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Case Study: Promoted to manager, now what?

Case Study: Promoted to manager, now what?

Leadership: A Context


Most people strive to be promoted and climb the workplace ladder into a higher position, with their eyes set on becoming a manager and then a leader. So, why is it that when they reach the desired point for which they worked so tirelessly, things change drastically. Suddenly a star performer’s productivity and performance drops, their motivation dwindles, they deliver late, their work quality drops, and mistakes creep in. They won’t be sure how it happened and will be like a deer in the headlights, unable to move.

The analogy of the startled deer is precisely what happens. The newly-promoted leader enters a state of paralysis where they can’t move, begin to doubt their own abilities, lose confidence, and are unable to make concrete decisions. The senior leaders will ask themselves what has happened to their star performer, the person who was recently promoted and who they were expecting to fire like a rocket.

What has happened to their star performer is that they have become “paralysed” in their new role. They were previously technically competent and highly skilled which made them perform at their best. Senior leaders recognised the potential in their star performer and promoted them to a more senior role with additional responsibility and a few team members reporting to them. What may appear as a formidable gesture turns into a nightmare. The challenge lies in the fact that the star performer has been promoted without the necessary leadership training on how to embrace their new role, tasks and most importantly how to lead their team. The essential people and soft-skills were never imparted, with the newly-appointed leader doing their best to figure it out by themselves. They will have to learn in a DIY style when it comes to leadership, which is not a recommended approach. Unfortunately, we see this situation very often and are called in to assist through coaching, training or workshops. Our next story is precisely about that.



The client was a well-established family-owned business where the owners wanted to grow the business to a level where they could hand over their legacy to the next generation leaders in the next 15 years. The leaders they had identified had been working in the business for the past 10 years which was why promoting them to manager seemed like a natural next step. It was everything but that.

After the initial feelings of elation and pride, the reality set in and the team’s as well the manager’s performance began to drop. Customers complained, mistakes occurred, team morale dipped, and workplace tension was escalating for everybody.


We were called in to help this manager make the transition from previously being part of the team and now being their manager. In addition, we needed to help the manager with some leadership skills.


Approach and process

We engaged with the manager for over 10 months, with meetings every two weeks. We designed a structured plan upfront of what would be key items to focus on as we believe that each situation is unique and each leader requires different skills to develop and grow. However, in this case study we will share three main things we applied to get the transition moving forward.

  1. Shifting the mindset from team member to manager. This is the most difficult transition to make because their role will have changed completely from one day to another. Yesterday they were part of the team sharing tea breaks and lunches with them, and now they are their manager giving direction on work tasks to be completed. Suddenly, they are accountable for their own work, as well as delegating, and planning. For the manager, this is the most stressful and difficult time to make the transition because they have not yet identified themselves with their new role, and sometimes they will slip back into what’s familiar. The transition occurs gradually but has to be approached consciously. They will need assistance in terms of listing what behaviours they need to let go of and identifying how this can be done by exploring what they can replace them with. This stage requires time and patience as the transition does take about three months.
  2. Learning to communicate with their team. Communication is a large and important topic for any manager to embrace. It has many components to it such as listening, asking questions, providing feedback, and managing conflict. With this situation, we taught the manager to rely on his natural people strengths. We encouraged him to listen without interrupting, ask questions to understand and not judge, ask for help from senior leaders when he wasn’t sure, and to give his team feedback. He needed to trust his intuition when communicating, and also to learn to find the right balance on when to be empathetic and when to be firm. We raised the communication levels through regular brief face-to-face morning team meetings and used emails more for information sharing rather than for conversations. The last thing we focused on was addressing conflict or disputes very early on and not allowing them to go unaddressed and spiral out of control. We showed him to be mindful to focus on the situation that was under dispute and never the person.
  3. Building positive trusting relationships seems to be an obvious one, but the words “positive” and “trusting” change the dynamic in relationships. Finding the ideal balance is tricky for even the most seasoned leader. Relationships are about having a sense of awareness for oneself and others, and can be categorised into building social and emotional intelligence. We are all unique human beings who think, feel and sense differently. What motivates one person doesn’t motivate another, and as a leader, it’s learning to build, nurture and maintain different relationships at various levels. The things we specifically focused on here was to let go and to trust the team to do their tasks, learning to not micro-manage and to give continuous feedback on the work completed.



