Most leaders that I meet feel uncomfortable with, and even dread, giving feedback to their staff. It shouldn’t be that way! Feedback is a gift that we give people to help them grow, but, sadly, many of us have had bad experiences with it in the past. It might have been a punishment session where we were criticised, and left feeling demotivated, deflated, and discouraged.
As we get older, the kind of feedback we receive changes, but it shouldn’t always be that way. Think back to your childhood where your parents were your biggest fans. They were your cheerleaders who supported you and encouraged you to always do your best. The feedback you got from them would have been honest, but most likely gentle, and it would have been on the things you did well, and where you could improve. Their intention always came from their heart with love, and with the underlying desire for you to grow. Maybe your parents didn’t always strike the right chord, or use the correct words, but you knew that they gave you advice because they loved you.
Fast forward to now in your workplace. Many leaders believe that: ‘If you don’t hear from me, then you’re doing a great job; otherwise I’ll tell you.’ With that approach, feedback will indeed only be associated with criticism, and not with growth or care. Often, feedback is negatively associated with performance reviews, where there is sometimes a one-size-fits-all approach.
So, what seems to be the problem that leaders have in giving feedback? In my opinion, there are five common concerns: (1) They don’t know how to do it properly because they haven’t been shown how; (2) They’re worried about hurting the other person’s feelings; (3) They’re worried that the person will only hear the negative feedback and not the positive, so are unsure how to find the ideal balance between the two; (4) They’re worried that the person will leave demotivated and will have no interest in improving; or (5) Their feedback style is authoritarian and a bit blunt.
On the other hand, receivers may perceive feedback as personal criticism and a threat to their self-confidence, self-efficacy, and self-worth.
The eight steps on giving constructive feedback
As my passion is to provide as many tools and techniques as I can for leaders to lead better, I’m going to share a practical, constructive feedback tool that can assist both the giver and the receiver. Before you start shifting your mindset and viewing feedback as an opportunity to grow and develop, and as the highest expression of care you can give a team member, if you find that the word “feedback” has a negative and emotionally charged meaning, then replace it with a neutral word that carries no judgement. Try using words such as “evaluation”, “constructive feedback”, “observation”, or “learning opportunity”.
This eight-step process created by Hugo Alberts and Lucinda Poole can be easily applied.
- Accept internal discomfort – Embrace that you might feel uncomfortable giving feedback, and that many emotions will come up for you. Acknowledge the discomfort, and then breathe deeply into your body, calming yourself and making sure that you come across in a composed and calm way.
- Create a safe space – It’s common for the receiver to feel nervous, anxious, fearful, and maybe even stressed. Leaders need to be aware of this, and empathise with them. It’s up to the leader to create a safe space by choosing an environment that is friendly, warm, and non-hostile. Offering a warm and friendly greeting with some small talk always helps everyone to feel at ease.
- State your intention – Make it clear that your goal is to see how you can work together to improve their work. Let them know that you welcome a two-way dialogue, where you’re both free to express personal and professional views.
- Separate the person’s work from the person – Arguably, one of the things that makes receiving feedback the most difficult is that it’s often taken as a personal critique. Take a moment to clarify that you’re evaluating their work, and not them as a person.
- Reframe the amount of feedback as an indication of care – Where you have a lot of critical feedback to give, highlight your level of care by saying something like: “I’m being thorough because I care about this. Your work matters to me.”
- Encourage a growth mindset – Highlight that the feedback can be taken as an opportunity for growth and learning, and integrate this type of language into your comments. Give detailed and precise praise wherever you can, and instil a sense of hope and faith in their capability for change and improvement.
- Acknowledge the subjective nature of the situation – Recognise that your feedback projects your personal views and opinions on not only their work, but also on the subject matter. Acknowledge this as you provide feedback by saying things like: “In my opinion…”, and “I believe that…”
- End on a positive note – Conclude by highlighting and celebrating positive attributes of their work. Express your joy in what they did well.
