I don’t like roller coaster rides. They make me anxious and turn my stomach upside down. But, with the arrival of COVID-19, I’ve been on one long roller coaster ride for the past few weeks. I’m referring to the psychological and emotional roller coaster that leaders ride. We’re concerned about our teams and their well-being, the sustainability of our businesses over an undefined number of weeks, we’re questioning how to support and add value for our customers, and we’re definitely worrying about financial endurance. One moment I’m giving myself pep-talks telling myself that everything will be OK, and that I need to be courageous, optimistic, and to look for opportunities, and at other times I feel pessimistic, despondent, and helpless.
I know that as a leader you’re probably in the same boat. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an entrepreneur, small- to medium-sized business owner, self-employed, or a full-time employee, we’re all riddled with endless worry, concerns, and questions. We all share the same fears and apprehension about our loved ones, our employees’ well-being, our financial existence, our businesses that we have invested all our passion into, and our future. Worry is a grey cloud which engulfs us, and every now and then there’s the odd opening of an azure blue sky.
Right now, there are more questions than there are answers, and the next few weeks will be a waiting game for us on how to move forward. It all depends on what the world will look like after COVID-19.
I’d like to share some strategies on how you can transform your worries into opportunities. These will help you to take control of what you can change, and to let go of what you can’t. To not waste energy, time, and sleepless nights worrying about things that are beyond your control.
Lead in COVID-19
Being a leader at this time in history is frightening, but equally it has never been more exciting, energising, and innovating. Your days will be challenging and demanding, but I have no doubt they will also be rewarding, as you grapple to find novel and unique solutions. You will have to be brave to try out completely new concepts with your team and your clients. See opportunities, not problems, and find the valour to move into action. As a leader, you have the chance to show your true potential. You have permission to step into your authentic power, and be your best possible self. You don’t have time on your side to spend months planning, contemplating, or designing extensive strategies at the moment; you need to be agile, nimble in your thinking, and make some very serious decisions rapidly. Your team needs focus, direction, and support, and they’re looking to you for that. I know you’re on your own, confronted with an entirely new situation for which no leadership workshop or course could have prepared you. Trust me, you’re doing your best, and I want you to acknowledge yourself for that. These are chaotic, challenging, and unforeseen times. Nobody saw this coming four months ago. Like all other professions who are servicing the nation to stay well cared-for, you too are a hero to your team.
Shift worry into action
Worry is normal in these times as we struggle to make sense of what’s happening to our world. We try to find meaning in the chaos, and reflect on what really matters to us. So, worry is healthy in that it makes us consciously question many aspects in our life, but it does turn more harmful than helpful if it paralyses our thinking and actions. If we overthink things, we’ll get stuck in a worst-case scenario-mindset, and will withdraw from the outside world. We need to consciously work against our natural negative bias, because it does not serve us at all. Shift your leadership focus to what you can control and influence, and let the areas that are outside your powers be.
Here are four leadership tips on how you can shift worry into positive action for you and your team.
1. Be a human being
First and foremost, as a leader, be a human being. Share your fears, anxieties, and concerns about your family, the team, and the business. This is not the time to come across as tough; rather demonstrate your soft, caring, empathetic, and compassionate heart. People want to know that you have the same fears and emotions that they do. When checking in with people, whether it’s online or on the phone, always ask them how they’re feeling. This isn’t the time to operate from a place of business as usual. Put work tasks, deadlines, and progress on the back-burner.
2. Double-up on connections
More than ever your team will need to feel and stay connected. The current lockdown will be stressful for a lot of people, some of whom will manage it better than others. Support everybody by having virtual coffee appointments or lunch check-ins. These shouldn’t be work-related meetings, and you mustn’t talk about anything to do with work. Instead, really share and connect about how everybody is coping in their environment. Collectively offer support, or brainstorm a solution to a colleague’s challenge. Make sure that these meetings happen at least twice a week, because for some employees this is a moment of bonding with their colleagues. Share funny quarantine stories from your home, and also open up a platform for people to share their fears.
3. Cut people some slack
This is not the time to be firm with employees on their performance. I know that might be hard to accept, or non-negotiable in your industry, but not everyone is capable of giving 100% of their commitment and focus in times like these. Your team is unlikely to deliver their best work right now because they will be grappling with many other things. Their minds will be focused on their families’ and spouses’ well-being, their health, financial situation, investments, and their children’s education, and this could mean that they’re distracted in terms of their work. You’re going to have to cut them some slack and not be a stickler for perfect productivity.