This three-step process was the start for the manager to transform. Many other soft skills and building blocks were shared, but are not discussed in this article. From the day we started the intervention, the manager has grown and developed a level of confidence and self-worth and has set new goals in his personal and professional life. There is nothing more rewarding than to witness an individual growing and developing in both these domains.

If your newly-appointed manager or leader is experiencing similar challenges, and you’d like our support, contact us at info@4seeds.co.za to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our expert team.

How to Become an Agile Leader

How to Become an Agile Leader

Our first article on agile leadership was written on 5 September 2016. That’s almost three years before the phrase “agile leadership” became a familiar business buzzword. Today, we hear and read about agile leaders, agile managers, agile employees, and agile organisations all the time. While reading through that blog, I feel that we were on the button with our comments, but would like to add some new wisdom and information.


Defining Agile Leadership

Let’s start by defining what an agile leader is, and how it differs from previous names such as authentic, transformational, democratic, or autocratic leader. An agile leader can lead a wide range of complex and diverse circumstances, and is able, in a crisis situation, to realign human resources where most needed. In the current VUCA (vulnerable, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) business world, agile leaders are nimble and light on their feet; able to adjust their decisions, focus, and attention on the spur of the moment, while innovating, inspiring and motivating their team to commit to the new strategy.


Characteristics of Agile Leaders

Leadership experts and researchers have identified that an agile leader demonstrates four core characteristics:

  1. A deep sense of purpose of why their team and organisation exists, and what they intend to achieve. This sense of purpose brings focus, clarity, meaning, a sense of belonging, and direction.
  2. Being comfortable with the complex unknown means having a vigilant eye for change and opportunities. Feeling confident, positive and familiar with the uncertainty and navigating through it.
  3. Experimenting and trying things out which speaks directly to being open-minded, growing and learning. Being courageous and brave to charter unknown waters. Inspiring others to be creative and innovative.
  4. A lifelong student who never stops learning, exploring and growing. Conscientiously expanding their knowledge and competencies. And if they don’t know, then being streetwise enough to know where to go to find the information.


Here is the original article written on 5 September 2016:

The “just fine” Culture and Our 5-Step Strategy to Combat it

The “just fine” Culture and Our 5-Step Strategy to Combat it

We have all experienced it.

A lack of energy, fatigue, pain, fever, and the inability to get our brains to work effectively. Yet we still we go on, pretending that everything is alright… until it’s not.

“I’m fine…”

This is one of the biggest lies we tell each other, and we do it so many times every day that we’ve probably lost count. We say it to complete strangers, our work colleagues, our bosses, and even our family and friends. But why do we do this, and what implications does it have on our well-being in the long run? Perhaps if we are aware of these, then having a 5-step strategy to combat its effects is just what we need to move from alright to absolutely awesome.

Our Perception of Illness

While we are becoming more aware of the holistic nature of illness and disease, the common perception is that illness is primarily physical. We need to see someone’s illness on the outside of their body to understand it and to empathise with them. For centuries, we have made huge developments in the field of medicine and healthcare; however, in daily life people still understand illness visually and we tend to be less sympathetic to “invisible” illnesses. Even more so those that can be categorised as psychosomatic or “all in your head”. Think about it, how do you react to someone with a broken arm versus someone who admits they suffer from depression?

