Radical candour is the secret to being a great boss. Leadership guru and former Director of Google, Kim Scott, describes radical candour as an invitation to “say what you think” a simple invitation that Scott encourages us not to shy away from. [Read more…]
You know that you’re a good leader, but is there room for improvement? Could you be better at what you do? Grab a coffee, take a pit stop for some fine tuning and peruse our 5 steps to develop effective leadership. [Read more…]
Profit? Loss? Return on investment? How about compassionate leadership as an organisational metric? We give you the skinny on why it might not be as counterintuitive as it sounds.
Working in a compassionate workplace impacts positively upon our levels of stress and ability to maintain resilience, reducing burnout (Figley 1995). The corollary of this is an improved ability to care for colleagues, direct reports and clients (Lilius et al. 2011). The impact of compassionate leadership also influences employees’ perception of their colleagues and the organisation generally. Suggesting compassion is good for business and for employees.
Lilius et al. (2011) found that when employees perceived that direct line managers were concerned about their wellbeing they reported feeling more engaged and happier at work. Employees were also less likely to leave the organisation resulting in a reduced staff turnover.
From Good To Great
Compassionate leaders have the ability to make workplaces more enjoyable and less stressful places to be. Fredrickson et al. 2000 found that when subjects experienced positive emotions their heart rate and blood pressure is lowered. Psychological distress was also observed to decrease. As Wallace Bachman’s (1988) military based research found, sometimes nice guys really do finish first. In ‘True North’ Bill George (2007) describes this compassionate leadership style as “transforming a workplace from ‘I’ to ‘We.’” Providing an environment where leaders leave behind the cut throat competition along with their ego’s to provide a workplace space were individuals are supported and developed by leaders. Collins (2001) describes this as what he considers a ‘Level 5’ leadership skill, consisting of motivation and humility. These leaders, Collins states move individuals, teams and organizations from ‘good to great.’
So are YOU a compassionate leader? Visit our resources page to find out more.
To find out more about compassionate leadership or compassion training contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The ability to remain agile and flexible as a leader in what has been termed a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world is of paramount of importance in the current economic climate. Leaders and employees, it seems, work against a backdrop of uncertainty. The HSE Work related stress, anxiety and depression statistics in Great Britain for 2015 make grim reading:
The total number of cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2014/15 was 440,000 cases, a prevalence rate of 1380 per 100,000 workers.
The number of new cases was 234,000, an incidence rate of 740 per 100,000 workers.
2014/15 was 9.9 million days lost due to stress. This equated to an average of 23 days lost per case.
In 2014/15 stress accounted for 35% of all work related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health.
The main work factors cited by respondents as causing work related stress, depression or anxiety (LFS, 2009/10-2011/12) were workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.
Stress isn’t going anywhere
Stress, is one factor of the modern workplace that isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. It has always been part of the modern workplace, however, increasing levels of stress are something of a more recent phenomena. Whereas organizations are currently observing a general decrease in absenteeism (CIPD 2016) the continued rise in stress related absenteeism shows no sign of abatement. The age old tradition of ‘boss bashing’ and complaining to colleagues only serves to hinder and diminish our ability to bounce back from stressful events (Siber, 2005). Nietzsche’s claim that “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me strong” does not hold true for today’s workforce. If leaders are to remain agile in a VUCA world, we need a new solution.
Levi, 2000 EU Guidance on Work Related Stress defines resilience as “The ability to mitigate the effects of stress i.e. factors such as emotional, cognitive, physiological, behavioural responses to work, the work environment or the organisations”. Building organisational capacity to develop resilience is key for leaders to meet these challenges head on in such a turbulent landscape. But how to do it?
Develop your emotional intelligence.
Relationships are key and will keep you sane. Make sure you have a support network both in and outside of work. Get to know your department, your team, those around you. Find out what makes them tick and continue to build rapport with those around you.
Define your purpose.
Is your leadership your calling? Is this what you were put on the earth to do? Know why you are doing what you do every day, making sure your values are in alignment with your actions. Create your very own mission statement and live your values.
Make time to reflect.
Protect regular time to reflect upon how you operate as a leader and as an organisation. Use the time to reflect on where you are now and where you want to be, identifying the gap in the middle. Consider systems, processes and procedures, are they working? Can they be improved? Reflect upon what’s happening in your field internationally, who are the thought leaders? Is there an opportunity to partner with them or learn from new systems, processes or theories?
Don’t stop learning.
