hours. This is a dangerous culture to encourage as it creates a system based on unhealthy work-life balance and makes “time off” a reward for the time put in. The impact of this type of workplace culture is making people ill and is not, in fact, improving company outcomes – it’s increasing company losses!

In order to tackle the stress-addicted conditioning we’re fostering in our society, we need to start encouraging employees to take more regular rest breaks. We’ve listed some key findings which show how increasing the amount of regular rest boosts employee engagement in the long run.


1)     Mental Concentration is a Muscle

John Trougakos, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour and HR Management at the University of Toronto, explains that our brain is just another muscle, and, like our body, it gets tired after strenuous exercise. Prolonged mental concentration causes our brain to become exhausted and less efficient. It may seem obvious, but having regular rest boosts employee engagement because after a mental break we’re able to reengage with more vitality, creativity, and dedication than if we were in a perpetual mental marathon.


2)     Regular Rest Improves Health

Stress causes many negative health issues and reducing it will improve cardiovascular, immune, and mental health. In addition, most of us work sitting down for large chunks of the day, and while it may not be possible to change this, taking regular movement breaks while at work can help to mitigate the effect that prolonged sitting has on our health. Most common health effects of sitting include:

  • Increased obesity
  • Increased general inflammation
  • Increased diabetes and high blood glucose levels
  • For every hour increase in sitting time, there is an 18% increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

In order to break this passive – but unhealthy – habit, we need to instill a workplace culture which encourages regular movement breaks, and empowers people to take regular rest intervals in their day to move, talk, exercise, or lie down. While this may seem contradictory to our usual working way, it will increase employee engagement and health rapidly and for the long run.


3)     More Working Hours Means Less Productivity

While it may seem impossible for those who spend hours on end in front of their computers, a growing body of research has shown that the more hours spent working, the less productive we become. A study performed by the University of Illinois found that “all work and no play” dramatically reduces mental focus, creativity, and efficiency. Taking regular rest breaks boosts employee engagement by allowing for restoration of mental resources and energy needed to give our full attention to the task at hand.


4)     Taking Time Off Increases Work Satisfaction

A recent article published by Harvard Business Review states the importance of taking time off to increase our happiness at work and outside of it. It is a well-known fact that a happy employee is more productive, engaged, committed, and effective than their unhappy counterparts. When people have time to cultivate their relationships outside working hours, they return to work happier, and when people have had enough rest and restoration between working hours, they’re better able to give their all. People who have this healthy work-life balance are happier, healthier, and more engaged.


In Conclusion: Regular Rest Boosts Employee Engagement

In the age of information, where stress is inevitable, it is the responsibility of organisations to find strategies to mitigate the negative impacts of stress on their employees, for the long-term benefit of all. One of the simplest ways to manage this is to instill a workplace culture that supports regular rest.

Whether it’s as simple as creating 15-minute movement breaks every few hours, or as big as including an employee wellness programme, encouraging your employees to take regular rest breaks will increase the physical, mental, and emotional resources they have to commit to meeting company objectives.

For more information on how you can start creating a healthy workplace culture, contact us on info@4seeds.co.za. Our consultants are available to help you set up a sustainable and strong strategy that puts your best resources – your people – first.

Three Leadership Tips on How to Motivate Employees for the Long-Run

Three Leadership Tips on How to Motivate Employees for the Long-Run

It’s every leader’s dream to have a motivated, focused, and high-performing team. Equally, it’s every employee’s desire to be motivated and inspired at work, and go home every day feeling fulfilled and satisfied. But all organisations struggle with sustained motivation, which is why we are going to offer three leadership tips on how to motivate employees for the long-run.

Without deviating too much, let’s pause for a moment and reflect on a time when you went home feeling as if you’d had a “wow” day at the office. I’m guessing that it’s been a while… Don’t feel alone; it’s not often that we have the kind of days where we were truly inspired and motivated by our work.

Leaders are frustrated that employees aren’t motivated, and employees are bored or unmotivated as their leader doesn’t give them the personal motivation that they yearn for. This is a lose-lose situation which results in headaches for both leaders and employees.

The Secret to Motivate Employees for the Long-Run

The concept of motivation in the workplace is nothing new; it’s been a conundrum which leaders have grappled with for centuries. Over time, various motivation theories have been designed by people like Maslow, Vroom, Hertzberg, Skinner,  Locke and countless others. They all have a slightly different focus, but basically all want the same: to inspire employees to be engaged at work and put in the necessary effort into their tasks. However, what the theories miss is the fact that everyone can’t be placed in the same box. They’re unique beings who are motivated, stimulated and passionate about different things. So, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, and leaders have to take the time to get to know their team members really well to understand what they are passionate about and what does or doesn’t interest them. It is this personal attention that helps leaders to motivate employees for the long-run.