Basic Instincts

We may think we have progressed, but in fact our instincts still run a lot of our lives – including our response to illness. We want to be healthy and strong because it’s good for us, but also because on an instinctual level it makes us more likely to reproduce and continue the line of strong offspring who will keep the good genes going. We focus on looking, acting and being strong and attractive, and illness – well that’s not part of the package. So, as we move out of the accepted childhood “booboos”, we become gradually more intolerant of illness, pain and disease (in ourselves and others) because on some level it shows weakness and vulnerability. Of course, this has created the “just fine” culture, where we would rather suffer in silence than admit illness to others. You might think this is farfetched, but how many people at your work have admitted to depression? And perhaps just as importantly, how would you feel about them if they did?


1 in 4 South Africans has been diagnosed with depression, while 80% continue to work, not disclosing their illness to work colleagues. – South African Depression and Anxiety Group

It’s a “just fine” Culture

We live in a cognitive world where technology mediates our activities and disconnects us from the bodies that house these minds. We seem to value mental efforts more than those of the physical – look at the salary of a stockbroker versus that of a plumber. And yet this has not eradicated illness; in fact, perhaps it has made us more susceptible, as we are numbed to the warning signs our bodies give us. Until we can’t anymore.


The gut contains over 100 million neurons and “up to 90% of the cells involved in [stress] responses carry information to the brain rather than receiving messages from it, making your gut as influential to your mood as your head is. Maybe even more.” – Psychology Today


In advertisements, we are sold the high life – the life that less than 2% of the world’s population experience. The truth is that most of us are living in a “just fine” culture, where “getting on with it” and “doing a good enough job” is the reality of our daily lives. And while most of us put a lot of effort to fitting in, moving forward and being better, we have numbed our awareness of our bodies. When things don’t feel right, we just drug ourselves to forget the pain but our bodies are trying to tell us something and we are ignoring the messages.

When we say we are “just fine” and we aren’t, we put our relationships on the line. At work, people expect a certain standard and if you are fine, then why are you not meeting expectations? This can affect your performance reviews as well as your job security. And at home there can be a loss of trust, because when you get a long-term illness because you didn’t pay attention to the warning signs, your family and friends will feel let down and shut out.

So, as you can see, here are some of the reasons (and there are many more) why we find ourselves in the “just fine” culture and some of the repercussions of doing so. So what can we do about it?

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmary.” -The World Health Organization



Our 5-Step Strategy to Combat the “just fine” Blues

It may sound very negative to start by encouraging you to say that you’re not ok, but in fact, all we’re recommending is to admit how you actually feel.

Here is our 5-step strategy to combat the impacts of being “just fine”:


1. Be Mindful

At least once a day take a minute or two to notice what is happening in your body and mind and do a non-judgemental assessment. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling today?”.


2. Self-Compassionate Breaths

We are often our harshest critics and it is the voice in our own heads that we need to combat. Before you jump out of bed in the morning, take four deep breaths and notice how you feel. Make a note of how you could ease any illness or discomfort in the way you go about your day.


3. Communicate Honestly

You don’t have to talk forever about your aching toe (no one likes that), but when people ask you, “how are you?” scan your body and your mind and be honest. The person will most likely be surprised by your response, but you are being truthful and in turn you are also helping to break the cycle of “just fine” for those around you.


4. Take Action

If you are taking the steps above, you will begin to notice more in your body and mind. If you notice pain, discomfort, irregularities or prolonged unpleasant sensations/thoughts, then get help. Consult with a colleague to assist on a project or go to see a doctor or specialist. Don’t wait for the long-term consequences to kick in. Get help and then you can carry on.


5. Rest

It may seem the simplest advice in the world, but if it was that simple we wouldn’t have such a rise in stress-related conditions. We need to break the cycle of presenteeism, of showing up, of being self-destructive and of being a liability to those around us for fear of looking weak. If we can learn to own, admit and accept our vulnerable human form, we are bound to recover faster and come back with more vitality, vigour and capability. And what company wouldn’t want more of that!