When giving constructive feedback, ask yourself “How can I assist and support this team member in reaching their next growth level?” If you embrace feedback with that mindset, you can’t do anything wrong because your intent and heart will lead the way.
Most companies implement core values for their business, but few have ever experienced the anticipated positive and lasting impact. When asked, people can’t remember their company’s core values, and have to physically look them up. That’s a clear indication that the core values are not alive, and neither are they actively lived out. They’re just empty, meaningless words which have been framed and stuck up on a wall somewhere in the office, showing that this particular organisational task has been executed. It’s extremely sad to see this, but you’ll be surprised to learn that it’s more the norm than the exception. If you don’t want to take my word for it, the Gallup Survey in 2007 revealed that 27% of employees believe in an organisation’s values, and only 23% apply them in their daily work tasks. This means that employees only align 27% of their decisions with their company’s core values, and the remaining 73% on their own personal values, gut feelings, or common sense. I’m not sure how you feel about that, but as a business owner I think that’s a high risk factor.
What are personal core values?
To make sure that we all understand what core values are and how they come about, I’m going to take some time to explain them. Values are things in our life that we find important, and those that we want to invest time and energy in pursuing because they provide us with meaning and fulfilment. Values are our internal guiding compass that show us what is morally right, good, important, and appreciated, thus supporting us to make decisions.
Living by your values means being authentic and true to yourself, and not behaving like you think you ought to be. It’s the person who freely chooses their values based on what’s significant to them, as well as the needs that ought to be fulfilled.
Practically speaking, though, our values can never be fulfilled or attained, and, as such, values serve as intrinsic motivators that shift our behaviour towards continuous striving. Our core values develop during our lifetime, and change depending on what’s significant, important, and meaningful to us at that particular time. They’re formed through a combination of what we value in our life, as well as through past life experiences. Most of us are aware of what gives us value, and understand that the lack of it causes emotional, physical, and cognitive distress. When you live your life according to your core values, you’ll feel fulfilled, authentic and satisfied; your life will feel as if it is in true harmony.
What are organisational core values?
Organisational core values are no different to personal values; however they develop differently, and have distinct objectives. In an organisation, it is customary for the executive leaders to design the mission and vision statement which explains why the company exists, and what its unique offering is. Based on these two things, the core values are designed to show how decisions will be made, as well as how people are expected to behave towards their colleagues, customers, and when completing work tasks.
Organisational core values are timeless, and apply in any economic situation as well as in any business cycle, be it a growth or a downsizing one. Think about it for a moment; you don’t change your personal values based on your life circumstances. If a situation causes you distress, you do your best to change it.
How organisational core values can be your competitive advantage
In any company, core values are the personality, the philosophy, the beliefs, and the way people behave internally. It really is about the interior heartbeat, and the culture. In today’s times, potential employees will go through your values on your website and establish whether there is value congruency between your and their personal values. They’ll research reviews written by your customers and how you responded to them. But it doesn’t stop there! A potential new recruit will do their own analysis of your organisational core values when they come for their interview. Also, your existing and potential customers will do the same thing; they’ll establish whether your values align with theirs.
The underlying reason is that our core values signal to others how we’re likely to behave, act, and make decisions; establishing if we’re reliable and trustworthy. This factor predicts future behaviour, and minimises upcoming disappointments, risks, and financial losses. Your core values are alive inside and outside your company, and with continuous focus and attention, you can implement something fairly easily so that it’s easy to manage and control it to your competitive advantage.
Ensuring that core values are alive and honoured on a daily basis are signs of a healthy company. Don’t be misled by financially successful companies who display their technical advantages, but don’t mention their human inner core values. These companies will rely heavily on procedures and processes that appear impressive from the outside, but result in bureaucratic red tape and an internal culture that’s stressful, toxic, and laden with conflict. I’m sure you’ve had the pleasure of dealing with this kind of company – they leave you feeling empty and flat as a customer because there’s no customer care or connection.
The values best practice
If you want to give your organisational values an overhaul and make sure that they come alive, and aren’t just empty words hanging over the reception area, here are five quick and easy ways to get started.