When you’re faced with leadership chaos, personal development is often the first thing to fall by the wayside. Make time to learn, keeping yourself ahead of the curve. It’s not wasted time, it’s an investment in yourself.
Embrace failure and learn from it. Ditch the blame game and focus instead on learning information – learn from what went wrong. What processes and procedures worked? What didn’t? How can you learn from them? What can you tweak, change or do differently next time? Failure is an opportunity to refine and remain agile. Use it and embed it in your culture.
To talk to us about resilient leadership, VUCA or anything else that takes your fancy, contact us at email@example.com
What’s fuelling your burnout? Feeling exhausted? Perhaps even a little cynical where work is concerned? You could be suffering from burnout syndrome. A common response to stress, burnout is characterised by a variety of dimensions from fatigue, demotivation, frustration, cynicism and ultimately, reduced efficacy. So what, exactly, is fuelling your burnout?
The Beginnings Of Burnout
It isn’t a new phenomenon, Graham Greene wrote about it during the 60s in ‘A Burnout Case’ as a result the term was later coined in the context of employee burnout by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. It’s firmly part and parcel of corporate landscape now with employees increasingly being asked to do more with less.
Montero Marin at the University of Zaragoza identified three types of burnout. In a study of 429 university workers in a variety of occupations ranging from administration to research, the study identified 3 separate subtypes;
What’s Your Type?
- Boredom. This type of stress stems from lack of challenge. When employees aren’t stretched they’re unable to get into a state of flow, or optimum performance, stifling their development and their motivation. If you find yourself using avoidance as a coping strategy and complaining about your organisation on a regular basis, the research suggests this could be your burnout type. Leaving you feeling like giving up. boredom is fuelling your burnout fire.
- Overload. This subtype is characterised by frenetic behaviour. You find yourself doing, doing, doing with a constant mental ‘To do’ list. Your coping strategy is to keep working until you’re exhausted in the belief that you’ll somehow make headway. You’re overloaded by stress and feel cynical due to the lack of support you receive. You may feel that your organisation is limiting you. Excessive workload is fuelling your burnout.
- Worn Out. In this subtype when you’re faced with stress, you give up. It’s all just too overwhelming. The will to achieve is there but you lack motivation to get started in the onslaught of stress. If this is your subtype you may feel badly let down by your organisation. You’ve simply had enough and that is fuelling your stress.
What’s Fuelling Your Organisation’s Risk of Burnout?
Now you know what’s fuelling your individual burnout, lets take a look at your organisation. Maslach, Schaufel and Leiter identified 6 organisational risk factors that increase the likelihood of burnout.
- Mismatch in workload
- Mismatch in control
- Lack of appropriate rewards
- Loss of sense of positive connection with others
- Perceived lack of fairness
- Conflict with values
If the causes of burnout are multi factorial, how can you begin to combat it?
If you’re a leader, the starting point is your organisational culture. Here’s our checklist to guide your stress audit;
- Do you have a wellbeing strategy?
- Do staff have a healthy approach to work life balance and is this modelled by your leadership team?
- Are your people micromanaged or given the autonomy to carry out their role?
- Do you model your values or is there a disconnect? Do you need to revisit your strategy, policies, procedures and actions?
If you’ve identified that you’re on the way to being stressed, find a way to reduce your stress levels by;
- Practising mindfulness (see our mindfulness resources on this site)
- Consider Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions. Talk to your GP who will be able to recommend a therapist.
- Reflect upon whether your values are in alignment with your role. Is your current role what you feel drawn to as a profession or is something else calling you?
- Check your work – life balance is where you want it to be. If it isn’t take the necessary steps to address the areas that need work. Cut back on your hours, take lunch breaks and make sure you create time for friends, family and a life outside of work.
As election fever escalates and we wait with bated breath to see who will triumph, a new study in the Journal of Personality likens the impact of narcissistic leadership to chocolate cake. It seemed like the perfect time for Positive Change Guru to take a look at what Trump, leadership and a slice of our favourite cake have in common….
The Chocolate Cake Effect
“The first bite of chocolate cake is usually rich in flavour and texture, extremely gratifying. After a while, however, the richness of this flavour makes us feel increasingly nauseous. Being led by a narcissistic leader can produce a similar effect.”
In ‘This Leader Ship is Sinking: A Temporal Investigation of Narcissistic Leadership’ Wei Ong, Ross Roberts et al describe the honeymoon period whereby the confident, outgoing and dare we say it, pushy character appears to make a good leader. In times of political strife, those who sound as though they know what to do can seem a good option (even if they, like Trump, seem a bit hazy on the how). The researchers found that just like the first hit of chocolate cake, this kind of leadership doesn’t last. It simply isn’t up to the long haul required for long term change.
