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How To Combat Compliant Thinking: Strategies to Sharpen Your Critical Thinking Skills

Our current blog theme is about mental fitness and agility. This is the third blog in our Mental Fitness series, so if you havent read the first or second blogs yet, give them a squiz. In this blog, we’re exploring how we increase our mental fitness when we combat compliant, lazy thinking. Compliance occurs when others do your thinking for you. 

One Sunday afternoon I was driving with Paul, my sister in laws husband, down Beyers Naude Drive in Johannesburg. We reached a red traffic light and there were stationary cars all around us. Next thing, the driver to our left decided that waiting was no longer a good option and drove through the red light. The driver on our right followed hot on his heels, as did the drivers behind these two vehicles. It was a domino effect. Paul blurted out loud, ‘what am I missing?’ as this avalanche of movement took place. Now it was almost impossible for him to stand still. The world around us had decided that red was no longer important, and an invisible pulling of cars occurred across the intersection. 

Studies on passenger behaviour suggest that in-flight purchases can be influenced by social cues.

The research found that you’re 30% more likely to buy something from the food trolley if the person next to you does. I know this pull. I have noticed that when the person next to me looks at the menu, it’s as if I get given a sense of permission to indulge as well. 

In trivial unimportant matters, being pulled by the crowd doesn’t really matter, and following the group is actually normal. But the big question is, ‘am I making up my own mind when it truly matters?’ 

Combating Compliant Thinking: Strategies to Sharpen Your Critical Thinking Skills

How Does Behavioural Influence the Workplace?

Having a strong defined corporate culture is mostly a good thing. A major focus of CAFE Life is to support organisations in creating cultures where people can thrive at work. But there is a danger to culture when it isn’t intentionally developed . 

Culture can be defined as the habitual behaviours, mindsets and attitudes of a collective of people. The stronger the culture, the more likely a homogenous way of thinking and behaving develops. In other words, the more likely it is that everybody on board is buying from the ‘trolley.’ As you can imagine, this can be dangerous  if the right thing to do, is not buy from the trolley. The term given for this condition is ‘Groupthink.’ Groupthink occurs when everybody follows a common dogma, with no critical or divergent thinking. In this instance, it’s often one or two people thinking and the others are simply following. This is well captured by General George Paton, who said…

“If everyone is thinking alike them someone isn’t thinking.”

Polaroid is one of many organisational examples that fell victim to Groupthink. From the 50’s to the 80’s, Polaroid was the company most of us would have wanted to work for. The culture was family orientated, caring and respectful. But when the external environment started to change, digital photography became a force. What the company needed at this time was new ways of thinking. But the culture did not allow such thinking. Polaroid was about instant photography. Max Booth, their CEO at the time, stated…

“Anyone who thinks instant photography is dying has his head in the sand.”

Hmmm – who wants to challenge the CEO? And so, Polaroid fell victim to a culture that did not encourage ‘thinking against the norm’ and consequentially went into liquidation in the late 90’s. A strong defined culture supports effectiveness; provided it does not squash expression. And teamwork is a great concept; provided teamwork doesn’t mean we ‘can’t rock the boat.’ 

Psychologist Solomon Asch did a series of experiments called the Conformity Line Experiment Study. Here, people were asked to sit in a group setting and give an answer to a somewhat simple problem. In some settings there were actors who gave wrong answers.

Imagine you have an answer which you believe is correct, but now the three people before you have given what you consider a wrong answer. How do you respond when it’s your turn? A similar pattern emerged to our travellers. About 30% of people chose to follow suit and give the wrong answer. They chose to fit in rather than to be seen as standing out. The pressure to conform, along with created self-doubt, resulted in people choosing to reject their thinking. 

Combating Compliant Thinking: Strategies to Sharpen Your Critical Thinking Skills

How Often Do You Allow Others to Do Your Thinking?

The danger of lectures from Professors, motivational talks from well-known people, sermons from a church pulpit, ra ra’s from politicians or feedback sessions from a CEO, are that they most often don’t invite dialogue or disagreement. They might be really good – but they create passive audiences. Don’t be passive when it really matters. Develop independent thinking. Do the research, check the facts, challenge the populist path, go beneath the surface. Today, we must develop and practice this way of thinking. The important questions of life, your vote on a ballot paper, your career, need your own thinking. The urgency for this is seen in this sobering thought by Seth Godin…

“The ease with which someone can invent and spread lies is going to take most of us by surprise. It’s going to require an entirely new posture for understanding the world around us. Every day is April Fools from now on, let’s not get fooled.”

With the vast amount of societal influence and various opinions in our world, compliant thinking is a trap you don’t want to fall in. There’s a simple practice I encourage you to put in motion combat compliant thinking: write down what is so important to you, that it deserves your own thinking. This does not mean you don’t take advice, but that you put thought into whose advice you take. This does not mean you don’t take counsel, but you weigh the advice of counsel. 

Combating Compliant Thinking: Strategies to Sharpen Your Critical Thinking Skills

Here is a list of things that probably deserve you to combat compliant thinking around….


