Twenty to thirty years ago, conversations about the environment and climate change started appearing. At that time, there were rumours that icebergs at the North Pole were melting, plastic waste was killing marine life, toxic waste was being pumped into rivers, and exhaust fumes from cars and factory chimneys was poisoning the air. Immediately, some of us were convinced that these things were true, and we changed the way we lived. However, most of us were in denial, either thinking that it wasn’t true, or feeling that it was OK because it didn’t affect us personally. Like ostriches, we stuck our heads in the sand, not wanting to see and hear how the climate and environment around us was slowly changing. Activists had a continual uphill battle of raising awareness and educating people about climate change; it’s devastating, destroying our planet, and it’s here to stay! They encouraged people to take drastic action now, not in years to come.
Fast forward to 2020, where we have constant validation that the climate has changed. There are heatwaves in countries who aren’t used to such high temperatures, droughts, flooding, volcanic eruptions, earth tremors, cyclones, and devastating forest fires. We can no longer be ostriches and say that the warnings we received two decades ago are not our current reality.
People-centred and conscious leadership mindset
I feel we’ve reached the exact same thing in organisations where, for the last ten years, conversations have been around shifting from a profit-centred to a people-centred mindset. Many organisations are in denial and rigidly follow an industrial-era type business model with top-down hierarchies, focusing on making short-term profits, driving strategic goals, and maximising shareholder returns. At the core there is nothing wrong with this business approach, as organisations exist to make profits and be competitive. However, the model has lost its people-centred focus. The human element is missing, and people are often seen as a commodity that can easily be replaced, similar to a piece of machinery. But people are not machines, and they cannot be treated as such. They have hearts, emotions, goals, and individual strengths. Everyone is unique and has so much to offer. Your people are your organisation’s biggest asset, not your biggest liability!
Like environmental activists, I am the well-being, people-centred activist who wants to make you aware that leaders must adjust their style and mindset for future organisation success. You can, of course, be in denial, like we did with the environment, but the results are not going to be what you want in the years to come. Do your best to bring conscious leadership into your organisation now, because it’s a strategic change that requires time to roll out and implement. It needs time because it involves an entire culture change. I know that this concept may be scary, but it need not be if it’s done in small steps. Carrying on the way you’re doing business right now will have long-term negative consequences because the climate of organisations is changing drastically. Introducing conscious leadership into your organisation will keep you ahead of the curve; don’t wait to jump on the band wagon.
What is Consciousness?
Consciousness is about being fully-present and aware; directing your attention to what’s happening to you in the moment on a thinking, feeling, and sensing level. It’s about paying attention without judgement, or attachment to your emotions, thoughts, and feelings. It takes you out of the reactive, knee-jerk reaction we all fall prey to, and allows you to be introspective. When you are conscious, you can focus your attention inward for a minute or two and explore what’s going on for you. What’s going through your mind, what emotions are you feeling, and what is your gut telling you? Becoming consciously aware allows you to take a step back from a situation, out of ego-mode, and to openly assess what is happening for you as well as for others. Ultimately, it allows you to make ethical decisions, and to find solutions to complex scenarios. Living more consciously raises your level of empathy and compassion, which in turn results in being more flexible in your thinking, more solution-orientated. In this way, we can build stronger relationships, and we can also support those around us.
What is Conscious Leadership?
From a leadership point of view, conscious leadership means being present, fully connected, and authentic with your team. It involves making a mental mind shift to lead in the new leadership way that straddles both the importance of making profit as well as caring about the team’s well-being, and being people-centred. The focus is on long-term sustainability rather than short-term gains, and for that change you need to invest in your people and their well-being. Like the call for us to stop abusing the planet, here is the call for us to make an organisational shift and bring in conscious leadership.
Fred Kofman, author of the book Conscious Business, says that a conscious leader shows responsibility, humility, collaborative communication, win-win conflict resolution, integrity, emotional mastery, and excellent self-awareness. Reading these criteria, one can see that conscious leadership has a soft side that is very people-centred. It’s something that goes deep and cannot be reached when rigidly adhering to, and honouring, processes and procedures. It has an element of vulnerability, of not knowing the answers, of not controlling or managing people, and of being curious and open-minded to situations. It is this vulnerability that makes leaders uncomfortable and afraid to shift into conscious leadership. But, it if you want your organisation to remain competitive, you need to take the bold step and instil a people-centred culture and shift to a conscious leadership style. Start with these three small, and non-overwhelming steps.