Narcissism Stunts Motivation (Yours Not Theirs)
The study followed 142 students taking part in weekly group tasks. Throughout the research the participants were asked to rate each others’ leadership skills. Students scoring high levels of narcissism rated higher on leadership in the beginning but as the research continued, that perception began to fade. Those initially perceived as leadership material were increasingly less likely to be rated as having the requisite skills. This decline was attributed to a lack of transformational leadership skills. The narcissistic leaders simply didn’t have the ability to motivate others. When we’re looking for a leader we need more than the chocolate cake effect. A transformational leader inspires and motivates others, creating transformation and growth. It’s hard to do that if you’re constantly focusing on yourself as a leader.
When the cake is finished and only the crumbs remain, how do you inspire your team?
- Know Your Team. Take time to get to know your team. Identify their strengths along with areas they need and want to develop. Ask for their opinion and their ideas. Say ‘Hello’ ask them how they are. Build a genuine rapport and learn who they are and what motivates them.
- Listen. Collaborate with your team. Encourage suggestions and ideas. Incubate innovation by listening to (and implementing) new ideas cultivating a no blame culture so that you’re team isn’t afraid to try something new.
- Be Clear On Your Vision. Know what you want to achieve and communicate that the your team, department and organisation. Your vision shouldn’t stop with your senior leaders. You all need to know what you’re aiming for if it’s going to succeed. You should be able to articulate your vision in less than 5 minutes.
- Model Behaviour. Model the behaviours, values and attitudes that you have laid out in your vision. Nobody wants to be the leader who espouses one thing and does another. Audit your behaviour to check that you’re walking your talk.
- It’s a VUCA World. If you’re leading transformation in a VUCA world (and you are) it’s important to aid your own growth and development as a transformational leader. Take time out to;
- Challenge your assumptions
- Be flexible in your communication style
- Take time to reflect and renew
Flow, the model of performance introduced to Positive Psychology by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is big news both in the workplace and outside of it. But what is it? Think of a time when you’ve been completely immersed in a task, when distractions were minimized and you lost sense of time and space. Got it? Well that’s flow. If you can answer ‘Yes’ to the following questions whilst undertaking a task, you’ve probably found yourself in flow;
- You’re doing it because you’re motivated
- You’re completely focused on the task
- You lose sense of time, hours feel like minutes
- You’re not worrying
- You have a sense of control
- You forget yourself
- You feel inspired
- You don’t really notice your surroundings
- You’re enjoying it and feel good as you get on with the task, you’re on a roll!
- You feel as though you’re achieving something
Csikszentmihalyi narrows it down to two characteristics that must be present for flow to occur:
- We should know what to do moment by moment whilst participating in the activity or task and utilise feedback instantly
- The abilities of the person undertaking the task match the opportunities for action
Put more simply, he describes it as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from your previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost”
Or, as Lyubmirsky describes it, “being involved in life” rather than being on autopilot.
Surprisingly, adults often report experiencing more flow in the workplace than in their personal life outside of work. This might have something to do with the parameters and guidelines around work, which you’ll see below, are a necessary part of creating more flow in life. But rest easy, flow is an essential element of happiness whether you’re at work or not and can be applied to friendships, relationships, projects, hobbies and sports.
Why does it matter?
Research suggests that people who feel flow experience greater levels of wellbeing. This doesn’t mean that each time you participate in a task you’ll feel euphoric and instant happiness (if only). Instead, studies suggest that after the task has been completed, people feel a sense of accomplishment, a greater subjective sense of wellbeing along with purpose and meaning. All ingredients of happiness and flourishing according to Martin Seligman, the ‘father’ of Positive Psychology. Csikszentmihalyi says it’s one of the secrets to finding happiness in life. In our book that makes creating flow worth a go.
To introduce more flow experiences into your day to day activities, Csikszentmihalyi recommends the following in his book, ‘Finding Flow”.
- Seek out situations where you’re fully involved in the challenge. It’s not too easy for you and there is some ‘stretch’ involved in the task for you, you’re pushing yourself outside of a comfortable level of performance.
- The activity has a set of goals and requires certain actions. The rules help you get into flow because you’re not wondering how to do something. It’s clear.
- Learn to focus your attention. Train yourself to focus on moment to moment awareness so you’re able to concentrate fully. Try practicing mindfulness to hone this skill.