  • The hard questions in life like…
    • the meaning of life
    • your own sense of purpose
  • Your career 
  • Your most important values
  • Who to vote for in the upcoming general elections
  • How you are going to show up in the next meeting you attend
  • What needs the answer ‘no’ and what needs the answer ‘yes’
  • What cannot be concluded as truth simply because it’s the top search on ‘Google’ 

To avoid compliance in things that matter…

 

  • Do your own reading and research
  • Embrace people who see things differently, ‘weighing’ their viewpoints
  • Avoid voices with a long track record of being wrong, who offer empty promises
  • Ask, and then see what happens
  • Be prepared to change your mind when new evidence arises 
  • Don’t let loyalty get in the way of truth and openness

The ability to think is one of our most important rights. We need to protect this. Celebrate this. Give room to your confusion, and don’t fall into the trap of making quick decisions, where everything is simple. Much of life is about a dance with complexity, where we don’t simply conclude. Like Susan David says,

“When somebody says to you, ‘it’s an easy question’, a good response can be, ‘it’s not easy for me because I’m thoughtful’.” 

Combating Compliant Thinking: Strategies to Sharpen Your Critical Thinking Skills
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No Margin In Your Life Means No Room For The Unexpected.

Many a driver unwillingly experiences this on the road. A narrow road, that involves another object (like a sudden crossing goat) would leave you with no choice but to plough off the road into the gravel, or the bush, and now have an unwanted offroad experience. Little roads are not made for any imperfection of experience. They have no margin for mistakes or the unexpected. 

Welcome back to our short blog series on mental fitness. The big thought of this blog is captured in this anchoring question, ‘how much margin do I create in my thinking?’

To be mentally fit requires the capability to think less rigidly and find freedom in open spaces. It’s the ability to have space in our neuro pathways for the unexpected goat. 

Margin, or open space, is a desirable condition in almost every aspect of life. Margin in your finances means you can accommodate unexpected expenses. When there is no margin, even a small, unexpected expense creates huge stress. Take margin in something like time. Have you ever experienced a day where there isn’t even time for even a sandwich, and even going to the bathroom is a luxury? We are dealing with a simple equation where decreased margin in your life = increased stress. 

No margin in your life means no room for the unexpected.

The Sign of a Strong Mind Is the Willingness to Change Ones’ Mind.

I love the Karoo. When I was younger, the Karoo was a necessary boredom enroute to a holiday in the Western Cape. Now, how my thinking has changed. The Karoo is part of the holiday, a place to be savored and a place to lavish in. I am mesmerized and ‘saved’ by those open spaces. 

It’s as if my mind has space to think and to notice. Where vastness is beautiful, and the roughness of the koppies and barrenness of the land is provoking. It makes me wonder – is my mind an urban mess of city skyscrapers, overpopulated with activity and rush, or is it like the Karoo, open for adventure, and amazement? I want a Karoo mind. 

Sometimes our thoughts become so fixed and rigid that there is no space for any contemplation, doubt or adventure. I used to accolade myself for being consistent in thought, in never changing my mind. But I have learnt that a sign of a strong mind is the willingness to change one’s mind. 

I am learning that structures of thinking should not be stuck, static building blocks but rather, scaffoldings that are temporary, pliable and malleable. Using phrases like ‘hey I’m seeing that differently’ or ‘I’m changing my mind on that,’ should be more common utterances than less. 

To support the creation of margin, consider the following 5 statements. 

1. The goal of learning is not to re-enforce my thinking but to evolve my thinking.

All too often, life is a formula of ‘gain knowledge and then reinforce that knowledge’ by engaging with material or people who see it your way, think your way, and do it your way. This leads to static buildings and closed fences in our minds. 

There is a story of Steve Jobs and Bono discussing why long haired, barefoot, non-deodorant wearing hippies revolutionized our world in the mid 1970’s. Their conclusion was that this phenomenon can be explained by the counterculture posture of the hippies. 

They were not attached to the negative preached outcomes of advancement. To them, the computer was not taking away freedom. It was bringing freedom. They had the capacity to incorporate new thinking into their worlds. How essential is such a posture in today’s rapidly changing technological landscape?

Create margin in your life by hearing not only your viewpoint but those of others around you. 

No margin in your life means no room for the unexpected.

2. Better to be right now than to be perceived as being right all along.

As humans, we tend to value the notion of being consistently right all along, regardless of what evidence is in front of us now. This leads us to passionately defend our early viewpoints. But as per last month’s blog, more often than we might admit, we are wrong. 

The need to appear right closes the door to open spaces, channeling energy into defending viewpoints rather than dancing with increasing perspectives. Here, we might fall into the trap of presenting a consistent argument rather than a factual one. Can we embrace and celebrate the notion that what we thought last year, may not be what we believe this year?

The terms ‘escalation of commitment’ describes the condition where somebody starts something, and then refuses to stop –  even if logic or wisdom says otherwise. If you are in a hole, stop digging.

Create margin in your life by reconsidering your viewpoints based on new knowledge and new insights. 

3. Notice and resist the posture of denialism.

There are many things in life that need to be questioned. Often, following is not the pathway. We don’t need to be open minded about everything. Some principles are abiding and unchanging. But be careful of the posture of the denialist. For denialists there is no room for any negotiation.

