Calling leaders to instil a happy work culture

Calling leaders to instil a happy work culture

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyone’s lives upside down. For some, the change has been more dramatic than for others. The same can be said about most companies, which will have had to become extremely agile in the way they have managed their teams, serviced their customers, and delivered value to their shareholders. Old ideas and thoughts of “it can’t be done” suddenly became “it can be done”, and “this is very ‘doable’”. Decisions that usually took a while to make were taken in days, and sometimes even hours.

We were all booted out of our comfort zones into the unknown. Creativity, innovation, and seeking new ways of achieving the impossible flowed through every company!

This blog is the first in a two-part series on why happiness matters in the workplace. In the second part, I will provide practical tips on how to start implementing happiness in your company.

In the past few years, there has been a call for companies to focus on honouring stakeholder rather than shareholder returns. This focus has uplifted the well-being in four domains: leaders, employees, customers, and the community. Some companies have made this shift from the industrial revolution age to the human revolution of leading; however, they still remain in the minority.

COVID-19, as disastrous as its global impact has been, has fast-tracked the emphasis companies are placing on the well-being of their leaders and employees. Perhaps for the first time, they’re genuinely realising that without their people, there will be no business to service customers, no growth, and inability to maintain their competitive advantage. The pandemic has started to bring humanity back into the workplace, and to give employees a voice.

It may sound absurd, but incorporating well-being into your company means allowing happiness to filter in. Bringing humanity into an organisation means making happiness a primary strategic goal of executive leadership. Of course, making a profit will remain the primary motive, but it cannot be at the cost of having unhappy leaders, employees, or customers.

 

What is happiness?

The happiness concept has been around for the last 30 years. It’s not a ‘phase’; it’s here to stay, and will in future gain more and more momentum. Right now, happiness has already infiltrated psychology, medicine, and education, and it’s starting to gain traction in business and government. Danish philosopher Knud Ejler Løgstrup says that, as a leader, you have an ethical obligation to treat those around you in such a way that it increases their level of happiness. You may have never considered that, as part of your leadership role, you need to ensure that your employees are happy.

So, what is happiness? Is it a frivolous topic to align with leadership, organisations, or politics?

Most leaders feel that happiness doesn’t belong in the workplace, and certainly not in politics. Happiness is everyone’s own personal affair, isn’t it? And it’s up to everyone to work on their happiness levels in their own time. Well, it doesn’t quite work like that, because people can’t compartmentalise their lives into these various domains. Instead, they all interlink with each other. Think about it this way, you can’t be happy at work and unhappy in your personal life, as the one spills over into the other.

The simplest definition of happiness is to experience frequent positive emotions, combined with a sense that, overall, life is satisfactory and fulfilling. It might seem like a broad definition, but to ensure that employees experience mostly positive emotions at work, and are generally satisfied and fulfilled by their work, suddenly doesn’t sound so easy anymore. Of course, the positive benefits happiness brings to the workplace are immense: increased productivity, creativity, learning, resilience, and better decision-making. Also, it reduces absenteeism, stress, depression, and disengagement. These can all severely impact the bottom line, teamwork, and culture.

Alexander Kjerulf, one of the world’s leading experts on happiness at work said that “happiness is not only an integral part of leading, but should be the ultimate goal of leadership.”

How much do you make happiness a critical part of your leadership role?

“True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers; not the enrichment of the leaders.” – Robert Townsend, US business executive.

Three ways to manage your team with social distancing

Three ways to manage your team with social distancing

The flight, fright, and freeze mode that COVID-19 initially had on us is slowly wearing off. We no longer have that permanent deer in the headlight look on our faces from the impact that it has had on our entire life. The original shock is over, and bit by bit we’re starting to live in this new COVID-19 world.

Some people who previously had to work from home and conduct all their meetings online are beginning to return to work. However, others have either chosen to continue to work from home, or have been asked to. This means that most teams don’t work in the same space. This new way of working doesn’t appeal to everyone. Some will welcome this new working style, while others prefer to be in the same space as the people they work with.

Being physically separated isn’t easy because it impacts communication levels, motivation, engagement, and well-being. These are some of the things which were already difficult to manage before COVID-19 (BC), when we all worked in the same location, but now they’ve become more complicated. As much as we highlight the positive aspect – and there are many – the biggest and most threatening challenge for a leader will be to ensure that his team remains connected. Team members always need to feel that they belong, are part of, and contribute to, the organisation, and that isolation and psychological distancing will not affect them.

I want to share my top three recommendations to ensure that your team remains high performers, and that they experience positive morale, engagement, and job satisfaction.