What makes motivation as a leader so difficult is that we tend to make three dire assumptions. Firstly, we assume that people are motivated by the same things that we are. This is seldom the case because everyone is unique with different values and belief systems, which means that a different motivation style and intensity is required. Secondly, we assume that people should be self-motivated. In an ideal world where employees are working on things that stimulate and excite them, they’ll have their own inner motivation.

However, there are many things that don’t motivate them or that are overwhelming for them, and these require managers to provide extra motivation and encouragement. Thirdly, motivation waxes and wanes depending on the progress we make on tasks. Employees need words of encouragement, feedback, and support to get through difficult periods. A kind and encouraging word carries a lot of weight.

I’m aware that we’re heading towards the end of the year and that motivation is starting to wane, however in our article Three Strategies to Keep You Motivated Towards Year End published on 8 October 2019, we provided you with ideas on how to get through the last two months of the year in a positive way.

In this article, I want to take a longer-term view on how you can make motivation part of your leadership style and influence the culture of your team. This is a competency that is built and developed over time. It’s important to remember that motivation is a way of leading; it’s something you do every day rather than when people are low, disengaged, and unmotivated. By then, you’ll have a steep road ahead to get people positive and engaged again. It is so much better to learn to do it every day in small bits so that you maintain the momentum. Make sure that the whole team feel motivated often!

Three Leadership Tips on How to Motivate Employees for the Long-Run

Build the following motivation skills into your daily leadership role and notice motivated employee’s in the long-run. Four tangible outcomes that you can use to see whether there is a change in your team’s motivation are:

(1) They communicate more often and are more open with you
(2) They share with you and others when they make mistakes
(3) They volunteer on additional projects or work
(4) They share information or knowledge with each other

Three basic things which a leader should do to ensure that they motivate employees for the long-run are:

1.    Involve the whole team in decision-making

People want to feel included and connected with their manager as well as with their colleagues. Giving them time, the most valuable resource, is a primary motivator for them because they feel valued, appreciated, and considered. Allow them to contribute in meetings, ask them to share their ideas, and listen to them. Give them the autonomy to contribute their creativity and innovation; they are often the ones doing the actual work so they generally have the best solutions.

2.    Reward people in their value language

Most people don’t mind working late or taking on extra work for a certain amount of time, but generally they want to be rewarded for it. It’s your job to know which rewards motivate employees for the long-run. Understand what they value and align the reward accordingly. To do this, you have to listen to the language they use, as that is a common give-away. Better still, you need to spend time with them to get to know them better. There is nothing more off-putting than receiving a meaningless reward after a long slog. A reward without any thought or consideration behind it will demotivate them, and it might even go so far as to break down the trust in the relationship.

3.    Accountability and fairness

It may sound odd to put these two words together, but employees are motivated by being held accountable. They want you to follow up with them on where they are, check in if they need support, and remind them of a looming deadline. You might disagree, but in the end every employee wants to know that their peers are working as hard as they are, and as per their job description. If this is not the case, then employees value it if you hold that person accountable and don’t turn a blind eye. Not addressing it with the employee will instil a feeling of unfairness which can be exceptionally demotivating. Having double standards for different people, or favouring one person over the other, are absolute no-nos. Before you have a chance to blink, a lacklustre culture will have developed and the team performance will decline. I urge you to learn this skill as early as possible.

At 4Seeds we specialise in building positive workplaces through the use of scientific, practical, and fun workshops. We develop bespoke and affordable training that is tailored to your company’s needs.

If you’re interested in developing your team or your own leaderships skills, get in touch with us on info@4seeds.co.za.

We look forward to working with you to create community and connection in your company.

Five Factors Causing Unhappiness in Teams + How to Combat Them

Five Factors Causing Unhappiness in Teams + How to Combat Them

Unhappiness in teams, just like joy and sadness, is contagious. In fact, research has proven that our emotions are contagious within seven minutes. This means that just one unhappy employee can have a negative impact on a team or organisation in only seven minutes.

While we have all probably experienced the impact of unhappiness in teams, there is a great need for organisations to cultivate a more positive workplace culture which will improve the well-being of employees. Happiness is becoming the new measure of job satisfaction; in fact, happiness at work has become so important to people that it’s one of the primary reasons why people choose to either leave or stay in their job.

In this article, we will show why unhappiness is an important indicator for your team’s performance, how to notice the signs of unhappiness, and what to do to combat the spread of unhappiness in your organisation.