Skepticism is a much better stance. The considerate sceptic continually asks questions and knows what it takes to have a deeper conversation. They might not be easily persuaded, but there is a willingness to engage when considerate insights and arguments are presented. I like what Seth Godin says….

"If you’re not having any second thoughts at all, it’s probably because you’re not thinking it through enough. The hallmark of the true believer is that there’s no room for judgment. For everyone else, misgivings are a sign that you’re carefully considering the problem at hand."

When you find yourself adamant about something, ask yourself, ‘what would need to be presented for me to engage in conversation here?’ If you can’t think of anything, you are probably posturing as a denialist. 

Create margin  in your life by avoiding the mindset of the denialist.

No margin in your life means no room for the unexpected.

4. The goal of life is to grow wiser as we grow older.

How good is that line. The wisdom tradition does not see wisdom as an outcome. Rather, wisdom is something that is continually gained through the process of living. Where there is always an abundance for more.

Arrogance, on the other hand, is passion with ignorance. Ignorance can be described as the flawed state of believing you are undeniably ‘right.’ In his book Will, Will Smith shares this interesting line of thought:

“We beat on ourselves for being so stupid, regretting our choices, and lamenting the horrible decisions we make. But here’s the reality. That’s what life is. Living is the journey from not knowing to knowing, from not understanding to understanding, from confusion to clarity. You have one job as a human. Figure this shit out. Life is learning – period. Overcoming ignorance is the whole point of the journey. You are not supposed to know at the beginning.”

Create margin in your life  by embracing the realization that we have never ‘arrived’ at the end conclusion.

5. We live in a world of wonder and mystery.

Not everything needs explanation or sharp lines. Making room in our lives for paradox and discomfort can be empowering. This line is not good news for the analytics amongst us, where proof is needed. But how can we know everything? The universe in which we live continually amazes us with wonder and awe. This concept is beautifully captured by Einstein who in a letter to a friend wrote…

“You and I never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born. We must be careful to never outgrow our wonder years or to let our children do so.”

The notion of Einstein himself being comfortable with mystery and childlike wonder is most comforting. It reminds us that in our quest for answers can we remain in ‘wonder.’ This notion is also powerfully captured by Brene Brown who reminds us of that margin in our minds is the refusal to be boxed by absolutes or philosophies. She says…

Why do we have to choose evidence over experience, reason over faith, science over art, data over story?

Create margin by learning to dance with paradox and mystery. It enlarges the dimensions of the road we travel.   

There Is Beauty and Power in Creating Margin.

I need to create margin for my thoughts and my thinking. The above 5 statements support the creation of such margin. I often use the metaphor of the Karoo I shared earlier to help me with this. It reminds me to not make unmovable buildings around my thought processes, but to rather have space for the beauty of deliberate, adventurous thinking, where thoughts are given room to breathe. 

We don’t need open mindedness around everything. But all of us can and will benefit from more margin than less. In the next blog we will get practical around some things we can do that enable this. I can’t wait to share it with you all. 

Mike

Combating Compliant Thinking: Strategies to Sharpen Your Critical Thinking Skills
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Unshakeable in a Shifting World: Building Your Mental Fitness Toolkit 

In December 23 I did an exciting workshop with a team around the concept of Mental Fitness. What an interesting term. Fitness: generally associated to physical ability and conditioning, describing a state of readiness and capacity to endure certain physical conditions.  But what is mental fitness? And how do we develop it? 

This is the start of our short blog series on mental fitness, connecting us to the importance of this most essential condition. In this blog, we’ll explore the meaning of mental fitness and why it’s such an essential focus point today. 

What is mental fitness?

Unshakeable in a Shifting World: Building Your Mental Fitness Toolkit 

Mental fitness is the intentional development of our thinking, so that we can navigate our rapidly changing environments. It’s very similar in concept to that of physical fitness. It’s the capacity and quality of an individuals thinking within changing environments. The quality is defined by attributes like clarity, perspective and agility. 

Most of us are physically fit enough to run 500m, but to run 42 km takes effort, attention, and discipline. Likewise, most of us may be mentally fit to embrace certainty and predictable environments. But we may not be mentally fit for changing environmental dynamics, where old assumptions are often no longer relevant or reliable. 

Are you focusing on your mental fitness? And are you focusing on your team’s mental fitness? 

4 reasons to focus on mental fitness.

1. The Ability to Adapt And Change


The obvious one: we are living in a world of change. Which requires agile thinking, not fixed thinking. In a world of no change, we can probably rely on past assumptions and experience. A world of change challenges our assumptions. It often exposes past experiences as an Achilles heel. One of my favourite quotes to highlight the velocity of this change comes from Canadian President Justin Trudeau. He says

“The pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again.”

Imagine someone tells you their computer is operating on Windows 95, what would you think? You’d probably say that’s antiquated. And you would have to conclude that they’re unable to leverage the latest advancements off their old platform. Now, if technology had made little or no advancements in the past few years, having Windows 95 wouldn’t make much difference. But in a progressive and dynamic technological world, keeping up means upgrading. 