Three ways to manage your team

We’ve had to let go of all our expectations about the way we operated BC. Previously unthinkable concepts have become a reality, and leaders and team members have had to adapt quickly and come to terms with this new way of working.

  1. Unsynchronised working hours: People are no longer allowed to gather at the same space, and neither do they work similar hours. Even with flexi-time, you could rely on the fact that most of your team were at the office at a certain time during the day. Now, people work different hours which may not coincide with the time that their colleagues are at the office. We need to trust, become more open-minded, and give people the autonomy to work the hours that suit their lifestyle and energy levels. We need to stop micro-managing people, and give them the freedom to craft their jobs, their tasks, and the structure of their day. As a leader, your role is to become more explicit in articulating what needs to be done, and what your expectations are. There will be team members who were dependent on you micro-managing them, and you’ll need to mentor them to become more self-sufficient.
  2. Increase communication and connection levels: As highlighted previously, one of the glaring downsides of working virtually will be the risk that team members may feel socially disconnected from one another. They may feel as if they’re not really a unit that collaborates, shares, and cares for one another. To prevent this from happening, you need to take an extremely active role in staying connected through short text messages, virtual coffee chats, and social events. Make it a daily priority to be in touch with at least one person, and then every week or second week have short check-ins. These meetings are not to be confused with the standard production and update meetings, as they’re about connecting with your team and making sure that they’re feeling emotionally, psychologically, and physically supported.
  3. Provide learning buddies and resources: Many employees are in uncharted territory, and have to learn new technical skills, working routines, and behaviours of working effectively and efficiently, while being physically apart. Support them by creating a buddy system so that they can learn from one another and feel socially connected. Learning together with a peer is less overwhelming, builds trust, and fosters stronger working relationships. Encourage this, and make sure that your team has options available to learn new skills.

The time has come to create a safe learning environment; one in which everyone has a voice to contribute and share their thoughts. Give them the space and the permission to walk this uncharted territory together. No-one has been in this situation before, so we don’t have the answers, but we can discover them together.

How to Keep Calm and Carry on During the Corona Crisis

How to Keep Calm and Carry on During the Corona Crisis

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

 

Keep Calm

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.

 

Innovate

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.  

Preventing crises in the workplace through positive team building

Preventing crises in the workplace through positive team building

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.

 

Crisis communication

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.

 

Crisis prevention

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

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.

 

In conclusion

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 Three Steps to Being Proactive about Crisis Management

The Three Steps to Being Proactive about Crisis Management

Despite our best efforts, all companies go through times of stress and crisis. Whether it’s a lawsuit, loss of staff, or someone dropping the ball, crises impact not only our staff but our productivity and bottom line. While some may be outside our control, such a load shedding, or new company policies, a recent survey showed that 95% of crises at work are preventable (Bernstein Crisis Management). So why do we so often find ourselves in times of crisis? The answer is because we tend to take action only when something is breaking, rather than being proactive about crisis management, and potentially preventing crises (within our control) from happening at all.

 

So How Do We Become Proactive about Crisis Management?

There are three steps to effectively preventing a crisis at work. Each one requires you to be committed to the process, putting effort into prevention rather than cure. However, the time, energy, and effort you put into being proactive about crisis management can ensure that you have a smoother organisation in the long term.

 

Step 1: Review Your Past

What many organisations tend to do is manage a crisis in the moment, and then breathe a sigh of relief when it’s over; grateful to have things “back to normal”. However, what a lot of them are missing is the powerful opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Taking the time to review the crisis and unpack what led you there is an essential part of being proactive about crisis management for the future. You can choose to have an executive meeting, individual interviews, or do an anonymous survey, but involving the relevant staff and reviewing how the crisis happened is an invaluable process. The following questions can help you guide the process:

  • What facts do we have about the situation?
  • Who was involved?
  • What was the process, and where are the weaknesses?
  • What could we have done differently?
  • What steps can be taken now to prevent this from ever happening again?
  • Who needs to be involved to ensure this strategy works?

 

Step 2: Stay Committed

Whether you decide to change a system, a method of communication, or an individual’s role, it’s essential to follow through on the information gathered in Step 1. Unfortunately, what tends to happen in many organisations is that we become busy with daily operations and we don’t implement and commit to the changes needed to prevent future crises. This leads to mistrust of employees in the organisation because it looks like you don’t “walk the talk”. This in turn can reduce team morale and lead to a worse spin-off effect than before the crisis happened.

One effective strategy to staying committed to being proactive about crisis management is to choose a voluntary task team. This team will be responsible for implementing the necessary changes, and reporting back to management on a regular basis.