In Conclusion

4Seeds specialises in the use of Applied Positive Psychology, a fundamental foundation of which is to experience the negative as well as the positive, fully. Of course, we don’t want to emphasise the negative, but rather to accept that we are not machines. As we like to say, “we are not perfect machines always functioning at our peak, we are human, just human”.

What is this term “flow”? Personal executive coaches explain

When last did you engage in an activity where you lost track of time? You get so engrossed in the activity that you did not notice time passing; maybe time even stood still for you. That peculiar and complex state of mind is called flow. Perhaps you haven’t heard of the term “flow” before and are familiar with the phrase “in the zone”? These are one and the same mind states.

A flow moment was researched and coined by a gentleman by the name of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (how’s that for a tongue twister?) in 1975. The characteristics of flow differ from performance, even though these two may commonly be seen as one and the same. Flow means deep involvement in an activity with intense concentration, absorption, and enjoyment. One feels in control of the situation, one’s ability, and has clear goals that are intrinsically gratifying.

The reason this mind state was named “flow” is because of the feeling of fluidity, continuity in action, as well as concentration described by people. Another term used is optimal experience, but this is to a lesser extent. What is important and the core differentiation to peak performance is that the activity has to be challenging and complex enough to mobilise skill, concentration and engagement. Repetitive and low information-based activities result in boredom, and the opposite of over complex challenges that cause anxiety are not flow.

Flow is crucial for happiness and growth 

Flow is a crucial component in a person’s self-development, growth and happiness. The reason for that is high challenges increase a person’s effort, skills and competence in a voluntary way. Through the refinement of skill mastery, an individual naturally seeks new and complex challenges.

It may come as a surprise, but work presents the place where people most often experience flow. Other areas are in arts, sport, study, and crafts. Work can be a place where an individual encounters the most challenges and complex situations.

The work-related flow inventory (WOLF) developed by Arnold B Bakker in 2008 measures flow at work. It focuses on three basic work experiences: absorption, enjoyment, and intrinsic motivation.

Try it out.

In the current workplace, the concept of flow has become increasingly important. Technology has made sure that some tasks are repetitive, mechanical, and even routine. These components are antidotes to flow, growth and innovation. Leaders have to find ways in which a person can express themselves in their tasks.

Experiencing flow means maintaining a conscious balance between challenge and skills. One could call it a deliberate practice to stimulate personal growth of reaching one’s potential.

Contact us for personal executive coaching today.

Communication skills: Questions unlock solutions

Communication skills: Questions unlock solutions

Often team coaches are called into companies to help fix a lack of communication problem. This is usually where team members are communicating past each other instead of with each other. In some companies, departments operate in silos and only communicate by email.

Companies must work out which aspect of their communication they are challenged with. Is it listening, hearing, understanding, giving constructive feedback, avoiding conflict, or sidestepping tough conversations? The answer is most likely all of the above, but is that likely? My diagnosis is that we have lost the art of questioning. And I don’t mean questioning to interrogate or establish who is to blame for something, but the art of questioning to find solutions.

Let’s bring back the art of questioning and change our teams. How about instilling a learner approach so that everyone gets used to questioning to get information that makes it easy to find unique solutions?

The purpose of asking questions is to get information about an issue or someone’s reasoning for their actions. To clarify, they would view without making assumptions and explore exactly where a person got stuck in their thinking process. We often hope to get all of this through asking questions but we don’t. The reason for that is that we ask either “dead-end” or “reactive” questions.

  • Dead-end questions can be answered with a “Yes” or “No” answer and are unlikely to provide you with further information. They take discussions down a rabbit-hole.
  • Reactive questions start with “Why” and naturally make the other person defensive. Their response can vary from aggressive, passive, close down, defend themselves or provide a list of excuses.

Neither of these questioning styles provide genuine solutions.

Let’s look at an example.

X has failed to deliver a report on time and as a result the company has lost a prospective client. Ouch! Y, who is the boss, is furious and disappointed with X. “Wait until I get hold of her!”, he thinks. Annoyed, he approaches X.

