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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.

 

References

 

How to Refuel Your Energy for the Final Push

How to Refuel Your Energy for the Final Push

Keeping yourself and your team energised at the end of the year can be a real challenge. Not only are people winding down from a busy year, but often the preparations for the year ahead can leave employees short of inspiration and lacking the energy needed to make the final push. In this article, we’ll share some simple but effective ways to help you and your team to refuel your energy for the final push. Before we get started, though, it’s important to recognise the natural cycle that our energy moves through, and the dangers of not respecting this process.

Understanding the Energy Cycle

As it is in nature, so it is in human life. We’re all part of a natural process of ebb and flow. This rhythm can be seen in the four seasons, or the daily progress of the sun across the sky. We’re constantly going through a cycle of preparing, executing, reflecting, and planning. We do this every day from when we wake up to when we go to sleep. It also happens monthly, quarterly, and annually.

The energy cycle presented by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz shows different energy zones – from high, positive energy to low, negative energy. These zones are performance, survival, burnout, and recovery. We will all inevitably go through each one of these zones; however staying in any of them for a long time can negatively impact the energy and the overall drive of the company over time.

Leadership Tip: Take the time to acknowledge what phase of the cycle your company is in, as well as where each individual employee is in their personal cycle. This will help you and your team set goals, considering what is expected, realistic, and healthy for everyone. Whatever your industry, learning to recognise this cycle can ensure that you and your team use, maintain, and conserve energy effectively so that you’re able to refuel your energy for the final push.

 

How to Refuel Your Energy for the Final Push

Here are some tips which have been based on ongoing research in the fields of Organisational and Positive Psychology. Use them to keep yourself and your team motivated to reach the end of the year energetically and satisfactorily.

 

1)      Reflect on the Past: Celebrate Successes

When we come to the end of the year, everyone is ready for a big end-of-year party to blow off steam and celebrate achievements. While this is common practice and a fun way to end off the year, making time for smaller celebrations at this crucial time can help to uplift people’s energy and to reflect positively on what has been achieved over the year. There are many ways to celebrate, but thinking of sustainable, fun and individualised recognition of each person’s contributions to the year’s successes is a sure-fire way of boosting team morale as the energy wanes.

 

2)      Prepare for the Future: Identify Development Areas and Receive Feedback

Most companies generally do performance reviews regularly at least once a year. Setting time aside with each individual employee to talk through their desires, needs and growth areas can help people feel supported and acknowledged. This personal attention can help to set goals for the year ahead, and make employees feel that the company is willing to support their progress and professional development. Forming a plan for the future, and receiving feedback on what has been achieved, can help people commit to the progress cycle and see the bigger picture. This, in turn, creates meaning which helps to refuel your energy for the final push.

 

3)      Stay in the Present: Cultivate a Gratitude Practice

Gratitude is highly effective at motivating employees and building a positive workplace culture. Studies have shown the benefits it has for individuals, relationships, and the company as a whole. From improved cardiovascular health, to raised levels of customer loyalty, it is a worthwhile (and simple) strategy to keep people motivated and engaged. The end of the year is the perfect time to initiate this practice. It helps employees see the positive in their year, and feel grateful for the colleagues, leaders and personal resources that have allowed them to make progress. Having people express this gratitude to each other during team meetings or at the end of year function will help to boost energy levels, increase positive emotions, and create a greater sense of job satisfaction.

 

In Conclusion

Maintaining your team’s energy at the end of the year can be a struggle. But if you know where employees are in their energy cycle and where the company is in the process, you can be realistic about what is achievable before the end of year, without compromising health and happiness at work. By celebrating your accomplishments, setting goals for the year ahead, and encouraging a culture of gratitude and appreciation, you can simply and easily keep staff morale high and help your team to refuel their energy.

 

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.