Is it possible to access our current world if our assumptions are based on information that isn’t current? If so, what are the consequences? 

Unshakeable in a Shifting World: Building Your Mental Fitness Toolkit 

2. A Thriving Mental Being

 
We are not doing well mentally. This is not a judgement; we all feel the weight of navigating our modern-day living. The stats don’t lie. Susan David highlights this in her book Emotional Agility when she shares how since 2017 (as stated by the World Health Organisation), depression has become the leading cause of disability. No longer is our biggest impediment physical, but it’s mind related. This condition is captured powerfully by this writer who said…

“Today’s poor live better than yesterday’s kings, however, Americans are taking antidepressants in astounding numbers, leading to the current opioid epidemic”.

3. Accepting When We Are Wrong


We are wrong more often than we realise. In a predictable world, we could state things with more confidence. But our unpredictable world requires a greater level of tentativeness. We might not like this thought, but our blind spots are on the increase. Let’s quote 2 credible sources…

“The idea that our minds are susceptible to systematic errors is now generally accepted.”

Daniel Kahneman 

“More often than not there are moments where we are wrong.”

Seth Godin

Unshakeable in a Shifting World: Building Your Mental Fitness Toolkit 

Mental fitness enables us to dance with the notion that we might not be right. When this happens, we enable an openness. A teachability. A proactivity to seek out new ideas, and to filter irrelevant outdated ideas. This is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Adam Grant powerfully says…

“The hallmark of wisdom is knowing when it’s time to abandon some of your most treasured tools and some of the most cherished parts of your identity”

And let’s go back thousands of years to Confucius who said…

“Real knowleadge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”

To understand our ignorance and let go of tried and tested tools is the product of a mentally fit mind. 

4. Knowing what is worthy of attention, and what isn’t


There is a glut of distraction. The noise around us has amplified over the past few years. This causes our good intentions to be hijacked by a barrage of distraction, leaving us with the feeling of ‘being ticked off’ rather than ticking off our needed actions and plans.

Now more than ever, to remain focused and have high levels of mental quality requires an ability to discern what’s worthy of attention – and what isn’t. This thought is powerfully captured by Franciscan Priest and writer Richard Rohr who says… 

“In our culture we suffer from a glut of words, a glut of experiences, a glut of tapes, books, ideas. When we have too many words, we tend not to value them, even if they might contain life for us. We can’t absorb it all. This can lead us away from a beginner’s mind. We desperately need some disciplines to help us know how to see and what is worth seeing, and what we don’t need to see.”

These factors don’t need to paralyse our desire to be mentally fit. Infact, they can energise them. Growing our mental fitness is founded in the desire to remain relevant in a changing world, by embracing change, understanding our ignorance, fostering new paths, and seeking disciplines for increased improved perspective.

In the blogs that follow my goal is to uncover and explore the ways to become mentally fit. I hope this sounds like a journey worth taking. 

Let’s wrap up with a story

Unshakeable in a Shifting World: Building Your Mental Fitness Toolkit 

On the 3rd of January 2017, I woke up in the early hours of the morning in the beautiful seaside village of Great Brak River. Great Brak River is nestled in the garden route between Mossel Bay and George. One of my favourite places in the world. 

I woke up at this time specifically to run through the village that crosses Great Brak and the sea. The plan was to complete the route and end my run with a sunrise on the beach. I let myself out the gate with my remote. And as I started to run; it began to rain. The rain became steadier, eventually becoming a heavy downpour. 

For me, running in the rain is a delight, and it brought with it the added benefit of absolute solitude. Whilst running, I came up with this interesting plan. Today was obviously going to be a no sunrise day. Let’s replace the sunrise with a swim in the river. Let’s jump off the bridge into the river. I was amused by this idea, and I was also aware of my right hand. 

In my right hand was the gate remote, and with harder rain came a harder grip on the remote, seeking to protect it from the water. When I got to the second bridge, the place of my river jump, I had this impending question: what do I do with the remote? The unanswered question foiled the adventure. Later that day I reflected on what a great run I had enjoyed. And with the gratitude came a sense of regret – if only I did not have the remote in my hand. 

To navigate our changing world requires that we learn to hold our thoughts, conclusions, and preferences more lightly. Some signs of low mental fitness are the inability to notice what we are unnecessarily holding onto. The inability to notice new opportunity, and the inability to adjust to what the environment is doing. What ‘remotes’ are you holding on to? 

Combating Compliant Thinking: Strategies to Sharpen Your Critical Thinking Skills
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Creating Clarity: Your Secret Tool for Work-Life Harmony (and How to Wield It Like A Pro)

Let’s face it, friends. The modern work-life landscape can feel like a minefield. Between overflowing inboxes, ever-shifting priorities, and that nagging voice in your head asking, “Are you even doing this right?”, it’s easy to feel like you’re teetering on the edge of burnout. But there’s one tool that cuts through the noise. It’s sharper than any productivity hack, and more powerful than any fancy app. It’s the practice of remembering that “clarity is kind.”

