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and sustain. We’ve conducted interviews with senior executives who “have the t-shirt” and it’s no surprise to find that it’s all about engagement, of both employees and management. Here are the key findings.
To all clients,
I hope you and your family and friends are well and will continue to be so during these unprecedented times.
I want to let you know that with we will remain open throughout the Covid 19 crisis albeit with some changes to how we operate.
In line with government and HSE advice, we have put in place the following actions to protect the health and safety of our community and to ensure continuity of service:
Our staff are working remotely from home.
All client meetings, coaching sessions and interviews will take place online using video conferencing tools: Skype, Whatsapp or Zoom.
This is obviously a very dynamic situation, so we may have to amend the above in line with government / HSE advice and restrictions. We will continue to let you know the position if anything changes.
Please feel free to contact your us with any questions.
With best wishes
PS We have posted a Crisis Management Plan Template on our website. See:
We all know of resilient leaders, those who have risen from the ashes like a phoenix and have managed not only to bounce back from adversity but to bounce forward. No one can avoid trouble and potential pit falls are all around us. Volatile times bring disruption and set backs for even the most successful among us. Some stumbles will be due to circumstances outside your control such as covid-19, weather, geopolitical shocks or wider economic changes, but while you may not be able to control the situation at large you can control your reaction to it.
The American Psychological society describes resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. It is one of the most essential capabilities for bouncing back from leadership setbacks in today’s business world. Resilience is not a trait that people have or do not have, it is a set of behaviours, thoughts and actions that can be learned and adopted by anyone. Remaining resilient in the face of nagging doubt and harsh realities is hard, particularly in today’s business climate of rapid, fast paced, disruptive change. What such a climate requires is emotionally intelligent leaders who are able to absorb change while at the same time helping others to move forward and achieve success.
During a crisis resilience comes to the fore as businesses face into restructuring, mergers, job insecurity, re-organisations and downsizing. The majority of businesses have been impacted in some way by the current recession, with very few emerging unscathed. They have had to find a way to become more flexible and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.
Resilience is the ability to recover from stumbles or outright mistakes, but flexibility is not enough. To be truly resilient you need to:
1. Know your own strengths and weaknesses. It is also important to know the strengths and weaknesses of those around you. Your views and beliefs on the situation can have a lasting impact for yourself and your team. Once you are honest with yourself you can make better choices for the future.
2. Avoid seeing problems as insurmountable and remain optimistic. Resilient leaders are optimistic not naive. They see and acknowledge the bad but they also find a way to see the good. Having a contingency plan for when things go pear shaped helps you to remain more optimistic as you are prepared if the worst should happen.
3. Accept change as inevitable and adapt accordingly. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed allows you to focus on circumstances that you can alter. By acknowledging and accepting change leaders can step back, observe, and respond with composure and purpose.
4. Develop your awareness and understand the context of the challenges you face, knowing what resources you will need to build and sustain the required solutions. Mindfulness will allow you to pay attention to and focus on what is happening now in the present moment. Actively engaging with what is happening right now will allow you to view the moment from a more strategic standpoint. Developing a more aware and considered approach allows leaders to respond to situations rather than react to them.
5. Understand all actions you take . The decisions you make will have a personal impact on those working with and around you. There is a strong link between emotionally intelligent leadership and employee engagement, client satisfaction and the bottom line. Go the extra mile to re-inspire and re-engage your team in a meaningful vision. Companies that communicate clearly with and empower staff, allowing them to take decisions to solve problems, will prosper in the long run.
6. Maintain your physical, mental and emotional well being. This will give you the strength and balance to deal with challenging situations and is the foundation of resilience. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques.
Resilience enables leaders to overcome disappointment and move themselves and their organisations forward in times of immense uncertainty and stress. Although they may occasionally falter, potential trouble lurks around every corner and what matters is not the source of the trouble but how we deal with it. Resilience is an exercise in choice and we all have the choice whether to be trapped and mired in the current bad situation, or to learn from it and rebound. Resilient leaders and companies take action and learn from their mistakes, they embrace challenges rather than being frightened or intimidated by them and ultimately they flourish.
Research has shown that employees who work remotely often feel as though they are excluded from the company culture. These employees report feeling as though they are not treated equal to the colleagues and are often worried that their colleagues are working against them. As a result, if a problem occurs, almost half of remote employees let if fester for weeks.
In order to improve workplace integration in their company, Clevertech experimented with a number of difference ways to bring remote workers together such as book clubs, virtual coffees and executive-led webinars which focused on values. The results showed that some of the activities temporarily boosted the team, however they didn’t solve the culture problems that come with have a large remote workforce.