Four Ways that Healthy Workplace Relationships Can Build Motivation

Four Ways that Healthy Workplace Relationships Can Build Motivation

Isolation is becoming more common in today’s working world. We’re working remotely, and individually on tasks and, as a result, our working lives are becoming busier and more stressful. Because of the increased pressure to perform under challenging circumstances, we often forget about the people around us on a daily basis, and how our workplace relationships can support our individual success. We tend to think of social interactions as the food of procrastination, and building workplace relationships is often low on our list of priorities when deadlines are looming.

Ongoing research into the Science of Human Happiness is proving how workplace relationships can build motivation. In fact, healthy workplace relationships may be the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to persevering towards the end of the year.

In this article, we’ll expand on some of the recent findings which support how workplace relationships can build motivation. As we approach the end of the year, there’s no better time to bring people together to appreciate accomplishments, celebrate successes, and make plans for the future.

1)      Connection is a core motivator

As explained in our last blog about the Self-Determination Theory, one of the core drivers of building internal motivation is connection to others. There’s a difference between setting one’s own goals and those that are set by the team.

Connection to others acts as accountability measurement – when we’re responsible for the execution of part of a project, we’re more likely to persevere, perform, and stay motivated so that we can play our part for the whole group. This brings a sense of responsibility which is greater than when we work alone.

2)      Emotions are contagious

Recent research into human emotions has found that emotions are contagious and take under a minute to spread. This is true for both negative and positive emotions, and while stress, anxiety, and negativity spread like wildfire in companies, the same is true for motivation, inspiration, and positivity.

Surrounding ourselves with healthy workplace relationships builds motivation because we can be inspired by colleagues to persevere and be reminded of the bigger picture. Positive workplace relationships can also bring humour and light-hearted fun into the workplace, thus reducing stress and increasing the sense of well-being.

3)      Connection Boosts Health and Performance

Humans are social creatures by nature. Our brains are wired to connect, and recent research has found that disconnection and isolation can actually present as physical pain. A sense of connection has also been found to reduce cardiovascular illness and boost our immune system.

When we’re ill or feel pain, we can’t think clearly or perform at our optimum, we’re more likely to take sick leave, and our concentration, clarity, and motivation suffer. Healthy workplace relationships can build motivation by increasing positive emotions and physical health, thus boosting the fundamental building blocks of performance and efficiency.

4)      Cooperation Give us Perspective

When we work alone, we often find ourselves thinking in linear and often self-destructive ways. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves, over and above what’s expected from our work tasks.

Workplace relationships can help to us to gain perspective on our current thinking, highlighting ways to look at a solution differently, and offer some humour into our challenges. Positive workplace relationships provide a safe platform for us to learn, collaborate, and share information, which in turn can help us to discover new solutions or find a new perspective on our current situation. When we have a new strategy or a helping hand, we can go about our work tasks with a renewed sense of motivation.

In Conclusion: Workplace Relationships Can Build Motivation

As the year draws to a close, it’s the perfect time to appreciate and reach out to the people with whom we have good workplace relationships. Celebrate successes, commiserate mistakes, and gain new perspective on current challenges. Connections in the workplace are essential to staying healthy, reaching goals, and keeping motivated in these last few months. Learn to take the time to build positive workplace relationships, and motivation and efficiency will follow.

Are you interested in a year-end function that boosts connection for the long term? Are you looking to host an event that supports healthy workplace relationships while celebrating at the same time?

At 4Seeds we specialise in building positive workplaces through the use of scientific, practical, and fun workshops. We develop bespoke and affordable events that are tailored to your company’s needs. If you’re interested in hosting an event with a difference then 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.

Four Reasons Why Crafting Your Team Happiness is Essential to your Business

Four Reasons Why Crafting Your Team Happiness is Essential to your Business

Happiness is our business at 4Seeds, which means that we know the powerful benefits that it can bring to your team morale, motivation levels, productivity, and overall organisational performance.

Sadly though, happiness is still an elusive topic for many managers, which often leads to stress and confusion about how to lead teams towards more joy, satisfaction, and happiness in the workplace. Most organisations have challenges, deadlines and ongoing developments, which means that ignoring employee happiness on your strategic agenda can reduce your team’s resilience and increase their stress which in turn will lead to high absenteeism rates and staff turnover. It is therefore essential for any company’s profitability to increase their employees’ happiness.