Ten Signs of Unhappiness in Your Team

As we have mentioned in previous articles, there is extensive research proving the effect happy employees have on organisations. However, there is also a lot of information showing the impact and substantial costs that unhappy employees can have on the organisation and its bottom line.

Becoming aware of the warning signs of unhappiness in your team is a good starting point. This requires keeping your finger on the pulse of the team, noticing toxic or negative behaviours before they spread.

Ten Warning Signs of Unhappiness in Your Team are:

  • Reduced organisational commitment
  • Poor time management – leaving early and arriving late
  • High staff turnover
  • Low levels of accountability
  • Increased micromanaging
  • Low levels of volunteerism and organisational citizenship
  • Poor engagement, productivity, and performance
  • Limited problem-solving and innovation ability
  • Poor workplace relationships
  • Increased stress, burn-out, and absenteeism

Based on these findings – which is by no means an exhaustive list – it becomes apparent even to the most traditional of leaders, that happiness at work is not just a nice-to-have, but is in fact vital for the economic viability of a business and the sustainable productivity of its workforce.


Five Factors that Cause Unhappiness in Teams, and How to Combat Them

While unhappiness in teams is more prevalent than we would like it to be, research is being done to understand its causes and influences, and how we can increase happiness at work.

4Seeds is passionate about this illuminating and evolving research into Positive Psychology and positive organisations. We strive to build happy cultures for organisations which in turn cultivates an engaged, productive, and committed workforce, delivering a more sustainable positive impact on society. This is our philosophy.

Here are the five key factors which cause unhappiness in teams, and what we are doing to combat them.


1)      Unsupportive Management

Research has shown that poor leadership is the predominant reason why people leave their jobs. While this may be a hard pill to swallow, it is fact. Happiness levels in organisations need to start at the top!

Our Meaningful Leadership Development Programme is designed to equip new and experienced leaders with the soft skills and personal mastery needed to lead others effectively. At 4Seeds we believe that with a combination of self-awareness, strong soft skills, and the passion to make a meaningful impact, any leader can create a positive culture at work. Read more about the Meaningful Leadership Development Programme.


2)      Lack of Tools and Research to Complete the Job

Job performance and productivity require each individual to have clarity on their role and the resources (tangible and intangible) to meet the job demands competently. If one does not have the resources (time, equipment, knowledge, supervision, or confidence) to achieve the outcomes of their job, they can quickly become disinterested, disengaged and depressed. Achievement is one of the fundamental pillars of happiness, so organisations need to provide the necessary resources for each individual to fulfil their role effectively.

4Seeds specialises in employee engagement. From organisation-wide assessments to bespoke interventions, we are the perfect learning and development partner to assist you to build and sustain the resources and human capacities needed for your teams to move from unhappy to engaged. Read more about our service offerings.


3)      Little Opportunity for Professional Growth

As we all know, growth and development are invaluable to our motivation at work. Why should we work if we don’t know where it will lead? Learning and development are fundamental to every organisation that wants to train and maintain its staff.

4Seeds offers workshops and trainings which serve to build the skills needed to survive and thrive in the modern workplace. From resilience and stamina, to strengths-based work efficacy, we have 12 training modules which can be tailor-made to suit your employees’ learning and development needs. Read more about our Positive Team Building Interventions.


4.      Poor Internal Processes and Systems

As W. Edwards Deming (American engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant) so aptly put it “eighty-five percent of the reasons for failure are deficiencies in the systems and process rather than the employee. The role of management is to change the process rather than badgering individuals to do better.”

Effectively, systems and processes within an organisation take strategy, innovation, foresight, and a willingness to learn and adapt along the way. Ours is to be an objective, external partner to your strategic development. We have expertise in corporate governance, systems thinking, industrial psychology, and leadership, and can provide a fresh perspective to take your company into the future. To learn more about this offering, please get in touch with us at info@4seeds.co.za


5.      Dissatisfaction with Colleagues

Team dynamics and conflicts are inevitable. Without the skills and insight to respect diversity and share frustrations, collaborate on ideas and build trust, any team is just waiting for unhappiness to strike. Positive co-worker relationships are considered one of the top five reasons why people stay at their jobs. So, creating positive, respectful and collaborative working relationships is vital to the productivity and happiness of each respective individual involved.

At 4Seeds we are experts in building human capital and positive relationships. Our Positive Team Building packages provide a choice of 12 topics. Each one of these topics will upskill the individuals on your team while cultivating a positive, cohesive working culture. The workshops can be done individually or grouped together into a more integrated team-building strategy. Read more about our Positive Team Building Workshops.