- Ensure that your values are determined by your employees and not your executive leadership team. As paradoxical as it may sound, staff live them every day and they want to have the autonomy to set and understand them.
- Values are behaviours that result in actions, and actions can be measured. Measure your values and establish which ones are being upheld all the time, which ones aren’t, and start to tweak them.
- Honouring and living organisational core values applies to everybody. The leadership team especially has to proactively model and demonstrate the core values all the time.
- People remember stories, so the best way to reiterate and emphasise core values is through sharing stories where a person in a team lived out a particular value. People will identify with the behaviour – perhaps they even witnessed it – and so they’ll remember it and will do their best to behave like that themselves.
- Reduce or minimise value incongruence by ensuring that your people’s personal values align as much as possible with the company’s. Have one-on-one conversations with people where you sense incongruence. Value incongruence is a key reason for people to leave companies, because they can no longer tolerate the working environment, the decisions made, and the ethics. This is always more expensive, both financially and productivity-wise, than you assume.
Organisational values have – unjustifiably – received a bad name, not by their doing but ours. As leaders we haven’t given values enough attention, and simply hope that, once named, they’ll form themselves.
Start today to take one of your core values and conduct a proper analysis or survey and establish whether it’s relevant to attaining the mission and vision statement. Is it actively lived out, is it clearly defined, and does everybody know how to behave?
As always, if you’d like us to perform this analysis for you, please contact me.
It’s the beginning of June, and most businesses have received government permission to open up after ten weeks of lockdown. For some, it will be the first full week back at the office, for others that happened a few weeks ago, and for some working from home remains the norm. There is an optimistic buzz on the roads as we pick up the vibes of what we know to be our normal working day.
Since the start of the lockdown, we’ve been overloaded with an abundance of expert opinions on why we can’t and won’t go back to the old way of working. We may agree with some of these views, while we won’t consider others because we can’t begin to imagine the working world operating in this new dimension. Regardless of how challenging it will be, you have to embrace finding a new normal for your team, and your business.
But what is this new normal everybody keeps referring to? On its own, the term is a contradiction as something new cannot be normal. It can be unique, novel, exciting, different, or transformational, but not normal. The biggest mistake leaders can make now is to go back into their businesses thinking that by tweaking one or two procedures, and being open to flexible home-office working, virtual teams, and digital customer support, that they’ve done what’s needed to be this ‘new normal’. But that’s not how it works! To use an analogy, you cannot edit an existing painting with a few paintbrush strokes, hoping to give it an entirely new look. You have to be courageous to put that painting aside, fetch a brand new canvas, and start creating a new work of art. The same applies in your business. Don’t return to work thinking that by rewriting your procedures, or being more digitally savvy you’ve done enough. This way of thinking will be a quick-fix solution, but one that won’t see you through the next year.
Four leadership mindset shifts
As a leader, you have to make four radical mindset shifts:
- Become a human strategist. This means being a leader with heart, compassion, empathy, and emotion. By sharing a part of your own life, emotions, fears, needs, and vulnerability you will help your team to trust and respect you as a role model. Then it’s about striking the balance between bringing in direction, focus, and setting the path for the future.
- Collectively assess and question every procedure and policy. Encourage the team to critically consider whether certain procedures and policies are necessary. Ask them to question whether it is needed, whether it serves any purpose, whether it can be done differently, and – most importantly – whether it can be simplified. Consider the KISS principle (Keep It Short and Simple).
- Embrace the shift to increased digital working. This way of working is something your employees and customers are used to now, and most even prefer it. Make sure that you have the necessary resources and training available on how to become efficient and skilled digital workers.
- Say goodbye to 9 to 5 working hours. Instead, say hello to the flexibility to work anywhere and at any time. Start to measure output, and value the person’s contribution rather than their physical hours in an office or time spent on a task.
I understand that some of these shifts might be easier than others. Make small adjustments and lean on your team for input and guidance. You don’t have to do this alone, and nobody is expecting you to.