At 4Seeds we aim to make team happiness not only possible, but practical and sustainable through our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop. It takes place over four half days (or two full days), and introduces the best practices based on the latest research in the Science of Human Happiness.

There is a plethora of research exploring the benefits of Positive Psychology for the workplace, however, this article will unpack the key approaches included in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop, and will share some of the latest findings about how these practices can benefit your employees, teams, leaders, and your organisation.

Why Crafting Your Team Happiness is essential to your business

Increased positive emotions at work

We are all aware of the impact that negative emotions have on our motivation, our health and our desire to socialise, and recent science shows that the exact opposite of this is true for positive emotions. Positive emotions such as joy, contentment and gratitude at work can radically reduce our stress levels. This, in turn, results in less sick leave and lower rates of staff turnover; two of the biggest costs of any company.

Positive emotions are also contagious and make us more “likeable”. This likeability translates to increased leadership following and building more positive relationships in the workplace.

In our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop we unpack the true nature of emotions, we do emotional intelligence self-assessments, and learn some of the key practices to increase the number of positive emotions we experience at work.

Capitalised character strengths

Our character strengths are those behaviours, talents and skills that come so naturally to us that they are effortless to express, build our confidence and help us to excel. So why wouldn’t companies want their employees to use their strengths at work?

Unfortunately, humans have a natural tendency to focus on weakness. This means that we take what we are good at for granted, and focus on where we can improve; the impact of which is actually detrimental to employee performance. A large-scale research survey performed by UK’s Corporate Leadership Council found that leaders who focused on an employee’s weaknesses to assist their development actually reduced their performance by 27%. It is apparent that focusing on weaknesses is not the key to employee productivity, so why not try a strengths-based focus?

Employees who use their strengths are 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs. This seems to be reason enough, however, research performed by Gallup (an American analytics and advisory company based in Washington, D.C.) shows that it also increases company profits by between 14% and 29%.

Using strengths in the workplace has profound benefits for the individual employee as well as on team performance. Strengths help us be more confident and focused, and assist us to become more collaborative when we see the benefits that everyone brings to the team’s success.

Our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop uncovers the value of each individual’s character strengths, and helps teams to recognise the unique profile that each person can bring, and how they can capitalise on these to succeed both individually and collectively.

Optimised engagement through flow experiences

Employee engagement has been a hot topic in industrial psychology for the past decade. The concept of Flow psychology has also become a common term. It is described as the sense of competence and control, loss of self-consciousness, and such an intense absorption in the task at hand that you lose track of time (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).

These flow experiences result in increased intrinsic motivation, a higher level of work commitment, and of course high levels of concentration, focused attention and long experiences of selective calm which can combat everyday work stress (Goleman, 2013).

Flow experiences can be few and far between in the bullpen environment at work, however with the practical advice we share in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop, you can not only increase the flow experiences of your employees at work, but in turn boost your overall team engagement, sense of achievement, and life satisfaction. Powerful stuff, right?

Finding and pursuing meaning at work

We have moved away from meaning and purpose being concepts kept to religious institutions or conversations with close friends. Recent research shows that meaning and purpose are key parameters of why people choose to stay in a certain organisation or why they choose to leave, and that meaning actually trumps compensation in terms of the reason someone stays at their job.

Generating a sense of meaning and purpose in your employees can help increase their commitment to company objectives, their level of engagement, and their overall sense of happiness and life satisfaction.

In our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop we uncover the core values of each individual in the team, as well as their individual sense of purpose. We also unpack how these translate into the meaning they experience at work and how this can be increased on a team and organisational level.

Crafting Your Team Happiness – creating conditions for the future

The key principles of Positive Psychology that we introduce in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop are not only important to develop individual happiness, but do in fact boost your bottom line as well. Companies are no longer just a place to work and receive a salary; they are where we spend most of our day, and the ideal place to introduce the principles of Positive Psychology.

