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Be the change you want to see

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.” ~ Albert Einstein

There is hard research evidence that organisational culture, flexible working, inclusive and collaborative working environment are critical for an organisation business success and has direct impact on talent retention, employee’s performance and productivity. Some reports such as PWC, Regus and Ernest & Young suggest that we are entering a global talent crisis that businesses will struggle to survive if they do not urgently adopt a major paradigm shift in the way they embody the organisation’s culture and values to address this.

Many organisations invest resources, create functions, write policies, set up special committees and so forth to address things like flexibility, inclusion and collaboration. But despite the huge amount of investment and effort, the results in many organisations are still somewhat limited. Why?

I would like to address what I think is one of the thorny inhibiting issues to this problem and that is:  shortage of personal example or role model by managers.

Promoting flexibility is not about sending an employee to read the corporate policy on working part time or coming casual on Friday,  inclusion is not about having a gender diverse team (it is not Noah’s ark that you need a couple of each). It starts and ends with personal example.

Not everyone is interested in flexible working, some people thrive on a 12 hour working day, every day, in the office- and that’s ok if that’s their choice. The challenge is when you have a management team which consists of long office hours managers who do not practice any form of work flexibility while your organisation is trying to drive a cultural change. That sends the wrong message to the team no matter what they say to promote flexibility.

The unfortunate reality is that we can say all the right things (talk the talk) but without the personal example, we are in fact sending an underlying message that management positions are not for flexible workers and by that creating a non inclusive environment.

Be the change you want to see. It is not ‘corporate’ or HR responsibility to promote this culture, it will only happen if everyone takes the personal responsibility to live and act according to those values, no matter where you are in the organisational hierarchy.

Workplace flexibility is about when, where and how people work. It is not just things like working part time or from home, it can also be simple things like altering the working hours in the day to better accommodate your personal needs.

Here are few simple suggestions that can help demonstrate personal example and promote a better culture –

  • Try to keep scheduled meetings between 9am and 5pm- avoid scheduling early or late meetings.
  • When recognising someone, make sure you recognise them for a job well done and not for ‘putting the late hours in the office’- remember, the job could have been done anywhere…
  • If you are catching up on work over the weekend, just make it clear you are not expecting a response from others during the weekend.
  • Need to leave early for a personal commitment? Don’t just sneak out, don’t try to hide it. It may not be other people’s business, but sharing the fact that you have a personal commitment makes it ok and acceptable (after all, we do have personal life outside work).

Would love to hear your views, suggestions and especially stories of good role models that demonstrate the great affect they create.

By Ayala Domani

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Hey! Are you listening to me?!

When my daughter, Shelley, was 4 her swimming teacher told us she would be a champion if she could only swim as fast as she can talk…. yes, that’s my Shelley- she talks A LOT and fast.. she is now nearly 8 and her speech abilities only ‘improved’ since..

I’ve recently read a blog post by Dave Kerpen- ‘What Inspires Me: My Children’ where he mentions the things he is inspired by and learn from his children that can also apply in the work environment.

This week, Shelley inspired me; she gave me a lesson in listening skills and a good reminder for practicing listening at home and at work.

After a day of work, I’ll often find myself thinking about work while Shelley is telling me a very long story about something they learned at school… This week was about an ancient aboriginal story. Rather than telling me the whole story (probably knowing I’m not really listening), she stopped half way through and asked ‘mummy, how do you think the story continues?’ Umm… she caught me! I had to apologise and ask her to tell the story again from the beginning. This time I listened and this time she told the whole story without stopping…

That was an important reminder for me, as being brutally honest, my mind wonders sometimes at work meetings as well when colleagues speak.

Being in the moment, not trying to multitask, truly listening to the person talking to you is in my opinion one of the most important skills of any leader and in fact any person.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”— Ralph Nichols

Even when we are very engaged in a conversation, often another ‘listening challenge’ pops up- we wait to speak and think of what we are going to say next rather than listening attentively to the other person.

The best way to address those challenges is to practice active listening techniques which require paying attention, providing feedback, acknowledging and confirming understanding of the message.

Do you have people at work that talk a lot? Does your mind wonder while people talk? Or do you have the tendency to plan what you are going to say next?

Listening sounds like a simple, ‘no brainer’ skill, but doing it well is not that natural for everyone and it can easily be improved with awareness and practice.

God gave us two ears and one mouth so we should use them in that proportion!

by Ayala Domani


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“Live your life so the pastor doesn’t have to lie at your funeral.” (Bumper sticker)

Stephen Covey’s habit #2 (from Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) is: Begin with the End in Mind.