They came to the conclusion that they need to create a ‘beyond remote’ workforce by creating an environment of cohesion and trust through building meaningful relationships and conversations. The two strategies which were most successful in terms of increasing engagement were creating structured conversations around shared content and using online games to build trust.
Creating structured conversations around shared content – The aim here is to create deeper conversations among coworkers through virtual meetings which are structured like a book club but with a greater variety of content and platforms. Clevertech had employees watch the same TED talk, take the same online learning course or read the same book or article. Everyone then participated in a video conference where everyone was asked to share a reaction. It started with one person speaking and then choosing the next employee to speak. This selection process was also helpful in identifying where social bonds were strongly developed and where they may need to be further developed.
They also found that success in encouraging discussion and openness lay with starting the session with an icebreaker question such as ‘how did you take your coffee this morning?’. If two people use almond milk for example this can promote further bonding. Learning this type of information about coworkers can create trust.
Use online games to help build trust – Although this may be unconventional, playing a video game that has been chosen for it’s ability to force collaboration and put the team into situations which are destined for failure can help to build trust and show how the team handles negative pressures. Gloria Flores in her book Learning to Learn and the Navigation of Moods: The Meta-Skill for the Acquisition of Skills, speaks about how the negative emotions that are present when you are learning something new can block skill development. She stresses how important tools and prompts are in helping us push through, which is what the gaming framework does. It enables team members to work through negative emotions the come about during the learning process.
It is also important to choose a game which forces your team members out of their comfort zones. It is imperative that the equivalent amount of stress and possibility of failure that exists at work is created. Failures and how people react to them inspire better conversations as the team dynamics involved in game challenges are often a copy of the dynamics of work challenges. Clevertech found that from taking part in these games, employees learned that they needed to speak up as soon as they saw an issue so they could renegotiate and create new goals. This alone has a huge impact on work and interpersonal relationships.
Kuty Shalev of Clevertech states that although gaming and book clubs don’t sound like they belong in a work environment, they have given Clevertech the cohesion and retention that had been missing. Their retention rate has improved and as a result their turnover has decreased. They have also seen an increase in progress on ongoing projects, some of which had been put on the backburner for a long time, as well as greater employee engagement. By coming together for non-work activities has enhanced their ability to band together around common goals.
Kuty Shalev (2019) Ideas for helping remote colleagues bond. [online] https://hbr.org/2019/02/ideas-for-helping-remote-colleagues-bond
Workplace trends (2018) The work connectivity study [online] https://workplacetrends.com/the-work-connectivity-study/
Grenny, J. Daxfield, D. (2017) A Study of 1,100 Employees Found That Remote Workers Feel Shunned and Left Out [online] https://hbr.org/2017/11/a-study-of-1100-employees-found-that-remote-workers-feel-shunned-and-left-out
Flores, G. (2016) Learning to Learn and the Navigation of Moods: The Meta-Skill for the Acquisition of Skills. Pluralistic Networks Publishing
Mood affects the culture of an organisation
A positive work culture is what differentiates high- performance organisations from less successful ones. The formula is quite exact. The emotional style of leader’s accounts for between 50 to 70% of an organisations work culture (how people feel about working for a company) which in turn accounts for 20 to 30% of the organisation performance.
‘When my mind is full of anger, other people catch it like the flu.’ – Daniel Goleman
Most people have been on both ends of this statement, they have been the one who was angry and in turn affected the moods of the people around them, and they have also been the one who’s mood changed as a result of interacting with someone else. This is called Emotional Contagion. This happens every time you interact with other people, it doesn’t matter whether this is with a group, one other person or an organisation. Our minds react to the emotions of the people around us because we all have a Social Brain.
How does a group of people catch the angry mood of a leader? When you are focused on someone else your brain picks up on signals and processes them through the ‘low road’ of the emotional part of your brain. Emotional contagion runs through this part of the brain allowing for an automatic ‘neural mimicking’ of other people’s feelings. Generally, the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that adjusts our emotions, this enables us to continue thinking and be present even though we are upset by another person’s emotions.
Emotional contagion happens all the time, at work is no exception, but who is the person who sends the emotions? When there is a group of people, the member of the group who is the most emotionally expressive is the sender. In circumstances where there are power differences in the group, the most powerful member sends emotions and sets the emotional tone for the group. If the team leader is in a good mood, everyone picks up on it and as a result their performance is improved, if however, the leader is in a negative mood, group performance suffers as a result. It is also important to note that people remember the negative interactions with their bosses more than the positive.