Three non-overwhelming steps
- Buffer your reactive knee-jerk reactions: Only through bringing in mindful consciousness can you become fully present in the moment and register what a trigger is doing to you. Learn to take five deep breaths, count to 20, or take a 10-minute walk before you respond. Find yourself a visual reminder to assist in these sorts of situations, and find a place to stick this reminder where you’ll see it easily. Once you’ve cooled off and put some distance between yourself and the situation, reflect on how you’re feeling at the time and what you ideally want from it. Then communicate that in an open and positive way.
- Take full accountability for a situation: As difficult as this may sound, a conscious leader takes ownership and responsibility for a situation that didn’t go according to plan. Learn to not shift into a victim mentality, or blaming others, but rather understand how your leadership behaviour and actions have contributed to the problem. This is a combination of looking inward and then outward, rather than just outward, which is our autopilot mode. Once you can see that you are part of the problem, you can be part of the solution and navigate it in the direction you want it to go.
- Act, think, and behave with intention: Learning to bring intention to everybody and everything you engage with requires that you decide upfront how you are going to show up. Bring awareness to how you want to come across when you interact with your team and what you want to experience in a situation. If you would like to enjoy your day at the office, have a pleasant experience doing your job, and a solid connection with your team, you have to set this intention upfront, because then that’s exactly what will happen! Even when things don’t go according to plan, you’ll consciously decide to look for solutions and not for this situation to derail you.
You may only be able to remain in denial for a very short time, but the writing is on the wall. Organisations who don’t want to fail, downsize, or close down, will eventually have to make the shift to a people-centred culture. Start today with small steps and keep working on it bit by bit as change takes time both from a mindset and from an implementation point of view.
A new decade has dawned, and with it comes a feeling of inner knowing that things have to, and will, change. For quite some time, many of us have become aware that our current economic, business, social, cultural, and ecological situations need a drastic overhaul. There needs to be a shift in our thinking and behaviour so that we can fix the problems we’re facing in our modern world. This all starts with inner leadership.
Our traditional way of thinking won’t be enough to meet the challenges that are upon us, and a change in perspective is urgently required. As much as you may think that the current chaos in the world is not yours to solve, or even beyond your control, you can make an impactful change in your working environment by starting to shift your leadership perspective and set your 2020 leadership goal to match this.
It doesn’t matter what leadership level you hold in your company, or perhaps you aren’t in a leadership position. You don’t need a title to create change. It’s a personal and conscious decision you make. By changing your workplace, you’ll start a positive ripple effect that touches your family, your health, your social networks, and your communities. If we all take a small step forward, the collective impact will filter through to the meta level of our economy, culture, environment, and society.
A New Decade, A New Beginning: The Age of Inner Leadership
As is customary, we start the year with reflections and the desire to bring our best into the world. We earmark personal and professional areas we want to change. We want to improve our health, better our wealth, spend quality time with loved ones, study some more, find time for our hobbies, climb the corporate ladder, expand our own business, and honour work-life balance. These are all important goals to focus on, but I’d encourage you to add in a new goal of raising your consciousness.
Strive towards your true self, fulfil your potential, because that’s what motivates you and keeps you moving forward. As human beings, we want to self-actualise and become the best possible version of ourselves. To reach that goal, we have to raise our awareness and consciousness to a higher level.
By focusing on your professional and leadership competencies, you might have identified skills that you’d like to develop. These can range from soft skills such as emotional intelligence, conflict management, time management, or assertiveness, to hard skills like training in human resources. I invite you to include an area that might be new to you; something that entails growing your inner leadership.
Setting Your Inner Leadership Goals
If you’re wanting to improve and transform your leadership ability, then you’re going to need more than just soft and hard skills. You’ll need to develop your inner leadership, which means going inward and shifting your perspective.
Inner leadership is a courageous process which involves confronting yourself, and taking responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions. Inner leadership means believing and accessing the best in yourself with love, compassion, sensitivity, and inspiration.
You need to be consciously aware of what’s happening in the physical and material world, and learn to not react to it. When you turn inwards, you’ll be able to see the interconnectedness and interdependence of people, situations, and events. In an outward approach, you can only see these things separately, and won’t understand the connection.