Covey starts with the extreme example of considering your death. What do you want people to say about you at your funeral? How do you want to be remembered? What words would they use to describe you?

This is a very powerful and extreme question if you choose to truly think about it.

I pondered on this question for over two years since someone had asked me that at a party on an overseas conference.

I didn’t have the answer then. That’s why it was in the back of my mind for so long- not having the answer bothered me.

Covey’s way of visualising your funeral could be somewhat extreme or daunting for some people.

Some people (like me) also struggle with the ‘traditional’ concept and methods of setting personal goals and career aspirations (I always roll my eyes when I’m asked to do a career goal setting exercise…).

If visualising your funeral is a bit too much and goal setting exercises are not quite your thing, here are some other questions you can maybe start thinking about (which will eventually lead you to the same type womanonladderof conclusion)–

  • Who are you outside what your business card title says you are?
  • What do you really like and enjoy doing? What excites you?
  • If you had no need to earn money, would you still be doing what you are doing now?
  • Do you have a sneaky feeling or even a fear that if you just continue on this course you may not get a chance to realise your full potential in life? Even if you have no idea what that ‘potential’ is?

Stephen Covey says it brilliantly:

“It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busyness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover that it’s leaning against the wrong wall”

Have you had a chance to stop for a second to think about the big picture and keep the ‘end in mind’? Is your ladder leaning against the right wall?

by Ayala Domani


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Seeking recognition and approval –are we looking in the right places?

Recognition and appreciation are fundamental human needs. We want to know that our effort is valued and appreciated by someone. Lack of regular recognition and appreciation in the workplace may result in lack of employee motivation, engagement and drop in productivity.

Many books and articles have been written on the topic of a culture of ‘Recognition’ and its importance to the success of any organisation. The focus is on the giving side; providing guidance, strategies and advice to organisations on how to give effective recognition, reward, appreciation, praise, etc to employees.

But what about the ‘receiving’ end of recognition – from the employee, or should I say the ‘human being’ side…

As an employee it is often easy to point a finger at the ‘organisation’ or the person in charge and say ‘they do not recognise my hard work/effort’.  But as the old saying goes: “when you point a finger at someone, you actually point the other three fingers at yourself”. The problem may well be with the organisation you work in, or with your manager; but could it possibly also be with you?

As children we constantly seek praise and approval from our parents and other adults (“Mummy, Daddy, look at me!”). The yearning for praise and recognition is a survival mechanism and is ingrained in us from such a young age that one could argue that it is very difficult to let go of it as adults. And maybe we don’t really let go, but just ask for it in a more subtle way as adults…

Do you perhaps, have deep yearning for praise, recognition and approval from others?

Do you sometimes tend to over-give to others in order to win their approval, their affection/loyalty, and their praise and recognition?

Do you keep score? If others don’t give back to you accordingly – after you have given them so much – do you then resent them for that?

Here is an interesting phrase I recently heard:

“Every time you seek praise and approval from another person, you are asking for this person to pass judgment on you – and you give away your power. “

“Praise and criticism are two sides of the one coin – the coin of judgment.”

Perhaps we should spend more time and energy on having faith in ourselves and giving ‘approval’ and ‘acceptance’ to ourselves rather than seeking it from others in that ‘perfect’ organisation/family/society.  We may then become more independent and self reliant, honour ourselves and not cede our power to others to give us that approval and praise.

I am not trying to detract from the great importance of a good Recognition Culture in the workplace; rather I am seeking to encourage greater individual self reflection, often neglected in the business context, to reclaim individual ‘power’ and judgement.

by Ayala Domani


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People at work driving you insane? – consider this solution

What do you do when someone drives you nuts at work? Do you fly off the handle? Maybe let it all out by gossiping with a friend? Go for a run, or even better take a kick boxing class to blow off some steam?

These solutions may give you some immediate relief but they are not very effective in alleviating frustrations or anger in the long run.

I’d like to start with a story I recently read about the Tao of Forgiveness from Derek Lin’s book ‘The Tao of Daily Life’

“One day, the sage gave the disciple an empty sack and a basket of potatoes. “Think of all the people who have done or said something against you in the recent past, especially those you cannot forgive. For each of them, inscribe the name on a potato and put it in the sack.”

The disciple came up quite a few names, and soon his sack was heavy with potatoes. The sage asked the disciple to carry the sack with him wherever he goes for a week.

The longer time went by, the heavier the potatoes seemed to have become. To make the matter worse, those carved potatoes also started to rot and smell bad. Not only were they increasingly inconvenient to carry around, they were also becoming rather unpleasant.

From this experience, the disciple learnt that “When we are unable to forgive others, we carry negative feelings with us everywhere, much like these potatoes. That negativity becomes a burden to us and, after a while, it festers.”