4. Collective creative solutions
This is the time to think outside the box. Situations will present themselves that your best risk mitigation plans didn’t even consider. Use your team as much as possible to collectively come up with creative novel ideas and solutions. Nobody expects you to have all the answers. Include the team, listen to their ideas, and discuss which ones you will implement. Some will work and others won’t, but it’s important to make the team part of the process, to try out new fun and even courageous ideas, and to realign the ones that didn’t work the first time around. It’s not about getting it right; it’s about moving forward and learning from your mistakes. Your customers will probably be very tolerant and forgiving in these times. Think about it: what have you got to lose but an idea that didn’t work? At least you tried, you learned something new along the way, and you added to your collective teamwork.
There is no doubt that you will never forget COVID-19. No-one will! Now’s the time to focus on what you can control. Be clear on what you have power over to influence and change, and what’s in nature’s hands. Your attitude in this COVID-19 pandemic will have a direct impact on your team and their families. Your responsibility to your team and your clients’ well-being should be your primary focus right now.
Go out, be courageous, and believe that you cannot fail because in these times every leader is a hero.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we can offer support and guidance through our Candid Conversations for Leaders in Crisis webinar. It’s on Tuesdays from 19:00 to 20:30 or Thursdays from 10:30 to 12:00. To register go to our homepage https://www.4seeds.co.za/
Twenty to thirty years ago, conversations about the environment and climate change started appearing. At that time, there were rumours that icebergs at the North Pole were melting, plastic waste was killing marine life, toxic waste was being pumped into rivers, and exhaust fumes from cars and factory chimneys was poisoning the air. Immediately, some of us were convinced that these things were true, and we changed the way we lived. However, most of us were in denial, either thinking that it wasn’t true, or feeling that it was OK because it didn’t affect us personally. Like ostriches, we stuck our heads in the sand, not wanting to see and hear how the climate and environment around us was slowly changing. Activists had a continual uphill battle of raising awareness and educating people about climate change; it’s devastating, destroying our planet, and it’s here to stay! They encouraged people to take drastic action now, not in years to come.
Fast forward to 2020, where we have constant validation that the climate has changed. There are heatwaves in countries who aren’t used to such high temperatures, droughts, flooding, volcanic eruptions, earth tremors, cyclones, and devastating forest fires. We can no longer be ostriches and say that the warnings we received two decades ago are not our current reality.
People-centred and conscious leadership mindset
I feel we’ve reached the exact same thing in organisations where, for the last ten years, conversations have been around shifting from a profit-centred to a people-centred mindset. Many organisations are in denial and rigidly follow an industrial-era type business model with top-down hierarchies, focusing on making short-term profits, driving strategic goals, and maximising shareholder returns. At the core there is nothing wrong with this business approach, as organisations exist to make profits and be competitive. However, the model has lost its people-centred focus. The human element is missing, and people are often seen as a commodity that can easily be replaced, similar to a piece of machinery. But people are not machines, and they cannot be treated as such. They have hearts, emotions, goals, and individual strengths. Everyone is unique and has so much to offer. Your people are your organisation’s biggest asset, not your biggest liability!
Like environmental activists, I am the well-being, people-centred activist who wants to make you aware that leaders must adjust their style and mindset for future organisation success. You can, of course, be in denial, like we did with the environment, but the results are not going to be what you want in the years to come. Do your best to bring conscious leadership into your organisation now, because it’s a strategic change that requires time to roll out and implement. It needs time because it involves an entire culture change. I know that this concept may be scary, but it need not be if it’s done in small steps. Carrying on the way you’re doing business right now will have long-term negative consequences because the climate of organisations is changing drastically. Introducing conscious leadership into your organisation will keep you ahead of the curve; don’t wait to jump on the band wagon.
What is Consciousness?