Going inwards requires ongoing practice, and, over time, previous limits and boundaries will disappear as you let go of fear and anxiety. Instead, you’ll gain in autonomy and confidence, and will be astonished at the learnings, opportunities, and possibilities that open up for you. Inner leadership is not a skill any leadership course will teach you. It’s a personal decision you make to take your leadership competency to an increased level.
How to Start Developing Your Inner Leadership
You might be wondering how you can develop your inner leadership. There is no shortcut here; you’ll need to practice it every day. Uplifting your consciousness means becoming aware of every situation that offers a change or a challenge. Welcome these opportunities so you can see them in an original and new way. Leave judgement and preconceived beliefs out. You’ll need to set aside some time to learn how not to be actively play the game, but to step off the pitch and watch it from the side-line. Become curious about what’s playing out in front of you, how you contribute to it, and what’s the opportunity for you. Take failures as valuable information to discover what didn’t work, and be open-minded to try another way. Also, it’s not about trying to understand the catalyst that gave rise to the situation, because it can be a situation, a thought, a feeling, or a reaction. Rather, see the interconnectedness of the situation. Don’t focus on “why did this happen?”, but rather on “what is the opportunity for change?”.
What opportunity does this situation allow for so that you can behave at your highest level?
Don’t be reactive and try to fix the weakness; rather look for the strengths in the situation and raise them. Inner leadership is a mindset shift, and one that is possible for everyone. You can raise your level of consciousness with regular awareness and practice!
I’m aware that this article might appear a little heavy and intense for our first one of the year, but it’s time for us all to actively decide to be the change we’re yearning for.
Be bold and courageous, and take the first step forward. Don’t wait for others. Take charge and set yourself the goal of embracing your inner leadership.
I know that the philosophy of inner leadership may resonate with you, or it may not. It might be something you yearn for but are fearful of starting. You may question whether you can reach this level of raised consciousness, or anxious of what will happen if you fail. Rest assured, you cannot fail! Turning inwards is a new leadership mode that expands thinking and raises consciousness. Both are needed to address the current workplace and other world challenges we’re facing.
As the year starts to wind down and we begin to reflect on the past year in anticipation of another year end, motivation can be a huge challenge. It’s sometimes difficult to stay dedicated to what we want to achieve when the finish line is in sight. Keeping ourselves motivated at work and at home takes intentional action, clear objectives, and using our social networks to keep us accountable.
Before we unpack some proven strategies to keep you motivated, it’s important to understand how motivation works. A key framework for understanding motivation is the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) which was developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan.
What is the Self-Determination Theory?
Most of us recognise motivation as either intrinsic (self-initiated) or extrinsic (for rewards or recognition). While motivation can be either internally driven, or for external gains such as money or social recognition, the Self-Determination Theory posits that motivation exists in a continuum. An example of this is training for a marathon which may be motivated both intrinsically (for the love of running) and extrinsically (for social recognition). Self-Determined motivation therefore needs us to focus on what is driving us on both sides for most cases- however true intrinsic motivation is also possible and achievable.
The Self-Determination Theory also presents the idea that motivation is driven by our desire to meet three universal human needs:
Basically put, we all have the innate human desire to grow, learn, and accomplish our goals. We want to feel as if we’re accomplished, competent, and that we’re valuable contributors. We also want to determine our own goals, have our own ideas, and craft our own identity, without being controlled or told what to do. Lastly, as humans we’re naturally social. We need to feel connected to others, understood, and that we belong. Each of these three universal human needs underpins what is at the core of our motivation.
In this article we will share three proven strategies to keep you motivated, guided by these three universal human needs. These strategies work to increase your sense of accomplishment, to empower your sense of autonomy over your own life, and to support you to remember and connect with your social networks so that you can continue to succeed and feel driven towards reaching all your personal goals for 2019.
3 Proven Strategies to Keep You Motivated
1) Motivated by Competence: Reflect on your achievements, and re-evaluate your goals
Often when we set goals at the beginning of the year, we write down big and often unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve. Taking time now to reflect on what you have accomplished can help you to recognise your achievements, thus boosting your motivation to pursue what is still on your list. Once you’re feeling more competent in what you have done, it will make it easier to re-evaluate what you still want to achieve. Re-evaluating your goals requires you to be realistic about what you can do, and asking these questions can help:
- “Is this goal actually my goal?” and “What is driving this goal? Is it an intrinsic desire or is it extrinsically motivated?”