In this story, removing the potatoes from the sack symbolises the act of forgiving, but more importantly the sack itself symbolises our inflated sense of self-importance, which allows us to hold on to and carry the negativity.

“The Tao of forgiveness is the conscious decision to not just remove some potatoes… but to relinquish the entire sack.””

How many of us carry heavy and smelly sacks on our backs? I sure did until I couldn’t bear the smell any longer…

The key messages I took from this story were: a) ’empty your sack’ by forgiving people- move on quickly and b) learn how to control your Self/ego so you can abandon the sack altogether.

In my previous post I mentioned Chade-Meng Tan talk at Google’s ‘Search Inside Yourself’ course. Meng says that to be effective in business, you need to be in control of your emotions. Being in control does not mean that you’re emotionless; it means that you can choose to how you react to situations.

For example, rather than say ‘I am angry’ we should say ‘I am experiencing anger’ as it is important that we are aware and conscious of what we feel. This awareness gives us a decision point as to whether we want to experience this feeling or not. It allows us to develop the ability to control our emotions and switch off if we choose to say not be angry in a certain situation.

Meng quotes the Dalai Lama point that: ‘while we cannot stop an unwholesome thought or emotion from arising, we have the power to let it go, and the highly trained mind can let it go the moment it arises.’

Just by raising your awareness and consciousness and implementing this imaginary on/off switch you can significantly improve the quality of your life, happiness, productivity and performance.

Forgiveness is not just for big issues, what I’ve learnt is that forgiveness can also be practiced everyday with everyone for very small things. For example, someone cuts you on the road or is rude to you in the supermarket queue – rather than build up anger and go home not knowing what’s bothering you, forgive the person on the spot (in your mind, you don’t need to say anything to anyone) and move on.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else: you are the one who gets burned.” —Buddha

The idea is not to suppress the emotions, but to be conscious and mindful of them so that you can develop the ability to control and positively channel emotions.

It is not to suggest that you do not deal with systematic people behavioural issues in the workplace- these no doubt need to be addressed, but you will be in a much better position to deal with it more effectively if you are mindful and in control.

A highly mindful person would be able to observe themselves in a situation objectively as if they were a third, uninvolved person watching the situation.

“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.” —Epictetus

by Ayala Domani


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Spiritual intelligence (SQ) – better work, better life, better being

Those of you who know me and read the title of this post may think ‘she must have lost the plot… too much free time’….. But please bear with me and read on, I promise there is some science behind it.

From IQ to EQ to SQ:

The concept of intelligence quotient (IQ) has been in use for over a century. IQ measures our ability to analyse, reason, think abstractly, use language, visualize, and comprehend (corresponds to our mind). In the mid-1990s, Daniel Goleman introduced the concept and importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) which is our self-knowledge, self-awareness, social sensitivity, empathy and ability to communicate successfully with others (corresponds to our heart).

In his book the 8th Habit, Stephen Covey also mentions the Physical intelligence (PQ) which refers to our ability to maintain and develop our physical fitness (corresponds to our body).

In recent decade a new concept of Intelligence has emerged called Spiritual Intelligence- SQ

Covey states that, “Spiritual Intelligence is the central and most fundamental of all the intelligences because it becomes the source of guidance for the other three.”

Put very simply, Spiritual Intelligence is the key to personal fulfillment and sustainable lifelong performance at extraordinary levels. It is the science of human energy management that allows access to a full range of human capabilities required to succeed in life and prosper in the current economic environment and social climate. (Danah Zohar and Cindy Wigglesworth)

SQ has nothing to do with religion and is not belief or faith-based- it is the new secular scientific paradigm of spirituality.

The main disciplines that have contributed to the research on SQ are neuroscience, cognitive psychology, transpersonal psychology and philosophy.

SQ is being adopted by many leaders and companies worldwide and is slowly becoming mainstream in Leadership Development Programs. SQ training is also used in the workplace to improve job satisfaction and raise productivity.