Why Clarity is the Kindness You Didn't Know You Needed

Have you ever delegated a task with vague instructions, only to be met with a Frankenstein’s monster of a project at the finish line? We’ve all been there. Unclear expectations breed frustration, resentment, and wasted time for everyone involved. It’s like playing a game of broken telephone, where the message gets distorted with every step.

But here’s the thing: clarity isn’t just about avoiding misunderstandings. It’s an act of kindness. It sets healthy boundaries for yourself and others, preventing resentment from brewing like a forgotten pot of coffee, and empowers everyone to do their best work.

Creating Clarity: Your Secret Tool for Work-Life Harmony (and How to Wield It Like A Pro)

Here’s why clarity is an irreplaceable tool in your work-life:

  • Boundaries with a Smile
    When you clearly define your time (think “no emails after 7 pm” or “sacred lunch break”), you’re not being selfish. You’re being kind to your well-being and setting expectations that foster respect. As Brené Brown reminds us, “Strong boundaries are not about separation. They’re about protection.”
  • Objectives
    When objectives are crystal clear, owned by the right people, and broken down into actionable steps, it’s like a mental fog lifting. You feel empowered, focused, and ready to conquer, not just confused and adrift. Here, we can draw once again from Brene Brown who says, “Clarity is the antidote to anxiety.”
  • Saying “Yes” to Your “Yes”
    Are you a morning lark who thrives in quiet? Block out that time. Do you need spontaneous dance breaks to recharge? Schedule them. Prioritizing your needs shouldn’t be seen as a luxury. As Michael Hyatt, author of “Living Forward,” puts it, “Clarity is the foundation for saying no to the good things that could crowd out the great things.” When you know what your priorities are, it’s easy to see what takes energy from these and confidently say “no” to those things. 
  • Turning Feedback into Growth 
    Potentially one of the hardest gifts to receive, feedback is a tool that can easily be seen as a weapon. But if you view it as a tool for gaining clarity around areas you need to grow in, it becomes a weapon for breakthrough, not one of shame. As Marshall Goldsmith, renowned executive coach, reminds us, “No one can give you better feedback than someone who cares about you.”

Clarity: Your Ticket to a Thriving Team

 “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” – Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People 

The magic of clarity extends beyond individual well-being. It fosters connection and collaboration, transforming your team into a symphony of empowered minds. When everyone is clear on goals, roles, and expectations, trust blossoms. Communication flows freely. And the collective potential of your team explodes.

Creating Clarity: Your Secret Tool for Work-Life Harmony (and How to Wield It Like A Pro)

Clarity In Practice

There is an ancient saying from the Asaro tribe in Papua New Guinea which says, “Knowledge is only a rumour until it lives in the bones.” To truly feel the difference of something, it first needs to become a part of us – of our lifestyle. Taking time to become aware of where we need clarity most and discovering how to create it. Because clarity isn’t just a beautiful word. It’s an incredible tool that unlocks work-life harmony, meaningful connections, and the collective brilliance that lies within each of us.

Now go forth and conquer, team. You’ve got this. And hey, if you need a hand navigating the clarity journey together, that’s what we’re here for. And we’re only a couple taps on your keyboard away, so reach out to us. 

P.S. Feeling inspired? Check out this video for a deeper dive into the power of clarity: 

Remember, clarity is a journey, not a destination. So be kind to yourself, celebrate your progress, and keep embracing the power of “knowing” in all its forms.

Combating Compliant Thinking: Strategies to Sharpen Your Critical Thinking Skills
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Lessons from the Most ‘Stupid’ Man in Tuscany: Letting Go of Ego and Embracing Vulnerability

“The most stupid man in the world.” That’s me. A title I was officially given last month.

Lessons from the Most 'Stupid' Man in Tuscany: Embracing Vulnerability and Letting Go of Ego

September 23 will always be remembered as a day of learning the true meaning of transcending the ego.

We were finally ticking off one of our big bucket list items: a trip to Italy. And in particular, a trip to Tuscany. Tuscany lived up to our expectations and allowed for a needed slowdown after the hustle of Venice. I loved the openness, the rolling hills, the beauty of the olive and grape vineyards, and the feeling of tranquility and peace that emerged simply walking within these enviable landscapes. 

We made our home in a beautiful small town called Figline Valdarno and soon learnt something of interest. We were in Sting land. Sting, the renowned musician, resides here a couple of months a year. We walked past his mansion and dined at his open-air restaurant on one of the evenings of our stay. It was simply amazing. 

On this evening, we were joined by three local Italians. The owner of the guest house where we were staying accompanied us along with two of her friends. It made for great fellowship as we felt part of the community and it created the magic of feeling like we were experiencing localness. 

One of the owners’ friends was Walter, this boisterous 82-year-old Italian, full of life and expression. And within this comes the topic of this blog. About an hour into our meal, I made a comment towards the conversation, which Walter responded with much energy and apparent seriousness, ‘you must be the most stupidest person in the world that I have ever met.’ 