- “Is this goal realistic for me to achieve?” and if not “How can I make this goal more specific and realistic?”
2) Motivated by Autonomy: Reward yourself for your personal accomplishments, and remember to rest
When you start to reflect on your year and all the efforts you’ve made, you may realise just how tired you are. It’s really important for your resilience and stamina to know when you need to rest and restore your energy. We’re not machines and without enough rest we’re unlikely to reach the finish line successfully. Knowing when to reward yourself for work done – and when you deserve a break – can be difficult, because we’re often our harshest critics. This this is where your autonomy can come into play.
Ask yourself these questions:
- “What am I proud of that I have achieved this year?”
- “What is the best way to reward myself for my hard work?”
- “What is the best way for me to restore my energy?”
It’s also important to keep the bigger picture in mind. Why have you been so driven and what are you working towards? When we remember what we’re moving towards we learn to see that life’s biggest accomplishments are a marathon, not a sprint. They take time, and usually you’re the only one who will give yourself that time. Make sure you’re using your autonomy to increase your stamina, so as not to exhaust yourself to the point of burn-out.
3) Motivated by Connection: Appreciating and Engaging in Your Social Networks
Motivation is largely impacted by our social circumstances, and there is a growing body of research which is proving the value and importance of gratitude. When we learn to focus on what we have, and feel appreciation for the moments, achievements, and the people who have positively impacted us, we become more productive and satisfied and feel more connected. When you start to feel your motivation wane (especially at this time of year), reflect on the people who have supported your goals so far. Write down their names and the ways they’ve helped or supported you in achieving your goals. If it feels appropriate, tell them. Sharing your appreciation may be just what they need to feel uplifted and motivated.
Practicing gratitude can be extremely helpful in team meetings. Try asking your team to:
- Write down the names of 10 people who have supported them this year.
- Share one quality or strength they appreciate in each of their team members.
- Write down the resources they need to reach their goals, and then ask people for help.
We often feel isolated when we want to succeed because we want to feel wholly responsible for our achievements. When we learn to ask for help we’re more likely to actually reach the finish line.
Motivation can be difficult when we’re tired and isolated. Self-Determination is a spectrum which may require external support to achieve our personal goals. The important take-home message is that motivation is governed by our internal needs. If we remind ourselves of our accomplishments, acknowledge the people that support us, and remember to rest and restore, we’re more likely to reach the finish line without illness or exhaustion.
Are you booking your year-end function? Are you looking for one with sustainable results and a real sense of personal and team satisfaction? Then 4Seeds is the perfect company to organise this for you. We develop bespoke events to suit your team’s needs, and make sure that everyone walks away feeling motivated, satisfied, and connected.
If you’re interested in one of these bespoke events, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I recently read through some of my old blogs, and came across my very first article on resilience which was written on 11 August 2015. Since then, resilience has become a trendy personal and business word, with everybody wanting to raise their levels of resilience to support them to cope better in their life.
However, since 2015 I have expanded my knowledge on resilience, and would like to share some insights and new learnings with you.
Learning 1: Resilience is much more than the standard definition of bouncing back; resilience is actually about bouncing forward. You don’t want to be in the same position that you were before the adversity, and actually want to be in a more advanced position; you want to have grown.
Learning 2: Resilience relies heavily on reframing a situation to be positive, and being grateful for what is going well. However, resilience is about looking for the benefit from the situation and exploring how you can grow from the circumstances presented to you.
Learning 3: Resilience isn’t equal resilience. I have identified three types: (a) the everyday life resilience to buffer against frustrations and irritations such as traffic, (b) medium-size resilience which lasts for longer periods, such as a week or a few months, and is often needed in work situations when working with others on a project or task, and finally (c) life changing resilience which we draw from life-altering events which happen to us such as an illness, death, divorce, war or abuse.
Learning 4: To become resilient, you have to start being attuned to yourself. You need to understand what is happening in your life right now and how you feel about it as well as yourself. Resilience starts with a healthy dose of internal reflection.