This is the start of a series of posts I will share on transforming and growing your business, leadership skills, and teams. Remember that this is the crucial time to invest in your people. Call us for a free 30-minute no-obligation conversation on how we can support you and your team.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the extension to the nationwide lockdown, we were all forced to find internal resources to manage our stress, and our worries about the effect this will have on our companies, the South African economy, and our country as a whole. What we all need now is strategies to build resilience in the face of uncertainty, and to find ways to not only cope, but to thrive through this adversity.
This article will outline how South Africa is already a resilient nation, and will make you aware of the five most common pitfalls that impair resilience, and that reduce our ability to manage and grow from adversity.
South Africans Are Already Resilient
Because of our challenging and tumultuous past, South Africans have developed an incredible level of resilience, compared to other nations. According to the 2019 FM Global Resilience Index, South Africa ranks number 47. Updated annually, the FM Global Resilience Index is the only tool that compares risk in nearly 130 countries. While you may wish South Africa featured higher up on the scale, it’s important to note that we’re within the second quartile, which for a small developing nation really puts us on the map. The FM Global Resilience Index assesses businesses in different countries according to the following measures:
- Economic Resilience
- Risk Quality
- Supply Chain
It’s estimated that the coronavirus pandemic will potentially cause an estimated drop in our economy of between 2% and 4%, which is extremely high. However, we have the ability to bounce back from this tragic global pandemic.
South Africa has a highly innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. We have overcome many challenges in the past, and have continued to grow despite our many setbacks.
We have the capacity, the energy and the will to overcome this global shutdown by further strengthening our resources, and building resilience in the face of uncertainty.
Watch Out: The Five Pitfalls that Impair Resilience
Resilience is one of those traits that we admire in others, and often wish we had more of in ourselves. It’s a key ingredient that we use as a buffer to ensure that we don’t spiral downwards too much when challenges 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 through life experiences, but how can you start building resilience in the face of uncertainty right now? A powerful way is to start noticing these five pitfalls.
- Jumping to conclusions
At times like these, we’re being asked to slow down and not act in haste. While it may be extremely challenging to make decisions during this time of uncertainty, it’s important to remind ourselves that we must not respond reactively.
We don’t have the facts, and we don’t have a blueprint for how to manage these uncharted waters. Rather, we need to keep our cool and not make rash decisions or come to unsubstantiated conclusions.
Become aware of where you may be falling into this trap. Not only does it impact your mental health, but acting reactively can prevent you from being resilient and moving in the right direction with conviction and with confidence.
- Tunnel vision
In times of stress, it’s normal for the human brain to go into fight-or-flight mode. When we’re in a place of fear, we’re not able to see the bigger picture, and can quickly only see doom and gloom, or the worst-case scenario.
While preparing for the worst may seem like your only option, it’s important to remember to take a step back and to look at the bigger picture. Look for ways to innovate, solve problems, and respond with resilience rather than with fearful tunnel vision.
Use this opportunity to learn to be open-minded. Direct your energy towards innovative and strategic conversations based on resilience, forward-thinking, and your organisation’s vision for the future.
While the coronavirus pandemic is a global issue, we can still make the mistake of personalising it, and thus reducing our capacity for resilience – and tolerance.
When we personalise things, we will only see our own faults and how we have not been proactive or resourceful enough to prepare for what’s happening. The best way to avoid this pitfall is to remind ourselves that no one knew this would happen, and no one could have adequately prepared for this uncertainty.
You and your organisation are not the problem! We’re all in this together, and there is nothing you could have done that would have prevented the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is one of the most common pitfalls. Externalising is the process of blaming outside factors for the problem, and not considering your own contribution to either the problem, or the solution.
At times such as these, it’s easy to look at authority figures and government officials with a magnifying glass, seeking the faults in their actions, and only putting a negative perspective on how the situation is being managed.
A key part of building resilience is being aware of the positive aspects of adversity, remaining optimistic, and finding the lessons in the challenges. The best way to get around this pitfall is to pause when you feel like criticising the actions being taken by decision makers, and be humble and proactive about how your actions could help to improve things. We’re all affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s up to each of us to look for solutions and to develop strategies to manage this situation.