–     “Why did you miss the deadline?”

–     “Were you not clear of the date?”

  • Because of your non-delivery.

–     Do you know that we lost the client’s account?

–     Why did you not deliver?

In the end, Y gets nowhere with the questions. He is in the same situation that he was before and has made no progress in his attempt to stop something from happening again. He doesn’t even know the reason why the deadline wasn’t met in the first place. He did, however, get a list of excuses!

What Y really wanted to know was where X got stuck so that he was unable to deliver. Perhaps the work was only being done by X and all other colleagues pulled out? Or maybe he wasn’t clear what to report on? It could be that he wasn’t competent to do the job in the first place! There are so many possibilities and it isn’t easy to work out which one is correct. We need to ask curious questions to discover this.

A personal executive coach advises: ask curious questions

As personal executive coaches, we know that you should be asking curious questions that begin with “What, How, When or Who”. They are questions that a person needs to elaborate on and cannot be answered with either Yes or No.

Let’s go back to our example. Asking questions like:

  • What made you miss the deadline?
  • When did you become aware that you wouldn’t make it?
  • Who could you have told?
  • What are the implications for you not making the deadline?
  • How have you learnt from this?
  • What will you do differently next time?

You can see that these questions create movement, momentum, action and way forward solutions. They remove speculation and assumptions.

Learning to be curious to find out the answers requires explorative questioning. The benefit is that questions resolve a huge portion of our miscommunication problems. Questioning is a learnt skill and everybody can learn it. If you not sure how, let us train you.

Improve your communication skills by hiring us for personal executive coaching. Contact us for more information today.

Can leaders measure soft skills growth?

For many coaches, trainers and leadership consultants this question comes up often from their clients. How can we measure or determine what the financial benefit of coaching and training is? Can we prove that a soft skill such as confidence or self-esteem has a Rand value to it? We can visibly see that a person has grown and developed through engaging with a coach, but we have great difficulty quantifying it. Unless we aren’t successful in determining the Return on Investment (ROI) of coaching, it will remain a subjective investment and one many companies won’t want to spend any money on.

Workplace training might have a slight advantage over coaching because we can tangibly measure the development of a practical skill or technical competency. Coaching, however involves growth of behavioural soft skills and falls into a grey area. Soft skill development can be measured but not always in actual financial terms and not without complications. The reason is because not every action has a Rand value linked to it. As an example, a person might have developed confidence and courage to speak up in weekly team meetings and to share their ideas and thoughts. Their participation has immense value to the team members, builds positive work relationships and sparks other inspirational ideas. We can only put a financial value on the contribution if each item has a financial component. So what is the financial value of building positive team relationships? We might be striving to achieve something that doesn’t make sense or add any value. Perhaps it’s time to find different solutions to the ROI conundrum?

The difference between training and coaching

The main difference between training and coaching is that in coaching your coachee (client) is very important and determines the area of growth and development. The coach doesn’t set the client’s agenda, objectives or path – that is entirely up to the client. As a mentor and trainer, the same principle doesn’t apply because the coach is regarded as a subject matter expert who sets the path of learning and development. If this anomaly is resolved, and the coach’s mandate is to grow and develop a person within a set parameter, then those parameters need to be measured. Determining ROI is a grey area although companies and coaches look at it as either black or white; however it cannot be that because there are too many variables that influence and impact on coaching success. We often ignore this fact and are determined to prove the ROI of coaching.

Nevertheless, how successful is the annual financial budget of a company? It represents a target to achieve and serve as a benchmark and at the end of the 12 month period we look to see if we met or exceeded the budget. Either way, we establish reasons why we met, exceeded or failed to meet the target. A bunch of variable factors are listed that support the argument for or against hitting the target.

Coaching is exactly that – a target that we look to achieve and drive forward.

Contact us for more information about coaching and leadership consulting.