We (a party of four) burst out laughing, unsure of how to interpret this unexpected comment from a new friend we had spent one hour with. We made some jokes and on went the evening. But it was an interesting and unexplained comment. When was the last time I was called the most stupid person in the world? I think my narcistic Biology teacher in high school said something similar, but that was school when teachers were obviously allowed to say such things. But to hear it in Tuscany – that caught me by surprise. 

Lessons from the Most 'Stupid' Man in Tuscany: Embracing Vulnerability and Letting Go of Ego

What do you do when your identity feels attacked?

Have you ever out of the blue received a slap in the face? What do and don’t you do? 

This incident afforded me the opportunity to engage something that I’ve been learning and practicing: agreement is a disarming force. Most of us spend our lives trying to establish self-esteem and to create an identity that we hope people will look up to and admire. This causes us to value looking smart, appearing successful, to not be average and be differentiated from the majority. 

Have you ever noticed that being considered average is not a compliment? This path is well walked; and I walk it. It’s not all bad. And yet it does have ramifications. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, engages a topic called a ‘culture of honour.’ He explains that a culture of honour is one where your reputation is central to who you are and to making a living. If my reputation is so important to me, how do I respond when people are not fragile with my ego state? If I don’t come right in putting my ego aside, I probably get ‘pissed’ off and, based on personality, intensity and sensitivities, it causes bad behaviour. 

But what happens if you just choose to agree with it? 

Agreement Is A Disarming Force, Indeed.

I have just finished reading Bono’s book, Surrender. For the non music lovers or younger audience, Bono is the lead singer of the group U2, and he’s one of the most successful musicians of all time. In his book, Bono is quite open about his faith. He calls himself ‘a follower of Jesus.’ But as you know, pinning any label to your chest opens you up to judgement and criticism. Bono says the way he gets around this is to own up and assume the label of the hypocrite. If anyone challenges him about how he walks his faith, he agrees. He beautifully says in the book, ‘I am a follower of Christ who can’t keep up.’ I like that. Living into labels is tiring. Especially when so many have a different version of what that label should be. Hold the label loosely and keep your identity small. 

Let’s make this even more compelling or potentially provocative. Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr shares these words… 

“I am not who you think I am. Nor am I who you need me to be. I must be nothing in order to be open to all of reality and new reality. Being nothing has a glorious tradition. When we are nothing, we are in a fine position to receive everything from God.” 

We are deep. And these words are potentially contentious and easily misunderstood. And yet, within them I have found freedom. When I bolster my identity, I find myself having to prove to myself and others my ‘stripes.’ If intelligence brings me self-worth, then I need to prove my intelligence by hustling and demonstrating how unintelligent everyone else is. If someone insults my intelligence, then I am most likely to be defensive. But what if I disarm this by making intelligence obsolete –  a topic that’s not interesting or of value? Does that put me in a place of freedom, or in Rohr’s words, in a place to receive everything?

Let’s go to a recent Seth Godin blog. Consider these words. 

“The time we spend fretting over what just happened is time we’re not spending on addressing the problem itself. When your client or your boss turns down a great idea, it’s tempting to focus on the idea and how right you were. It might make more sense to try to find empathy for the fear and status issues that the client has instead. Because those issues probably got in the way of them ever seeing what you had to say.“Okay, that happened.” Now what?”

Allow Feedback to Take its Rightful Place In Your Life

Imagine I took Walter’s words to heart and spent the rest of the evening trying to prove to him that he is wrong and rude and that in actual fact I am very clever. Suddenly, beautiful Tuscany and the newness of culture available for experience, here, right now, would fade, and it would become all about me. What a waste. Godin challenges us to view progression as being found in ‘being present without judgment to the way things are, seeking new paths forward.’ When we do this, it becomes easier to suspend judgment and move towards letting go of ego. 

Now let’s slow down and be a little bit more cautious. This blog is not about ignoring feedback. Feedback is one of the most valuable gifts another can give us and needs to be considered from a place of sobriety. Especially if there is a pattern to the feedback. Feedback is always best digested from a place of ‘I have nothing to prove.’ Which is achieved best by releasing the ego.

This enables a changed stance to how does this feedback improve me. I like that. Can I move away from the need to prove my worth and towards the notion ‘how does this improve me?’ When feedback is put in this place, it works. 

Our next night in Tuscany was spent in an Italian kitchen making (amongst other things) our own lasagne from scratch. It was an amazing evening of great company, wine, dancing, and friendship. Mandy got our two Italian chefs to dance to Mafikizola. We have it all on video. But wait….are you ready for it – who was our head chef? Walter. 

We dined and connected and towards the end of the evening Walter approached me and gave me a hug as if I was his prodigal son. His comment from the previous night was still somewhat a mystery, still unexplained. And yet if I was his most stupid person in the world, it was clear to see this had no impact towards his fondness of me. We had an unforgettable, truly wholesome, deeply connecting experience.   

Lessons from the Most 'Stupid' Man in Tuscany: Embracing Vulnerability and Letting Go of Ego

Be Less Offensive. And Take Less Offense.

A final question I ponder is, “was this a message lost in translation?” I don’t know. Walter, whilst not fluent in English, certainly made his way around the language with reasonable proficiency. After all, he taught us how to make lasagne. But I think this brings home the point even more.