If you are interested in our Crafting Your Team Happiness workshop, or would like more information on how you can start to boost positive emotions at work, harness your team’s character strengths, increase your employee engagement, or bring more meaning and purpose into your organisation, then send an email to info@4seeds.co.za.

Happiness is core to the future success of any company who wants to stay relevant and thrive. We wish you all the best on your journey.

Case Study: Building a Culture of Civility and Kindness in the Workplace

Case Study: Building a Culture of Civility and Kindness in the Workplace

Kindness and Civility: A Context

Instilling kind, respectful and civil behaviour among co-workers in an organisation is so important to having an engaged, creative and motivated team. However, this is a culture that needs to be implemented and actively driven, or exactly the opposite will occur and we’ll have bullying, mobbing, rudeness, complaining, and gossiping; things that are exceptionally draining and unproductive in the workplace.

It may be standard etiquette to say please and thank you, and to greet people, but when it comes to our working environment, this etiquette often falls away. Common courtesy doesn’t seem to prevail. Often, the language used among co-workers is hard, negative and pessimistic. You can see this in their verbal communication as well as in their written correspondence. Our external environment does shape our minds, which means that we become negative in our thoughts, actions and behaviours. It infiltrates so slowly that we don’t often notice it or know where or when it started. The negativity filters through to our work ethics, productivity, performance, care for each other, and affects our health and mindset. It’s not a healthy environment to be working in, however, it is a reality I see very often in organisations. Organisations expect exceptional performance from their staff, but don’t provide the ideal positive environment for them to flourish.

Background

The executive leaders of an accounting firm called us into their organisation to assess what was happening with their staff. They saw and felt the negativity within the organisation, with people complaining endlessly but not proactively doing anything to solve matters. Endless problems without effective solutions seemed to be the norm. Corridor gossip was around every corner, and regardless of how many corrective reprimanding actions were implemented, people never raised the bar of their performance or productivity. The executives were at their wits end, and admitted that the punishment approach for poor performance was not successful; quite the contrary. They hoped and trusted that we could assist them in changing the negative and toxic environment within the organisation.

Staff were demotivated, uncommitted, disengaged, and made countless errors in their work. The negativity could be felt by everyone, even outsiders interacting with the organisation for the first time, and it filtered through to every business unit.

We were called in to help this organisation to instill a culture of kindness and civility throughout the organisation.

Approach and process

We engaged with the organisation for a year as changing a culture is exactly the same as acquiring a new habit. It takes time to accept that change is needed, and to unlearn and then relearn new behaviours. In addition, the new culture had to filter through from top to bottom as well as sideways in the organisation. Co-workers who were resistant to the change required additional time to air their concerns and opinions. And, to truly complete the cycle, the new culture had to be documented in all procedures, policies and training materials. It is not a quick fix approach, however the six key items we focused on were:

  1. Kindness board: I’m aware that this sounds rather cheesy, but it works. We mounted a large white board in the organisation’s corridor, where people were able to write thank you messages and stick Post-it notes up for people they wanted to thank for the support they had given them during the week. They had to list the person’s name, what they did, and what impact it had on them. It could vary from a co-worker assisting them with a task, to taking over their shift, handling a difficult customer situation, to bringing them a cup of coffee. On Friday mornings, the team would gather around the board and read the comments, often adding more notes. The board gave them a place to consciously acknowledge and say thank you to each other. It raised people’s positive emotions, and they started to pay kindness forward. That’s the amazing thing with kindness – if you receive it, you want to pass it on to someone else.
  2. Sharing resources and knowledge was our next approach. Resources are always scarce in an organisation, and we begin to hold onto them. The same applies with knowledge – we are not generous with sharing it! For resources and knowledge to be shared, trust has to be present, which is why we needed to first build it up. Trust can only be built at work through consistently doing what we have committed to. We started with exactly that low base of ensuring that people deliver their work to one another on time, every time. If an unforeseen situation arose that would cause a delay, they had to inform the person waiting for the work, and brainstorm how resources or knowledge sharing could be applied.
  3. Providing specific feedback and recognition was definitely underutilised. The motto in the organisation was that if nothing was said then it was a job well done, and if not you would know about it. Communication here needed to be a two-way street. People wanted to receive regular feedback on their tasks so that they know what was appreciated, and so that they were clear on how to repeat that specific action / behaviour again. Recognition is saying thank you to a person for work done. It means: “I see you, I validate you, I recognise your work, and I thank you for it.” Everybody had to learn to provide feedback and recognition to one person every day while being specific and detailed in doing so.
  4. Starting meetings on a positive note was unheard of. Meetings were generally started with what hadn’t worked on a certain project, what complaints were on the table, and any urgent decisions that needed to be made, etc. Meetings were started in a reactive, negative mindset which led to staff going into problem-solving mode and not into opportunity-thinking mode. Things were fixed, but they weren’t solved in a creative manner. We asked that every meeting start off on a positive note, where either they thanked people for excellent work, shared positive news, or expressed gratitude for projects / tasks that had gone well. The result was that they focused on how this positivity could be repeated, and they felt safe which led to everyone being innovative and creative. The tough decisions were still made, but from a different approach.
  5. Apologising for mistakes appears to be difficult in the workplace. Instead, stories are formed on why something couldn’t be achieved, and looking to pass the blame. This process is an exceptionally negative downward spiral process, and is futile. We spend hours trying to pass the buck, whereas sometimes it’s often about taking ownership of the mistake, as you are likely to be part of it, and finding solutions to fix it. We instilled the concept that they had permission to challenge each other when they went into storytelling and blaming others. They had the code word “stories”, and as everybody knew what that meant, they were not permitted to go on with their story but had to sit down and ask introspective questions that we had taught them.
  6. Addressing issues of incivility and disrespect meant that people were given a voice to raise, either in writing or verbally, issues that had occurred in the workplace to the Kindness Committee. The committee would look at each matter raised regardless how significant or not it may appear. They discussed what needed to happen, and responded in person to the person who had raised it. In addition, the committee informed the entire organisation at their monthly information meeting of the matter concerned and how they had dealt with it. It was always done in a positive light, upholding integrity and confidentially where needed.

Outcomes

This six-step process over a year transformed the organisation’s toxic negative working environment to a neutral and positive one. As I do with most of my clients, I build long-lasting relationships with them, supporting them in the transformation and holding them accountable.

The journey has not been easy for them and does require constant attention, but that is what culture is – it demands ongoing care and awareness. Their working environment has remained positive, and if they feel they are falling back they have the tools to go back to.

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

 

Four Strategies to Make Your Team Building More Effective

Four Strategies to Make Your Team Building More Effective

Whether it’s a fun day out, or a more in-depth process, team building is essential to training and maintaining your staff while building relationships in your organisation. However, all too often, these events can become costly and do not reap the rewards they were intended to. In fact, in some cases, team building events can actually cause further damage to the relationships within an organisation. While there are potentially countless reasons why your team building doesn’t work, there are some strategies you can adopt when preparing for your next team building intervention that will ensure that your organisation gets the results it needs.

Because of the complicated nature of team dynamics, the costs involved, and the time lost, there is often a tendency to avoid planning regular events. However, effective team building does not need to become a burden. At 4Seeds, we are experts in organising effective team building interventions with sustainable results. In this article, we will share our four strategies for effective team building which will help you prepare for, and run, your next intervention successfully.

 

How to Make Team Building Have Sustainable Results

 

  • Needs Analysis

    Why are you organising a team building? The reason why many team building interventions fail is because the purpose of the intervention is unclear. If you don’t know why you want to engage in team building, you are unlikely to get results. Gaining an understanding of what the underlying needs are of your team is essential.

    By brainstorming, doing a survey, or asking your team directly, you can uncover what is wanted and needed from their work, relationships and team dynamics. From there, you will have the clarity to start researching the best options for your team building intervention that will address your needs more effectively.