SQ and Leadership- Characteristics of high SQ:

Covey defines Spiritual Quotient as “conscience, ” having the following characteristics: enthusiastic, intuitive, takes responsibility, moral, wise, integrity, servant, humble, fair, ethical, abundant, compassionate, respectful, and cause-oriented”

Danah Zohar, has introduced the following 12 Principles of Spiritually Intelligent Leadership:

  • Self-awareness: Knowing what I believe in and value, and what deeply motivates me
  • Spontaneity: Living in and being responsive to the moment
  • Being vision- and value-led: Acting from principles and deep beliefs, and living accordingly
  • Holism: Seeing larger patterns, relationships, and connections; having a sense of belonging
  • Compassion: Having the quality of “feeling-with” and deep empathy
  • Celebration of diversity: Valuing other people for their differences, not despite them
  • Field independence: Standing against the crowd and having one’s own convictions
  • Humility: Having the sense of being a player in a larger drama, of one’s true place in the world
  • Tendency to ask fundamental “Why?” questions: Needing to understand things and get to the bottom of them
  • Ability to reframe: Standing back from a situation or problem and seeing the bigger picture; seeing problems in a wider context
  • Positive use of adversity: Learning and growing from mistakes, setbacks, and suffering
  • Sense of vocation: Feeling called upon to serve, to give something back

Models for developing and measuring spiritual intelligence are increasingly used in corporate settings and being adopted by companies worldwide. Few examples include- McKinsey, Shell, Coca-Cola, Hewlett Packard, Nokia, Starbucks, Merck Pharmaceuticals, the Co-operative Bank and many more.

Both McKinsey and PwC are developing global training initiatives and programs in Spiritual Intelligence in conjunction with some of the great thought leaders in this space.

The example of SQ & EQ leadership initiative that I would like to give here is from Google. It is a story about a Google SW Engineer – Chade-Meng Tan (Meng) who developed a popular course for Google employees called “Search Inside Yourself”. Meng distils Emotional and Spiritual Intelligence into a set of practical and proven tools and skills that anyone can learn and develop. His program is grounded in science and expressed in a way that even a sceptical, compulsively pragmatic, engineering-oriented brain like Meng’s can process (worth a watch, see link at the end).

Meng still works at Google but his official job title is now: ‘Jolly Good Fellow’ and his job description is “Enlighten minds, open hearts, create world peace”.

As for myself, coming from an atheist background and a very ‘left brain’ analytical, realistic home, I would normally (in the past) not read anything further if it had the world ‘Spiritual’ in the title.  But having learned a lot now and listened to some great speakers on the subject, I am a true believer in the value and importance of Spiritual Intelligence.

And as for Corporate Australia- I wish to see more ‘Jolly Good Fellow’ like job titles around and ‘Search Inside Yourself’ type development courses on the corporate curriculum…

Chade-Meng Tan: “Search Inside Yourself”, Authors at Google

by Ayala Domani

Some references, sources and further information on Spiritual Intelligence:

 


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Happy and Giving Employees = Productive and Profitable Business

More and more people are becoming familiar with the concept of “Happy employee = Effective employee”, that “happiness boosts performance” and that Employee morale and happiness have a direct influence on productivity.

Shawn Achor the author of theHappiness Advantage’ has spent 12 years researching this at Harvard. Watch Shawn Achor’s TED video  to hear about this research.

 “ If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed.

“A decade of research in the business world proves that happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome: raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as a myriad of health and quality-of-life improvements” Shawn Achor

Many organisations today invest effort and funds in creating a more comfortable and flexible working environments for the benefit of the employees. These investments are no doubt important and are yielding some positive results; however these results will be limited if the employees adopt an approach whereby they ‘want’ and ‘demand’ to receive more and more from the organisation.

Happiness and Positive thinking comes from within- an Organisation cannot ‘make’ an employee happy unless the employee wants to be happy and decides to look at the world and the workplace in a positive way.

“Scientifically, happiness is a choice. It is a choice about where your single processor brain will devote its finite resources as you process the world. If you scan for the negative first, your brain literally has no resources left over to see the things you are grateful for or the meaning embedded in your work. But if you scan the world for the positive, you start to reap an amazing advantage”. Shawn Achor  

Another, potentially more surprising result of Achor’s research was that Employees who were providing social support to others were 10 times more engaged at work and have a 40% higher likelihood of promotion over the next four years. In other words, giving at the office gets you more than receiving.”

According to Achor, reaping the advantage of happiness is in the power of every person and it is a matter of training your brain with exercise and adopting positive life habits.

But is there anything an organisation can do to support employees so it can benefit from the happiness advantage and increase its productivity and profit?

Here are two suggestions:

  1. Support employee’s development in areas such as Self Awareness, Self worth, Empathy, Controlling fears and ego, forgiveness and fairness so they strive to change and look at the world and the workplace in a positive way.
  2. Empower employees to be a source for delivering fairness, respect and support to others rather than merely waiting to receive fairness, respect and support from others.

 

Some people think that if you are happy you are naive or not connected to reality.

Now that there is research validity and evidence that happiness leads to increase in productivity and profit, the business community is staring to take notice of it.

This welcome change in businesses will assist individuals in their journey to live joyful and fulfilling life and will result in a win-win situation for businesses and individuals.

by Ayala Domani