 

Step 3: Invest the Time

The final step to being proactive about crisis management is about investing the time to ensure that your culture and values are infused into every employee, rather than just being a poster on the wall. As mentioned above, 95% of crises are preventable, and in many cases, this is due to either a lack of a realised organisational culture, or the lack of relevant information filtering through the organisation to the relevant people. Many employees will hold on to precious information about their role, and any weaknesses, not because they want to, but often because either they don’t feel safe to share – in case of negative consequences – or they’re simply not asked.

Investing time in culture and values interventions, as well as ensuring a regular vulnerability audit is done, are effective and proactive strategies to reduce preventable crises at work.

 

In Conclusion: The Best Strategy to Manage Crises is to Prevent Them

We all know the saying “prevention is better than cure”, and crisis management is no exception to this rule. Taking the time to review and reflect on previous situations, committing to upholding a new process, and investing time in your staff for culture development and communication are the three steps to becoming more proactive about crisis management in your organisation.

Are you struggling to keep your head above water in your organisation? 4Seeds offers a range of services from individual coaching to organisational culture processes which can help you and your team to effectively circumnavigate preventable crises at work. Contact us at info@4seeds.co.za to find out how we can help you.

Is it Time for an Organisational Health Check?

Is it Time for an Organisational Health Check?

People have returned from their holidays and work hasn’t completely taken off full swing just yet. The energy is still high and people are filled with optimism for the new year and its potential. However, as time passes our enthusiasm and energy generally starts to slow down and eventually tapers off, which is often when an organisational health check is needed.

Routine, structure and constant deadlines often lead to lower levels of motivation, morale and engagement. It is not unusual for companies to use this time to strategise about the next twelve month’s goals and plans, setting the organisation’s direction and determining the measurement indicators that will show that they are moving forward and by how much. So, as part of the annual strategy process can we take the time to do an organisational health check? A process that can determine where your employees are right now and what level of health your organisation is at right now?

In reality, this seldom happens, if ever at all. For some unexplainable reason, we often think that employees’ overall health is constantly good, but is it? We tend to put together our plans of the year without checking if our employees are whole-heartedly behind it. This can become a costly oversight that will become evident in the months to come- as engagement wanes. A strategy is only as successful as the people who need to execute it. But what is the organisational health check?

 

Why Do an Organisational Health Check?

There might be a gap that has developed silently and slowly and this is where the desired reality and the current reality are no longer aligned. This process is usually gradual and can easily go unnoticed until our staff fall short of our expectations and unseen crises become more frequent. It’s like a murmur that leaders have to be very attuned to so they can feel the heartbeat of the organisation is strong.

We can use our bodies as an analogy, sometimes we might feel the odd ache or pain which disappears for some time and reappears unexpectedly. In the beginning, it’s an odd ache or pain we ignore however over time if not attended to, it can develop into a serious illness. The murmurs were there all along but we were not mindful of our health and did not see or hear the warning signs- which can lead to serious organisational health issues.

An Organisational Health Check is how we become aware and vigilant of the warning signs within our organisations, staff and teams.

 

Four Questions to Ask During an Organisational Health Check

  1. Does our vision statement still excite our teams?
  2. Do our people get a sense of belonging?
  3. Is the mission worthwhile pursuing?
  4. Are the values still shared and actively lived out?

These four questions are a good starting point for any company to ask on a regular basis. Speak to your teams to get answers, and tune in and listen to the inner voice. Listen for the unspoken. If this is left undetected for too long the process to change can take quite some time – this is the time during which the strategy i.e. goals are slowed down, or worse not achieved at all. Of course, we can choose to ignore the health check results and push the strategy through, but it will backfire. If you want to successfully accomplish your company’s strategy, then it’s important to learn to take your teams with you and work collectively on the same goals.

 

How 4Seeds Can Help

4Seeds are a team of expert facilitators and coaches who support companies before, during and after an Organisational Health Check. With our toolbox of assessments and evidence-based strategies, we can help your organisation thrive, individually and collectively. We are the company doctor- and we are always on call. Contact us at info@4seeds.co.za to find out how we can support the health of your organisation.

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.

Unhappiness is at the Root of Human Survival

Unhappiness is at the Root of Human Survival

The concept of the pursuit of happiness is everywhere – in our offices, communities and, and even in our homes! And obviously, it’s companion unhappiness is rife in society which ensures we buy more, consume more and desire more in order to heal our unhappiness.  We’re constantly asking ourselves if we’re happy and what recipe would make us happier: More money? A bigger house? A more prestigious job? A better partner?