 

  • Activity Selection

    Deciding what kind of activity is the most suitable for your team intervention takes some effort. Having a good sense of what your team needs will help to support this process – however, you will still need to answer two key questions: “Should the intervention be short- or long-term?”. For example, if your team needs stress relief then a short-term intervention is sufficient, but if they are struggling with effective problem solving, a long-term intervention will probably be more suitable to increase the collaborative efforts and overall morale in meeting the challenge effectively.

    The second question is: “Should the intervention be organisation-wide or team specific?”. Most organisations go for a specific team intervention, however in cases where organisational trust needs to be developed or a team needs to align their values to the organisation’s culture, a whole organisation approach is the only effective way of getting sustainable results.

 

  • Team Participation

    Whole team participation is essential to effectively building strong relationships at work. Without the whole team being part of the decisions made, you will not get the buy-in needed in order to get long-lasting results.

    Once the needs of the team have been identified, and you have researched appropriate options, start to consider what is most suitable for the whole team. Can everyone participate? What is the level of physical fitness needed for the activity, and does your whole team have what is needed to take part? Finding activities that will foster a healthy sense of competition without fear of failure is key to effective team participation, and the best fit for the team is best decided by the team instead of for the team.

 

  • Sustainability

    Sustainability of team building processes is essential in order to really get results in the long-term, however often team buildings occur in isolation from the working environment. Retreats, days out, or work-away experiences are a fantastic way to restore the morale and energy in a team, and often this is when the most creative ideas are uncovered and the strongest bonds are made.

    Unfortunately, in many cases these amazing results quickly dissipate on returning to the workplace. If the ideas which were formed and the relationships that were built are not supported in the working environment, people will become jaded and are likely to engage less and less with each team building event. So, in order to have sustainable improvements after a team building event, it is essential to incorporate changes, introduce structures, and support the individuals after the event. Having regular check ins with the team to build onto the work that has been done and to note any further needs, is a cost effective strategy to get more sustainable team building.

 

Are you planning on running a team building intervention? Are you looking for an accountable and professional team building partner?

4Seeds is a consulting company which supports the development of happiness in the workplace. We believe that only with satisfied individuals can teams thrive. We have made it our mission to provide short- and long-term team building interventions that support this vision. With our team of playful and professional facilitators, we are the ideal partner to support your teams and organisation to thrive.

Get in touch with us now for a free 30 minute consultation. Email us at info@4seeds.co.za to get started.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Positive Conflict Resolution

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

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

Unity

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

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

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

Trust

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

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

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

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

Culture

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

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

 

In Conclusion: Differences into Potential

Conflict is your friend.

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

 

 

Return on Relationships

Return on Relationships

We’ve noticed that a new Key Performance Indicator (KPI) has popped up in many Leaders’ Performance Assessments, namely the measurement of Return on Relationships. If it is not on yours yet, it will be coming soon!

In the 80s and 90s, we measured Return on Investment (ROI). In the early 2000s the entire IT platform dominated our world, and now the new buzzword is Return on Relationships (ROR).

What do we mean when we talk about Return on Relationships? Is it networking, socialising, or customer liaison? The answer is “all of the above” – but it is also much more, including building, nurturing, trusting and maintaining connections with our teams. A Meaningful Leader will know the value of positive relationships and will spend a fair amount of time nurturing good team relationships.

 

Meaningful Connections

 

Connecting with people mainly covers giving people our undivided attention and time; communicating through dialogue and listening deeply to each other’s needs. When we mindfully connect with others, we build rapport, trust and loyalty with each other. By doing these we remove judgement, bias and perceptions about one another, therefore allowing us to work together in an optimal team environment. We would be willing and open to provide feedback to each other, brainstorm new solutions to complex work situations, and challenge each other’s thinking. Connecting with people reduces conflict, misunderstandings and having arbitrary, meaningless conversations.

Humans are social beings, which means that we need social interactions and connections with other people. If someone has been deprived of social connectivity they withdraw and become unmotivated and unengaged with work and life. In an experiment conducted on baby monkeys, the babies were given the choice to either be deprived of motherly affection or food. It came as a surprise that the babies did not choose to fulfil their primary need for food, but rather chose motherly love. This indicates their instinct that connections matter more than actual food.