- Apply flow to routine tasks. Lyubmirsky suggests ‘microflow’ experiences created by applying goals and rules to everyday tasks. See how you can apply these to something you do every day, for example, creating a personal best time for completing your administrative tasks or seeing if you can bring your full attention to a conversation.
- Aim for superflow. This is when you’re in maximum flow with the volume turned up. You’ll get there with practice, from small microflow projects, to practicing your moment-to-moment awareness on a regular basis. That’s you rewiring your brain and honing your skills until you’re able to move into superflow with ease.
With a little bit of practice and effort, flow is something that, when cultivated will pay dividends in your wellbeing and happiness. Want to find out more about flow? Here’s the man himself at TedX Monterey, California https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow?language=en
We love to talk about all things positive psychology at Positive Change Guru. Check out our forthcoming events or get in touch to find out more about our suite of courses and discuss bespoke positive psychology training for your organisation.
The business world has long since recognised the value of using coaches for their top performers. But coaching skills don’t have to remain the exclusive domain of a professional coach. What if you were to grow those exact same skills in house? As an internal coach you are uniquely placed to develop powerful relationships along with lasting individual and organizational change. Leaders are increasingly developing their own coaching style of leadership, viewing coaching skills as a core leadership competency. So what are coaching skills and how exactly can you develop them?
Traditionally the model of development pivots on shoring up our weaknesses. Good leaders recognize that this is an outmoded (and incorrect) deficit model. Instead, by taking a strengths based approach, looking at what’s working, rather than what isn’t leaders are able to increase efficacy. Enter positive psychology. Research (Linley 2009) demonstrated that by identifying and leveraging strengths we see a bump in performance of around 38%. Once you’ve identified the strengths of your team you can begin to develop them, aligning them with your business goals and challenges. Not sure what a strength is? Go to the world’s most used, free strengths assessment, the VIA at www.authentichappiness.org and take your team with you.
When you’re coaching others it’s important to be curious about them, the environment they operate in and the world around them. Curiosity will help you to stay open to new ideas and innovations, keeping you a step ahead of the game. Being curious will prevent you from believing that you have all of the answers, leaving you open to fresh ideas and suggestions from your team. Growth mindset coaching questions to develop your curiosity and your team are;
“What do YOU think some options are?” “What would YOU do?” “What are the pros and cons of each option?” “How would you advise a colleague?” “What is the learning information here?” “What can you do differently next time?” Ask questions that will help your team, to identify their motivations, to see other alternatives and achieve their goals.
Feedback and Accountability in Positive Psychology Coaching
It’s that checking in with staff on their progress that makes such a powerful difference to achieving success. Research by Christine Porath and Gretchen Spreitzer found that the four factors necessary to sustain a high performing team were; feedback, autonomy, civility and information sharing. It’s a growth mindset blueprint for success. Feedback enables your team to know if they’re headed in the right direction. Make it clear, timely, specific, non-judgemental and positive. Once accountability has been established, staff have a whopping 95% chance of achieving their objective. Think about the systems and processes that you have in place to enable staff to build this sort of accountability into their role. Consider how you support, encourage and motivate staff to be accountable for the goals that they have committed to.
Yup, it sounds obvious but often it descends into either combative listening; waiting for the other person to shut up so that you can interject with your own point of view and tell them how they ‘should’ be doing it or passive listening; peppered with a string of “Umms” “Uhuhs” or nods as you slowly zone out. A coaching skill that is often overlooked.
With genuine listening you’re aiming for active and reflective. Make sure you focus as you listen and regularly reflect back to check your understanding of what has been said. There really is nothing quite like the attention of a good listener and this skill will help you to build rapport to boot. Leave your own agenda behind (remember your curiosity?) keep interruptions to a minimum and watch the dialogue flow.
Positive Psychology Coaching and Communication
Karen Tweedie of Access Leadership says “Better conversations mean better relationships, which lead to better output.” Below are a few tips to help the coaching leader support direct reports or other key stakeholders:
- See yourself as a thought partner, listen for potential (of people and ideas)
- Keep your questions open-ended (be willing to be surprised)
- Encourage self-discovery (encourage colleagues to find their own answers to their own challenges)
- Put your attention on the person in front of you, not the issue
- Expect that the person is capable of discerning the best approach
- Empower the other person to succeed – remove obstacles, provide resources
- Maintain accountability, celebrate effort and results
Once you’ve mastered these coaching skills you’ll have a vital addition to your leadership competencies, increasing your impact, developing your people, improving your relationships and your results.