But if you’ve pursued any of the above goals, you’ll know that once you get there, somehow you still feel incomplete and not happy… yet. So, you pursue the next goal, the next achievement, and buy yourself your next possession; always hoping to find the happiness you so desperately want and deserve.

So, if the answer to what makes us happy isn’t the perfect life with all the bells and whistles, then what can make us happy? The answer to this question is in understanding human nature.

In this article, we’ll will explain how and why we function as we do, and how unhappiness has served our evolution as a species. This is not to say that we should be unhappy or strive for dissatisfaction by any means, what we’ll aim to explain is why we are this way so that we can better understand, learn, and grow from simply surviving to thriving.

 

Unhappiness as a Means of Survival

As we all know, our survival as a species has required us to be alert and aware of dangers so that we can protect ourselves and our loved ones. While we have evolved massively into a modern, tech-savvy, and aware species, this instinct is still intact and is controlled by the oldest part of our brains, known as the reptilian brain.

This reptilian brain is situated at the back of the brain and is responsible for fight, flight, freeze, feed, and fornication. So, while the threats may have changed in our environment, we’re still wired to scan for danger.

In Positive Psychology this is known as the negativity bias, and while it is necessary for human survival on a day to day basis, it can limit our ability to be happy. If we’re constantly looking for the negative in our environments, how can we home in on the positive?

Hedonic Adaptation: A Safety Strategy which Leads to Unhappiness

The second component to our survival is hedonic adaptation or the hedonic treadmill.

The basic concept of the hedonic treadmill is that no matter what happens in our external circumstances, we’ll always return to our individual happiness set point. In fact, this set point is said to make up 50% of our overall happiness and well-being.

This ability for us to return to where we started serves us hugely when we encounter traumatic or difficult times in our lives. However, this hedonic adaptation is happening continuously in our daily lives and may be the root of our unhappiness and feelings of dissatisfaction.

In our offices, homes, and communities we seek structure, routine and stability. This serves us as it helps us feel secure – we can switch off our reptilian brain and be productive. This ability to find a new comfort zone and stick with it is helpful, as the more stability we have around us the more we think we are able to meet our survival, physical, social, emotional, and psychological needs.

While this is true for most of us, there is a downside to hedonic adaptation which is that we become complacent, lacklustre, and jaded by the system we have worked so hard to build and maintain. We adapt to our situation so effectively that we lose our sense of joy and excitement.

Hedonic adaptation leads to discontent with what we have. We stop feeling excited about where we’re going, and adapt so well to our routines that we no longer see our lives for all they encompass. This leads to unhappiness and the pursuit of what could make us happier.

The hedonic treadmill also results in fear of doing something new and stepping out of our comfort zones because it may threaten the status quo we’ve worked so hard to build. We make the decision to rather be comfortable and unhappy, than try something new which we believe could be a threat to our survival and could also make us even more unhappy.

The irony of our unhappiness is that the opposite of this is actually true. Because we have a happiness set point, if we get outside of our comfort zones or have to manage a difficult event, we not only return to this happiness set point but can actually surpass our previous level of happiness and thrive.

 

Breaking the Cycle of Unhappiness: Moving from Surviving to Thriving

At 4Seeds we design and deliver team, leadership, and organisational programmes which helps us to counter your innate negativity bias with scientific and practical strategies to increase your happiness levels.

We meet individuals where they are, and through a process of scientifically meaningful workshops and interventions can help your organisation step out of its comfort zone, out of fear and stress to develop even greater resilience, productivity, and progress.

Contact us on info@4seeds.co.za to find out how we can move your organisation from surviving to thriving.

 

Resilience- The New Workplace Buzzword

Resilience- The New Workplace Buzzword

The Context

Every now and again, buzzwords creep into our business language. The main one at the moment is resilience, with leaders wanting to build resilient teams and raise people’s resilience in the workplace. But what is resilience? Can it be developed or even influenced? Many people refer to it as the stand-up syndrome, or the ability to persevere during tough times. Let’s begin by looking at the roots and definition of resilience.

Resilience in the face of challenging situations has been around for centuries, as is evident in myths, fairytales, art, and literature which portrays heroes and heroines. And it continues in today’s thriving movie industry. Just look at Aquaman, The Avengers, Wonder Woman, Black Panther, or Spiderman to name a few. It is only recently though that individual resilience is spilling over into the workplace.