While this may be the hardest pitfall to avoid, we need to become aware of what we assume others are thinking or feeling. The truth is we’re all responsible for our own well-being, resilience, and solutions. There is no advice you can give another person right now. If you feel you have advice to give, perhaps it’s YOU that needs to hear it.
Be careful of telling others how you think they should be managing their stress or feelings. Don’t assume that you know or understand. Take responsibility for your own situation, and find your best strategies for managing this uncertainty.
At this time of nationwide lockdown and ever-increasing uncertainty, resilience is our best resource for managing stress and finding positive solutions and ways forward. As South Africans, we’re already a resilient nation. We’re enthusiastic, optimistic, and creative, and we need to harness these strengths during this time.
These are some key behaviours and limiting beliefs which we need to become aware of. We need to preserve our energy and maintain our well-being, individually, organisationally, and collectively in order to manage this uncertainty. Remember to keep a check on these things, and in return you’ll be giving yourself greater resources to build resilience and bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.
The time has never been more clearly upon us to be aware of ourselves and to take care of our physical, mental and emotional health. As leaders there is huge pressure to find ways to keep your employees and business running during this time of self-isolation, social distancing and economic lock down.
While I would love to be able to offer you solutions of how you can innovate your business to manage the current Corona Crisis, there is no one-stop-shop solution to managing the unknown. In this article I would like to share some simple but effective strategies to—
- keep calm and carry on during the Corona Crisis.
- harness your internal resources to manage stress;
- find rational ways to keep your team united; and
- help innovate your business to cope with the current uncertainty.
How to Keep Calm and Carry on During The Corona Crisis
As we all know from personal experience, no great ideas come when we are highly stressed — in fact it’s science. When we are in a high stress situation, our system goes into fight or flight mode. This serves an evolutionary purpose by focusing our attention to the direct, immediate threat and in this way helps us survive. However, in order to respond rationally and effectively in crisis we need to be able to think broadly, to see the bigger picture and to respond with innovative ideas. We cannot do this when we are in fight or flight mode.
While there is no perfect recipe for managing stress that can be offered to everyone, we all have ways and means of accessing our inner resources to keep calm and carry on. We have learned coping strategies which work for us, that can assist in lowering heart rate, increasing positive emotions and supporting us in releasing stress. Whether that is going for a walk, cooking, meditating or reading a book; there has never been a more important time in history for us to make use of these stress management strategies. So if you are feeling overwhelmed, fearful of the future or unsure what to do to keep calm and carry on during the Corona Crisis, step one is to relieve your stress by doing the things you enjoy. This will not only curb your anxiety and fear but will boost your positive emotions whilst increasing your capacity to think creatively about what needs to happen next.
Reflect and Prepare
Once you are able to take deep breaths and think clearly, you can begin to strategise and problem‑solve your current challenges. While the Corona Crisis is a case study of the unknown, take the time now, while business is slow, to reflect on your current business practices and how you want to evolve. While it may seem counterintuitive to be doing this during a crisis, how you prepare for the future is largely dependent on your ability to think clearly and creatively about how you operate now and where you want your business to go.
Communicate: Openly, Honestly and Passionately
While everyone is social distancing, self-isolating, and trying to carry on during the Corona Crisis, there is no more important time than now to keep your communication channels open and responsive. Have meetings virtually, use online apps for task and project management, engage in your core values and communicate these clearly with your employees. Calmly keep them in the loop. Share the business’s challenges, concerns and fears and how you are strategizing and preparing for the coming times. This will not only ensure you maintain and build healthy relationships but will also show your employees that you value them, and reassure them that you are taking steps to ensure the future of your business.
This is definitely not business as usual, so take this time to review how you could be working differently. At 4Seeds we are experts in guiding leaders to shift into a growth mindset, to become strengths-focused and to transform business culture. While just staying afloat is where most leaders are focused, this is a necessary time to start incorporating these approaches into your business focus.