Why coach using positive psychology? Rarely are jobs designed to match the talents, preferences, and aspirations of the individual. Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski, professor of Organizational Behavior at the Yale School of Management, discusses the art and science of job crafting.
We love to talk about all things positive psychology at Positive Change Guru. Check out our forthcoming events or get in touch to find out more about our suite of courses and discuss bespoke positive psychology training for your organisation.
In our Halloween special, Gill Crossland-Thackray discusses…
How do you know if you’re a scary boss?
We’ve all heard horror stories about scary bosses and the fallout from their behaviour. The old adage that people don’t leave organisations they leave bad managers is true – it’s the number one reason why people move on to new pastures. When leadership is toxic it demotivates employees, costing business time, money and an exodus of talent. But how do you know if you’re a scary boss? Here are three signs that you might be causing your staff nightmares this halloween.
1. Lack of Engagement
The latest Gallup research suggests that approximately 70% of employees are disengaged. That’s a chilling figure if you’re the one leading them. Bekker, Demerouti, & Sanz-Vergel, 2014, experts in employee burnout define engagement as ‘a positive, fulfilling work-related state of mind that is characterised as vigor, dedication and absorption. The kind of state that you’d expect to see employees in if they were in ‘flow’ or working at optimum performance. That’s what we’re all aiming for but it’s hard to get into flow or any other state of engagement with someone breathing down your neck. The old command and control style of leadership is widely recognised as defunct and out of date, it’s not something you need to resurrect, not even at Halloween. It’s worth investing in engagement by;
- Allowing your staff to use their strengths
- Increasing their level of autonomy and decision making
- Listening to their ideas – and allowing them to implement some of them
Still not convinced? Even if you’re old school when it comes to leadership and believe in the stick rather than the carrot, it’s worth remembering this. The higher an employees level of engagement, the higher their financial returns (Bakker, 2011).
2. Zero Trust
If your people can’t trust you, you’re on a hiding to nowhere. If your staff don’t trust you and they’re frightened of how you’ll react you’ll stunt innovation creating a dysfunctional culture of blame instead. If you recognise a lack of openness or unwillingness of people to come to you with issues or ideas, building trust should be number one on your Halloween ‘To Do’ list. Gretchen Pisano states that trust is founded on these four traits.
- Common ground. This is about similar values and objectives. They know what you stand for and believe in the same vision.
- Predictability. They know that you mean what you say and will behave in a way that they predict. You have consistency and can be relied on to to the right thing and do things right as Warren Bennis famously espoused as a trait of decent leaders we want to follow.
- Consideration. You will think about them, their needs, their role and position in the company before you act. In short, you’ve got their back.
- Forewarning. You will tell them if something is going to happen that will affect them – positively or negatively.
Remember, trust is important and key as a leader. Nobody likes things that suddenly go ‘bump!’ in the night…..
3. You Blame your Employees for Failing
Let’s be honest, nobody enjoys failing, but the truth is, we all make mistakes. When you operate a blame culture as a leader it’s hard for your employees to learn from failure (they’re always too busy looking for someone else to pin it on). You’re not alone if you find it tough to tolerate mistakes, it’s a rare organisation that truly embraces failure as a way of learning, but it’s the only way to improve future performance. Failure isn’t always a bad thing, sometimes it improves systems, teams and overall performance.
How can you shift your organisational culture to one that examines and learns from errors?
- Make it safe to admit (and report) failure
Think about creating a checklist to identify causes and solutions. Atul Gawande’s ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ is a thorough guide to the ‘checklist’ and details how it has been embraced successfully by the World Health Organisation (WHO) significantly reducing the rate of error during surgery.
- Think like Toyota. The Toyota Production System harnesses continual learning by learning from small mistakes and building that learning into their production processes and systems. Toyota even have a rope for employees to pull when they spot a mistake, initiating a process of diagnostics and problem solving.
- Build a culture of learning. Positive psychologist Martin Seligman’s research recognises that individuals and organisations learn by failure. Some of them even build it into induction procedures, allowing new employees to fail (in a safe way) as part of their learning. Failure builds resilience and resilient employees are more engaged which takes us right back to where we started on our spooky journey.
So if you recognise yourself as something of a spooky boss make a committment to incorporate some of these techniques into your leadership style. Surprise your employees this Halloween by putting these strategies into practice, placing your broomstick to one side and watching as you strengthen your team and their performance.