 

Improving Organisational Relationships

 

You might be thinking that this is all well and good, but how can you improve or enhance connectivity with your team? How do you build relationships especially with team members that you don’t know or even particularly like? The answer is – and you might not like it – deep listening. Make a concerted effort to spark up a conversation with them and then listen beyond the noise. Listen with openness and curiosity. Listen to find meaning in what the person has to say. Ask questions to clarify and understand. Discard any perceptions and do your best to put yourself in their shoes. That may be a good starting point to build relationships.

After that, shift the dial on intensity and frequency until connecting with others becomes a way of working. The benefits, in the end, are far greater as people will support you on your own tasks and challenges through their insights and ideas, which will deepen the connection. Nevertheless, in the beginning, you have to invest conscious effort, practice and discipline. If, as a leader, you are sincere about people being the most valuable and valued asset, connecting is a brilliant starting point.

As February is the month of relationships, we encourage you to have belly-to-belly conversations with your teams. Let us know how it goes!

 

Eight Unknown Indicators of a Positive Organisational Culture

Eight Unknown Indicators of a Positive Organisational Culture

While the ever-present stress of working in today’s world puts strain on individuals and organisational cultures, there are some fundamental environmental and cultural factors which can ease the pressure. Unfortunately, even though we may want to do our best work and have a positive work experience, this is often compromised by factors outside our control, and these unresolved conflicts impact overall organisational culture and business success.

Most organisations don’t plan on being negative environments for their employees’ well-being; however if they don’t pay attention to the unseen culture of the organisation, it can lead to some serious negative side effects, including:

  • High absenteeism
  • Stress-related health conditions
  • Reduced productivity
  • Unhealthy and toxic communication habits
  • Politics and internal conflicts
  • High levels of dissatisfaction

These side effects speak for themselves in terms of the impact they have on organisational culture and employee well-being; however, what often happens is that we leave them untouched hoping they’ll resolve themselves. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and prolonged negative work environments usually lead to:

  • High staff turnover
  • Reduced work satisfaction which impacts commitment and motivation
  • Low staff morale and team unity
  • Higher amounts of HR issues relating to employee conflicts
  • Burnout

So how can we tell that we’re working in a negative work environment? Well, there are a range of factors, but the truth is – you’ll feel it. Mistrust, closed communication, reduced collective problem solving, increased discomfort and reduced motivation are key indicators that your organisation is on a downwards slope.

But how do you know if you’re working in a positive organisation?

In South Africa there appears to be a lot of focus on logistical elements of organisational management which, while important, can lead to the people focus being less highly regarded. In this article we aim to highlight the key signs of whether you’re working in a positive organisation, and through it we hope to expose you to the often unseen elements which impact your employees and, in the end, directly impact your bottom line success.

Indicators of a Positive Organisational Culture

  • Value Integrity

It is all well and good to have a values list stuck up on a wall in the office, however truly positive organisations bring their values to life. It’s simple to say, “we value diversity”, however is your organisation really upholding this value? Does everyone have equal representation? Can everybody share from their personal viewpoint without being shut down or silenced?

Value integrity comes in many forms from the words said, the actions performed, and the morals upheld in the organisation. These will differ depending on the values of your organisation, however one of the key indicators of whether you value integrity in your organisational culture is whether your own personal values are in accordance with those laid out by your organisation. If there is a connection on a personal level, it will filter out into every level of the organisation.

  • A Relaxed and Productive Environment Organisational Culture

While it may seem obvious that we need to work in an environment that is conductive to concentration and productivity, this may not always be the reality. Bull pens, casual interruptions, social media access and colleague conversations can all have an impact on our capacity to do the “deep work” that truly improves organisations. Another area to consider when reviewing your working environment is whether you’re relaxed in your work space. Our brains require a baseline level of relaxation before we’re able to fully commit our attention to the task at hand, so notice whether your work space allows you to relax and concentrate fully on your tasks. A positive organisation should be encouraging a conducive environment through physical, sensory and mental conditions, as much as is possible within the given industry.