Consciousness is about being fully-present and aware; directing your attention to what’s happening to you in the moment on a thinking, feeling, and sensing level. It’s about paying attention without judgement, or attachment to your emotions, thoughts, and feelings. It takes you out of the reactive, knee-jerk reaction we all fall prey to, and allows you to be introspective. When you are conscious, you can focus your attention inward for a minute or two and explore what’s going on for you. What’s going through your mind, what emotions are you feeling, and what is your gut telling you? Becoming consciously aware allows you to take a step back from a situation, out of ego-mode, and to openly assess what is happening for you as well as for others. Ultimately, it allows you to make ethical decisions, and to find solutions to complex scenarios. Living more consciously raises your level of empathy and compassion, which in turn results in being more flexible in your thinking, more solution-orientated. In this way, we can build stronger relationships, and we can also support those around us.
What is Conscious Leadership?
From a leadership point of view, conscious leadership means being present, fully connected, and authentic with your team. It involves making a mental mind shift to lead in the new leadership way that straddles both the importance of making profit as well as caring about the team’s well-being, and being people-centred. The focus is on long-term sustainability rather than short-term gains, and for that change you need to invest in your people and their well-being. Like the call for us to stop abusing the planet, here is the call for us to make an organisational shift and bring in conscious leadership.
Fred Kofman, author of the book Conscious Business, says that a conscious leader shows responsibility, humility, collaborative communication, win-win conflict resolution, integrity, emotional mastery, and excellent self-awareness. Reading these criteria, one can see that conscious leadership has a soft side that is very people-centred. It’s something that goes deep and cannot be reached when rigidly adhering to, and honouring, processes and procedures. It has an element of vulnerability, of not knowing the answers, of not controlling or managing people, and of being curious and open-minded to situations. It is this vulnerability that makes leaders uncomfortable and afraid to shift into conscious leadership. But, it if you want your organisation to remain competitive, you need to take the bold step and instil a people-centred culture and shift to a conscious leadership style. Start with these three small, and non-overwhelming steps.
Three non-overwhelming steps
- Buffer your reactive knee-jerk reactions: Only through bringing in mindful consciousness can you become fully present in the moment and register what a trigger is doing to you. Learn to take five deep breaths, count to 20, or take a 10-minute walk before you respond. Find yourself a visual reminder to assist in these sorts of situations, and find a place to stick this reminder where you’ll see it easily. Once you’ve cooled off and put some distance between yourself and the situation, reflect on how you’re feeling at the time and what you ideally want from it. Then communicate that in an open and positive way.
- Take full accountability for a situation: As difficult as this may sound, a conscious leader takes ownership and responsibility for a situation that didn’t go according to plan. Learn to not shift into a victim mentality, or blaming others, but rather understand how your leadership behaviour and actions have contributed to the problem. This is a combination of looking inward and then outward, rather than just outward, which is our autopilot mode. Once you can see that you are part of the problem, you can be part of the solution and navigate it in the direction you want it to go.
- Act, think, and behave with intention: Learning to bring intention to everybody and everything you engage with requires that you decide upfront how you are going to show up. Bring awareness to how you want to come across when you interact with your team and what you want to experience in a situation. If you would like to enjoy your day at the office, have a pleasant experience doing your job, and a solid connection with your team, you have to set this intention upfront, because then that’s exactly what will happen! Even when things don’t go according to plan, you’ll consciously decide to look for solutions and not for this situation to derail you.
You may only be able to remain in denial for a very short time, but the writing is on the wall. Organisations who don’t want to fail, downsize, or close down, will eventually have to make the shift to a people-centred culture. Start today with small steps and keep working on it bit by bit as change takes time both from a mindset and from an implementation point of view.
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.
- Kahana, E., & Kahana, B. (1983). Environmental continuity, futurity and adaptation of the aged. In G.D. Rowles & R.J. Ohta (Eds.), Aging and milieu (pp. 205-228). New York: Haworth Press.
- 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.
The organisational behaviour of reciprocity is not an unknown in our everyday working lives. We share information, collaborate on projects, and hopefully recognise how our efforts impact the greater objectives of the company. These are the foundations of reciprocity in the workplace, and they exist everywhere where individuals work together to achieve collective success.
However, when you first think about the idea of a giving culture at work, it may feel as if you’re going against your natural evolutionary instinct to compete for resources and thus survive and outlive your competition. If this is your first response, then it may be helpful to consider recent research in the field of neurobiology. An experiment performed by neuroscientists James Rilling and Gregory Berns at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, found that the act of helping people activated the part of our brain associated with rewards and experiencing pleasure. This literally means that we are biologically programmed to feel good by reducing the suffering of others.