Let’s take ‘strengths focus’, as an example. This is about acknowledging the inherent characteristics of each employee and how that can be used to best benefit business practices. If there is someone who is innately funny, light-hearted and playful, task them with fun ways to keep spirits high through humour. If someone else is passionate about learning, task them with researching what other businesses are doing in your industry. And if someone is inherently brave and courageous, get them to engage with clients, shareholders or thought leaders; put them on the frontlines and see them flourish. Make use of the skills, internal resources and passions (strengths) of your employees to help your business keep calm and carry on during the Corona Crisis.
Candid Conversations for Leaders in Crisis
4Seeds is hosting a supportive online forum for leaders, entrepreneurs, business owners and the self-employed, where we come together to share, innovate and be supported with skills, community knowledge and resources. This community space enables to individuals to better manage their daily work and personal lives during these turbulent times.
It is at times like these that we need to think creatively, innovatively and collaboratively. 4Seeds is passionate about building value-driven, people-centred organisations. We care about the journey to becoming an effective leader by providing leaders with the resources to manage themselves, their teams and their businesses with confidence and competence. We are offering this online meeting space bi-weekly as a way to play our part in supporting the well-being of our clients, our economy and our country.
Join us on Tuesday evening at 19:00 – 20:30 (Book your seat) or Thursday morning at 10:30 – 12:00 (Book your seat).
Log in via Zoom from the comfort of your office, home or “personal isolation zone” to connect, network, support and learn together with a community of like-minded leaders just like you.
Being a team leader, or the person in charge, is so much more than just being the one calling the shots. Your every action determines what your staff think of you, and how they see you, and your every decision has an impact on them.
Leading other people can be a daunting experience. You’ll be faced with strong-willed personalities, little to no authority, demanding bosses, under-performing team members, tight deadlines, and long hours; all of which will make you quickly realise you’ve never been trained to deal with the realities of leadership.
Anyone who has ever led a team has probably faced some self-doubt about their ability to be the one “up front.”
Most leaders get questions like: “What is this thing called leadership?”, “How do I get my point across?”, “How do I establish the best relationship with my team?”, and “What makes a great leader?”
Seven Fundamental Factors for being a Candidate and Confident Leader
- Accountability: Be accountable for your own actions, and be able to hold someone else accountable for theirs.
- Coaching and Developing: Be coachable by others, open to suggestions, and learn how to coach and develop others.
- Goal Setting: Be able to set goals for yourself as the leader, as well as for your team, and be active in achieving them.
- Planning: Plan your days, weeks, and months ahead, and discuss this with your team during meetings so they know what is required of them, and by when.
- Time Management: Being able to manage your own time is easy for some leaders, but you need to develop the skills to manage the time of an entire team of people.
- Relationships: Know your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your team, and use this knowledge to maximise your leadership efficiency.
- Knowledge: A leader does not need to have all the information, but they do need to be aware of their team’s knowledge. By understanding your individual team members’ strengths in certain areas, you can use this to its full potential.
Being a Leader, Know Yourself
We all have blind spots, and if we don’t know them, we’ll tend to crash as a leader.
The fundamental knowledge many leaders lack is a thorough understanding of themselves. Find the time to learn about yourself and your interactions with others. You are going to discover that most of the people you interact with are wired differently, and you’ll learn that the most common challenges are dealing with people who have different perspectives and opinions. You’ll need to figure out what makes people tick, what motivates them, how they deal with stress, how they interact with others, what they like to do, and what they find frustrating.
Your Leadership Philosophy
Look at your own values and work out what you expect from your team. Think about what they can expect from you.
Start developing your leadership philosophy – a written document that describes what you believe as a leader, your vision for the team, and the team’s mission. Putting together a leadership philosophy is one of the most important and valuable steps you can take to start off on the right foot with your new team, or improve your effectiveness leading the existing one.
A personal leadership philosophy is not a complicated system that you have to create from scratch. It’s simply a set of beliefs and principles you use to evaluate information and respond to people and situations. It allows anyone who hears it to understand your values, priorities, approach to decision-making, and what you expect from yourself and others.