If you are a leader, how can this information help you? First of all, you must be aware of your own emotions. Self-awareness is a hugely important aspect of emotional intelligence, another is self-regulation. Leaders who have mastered these skills can learn how to choose their mood. Sigal Barsade is a researcher at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She specialises in emotional contagion and the impact it has in organisations. She has suggested a number of ways that leaders can manage their emotions and as a result can create a positive emotional culture within their teams. She states is that you need to be aware of your moods and if it is not useful, change it! One way you can do this is by changing your facial expression, the facial feedback hypothesis states that our facial expressions have an impact on our emotions, for example by intentionally smiling you will begin to feel more positive emotions.
Moods are highly contagious
When you are a leader, your team take their cues from you and as a result your mood is hugely important as it has a direct impact on performance, both good and bad. Our moods transfer to the people we come in contact with and they can have just as strong an effect on them as they do on you. You don’t even have to know somebody personally for their mood to affect you. By simply listening to somebody speaking in sad/cheerful tone of voice can put you in same mood as person speaking. How is this possible? The answer is as a result of the mirror neurones in our brain. When we see somebody in for example, a happy mood, the same neurons start to fire in our brains as are firing in theirs. It is a primitive form of empathy (immediate and instinctive reading of another person’s thoughts, feelings etc), and it explains how we ‘pick up’ others’ moods so easily. The closer and more important the relationship the more powerful the contagion.
Emotional contagion in groups and at work
Emotional contagion is very common among co-workers in the same department or team, at meetings, etc. The ability of a team to feel ‘as one’ is incredibly important for the success of the team, perhaps even more important than skill. For example, a wave of positivity or determination, working its way contagiously through a team lights a fire that will help them achieve their goals. Similarly, a wave of defeatism can spread through a team at a rapid pace. The more emotionally connected a group is, the stronger the contagion. The more group members depend on each other to get the work done and for support, and the longer they have worked together, the more contagion there is.
Mood at work counts not just to employees, but to productivity. When employees are in a positive mood at work, they tend to be more cooperative, generous with their time and expertise and more attentive. There also tends to be less absenteeism and staff turnover. When however, there is a negative mood throughout the group, the performance of the whole team can be affected.
When the leader is in a positive mood everybody is more optimistic about getting things done, the team is better at absorbing and understanding information and are more creative and flexible and more effective decision-makers. Maureen Gaffney outlines a number of steps on how to better manage your mood.
How to manage your mood
For more information on your leadership/team coaching click here
Gaffney, M. (2018) Managing Your Mood [Online] https://www.rte.ie/radio1/marian-finucane/features/2012/0915/351652-maureen-gaffney-moods/
Goleman, D. (2016) glad-mad-sad-teams-catch-a-leaders-mood [Online] http://www.danielgoleman.info/glad-mad-sad-teams-catch-a-leaders-mood/
Organisation culture is the key driver in a achieving objectives. As Peter Drucker would say “ Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. So, it’s important to watch for the signs that show you’re moving from a healthy to a toxic culture before it’s too late.
Here’s what to look out for in no particular order of importance:
An obvious one. Generally speaking, a rate of 10% is acceptable as it allows for promotions and new blood to be hired without a massive talent and information drain. Beyond this, without knowing why, would suggest you need to look deeper and more likely at your culture.
Is it common that people are thrown in to new areas of work or projects and “learn to swim” themselves? Careful now! Getting the balance between certainty and uncertainty for people is a tough call. Too much uncertainty and burnout happens, a sure sign of an unhealthy culture.
Deadlines being missed are not just occasional and with good reason but endemic and part of “ how things get done around here”. Usually this points to a lack of willingness to take responsibility. Again pointing to culture
People keep to themselves or share thoughts and information with just one or two other people. Silo mentality is abundant.
Recognition and reward form a key component of ones career. If there’s a lack of “fairness” or even perceived fairness people will probably feel unappreciated. This leads to dissatisfaction and negativity. Not what you want in your organisation.
Looking busy, rushing about is part of the currency of the organisation. And more so than actually achieving objectives! Get clear on the straight line relationship between goals, roles and processes
Things do get done but a lot slower than you would think. Especially when compared to other departments or competitors.
A toxic culture is felt by the employees almost by a process of osmosis. Sick days are high, mental health issues increase. The environment is said to be unhealthy without really knowing why.
The organisation emphasis is on getting the job done, personal issues are not considered. There’s little or no time for small talk, celebrations, team or organisation socialising that are necessary to build relationships and team spirit. What well adjusted person wants to spend a lot of time in such an environment?