In Conclusion

Unhappiness in teams can no longer be an afterthought. If future leaders begin building happiness into their strategy for the years to come, we are more likely to create a stable, lucrative, empowering, and happy economy.

4Seeds is dedicated to this mission and have made it our core purpose to build happier organisations in South Africa. We would love to hear from you and assist your organisation to go from unhappy to satisfied, from unfulfilled to engaged, and from individual surviving to collective thriving.

Get in touch with us to learn more about our services and how we can help you.


Five Steps to Creating Happiness in your Workplace

Five Steps to Creating Happiness in your Workplace

Despite research showing the significant link between employee happiness and productivity in the workplace, it seems that very little effort is being made by organisations to instil a happy and positive working environment. Perhaps the idea of focusing on employee well-being or happiness feels like a soft and fuzzy thing which is leaders believe is the employee’s duty to manage. Either that or they think that it’s a modern fad that will hopefully soon pass. The reality is that employee happiness and well-being is here to stay and its voice will become louder and louder in years to come. If they haven’t done so already, employee well-being and happiness are going to become strategic agenda items that will need to be taken serious by board members, and senior and executive leaders.

People spend a lot of their time at work, and have the right to be happy and in a positive vibrant working environment that brings out the best in them. Also, happy employees are statistically known to be more productive, engaged, and motivated, which has a direct impact on an organisation’s bottom line. So, it’s a win-win situation for the individual and the organisation. But we struggle to make the mind shift to instil this positive concept. Why do you think this is the case?

Four key reasons spring to mind: (1) organisations are stuck in their comfort zones, and lack the know-how to roll out this cultural change process. (2) they lack the clarity on how the change will be tangibly measured. (3) they don’t have the budget set aside to engage in this philosophy. (4) they don’t have the time to focus on implementing and training people. Like the saying goes: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

I’m going to address the second point immediately because we can tangibly and easily measure employee happiness and well-being through things such as job satisfaction, volunteering, career development, talent retention, minimal absenteeism, low employee turnover, culture fit, motivation, employee engagement, and many more. The list is endless. On second thoughts, perhaps the terms happiness and well-being are causing confusion, because we’re not clear on what they mean.

What is Happiness?

Happiness is a construct most of us have experienced in some parts of our lives, and most people are mildly happy for the majority of their life span. Philosophers and social humanistic researchers have defined the term happiness in many ways so that not one agreed definition exists. The reason for the disagreement lies in the fact that happiness has two components to it. We speak of hedonic and eudamonic happiness. Hedonic happiness is the happiness most people are familiar with, which is to experience pleasant emotions and situations. We pursue positive events and activities to forego negative experiences, hence pleasure over pain is the motto. Eudamonic happiness is more intense, and requires personal commitment. It is engaging in activities in which one finds meaning, pursues growth and self-actualisation, and is virtuous by being naturally and morally right. Hedonic happiness focuses on the individual and has a selfish component to it, whereas eudamonic happiness is focused on the collective social well-being and is performed for the higher good of society. For organisations, there is a balancing act because both forms of happiness need to be integrated into the workplace. Events such as monthly pizza lunches will be fleeting and will tick the box of hedonic happiness because they disburse positive emotions and experiences, but aren’t long-lasting so we need to do them more often.

How to Kick-Start Happiness

To assist you to introduce the concept of happiness in the organisation, I’m going to share five practical steps to kick-start your process.

Step 1: Design a bespoke happiness survey for your organisation and then distribute it to all employees electronically

Honestly, this is more difficult than it sounds because you’ll want to ensure that you’re asking relevant happiness questions that will give you a true indication of how happy people are at work. Perhaps you’ll even bundle questions into sub-categories that you can use as measurement tools – things like job satisfaction, workplace trust, social relationships, working environment, safety, job crafting, etc. You need to set a substantial amount of time aside to establish what information you want to collect from your staff. Phrase questions in a simple and open-ended manner so that everybody, regardless of their position in the organisation, can effortlessly answer them. Have a look at our free happiness at work assessment to inspire you:


Step 2: Brief people about the happiness survey

If you want to get a significant amount of people participating in your happiness at work survey, you’ll need to brief people accordingly. Writing one email is not going to be enough for people to willingly spend time on the survey. Leaders will have to verbally communicate why the organisation is doing the survey, what the intention behind it is, what happens with the results, who sees them, what type of feedback they’ll get, as well as when they will receive it. The survey has to guarantee confidentially and be anonymous if you want truthful answers.