 Misunderstanding is all around us. And when I become defensive to comments people make, the spiral goes downward, and getting ‘lost in translation’ now becomes deep and divisive. When I am unattached, there is no poison. Now we can move on, or move the misunderstanding to a place of understanding. We live in a world where we need to teach people to both not offend and to be less susceptible to taking offense. Both are important. 

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The Power of Delegating in Effective Leadership and Business Scaling

Effective leadership is a dynamic force that propels businesses toward growth and success. Strong leadership is the ability to inspire, empower, and instil company values. But it goes beyond these qualities and hinges on a vital skill: the ability of delegating effectively.

The Art of Delegation

Delegating can be tough – after all, it requires entrusting important responsibilities into the hands of another. And yet without delegation of tasks, your business cannot scale. 

Delegation is more than just assigning tasks. It’s a strategic process that empowers teams, fosters growth, and propels business expansion. It’s a thoughtful process that involves identifying the right tasks to be handed over to the right team members and providing those people with the resources and authority needed to succeed. When you understand the art of delegation, you elevate your impact and bring many benefits to your teams and organisation. Here are some basic elements to delegating well.

The Power of Delegation in Effective Leadership and Business Scaling

Empowering Your Team

It empowers team members by giving them ownership and responsibility. When employees feel trusted and valued, their morale and job satisfaction improve, leading to higher engagement and productivity. Innovation is placed at the forefront as team members learn how to generate their own ideas for solutions and systems.  

Focus on High-Impact Activities

Effective leaders understand that they can’t do everything themselves. Delegating routine tasks allows leaders to focus on high-impact activities such as strategic planning, innovation, and decision-making, which are critical for business growth.

Building a Resilient Team

Delegation fosters skill development and cross-training within the team. As team members take on new responsibilities, they become more versatile and capable of handling challenges, making the team more resilient and agile. 

Scalability and Business Growth

Delegation is a key factor in scaling a business. When leaders delegate effectively, they create a structure that can accommodate increased workloads and business expansion. Delegating responsibilities allows leaders to create a scalable framework by distributing tasks across the team.

Overcoming Delegation Challenges

The Power of Delegation in Effective Leadership and Business Scaling

While delegation offers numerous benefits, there can be challenges to navigate: 

• Micromanagement: Leaders must strike a balance between providing guidance and allowing autonomy. It’s a fine balance, that needs to be done with intention. Micromanagement takes the value of delegation away completely – people become unsure about making decisions themselves because they know their decisions might be altered anyways. Micromanagement inhibits people from truly demonstrating their capability to deliver and succeed. 

• The Element of Trust: Some leaders hesitate to delegate due to concerns about losing control or the quality of work. When you delegate tasks, there’s a huge element of trust involved. Sometimes it’s hard to release things to people because of fear of failure. But failure is always on the path to success. Allow room for failure, as this ignites learning. Give people opportunities to growth into their tasks.

• Task Clarity: Clear communication is crucial. Leaders must ensure team members understand expectations and objectives.  Remember, clear is kind. Without clear objectives, people have to work off a whim of what the deliverables actually look like. This reduces confidence, clarity around what responsibilities belong to who, and innovation towards the responsibilities within their hands. 

It’s common to see leaders or managers that struggle to release tasks without one of the above factors creating challenges. What if the appointed team member fails with their responsibility? What if they misunderstand or don’t take it seriously? Providing clear objectives, responsibilities, tasks, and clarity around where there is freedom for innovation, allows people to move freely towards growth for themselves and in turn, growing the business. This is the power of effective leadership. 

Best Practices for Delegation

1. Identify Tasks
Determine which tasks can be delegated without compromising quality.

2. Select the Right Person
Assign tasks to team members with the skills and capacity to excel.

3. Set Clear Expectations
Clearly communicate objectives, deadlines, and desired outcomes.

4. Provide Support
Ensure team members have the resources, information, and authority to complete tasks.

5. Establish Checkpoints
Regularly check progress and offer support if needed.

6. Acknowledge Efforts
Recognize and appreciate the contributions of team members.

The Power of Delegation in Effective Leadership and Business Scaling

Let Your Leaders Lead, and Your Teams Grow In Capability.

In conclusion, effective leadership is closely tied to the ability to delegate tasks and responsibilities. Delegation empowers teams, enhances productivity, and lays the foundation for business scalability. By mastering the art of delegation and following best practices, leaders can drive growth, nurture talent, and position their businesses for long-term success.

Remember, effective delegation is a skill that can be developed over time. As leaders embrace delegation, they not only enhance their own capabilities but also cultivate a culture of empowerment and growth within their teams.

Ready to unlock your teams potential?

CAFE Life offers a broad range of workshops that foster personal and team effectiveness. Rich in social science, applicable practices and always tailored to your context. 

Reach out to use at hello@cafelife.co.za to learn more about our diverse workshops that can help your business and your people thrive. 

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The Power Of Togetherness: 3 Practices To Deepen Connections

We live in a world of abundant information. A quick search online, and you might think you know all about someone. But this type of knowing is shallow and unrooted. Truly knowing someone for who they are can only be done through the act of togetherness.