So, if reciprocity is an innate human trait, then how can we harness this basic social behaviour to create a culture which benefits the individual, team, and organisation as a whole?
- Firstly, we need to generalise this reciprocal tendency to create a pay it forward culture.
- Secondly, we need to employ a culture of gratitude which can act as a buffer against stress and promote an ongoing giving culture through the reinforcement of proactive, prosocial behaviours.
Paying it forward
At its core, reciprocity comes from the foundational understanding that “if I scratch your back, you’ll scratch mine.” Reciprocity can therefore come from a place of indebtedness, which quickly leads to resentment and fatigue. Luckily, growing research in the field of positive organisational behaviours is proving that reciprocity with the intention of appreciation and gratitude elicits powerful effects on workplace effectiveness with long-term and sustainable company success.
A clear example of paying it forward is the Starbucks Coffee experiment where a researcher paid for the coffee of the person behind them, and then that person paid for the coffee of the person behind them, without expectation or instructions given by the researcher. In St. Petersburg Florida, this process continued for 11 hours, and when the individuals were interviewed, they explained that they “wanted to show their appreciation for the kindness they had received.”
This case study is a perfect example of how we can create a pay it forward culture of generalised reciprocity in an organisation. If person A shows proactive, helpful behaviour towards person B and this organically flows through person C, D, E and F, then indirectly person A will receive helpful behaviour in the future.
This requires a giving mindset (which we will discuss in the gratitude part of this article) and trust in the system that they will receive help in the future. This indirect closing of the circle is necessary as reciprocity by its very nature requires an exchange. We will only offer kindness and gratitude if at some point we receive (even indirectly) the same treatment. We are unlikely to continue helping others if we don’t receive help ourselves, just as we are unlikely to continue showing gratitude to someone if we receive no appreciation ourselves. This is where gratitude becomes vital for sustaining the giving culture.
An attitude of gratitude
At first, gratitude may be thought of as fluffy emotional stuff, but it has been proven to have profound benefits on our workplace well-being. Some of the latest research findings are:
- A daily gratitude practice can decrease stress hormones by 23%.
- Grateful people are more optimistic, and optimism has a direct positive effect on our immune systems.
- Appreciation from management increased work commitment by 80%.
- Grateful brains release Dopamine which leads to an increase in productivity by 31%.
It is obvious that on an individual level gratitude is highly beneficial to our physical and mental health as well as our productivity at work.
However, how does an attitude of gratitude increase a giving culture at work?
Recent research into the neurobiology of compassion has shown that receiving gratitude (through words, touch or actions) generates Oxytocin – the neurotransmitter responsible for nurturance, trust and bonding. This release of Oxytocin causes us to behave compassionately towards others therefore paying forward the positive emotions we have just experienced.
An attitude of gratitude at work is a simple and effective way to create more givers in the workplace. Givers, as described by Adam Grant in his book Give and Take, are those individuals that help when the benefits to others exceed their own personal costs. He says that a taker is someone who helps whenever the benefits to themselves exceed their own personal costs. Plainly said – more givers in an organisation will lead to increased proactive behaviours, collaborative intentions, and a culture of working for the greater good of the organisation, not just for personal gain.
In the average workplace there will be a mix of givers, matchers and takers, and a lack of appreciation is the number one reason why people are leaving their jobs. Instilling an attitude of gratitude will not only make the takers in your organisation feel appreciated and experience more happy hormones, which will encourage them to give more in the future as they got something back in return, but they will also be more likely to show gratitude to others. Both of these reciprocal processes will ensure that a giving culture can be sustained.
This article may have taken some of you outside your comfort zone, or otherwise just offered a scientific perspective on a giving culture, but the aim has been to show the innate desire of humans to reciprocate kindness and appreciation.
While we have been programmed to compete against each other, we are hardwired to feel good by acting in prosocial ways. By harnessing the two strategies of paying it forward and instilling an attitude of gratitude in your organisation, you will not only be improving the well-being of your employees but creating a major culture shift which will lead to increased connectivity, civility, cohesion, and collaboration at work.
If you have a story to share or questions for the 4Seeds team about this article, please leave a comment below.