9 to 5 hours or close to it are always stuck to. Even if there’s an need, however occasionally, to “go the extra mile” if it’s not within the “working hours” it’s not done.
Changing your organisation culture is a challenging process, but it is not impossible. It can be turned around with buy-in from your staff and leadership or find new ones who share your vision and recreate a positive corporate culture.
It has become increasingly obvious that effective leadership is hugely important in the workplace. If the leadership is not effective, problems such as poor productivity, low motivation and high turnover can occur. In the current market, there are many new opportunities available for employees and so if employees are not happy it is very likely that they will go elsewhere. Leaders often don’t think about the type of leader they are. Generally they fall into either the task-oriented or relationship-oriented leadership style.
Task Oriented Leadership
This type of leader focuses on the tasks that needed to be carried out in order to reach goals. The leadership style here can be described as autocratic. Autocratic leaders don’t involve their team in decision making. Task-orientated leadership involves some task management features. This involves placing emphasis on administrative activities, co-ordinating job-related activities, preparing financial reports etc. As we can see leaders who opt for this style focus on completing tasks in order to reach targets. This type of leader doesn’t really care about relationship building or the employees who are needed to reach these goals. They are more concerned with following their plan to reach organisational targets.
One of, if not the biggest strength of this type of leadership is that all tasks are completely to a high standard in a timely manner. These leaders set an example for employees by focusing on the necessary procedures in relation to how tasks as completed. As a result, they can delegate work and make sure that tasks are completed on time to a high standard. This style of leadership would be suitable in well-structured environments like for example manufacturing assembly lines where repeating well-defined processes produces high levels of both productivity and quality.
Some of the weaknesses associated with this leaderships style involve a fear of breaking the rules among employees, this may lead to a lack of creativity, low morale and as a result high turnover. A lack of innovation which can come from a fear of taking risks, means employees who are naturally creative can become demoralised and eventually leave the organisation to find a more appealing opportunity.
This type of leadership focuses on creating success as a result of building lasting relationships with employees and the motivation, job satisfaction and work-life balance of their employees. They still care about getting tasks done, however they believe that work culture is more important. Leaders who use this style concentrate on motivating, supporting and developing their employees. Relationship oriented leaders also promote collaboration and teamwork, by encouraging communication and building positive relationships. The welfare of employees is the top priority for these leaders and as a result, they put time and effort into meeting their employees individual needs.
One of the strengths of this leadership style is that these leaders establish teams that all employees want to be a part of. Members of these teams are often more productive and willing to take risks because they understand that they will get support from the leader if necessary. Another strength is that employees are in an environment where they know their leader cares about there welfare. These leaders know that work place productivity requires creating a positive environment where employees feel motivated. As a result, these leaders prioritise people in order to ensure that issues such as personal conflicts, dissatisfaction and turnover are low.
One of the weaknesses of this leadership style is that focusing on creating team spirit may get in the way of completing tasks and reaching goals. Some leaders can put the development of their team above tasks.
Over the years, studies have been conducted in order to determine if one type is better than the other, however no one behaviour is instrumental to the success of a leader in every situation. The dynamic nature of leadership determines that if a leader is effective, they should be able to balance both types of leadership styles which should be applied in response to a particular situation. This involves some level of self-awareness, you need to work out which style you fall under and take note of when you may need to change up your style to suit a particular situation. If for example you are task oriented you need to soften up, this can be difficult, but it is very important. Start by trying to brush up on your ‘soft’ skills such as listening. For relationship-oriented leaders, they need to do the opposite and toughen up. This could be by being more decisive and setting standards.
Penn State (2013) Balancing Task and Relationship Behaviors [online] https://sites.psu.edu/leadership/2013/05/20/balancing-task-and-relationship-behaviors/
Bell, S. (2017) Task-Oriented vs. People-Oriented Leadership Styles [online] https://bizfluent.com/info-12137619-taskoriented-vs-peopleoriented-leadership-styles.html
Larman, A. (2015) Task-Oriented Vs People-Oriented Leadership Styles [online] http://ezinearticles.com/?Task-Oriented-Vs-People-Oriented-Leadership-Styles&id=9253531
Ruzgar, N. (2018) The Effect of Leaders’ Adoption of Task-Oriented or Relationship-Oriented Leadership Style on Leader-Member Exchange (LMX), In the Organizations That Are Active In Service Sector: A Research on Tourism Agencies. Journal of Business Administration Research. Vol 7:1 pp50-60
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