Step up your Game and Own the Results
Accountability is something that trips up most leaders.
Learn to own your team’s results, no matter what. Realise that you are going to be faced with broken promises and unmet expectations. Learn what causes these situations and how to handle them. Hint: it’s not always about them!
Your team looks to you to set the example, for guidance, and for the confidence to approach situations within the workspace.
Leadership is the action of leading people in an organisation towards achieving goals (their own, the team’s, and the company’s). Leaders do this by influencing employee behaviours in several ways: setting a clear vision for the organisation, motivating employees, guiding them through the work process, and building morale.
A confident leader can build strong, long-lasting, and productive relationships with team members and associates. Confident leaders are considerate, handle conflicts appropriately, and create positive work environments.
Now, go out there and be a great leader!
We’re told stories from a young age, so we all know the power of storytelling. Whether it was a galaxy far, far away that ignited your imagination, the story of your family history, or your first understanding of the world around you, storytelling is one of the most powerful ways that we communicate – and acquire – meaning and understanding. Sadly, however, we rarely use storytelling as a leadership tool these days.
Stories are a powerful way to convey messages to others because they activate our imagination and creativity. They allow us to bypass our logical, analytical mind, and in so doing they connect us directly to our heart and emotions. This process can play an important role in eliciting connection, improving team visioning, and supporting collective commitment to company goals. So, if storytelling has such power, why don’t we use it more at work?
Using storytelling as a leadership tool doesn’t require you to be an expert raconteur who uses rich, colourful language, or who conjures up fascinating characters or tantalising plots. Everybody can share a story; we do it every day when we share and connect with others. We just tend to forget to use this skill when communicating with our teams.
The Science Behind Storytelling
Neuroscience shows us that stories feed the brain’s need to make sense of situations and events. Our brains are continuously interpreting what something means, and once the meaning is attached, we go into action. If we cannot relate to a situation, we remain in limbo and do nothing. However, when we connect to a story, we create meaning, and this drives us and helps us to set goals. Stories provide a nifty shortcut to establishing meaning, getting people’s hearts connected, and committing to the organisation’s vision.
Our brains require a lot of energy to process information, remember things, and think of new ideas. The body therefore finds ways to conserve energy, and one way is to become selective in choosing what to pay attention to and what’s not important.
Storytelling is an energy-saving process for the brain which results in an enhanced attention span, and the ability to remember things easily. It reinforces connection to the story’s key messages, and leads to voluntarily sharing the information with others.
Seven Key Elements of Good Storytelling
In her book, Neuroscience for Leadership, Tara Swart says that leaders would benefit greatly from using storytelling as a communication skill. A great way to start to use storytelling as a leadership tool is to recount your own journey with the company. Share your fears, desires, goals, and achievements. This can be a powerful way to show vulnerability to your team, and allow them to commit to the company’s vision from gaining your personal perspective.
When you begin, remember the following key elements of good storytelling:
- A memorable, uncomplicated storyline.
- Strong characters that one can relate to.
- A plausible course of events.
- An explicit goal for action.
- Rich colourful language.
- Consistency of how the story relates to the current company situation.
- A clear vision of what the future holds, or a strong call to action.
Great stories are inspiring; they influence people’s beliefs. They are easily remembered and naturally repeated, which deepens understanding, communication, and commitment among team members. They stimulate our creativity and eliminate the need to repeat the outcome. This is why using storytelling as a leadership tool makes so much sense.
But don’t be daunted by the task! You hear – and recount – so many stories every day. You’re constantly sharing your experiences in the form of a story. So why not bring it into your leadership style?
It has been said that around 95% of organisations are either completely unprepared – or seriously underprepared – for crises, even the known ones. Most crises in the workplace stem from personal conflict, which often leads to a decline in morale, and gives way to a type of “don’t care” attitude. By having regular team interventions, we may gain not only insight into ourselves and our clients, but we can also mitigate current and future risks.