In the workplace there is little room for civility and kindness unless it is ingrained in a company culture. Business tends to lean towards being hard-nosed and competitive with people adopting the “what’s in it for me” attitude. This has resulted in an unspoken culture of incivility in companies, a behaviour that we’ve all probably engaged in from time to time but one which we don’t approve of. Incivility means that we’re disrespectful and undignified towards others, and express this by not listening attentively, by looking at our phone while someone is speaking to us, working on our laptop while talking, taking credit for a job that we didn’t do, blaming others and not taking ownership when we make a mistake, walking away from people while they’re still talking, publicly mocking or belittling people, being dismissive towards others, ignoring or excluding people in conversations, and withholding information. We may not be doing these things with malice but rather from a place of ignorance; however, in a workplace environment incivility in a company culture comes at a high cost. It doesn’t matter if you’re directly involved or if you’re observing incivility towards a colleague, it affects you just as much!
Incivility can be summarised as being blatantly rude towards others and not respecting diversity. Most leaders are actively doing their best to promote and get a healthy balance within their teams and using diversity to appreciate and leverage off each other’s many and varied talents, skills, strengths, ideas and perspectives. Incivility simply pours ice cold water over diversity. Research shows that incivility within a company culture results in decreased work performance, reduced creativity and brainstorming by up to 39%, disengagement in meetings, a lack of attention to instructions, and emotional exhaustion. Incivility comes at a high cost to organisations, but it is seldom ring-fenced as such. We think that people are under pressure to perform and busy with work tasks which makes multi-tasking acceptable, when in actual fact it is not. We’ll start to see little cliques developing within our teams and will notice that some of our colleagues are more isolated from the team than they should be. We all see it, but we don’t always take the time to stop, think about it and reflect over its impact on others, the team and our organisation. We may be directly involved and know how emotionally draining it feels to be sidelined or bullied by others, but we don’t often stand up for ourselves. We see it, we hear it, we feel it, but we don’t do enough about it to stop it, and we allow this uncivil behaviour of others to wash over us. Incivility in the workplace is not ok and it’s not acceptable. The change can come from leadership and be filtered down, but it can also start with you and be filtered down to your co-workers.
To shift the lever from incivility to being civil and respectful can start with being kind and empathetic towards others by using these tools.
- Saying thank you can go a very long way. These are two very simple and easy words that we only use 10% of the time at work. Be civil by thanking the people around you for their contribution, for their ideas and for their commitment. Thank you is also about acknowledging the person and being respectful of their work, time, ideas and resources. It’s about not taking other people for granted. Make a conscious effort to thank people more often.
- Share resources and knowledge: At work we often hold onto our knowledge believing that if we share it with others it may make us perhaps dispensable or vulnerable as others can use our work, ideas and concepts. Quite the contrary is true! When we share our knowledge and resources, we make room for innovation and allow for creativity with new ideas and concepts. Sharing is definitely caring, and often through conversation entirely novel ideas emerge. Not to mention that nowadays most of the knowledge can be googled and doesn’t have the prestige and power it did 20 or 30 years ago. Share your time and knowledge openly, frequently and generously.
- Give feedback generously and express gratitude: Giving someone feedback goes a level deeper than simply saying thank you as you have to be more specific. Articulate clearly what you liked about what they did and want more of, or what you think could be improved on. The art here is not to be general, but to really take the time to be specific about their behaviour, language, skill or process as that depth helps people to make the necessary change, by either repeating a behaviour, tweaking it or mastering it. Also, share what you’re grateful for in the person, and acknowledge them for the strengths and values they bring to your work.
- Attentive listening and attention: How often do you catch yourself listening with one ear, nodding away to the person talking, but already thinking of something else? It’s an unhealthy habit many of us have developed that is completely rude. We know very well what it feels like to be on the receiving end and we don’t like it at all, so be civil and don’t do it to others. Stop what you’re doing and honour what the person has come to share with you. Listen attentively to them about what they want or need from you. Tune into their mind and way of thinking so that you can solve a problem quicker or address their concern without miscommunication. Listening saves time and demonstrates respect towards the other person.
The time has come to reduce incivility in the workplace and to shift into humane engagements that value respect and honour diversity and kindness. Don’t wait for others to kick-start this; be courageous and start with your team and your co-workers.
Take this brief civility assessment to establish what your score is as well as areas that you can improve on: http://www.christineporath.com/take-the-assessment/
Do your bit to change your workplace into a happy environment.