Learning 5: Start practising resilience with small life challenges, and when your life is running rather smoothly. Practice it regularly until it becomes a habit; that way you are better prepared to apply it when you truly need it. It’s very difficult to learn to be resilient when life is throwing challenging things at you because you will automatically go into survival mode.
Keep in mind everybody can learn to become more resilient; it is just practice, patience and self-compassion.
Here is the original article from August 2015.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is one of those human states that we admire in others and often wish we had more of. What makes resilience such a powerful life skill to have, and can it be developed? Firstly, resilience is a positive thinking pattern that enables us to respond and recover from adversity very quickly. It is a key ingredient that we use as a buffer against life’s challenges so that we don’t spiral downwards too much when trajectories or traumas happen. Resilience is a crucial coping tool that helps us to manage daily life with much more ease. Most of us learn to become resilient the hard way through life experiences, but what if we could learn ways of building our resilience as early as in primary or junior school.
Before we explore techniques that build our resilience, let’s look at common sinkholes we fall into that prevent us from being resilient. The five key sinkholes are:
Five Sinkholes That Prevent Us Becoming Resilient
- Jumping to conclusions – responding reactively to a situation without having all the facts.
- Tunnel vision – focusing only on the negative without considering any alternative options.
- Personalising – internalising that the fault lies with us and that we are the actual problem.
- Externalising – blaming others for the problem and not wanting to consider our own contribution.
- Assuming – speculating that we know what the other person is thinking or feeling.
The downside to these sinkholes is that they keep us stuck in negative thinking patterns that can hamper us from moving forward. They drain our energy which means that we aren’t able to see or even try to see the positive side to a situation. When our energy is depleted we give up easily and often we don’t try again.
The answer to building our resilience muscle is brainstorming alternative solutions as well as predicting the level of success for each solution without accepting the first idea that presents itself. We need to dig deep until the right solution comes to mind. We must then test that solution and be flexible knowing that realignment of our actions or thoughts might be needed along the way. Don’t give up when challenges or obstacles appear – these must be seen with a level of curiosity and eagerness to overcome them.
Resilience, very much like well-being, has no finite endpoint and it, therefore, remains an ongoing process. This doesn’t mean that there is no point in developing resilience because each learning cycle raises our consciousness and facilitates a positive upward transformation. This is very similar to the threads of a screw where we spiral upwards with each full turn. Also, becoming more resilient doesn’t inoculate us from adversity, tragedies or traumas because they are a part of life and partially out of our control. We can only choose how we manage the event and ourselves.
We must also consider the difference between surviving and thriving in life. Surviving means we are getting by; we might feel all consumed with life, and perhaps even bitter or resentful for the injustice or hardship of life. We may feel that life is happening to us and that we are two separate elements. Thriving, on the other hand, means that we are actively engaged and participating in our lives. We regard life and us as one united element. We accept that adversity is part of life and learn to fight and overcome traumas. We learn to see the benefits in adversity which makes us value and appreciate the difficulty. It is no coincidence that successful people have high levels of resilience.
In the world, as it is right now, we are in a constant state of change, greeting the uncertain and unfamiliar on a daily basis. Whether it’s as small as changing the office layout, or the ever-uncertain economic or political landscape, the need for resilience to keep calm and carry on is greater than ever. But how do we develop our resilience, and is it possible to build resilience on an organisational level?
Resilience is a complex resource which is more present for some of us than others. It is, however, a learned skill which means that we can all become more resilient – with the right internal and external factors. Resilience is a subjective experience of how we manage stress and bounce back from adversity; however, everything we do exists within the context of who, where and how we interact with the world around us. Organisation resilience, therefore, requires individual resources who collectively make an organisation more resilient, while also having organisation level resources which in turn support the development of individual resilience. Make sense?
Humans are social creatures – whether, in the workplace, the home environment or social gatherings, we thrive from belonging and being supported by others. In the history of humanity, the civilisations which were the most successful were those that were able to gather their respective strengths for the benefit of the group so they could adapt effectively for survival. This same condition is the state of the current working environment – organisations need to gather their resources (personnel and tangible) in order to adapt and be flexible to constant and inevitable change. Individually we are weak, but collectively we are strong. This same mentality can be seen in the reason why we have teams. One individual is not as effective or productive as a group can be, and we, therefore, work together to achieve a common goal. This is where the concept of organisational resilience comes in.