Step 3: Create readiness through positive language

You may not notice, but most language used in an organisation, regardless of whether it is written or spoken, is negative and has a deficit tone to it. Start by rephrasing words like “problems” with “challenges” or “opportunities”. Speak of “strengths” instead of “weaknesses”. Break the traditional corporate lingo, and be a bit more light-hearted and positive in your terminology. Bring in simple human appreciation concepts of being kind, considerate, and caring towards one another. Be mindful that what you hear consciously and subconsciously impacts on your performance, mindset, and attitude.

Step 4: Overcome resistance

Not everybody is going to be excited about this new concept. Perhaps your organisation has tried something like this before and you weren’t successful. People will remember that. Maybe they’re scared of the changes because they’re not sure how it will impact either them personally or their work. To reduce resistance, include the people affected by the change from the outset. Communicate often, answer their questions, and address their concerns. Listen to them and make an effort to understand where their fear is coming from.

Step 5: Do it in bite-sized chunks

It’s totally common that once you’ve assessed the data from the survey, analysed it, and interpreted it, you’ll be ready to jump into action. You’re going to have lots of things that you want to change immediately, but you need to be mindful of going slowly. Take a step back and find two or three activities that you can work on. Choose something that will get quick results, something a little bit more medium term, like in four to six months’ time, and then something that will take a full twelve months. Focus on three things only. Once you’ve accomplished one goal satisfactorily, give feedback to the entire organisation, and then choose a new thing on your list.

Making Happiness Permanent

Instilling a positive and happy culture in your organisation takes time and continuous practice. If you want to make this an effective and permanent part of the organisation’s culture, you’ll need a dedicated person to focus on this full time. Depending on the size of the organisation it may be part of the HR department’s role, but in a larger organisation you’re likely to employ an internal happiness officer or use an external consultant. Should you feel overwhelmed with the task of implementing a happy work culture in your organisation, please speak to one of our consultants for a free one-hour consultation.

The Importance of Humanity in the Digital Future

The Importance of Humanity in the Digital Future

Modern organisations are undergoing continuous change, with expectations from consumers as well as employees increasing dramatically as our economy becomes more innovative, fast-paced, and demanding.

We’ve already begun the technological revolution, and just like the Industrial Revolution, we’re creating machines which are becoming more and more intelligent, to the point that they’re able to replace many of our physical and cognitive functions. We’re becoming even more reliant on technology to minimise inconveniences, reduce human error, and maximise our production and processing potential. While this is an incredible feat of human innovation which should be celebrated and revered, it’s becoming necessary to redefine the role of humanity in this technological future.

As computers become even more intelligent, we need to be asking what humans can bring to the table to ensure that we don’t become redundant in the face of our own inventions. While you’re reading this, there are computers which are self-learning and able to adjust, analyse, and improve their functionality without human intervention. While this is happening, we have to ask ourselves what role we want to be playing in this future we’re creating. Douglas Rushkoff, the author of Team Human, is bringing awareness to this topic. In his TED talk he says, “It’s not about rejecting the digital or rejecting the technological. It’s a matter of retrieving the values that we’re in danger of leaving behind and then embedding them into the future”.

There’s a growing body of research that shows that while technology is providing us with more convenience, greater global connections, and more efficiency, the impact of social media, for example, is detrimental to our self-esteem, which in turn boosts our depression and anxiety levels. Navigation apps reduce our brain’s ability to solve problems, orientate, and memorise.

So, what values do you think make us inherently human? Ethics, morality, scenario-planning, intuition, empathy, collaboration? And how can we harness our human capacities, so we’re able to not only cope with but engage and positively influence a world filled with technological shortcuts?

The answer is in psychological upskilling. We need to develop psychological resources to not only cope with our current conditions but to grow our innate human potential, so we’re able to stay on track with our technological advancements.

As the leaders of today’s organisations, we need to be aware of this gap and focus on the humanity behind our work. We need to be anchoring our values, discussing and devising ethical protocols and how to manage diversity and inclusion, collaborating and co-operating, as well as helping our organisations to keep connected to the meaning, purpose, and humanity of its existence, now more than ever.

At 4Seeds we are acutely aware of the importance of humanity in the modern workplace. We have made it our mission to support organisations to bridge the gap between the dehumanising digital world, and the meaningful and positive roles we play at work, which keep us motivated, productive and committed. We know that through empowering leaders, managers and employees with the psychological skills of resilience, strengths-based job crafting, value-driven team goal setting, and self-awareness, we can help you and your organisation play a vital role in the progress of humanity in the digital future.

Join us for our next Meaningful Leadership Development Programme which is taking place in Johannesburg on 13th and 14th August 2019.

Learn more about the course and book your seat or drop us an email: info@4seeds.co.za

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.



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



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


Check your motivations

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


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.