Resilience was first studied as a scientific concept in the 1970s while researching children who were classified as high-risk problem children. Over the next three decades, further research was conducted which indicated that resilience led to increased positive behaviour, academic achievements, a happier and more satisfying life, and a decrease in mental illness, emotional distress, criminal behaviour, and risk-taking activities. Looking at these benefits, it’s no wonder that everybody wants to increase their resilience, especially leaders in the workplace. But resilience is more than just bouncing back from adversity. It has two important benchmark criteria: firstly that you are doing better than anticipated from the adversity, and secondly that there has been a positive outcome. It’s not just about bouncing back and being in the same state of mind as before. Growth needs to happen based on a “threatening” situation. You can obviously appreciate that resilience takes time, practice, and a mindset to develop. In a work context, adverse situations are often present, but do we always come out better than expected or grow from it? Our case study is about how to implement resilience in a working environment.

 

Client Background

Our client is in the insurance industry and has a solid track record of delivering excellent customer service. They go the extra mile with every client, and through their stellar quality work, outperform their competitors. The company is a medium-sized business with approximately thirty employees, which made it easy to engage with every employee and make a lasting and positive impact. The Managing Director had scheduled a strategy session with the team, and wanted to include tools and techniques to support the employees to be resilient in an anticipated challenging year ahead.

We were invited to facilitate a half-day workshop on developing resilience. The purpose was to impart knowledge and tools for the team on how to increase their level of resilience, and manage difficult situations and/or aggravated customers. It was about boosting the team with practical know-how so that they could thrive in the coming year.

 

Approach and Processes

We started off by providing background information on what resilience is, the benefits of developing it for both an individual as well as for the organisation, and ended off by sharing practical tools on how to build and maintain resilience. We also played a fun physical game with the team to assist them to transpose the learned material into real work-life situations. In this case study we will share two main resilience tools that you can apply in managing your day-to-day irritations, frustrations, and disappointments.

 

Tool 1 – Question your Internal Beliefs

In a moment of distress we seldom start by looking at ourselves, but rather jump right into being reactive and finding fault in the situation, which leads to us going down the blame and fault-finding path. This is not a helpful process for us. We taught the team to reverse this by questioning their assumptions and beliefs about the situation that was causing them distress; first looking inwards and then identifying their thinking traps. The practical tool to apply is the ABCDE method in which the following steps are followed.

The “A” stands for Adversity, and you need to pinpoint and name the situation that is causing you distress.

The “B” stands for Beliefs, and these are the assumptions you are making on what is causing you the actual distress. These are you sinkholes in your thinking.

The “C” stands for the Consequences of holding onto these beliefs around the adversity. It is very helpful to gain clarity of the consequences of holding onto the assumptions and beliefs.

The “D” stands for Disputation. Here we question ourselves whether the beliefs and assumptions are the only feasible explanation for the adversity. We begin to become open-minded and curious about possible alternative reasons. We challenge our thinking by looking for evidence and pondering the implications of our beliefs, assumptions and consequences.

Finally, the “E” stands for Energization. In this last step, we become energized by removing the limiting and negative assumptions around the adversity which usually results in us moving towards a positive action.

 

Tool 2 – Examine the External Environment

Only in this tool do we look outwards at the external environment that is adding to the level of distress we are experiencing. It can be friction with a colleague, time management, unreasonable work deadlines, or not having the necessary resources available. We imparted a short, practical tool for the team called ADAPT, and designed a plan of action to work through the adverse situation.

The first “A” stands for Attitude and is about questioning your mindset and exploring which thinking sinkholes are in the way. It also includes examining your emotions and the perception you have.

The “D” stands for Defining the problem and setting a realistic goal.

The second “A” stands for generating Alternative solutions. Brainstorming different ways of how you can accomplishing the set goal and writing down some alternative ideas.

The next step, the “P”, stands for Predicting the consequences. This entails examining the alternative solutions generated in the previous step, and evaluating their level of effectiveness. You start to look at things from all angles, and place yourself in other people’s shoes.

And the final step, the “T”, stands for Testing it. Moving into action and implementing the plan.

 

Impact and Results

This two-step process was a start for the team to adjust their thinking towards life’s challenges. It was about accepting that life is fluid, and that irritating, frustrating and annoying situations will happen to all of us on a regular basis. We cannot prevent them from happening, however we are in control of our thoughts, we can regulate our emotions, and we can choose how we will react and grow from the challenge.

For organisations, teaching people resilience skills is very beneficial to their profitability and productivity. In a recent study by Gallup in 2018, figures showed that 23% of people suffer from permanent burnout, and 44% from occasional burnout.

If your employees or leaders are experiencing similar challenges, and you’d like our support, contact us on 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.