  • Commitment to Excellence

A positive organisation prioritises quality as much as quantity when it comes to outcomes for its clients. This is a balancing act and requires attention to both features when considering employee performance. While this may seem obvious and most organisations already have quality audits to ensure they’re producing the best products, what can often be forgotten is the people side of what it takes to achieve excellence. A positive organisational culture should be supporting the employees within the organisation to upskill, learn, and progress in their careers, and experience personal development through their roles. When an organisation commits to the individual improvement of its employees, the overall quality of their outcomes grows exponentially. Is your organisation committed to excellence?

  • Open and Honest Communication

Corridor talk, internal politics and a lack of transparency are just some of the common problems experienced in many organisations. When open communication is not present, this can often lead to mistrust, a lack of psychological safety and employees wanting to “vent” to their peers which fuels the cycle to continue. Open communication can be either formal or informal, written or verbal. A positive working environment and an organisational culture with open communication will be easy to identify as there will be fewer cliques, less gossip, rumours, politics and uncertainty.

  • Collaboration and Support

A healthy and positive team environment is one that supports creativity, problem solving and collaboration. There will also be compassion, respect and understanding underlying interactions. If you’ve ever been in toxic team environment you’ll know the signs – taking credit for someone else’s work, backstabbing, rumour spreading, unequal opportunities for expression, and bullying. A positive team environment is perhaps one of the key elements to creating a positive organisational culture because once teams are working together effectively and supportively, it can quickly spread into the culture of the rest of the organisation. If you want to identify whether you’re in a positive organisation, start to notice whether you have collaboration, peer support, learning through doing (reflection and problem solving), and both formal and informal meeting opportunities.

  • A Sense of Humour

“A good sense of humour is an escape valve for the pressures of life.”

In South Africa we’re incredibly lucky to have a culture of humour. To laugh at ourselves, at what doesn’t work, at our frustrations and at each other in a kind way is one of our biggest weapons against the potential slip into negativity. A good sense of humour creates a light and playful culture within an organisation and can really be the antidote to daily stress as it releases endorphins and reduces cortisol (our stress hormone) built up throughout the day. Do you laugh enough in your organisation?

  • Flexibility

Unfortunately, in the traditional working paradigm, the elimination of humanity is standard operating procedure. A progressive, positive organisation considers the individual, and with that comes a flexibility in management of resources, time, expectations, methodology and differences in outcome – of course without compromising the quality of the organisation’s objectives. Flexibility while challenging to manage can be a vital way for employees to experience autonomy and acknowledgement because when we’re seen and heard as ourselves we’re more in control (over time use, task completion and work-life balance) and will experience a rise in intrinsic motivation and commitment to the organisation.

  • Emphasis on environment, family and health

In this millennial world, the nature of our organisations has changed. From CSI (Corporate Social Investment) initiatives, family fun days, unconventional team building events and wellness programmes, there’s a revolution happening when it comes to an organisation’s responsibility to support, respect and act towards improving the lives of its employees and the greater community. This is becoming more common in organisations across the board, but provides a good indicator to see whether you’re in fact working in an organisation that has positive intentions.

Take Home Message

There’s a lot of pressure to be a better organisation, a better leader and a better person. This article is not intended to cause guilt, blame or negative sentiments towards your organisation because it doesn’t meet these criteria. Rather, it may help to explain why you’re experiencing conflicts and chaos at work and will hopefully give you a starting point to begin making positive changes in your work place.

If you’re not sure where to start, then don’t worry. 4Seeds is passionate about building skills and resources for happier workplaces in South Africa and we’d love to help you.

We’ll gladly come to your office for a FREE 30-minute Positive Workplace Talk to help start the conversation and to build awareness about how you and your organisation can become healthier, happier and more successful. If you’re interested, or know someone who may need us, then send an email to info@4seeds.co.za and we’ll be happy to get involved.

The times are changing and we’re here to support you on your route to success.