Touch in the workplace has long been the topic of much tension, with sexual harassment being a trigger point for legal action and civic concern. This has left many managers feeling that they cannot use touch for fear of causing harm or damaging their relationships with staff. This article aims to lay out the value of using physical touch in the workplace and how when used appropriately it can positively impact company outcomes, improve work relationships and increase employee well-being.
Touch is a basic human need. From the time we are born, touch provides necessary sensory input for our physical, emotional, psychological and social development. This is a known fact; however as we get older, touch becomes a sensitive issue, and our touch anxiety grows. “If I touch them, what will happen if they get the wrong idea, and could I damage this relationship?” is the question playing in the back of our minds. While our need for touch remains fundamental to our sense of connection and support of others, we become more hesitant, which is in turn compounded by the context of the professional environment.
As the world becomes more digital and virtual, many of us are becoming “touch deprived”, and despite our adult touch anxiety, we still have a fundamental need for physical contact. Touch forms part of how we communicate, bond and socialise non-verbally with others. The less often we touch, the less connected we feel which impacts many areas of our health. Within the workplace setting there are many unseen impacts of reduced touch, and hopefully through this article you will feel a greater sense of self-efficacy in using and receiving this powerful communication tool.
Let’s have a look at the nine benefits of physical touch and how they translate into positive workplace outcomes.
The nine reasons why you should be using more touch at work
Oxytocin is known as our “cuddle hormone”, though don’t let this put you off. Oxytocin is the hormone associated with human bonding, and when released it can help us develop a sense of safety and trust in one another. Trust is a cultural value of paramount importance in organisations, as it boosts our creativity, innovation, perceived purpose in the organisation’s vision, and in turn leads to greater commitment to the organisation’s objectives for the long-term. So this “soft” hormone has some powerful benefits.
In this world filled with change and uncertainty, stress is a constant; however physical touch can be part of the antidote as research shows that physical touch releases large amounts of dopamine – “our happy hormone”. Dopamine is not only associated with feelings of happiness and well-being, but also plays a major role in increasing feelings of relaxation, and we all know that we are more productive, participatory and pleasant when we are relaxed. Dopamine counters stress and in turn the many modern-day diseases we suffer from as a result.
The more touch we receive, the better our immune system is able to perform. This becomes especially relevant when we think of the time and costs incurred from absenteeism. So, the more we touch, the more productive we are and the better able we are to perform our roles without needing to take sick leave.
- Work needs to satisfy people’s needs
We are living in a new age where people are not only looking for their pay cheque, but also for a sense of purpose and meaning in their job. It is therefore essential that companies provide this in order to retain their staff. As physical touch is one of our fundamental human needs, providing more appropriate touch in the workplace can help to satisfy this need while boosting staff retention.
- Touch boosts effective interpersonal communication
Touch serves many functions in the workplace from validation (a tap on the back), to interaction management (tapping a shoulder to get attention), persuasion (holding someone’s arm to direct them where we want to go) and celebration (high fives). All of these appropriate uses of touch in the workplace enable healthy non-verbal communication in the office environment, and when missing can influence the effectiveness of our interactions by creating confusion, increasing mistrust and reducing feelings of appreciation.
- It increases perceived managerial social effectiveness
Touch is related to self-esteem. The higher our feelings of confidence, the more we are able to use touch effectively. In the workplace this can be an area of much deliberation because if touch is used ineffectively it can damage relationships. It is therefore very important for managers to be aware of the needs of their individual staff so that they can meet them appropriately. When this is performed effectively, staff will perceive their manager as being socially effective and hold them in higher esteem. And considering that management is one of the top five reasons why people leave their jobs, this is a valuable method to retain staff.
- Effective touch is a sign of an authentic leader
We have all heard of the term “authentic leadership” and we have covered this topic in many of our blogs. An authentic leader is one who is totally themselves at work. They show integrity in their actions which means that they hold nothing back from their staff. Touch is a non-verbal indicator of authenticity as although it is unspoken, we are all able to perceive when someone is being ingenuine when we come into physical contact with them. The use of touch is therefore a powerful first step for any manager who wants to become more authentic in their leadership position.
We tend to like people who show that they like us. Touch is a primary non-verbal way of showing care and appreciation and therefore plays a valuable role in increasing how much one is liked in their office environment. This is useful for anybody however for managers in particular, the use of touch can boost managerial likeability. So if you are looking for a way to win over your new team, this could be just the simple solution you are looking for.