Employees play an essential role in a crisis, and should practice certain strategies in order to avoid conflict in the workplace. These would be things like discipline, respecting their workplace, being unbiased, knowing when is the right time to involve HR, actively listening to others, and applying empathy. Team leaders must actively foster positive relationships within their teams, and plan team building events that are fun and motivational. It’s essential to work on team skills such as communication, planning, problem-solving and conflict resolution, and to encourage team members to spend time together outside of work.
Not surprisingly, the first stage of a crisis is prevention. Amazingly, it is usually skipped altogether, even though it’s the least costly and the simplest way to control a potential crisis. The problem may be that crises are accepted by many executives as an unavoidable condition of everyday existence.
Understanding crisis prevention
Crisis prevention plans are intended to help individuals in the workforce to prevent minor problems from escalating into crisis events. A crisis is defined as a difficult or dangerous time in which a solution is needed, and fast! In order for an organisation to survive a crisis, drastic and extreme measures are sometimes taken. The key to crisis prevention is to have level-headed, positive, creative, and loyal team members who support each other as well as the organisation wholeheartedly.
Being able to effectively respond in the event of a crisis is critical to an organisation’s survival. Whether or not it is prepared for a potential crisis depends on both leadership and the workforce within the organisation. Training, equipping, and supporting teams plays an important role in crisis prevention.
Team building is the most important investment you can make for your staff. It builds trust, mitigates conflict, encourages communication, and increases collaboration. Accept the fact that every member of your team is a public relations representative as well as a crisis manager, no matter what their “official” role might be.
Keeping yourself and your team feeling empowered, with a strong sense of belonging, will naturally result in a stronger sense of responsibility. When individuals in the working environment feel as if they are valued, they will own their positions with a higher sense of duty, and communicate more openly. This is all generated through strong team building and strong leadership.
This is a fundamental, ethical, and responsibility issue which needs to be addressed during team interventions. Team members should not only have the confidence and be comfortable enough to act intuitively, but they must also feel a sense of duty and responsibility to act with initiative.
Whether a team member acts on their own in a corrective manner, or lets management know about an issue which poses potential risk to the organisation, IS NOT, in fact, the major issue. Whether a team member acts AT ALL, is.
Companies sometimes misclassify a problem, focusing on the technical aspects and ignoring issues of perception. Companies and teams must make plans for dealing with crises: action plans, communication plans, fire drills, and essential relationships, etc. Making a plan to deal with a variety of undesirable outcomes if disaster does strike is vital. It’s worth remembering that Noah started building the ark before the rain began.
Crisis management helps employees as well as organisations to cope with difficult times in the best possible way. There is an art to managing an emergency situation in the workplace, through effective planning and quick action. This needs to be done by leaders and employees during times of crisis.
Most importantly, once the organisation or team is out of crisis, it’s the leader’s duty to communicate the lessons learnt so that employees do not make the same mistakes again.
Almost every crisis contains the seeds of success as well as the roots of failure. Finding, cultivating, and harvesting that potential success is the essence of crisis management. And the essence of crisis mismanagement is the propensity to take a bad situation and make it worse.
In short, a good team will always be the perfect adherent to crisis prevention, while a not-so-good team, will run a bigger risk of falling into crisis. Discipline, both in the self and for authority, is what will prevent a constant state of crisis within an organisation, and lead to positive team building.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Our consultants are available to help you set up a sustainable and strong strategy which puts your best resources – your people – first.
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- Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P. (1990). A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
- Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation. American Psychologist, 57, 705-717.
- Wills, T.A., Sandy, J.M., & Yaeger, A.M. (2001). Time perspective and early-onset substance use: A model based on stress-coping theory. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 15, 118-125.
- Zaleski, Z., Cycon, A., & Kurc, A. (2001). Future time perspective and subjective well-being in adolescent samples. In P. Schmuck & K.M. Sheldon (Eds.), Life goals and well-being: Towards a positive psychology of human striving (pp. 58-67). Göttingen: Hogrefe & Huber.
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.
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.