Organisations need to remain innovative, flexible and agile in the face of constant change, and organisational resilience allows the organisation to turn failures and potential threats into opportunities for transformation and growth.
So how can we build our resilience resources on an organisational level? This article aims to explain the three components we need to focus on when we want to develop resilience in our organisation, and how we can support ourselves and each other in the workplace to not only bounce back but to thrive in the face of adversity.
Cynthia and Mark Lengnick-Hall (2005 and 2009) are experts in the field of organisational resilience. Their research findings have found that there are three sources of organisational resilience. These are organisation-level cognitive, behavioural, as well as contextual capabilities and routines which foster resilience in the face of setbacks. In the section below we will unpack the cognitive and behavioural strategies (contextual strategies will be explained in another article so we don’t overload you).
Each of these components are based on the paper Developing a Capacity for organizational resilience through strategic human resource management (Lengnick-Hall et al., 2011):
Three cognitive strategies for organisational resilience
- Strong core values
When confronted with challenges, resilient organisations are able to bounce back because of their alignment to the core values and purpose of the organisation. If any unexpected negative events occur, knowing the core purpose of the organisation can provide the framework for not only adaptation but transformation and growth. Do you and your employees know your core values and purpose?
- Collective sensemaking
As humans, we are programmed to find meaning in situations. If there is a shared space and vocabulary for making sense of an unforeseen event, it can greatly impact how people perceive and are able to support each other to recover and grow.
- Collective growth mindset
We have mentioned the concept of the growth mindset in previous articles, and it is, by no surprise, a fundamental aspect of developing organisational resilience. If we remain in a rigid perspective where expectations are made of how things “should be”, we can quickly become hopeless and disappointed when things don’t work out. Developing a growth mindset in your organisation can help people to reflect, learn and adapt to new experiences more effectively.
Four behavioural strategies for organisational resilience
- Learned resourcefulness
The truly South African saying of ’n boer maak ’n plan is what comes to mind when we think of learned resourcefulness. In order to cope with unforeseen changes, an organisation needs to think outside the box, so that they are able to be creative and innovative with the resources available to craft an unpredictable but robust solution. This requires ingenuity, originality and creativity which is learned over time based on how we manage stress and challenges as a collective.
- Non-conforming, counterintuitive strategies
You cannot grow in the same environment which made you shrink. In order to survive and thrive in the face of change and hardship, the resilient organisation is able to find strategies which go against the grain, literally “swimming upstream” to get the job done. We cannot conform to a pre-existing strategy if things change; we need to develop an innovative and counterintuitive strategy which will open new doors and help us move forward.
- Practical daily habits
Learned routines in an organisation can quickly fall apart when we are confronted with unseen change. The behavioural element of practising daily habits is not based on routine, but rather habits which form from acting in integrity with the core values of the company. The prerequisite for this behavioural strategy is having a strong knowledge of the core values across the organisation. For example – the value of truth in an organisation can lead to the development of a habit of open dialogue and investigation which will serve the organisation to explore different avenues rather than making assumptions (and blaming) when trouble arises.
- Behavioural preparedness
This strategy comes from awareness and planning for the unseen future. Resilient organisations are able to adapt rapidly to problems that arise, abandoning behaviours that do not suit the situation, and being prepared to adapt mentally, physically, and emotionally in order to transform a negative setback into a new opportunity.
Resilience is the subjective, individual ability to bounce back from adversity and to grow in the face of challenges. While individual resources are necessary to survive and thrive when change happens, there is a need for greater organisational-level conditions to be present in order for a company to transform and grow in this day and age. Both the cognitive and behavioural strategies mentioned in this article are based on the extensive work of Lengnick-Hall et al., and provide us with a foundation of essential elements from which we can begin building resilience. Your organisation has been, is currently being, or will become, confronted with failures, setbacks and change, because as we know the only constant is change. So, starting to apply these practices into your organisation will give you greater flexibility, innovation and staying power when the going gets tough.
We wish you luck in implementing these strategies, and if you would like further assistance or have questions, our expert team is waiting for your email. Contact us at email@example.com.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our expert team.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
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.
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?
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.
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!
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”.
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.
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.