- Touch increases role performance
Research has shown that the amount of touch a supervisor offers their staff impacts their perception of feeling supported, not only by said supervisor but by the organisation as a whole. This has a profound benefit on organisational outcomes because when staff feel they are fully supported by their company, their performance is boosted and they are more likely to perform organisational citizenship behaviours (volunteering for tasks and supporting co-workers).
As you can see from the reasons above, touch plays a powerful role in mediating our workplace relationships and reaching organisational outcomes. From boosting role performance to reducing absenteeism, there are a lot of reasons for using more touch in the workplace. Now before you head off to stroke your co-workers, please be aware. People have different touch profiles and will respond differently to touch. In order to achieve all the benefits that touch has to offer your company, it is therefore necessary to be mindful of each individual and manage your use accordingly. Touch is the oldest and strongest of our human senses; use it wisely and effectively and your organisation is sure to see massive benefits.
The working environment has changed over the last twenty years and still continues to do so. What was an acceptable and appropriate leadership style ten years ago is outdated today on both an organisational and an employee level. The time is long gone where leaders could tell their staff what to do, make all the decisions for them, and micro-manage how and when people perform their tasks.
Companies have recognised that innovative, out-of-the-box thinking will make them survive as well as outperform their competitors, and changing the working culture from a stoic authoritarian to a more transparent, fair and dynamic style is certainly a positive and supportive step for their employees. Further flattening the organisational hierarchy structure allows for information to flow faster, freely and more accurately; thereby implementing effective employee engagement and well-being strategies that support and encourage people to be creative in solving today’s working challenges.
Employees are responding positively, albeit sometimes hesitantly, to the change of having permission to actively contribute to finding solutions. Their voices have been stifled for so long that there is doubt and uncertainty if this is for real. Managers play a crucial role in encouraging innovative thinking, employee participation and active voicing of ideas through their leadership styles.
If managers want to remain relevant and be promoted, adopting a coaching mind-set will be of tremendous value to their career and their team’s performance. This will be seen when they encourage employees to think for themselves, make their own decisions and be accountable for their actions. Of course, things won’t always go according to plan, and that is where managers have to shift from a “tell and fix-it” mind-set to a coaching mind-set. A coaching mind-set is built on the foundation of inquiry, listening, questioning and trusting. Let’s explore each one in more depth.
Inquiry: To gather all the facts and establish what happened and what didn’t, without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Equally to not judge the person or situation. Remaining neutral, open-minded and detached are learned behaviours that take time to master. Think of it as being a detective who has to find all the facts in a “murder” mystery. The obvious person isn’t necessarily always the murder. During your investigation, you make lots of enquiries, and people will tell you what you need and want to hear. You must be able to see the bigger picture and not be roped into the story.
Listening: To hear and learn something new, which differs from listening to have a fact confirmed. When you listen for what is not being said, you have to focus and tune into the other person’s communication wave length, acutely focusing on their body language, tone of voice, use of words, facial expressions and, hand gestures. In the same process observing yourself and understanding your listening intent, periodically checking in that you remain open-minded, curious and non-judgemental.
Questioning: If the inquiry and listening steps have been done well, the third step may come a lot easier. But a question doesn’t always equal a question. The art to questioning is to formulate your questions in such a way that they get information and an understanding of the person’s thought process. Being curious without blame or accusation is the ideal balance. Reframing from posing closed questions that can be answered with either a yes or no doesn’t help us to get a better understanding of why a person did what they did. The question and listening phase is a gentle dance that continues until an inspiring solution or a new idea forms.
Trusting: The final stage is trusting that through the manager’s enquiry, listening and guided questioning, the employee has established where in their thought process or behaviour they have gone off course, and have identified how to deal with the problem at hand. This will allow the employee to discover their shortcoming as well as how to correct it, and is intrinsically motivating for the employee. In addition, it encourages them to deepen their thinking and find solutions to current working challenges.
Coaching is a very powerful tool that managers can learn and master so that they can drive employee commitment, accountability and job satisfaction. External coach training schools provide excellent in-depth training; however. these may be more appropriate for individuals wishing to pursue a permanent coaching career. There are also many well-written books which cover this topic.
You could also get in touch with us – we are well-equipped to train and instil a coaching mind-set for your managers and your company.