If you could steal Steven Spielberg’s phone (famous movie Director for the non-movie fans) and gain access to his contact list, would that empower you to make a movie?
This is a thought from Seth Godin that I frequently entertain. Afterall, in that list would be everyone you need to create a brilliant blockbuster, right? But of course, those contacts alone are worthless.

When it comes to Steven, those contacts are undergirded by deep reputation and connection. The power is not in the number, but in the effort. It’s in the chemistry and the trust that has developed over time.  In today’s world, to steal a contact list isn’t that difficult. For a nominal fee you can buy a following.  But people don’t connect with you because you are on their list – they connect because you have connected.  

Shallow Reputation Vs. Deep Connection

In our modern world, many relationships suffer from shallow reputation. We might feel acquainted, but when you scratch beneath the surface you don’t know much about each other.

It’s not about what you know. But how you got to know what you know – that’s what counts. Anyone can learn shallow information about each other – all you need to do is Facebook a person. But deep reputation is founded on time, discovery, togetherness, and those messy moments of being in the trenches together. 

Shallow reputation can make us think we know someone. For example, I might see the rating of my approaching UBER driver and mistakenly assume trust. But that’s shallow understanding. Real trust is so much more.

In Stephen Covey’s book, The 8th Habit, a theme runs throughout his pages which conveys an uncomfortable thought. He says, ‘The majority of people in the workplace feel misunderstood. They don’t have voice.’

For a person to have voice, someone must first lend them their ears. Ears that listen and pay attention. We think we understand each other; but how much of it is built on assumptions and not tested?

This thought comes out powerfully in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Talking to Strangers. Gladwell says, “We think we can transform the stranger, without cost or sacrifice, into the familiar and the known, and we can’t.”

What is the cost and sacrifice? It’s the time we give to understand another. To listen. To suspend judgement, being humble and curious together. You don’t get this by stealing a name. You get this because you are serious about quality relationships. 

How does this help us? Well, to start with, we need to recognise that when people resist us, or don’t respond to our phone call, it might not mean that they are ‘bad’ people or that there’s something wrong with you. It might be telling you that this connection requires investment. And that relationships, no matter how much our world changes, still hinge on age old principles of togetherness. 

The Power Of Togetherness: 3 Practices To Deepen Connections

The Three Practices of TOGETHENESS

The practice of silent presence

Some of the best relationships we have are those that welcome quiet togetherness. This somewhat old and awkward quote from Thoreau highlights this. He says, 

‘In human [interaction], the tragedy begins not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood.’ 

Today we would probably use different words, but Thoreau’s point lands. I’m sure we’ve all experienced those moments of social silence. Automatically, we wonder if something is wrong and sense discomfort.  Afterall, a common belief is that talk means progress. But there’s something beautiful about a mutual comfort in the absence of words. There is no expectation of ‘doing’ or ‘proving’ anything. And we don’t need to talk to be seen. Only simple acceptance and appreciation for presence.

Now, silent togetherness is not found in two people who are quietly on their phones together. Quiet togetherness revels in the other persons presence. Where we are fully engaged, with gratitude for the bond that exists which isn’t complicated by the need to speak.

It’s quite hard to explain, but I think you know the kind of connection I’m describing. There is an energy and wholeness found in this silent togetherness. It’s like listening to a piece of music and appreciating the subtleties rather than singing the song. 

If this is something you struggle to find ease in, start practicing it with those you feel most connected to. For a few minutes, simply be present. Sense the power of your togetherness without distracting it through words. You might even try this in a team meeting, allowing the silence to create the awareness of US. Sure, your team might feel uncomfortable at first. But doing this highlights a most powerful principle: we speak best not through our mouths, but through our non-verbal appreciation for each other. 

The practice of empowering others

Sometimes we do need to be rescued. But most often, what we need is not answers that solve our situations. We need attentiveness that gives permission for expression. Listen to these two quotes from the mouths of epic wise men. 

“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”  


– Henry Nouwen  


“Beginner’s mind is a posture of eagerness, of spiritual hunger. This is a rare feeling in today’s treacherously seductive culture however, because it is so immediately satisfying it is hard to remain spiritually hungry. We give answers too quickly, take away pain too easily, and too quickly stimulate.”

– Richard Rohr

Both of these quotes deserve to be pondered; there is so much within them. Sometimes we think friendship is about solving, fixing, and saving others. But true friendship is found in a place of togetherness, where each enables the other’s expression.

How many friends do you have that sit in silent observance of your sometimes confused thoughts? Who seek not to correct nor redirect, but simply support you in your growth journey. Is this becoming a lost art? When we regain this art, we advocate connection. 

The practice of embracing disagreement

I know it sounds strange and contradictive. But the reality is that deep friendships are the ones that master the art of disagreement. For so many years, I saw conflict as something to avoid. After all, Harmony is often thought to be found in shared opinions. But I don’t think that’s true. Harmony is found when you care so much about another, that you’re willing to challenge them to take things deeper. Here are a couple of quick thoughts to share context: 

  • My ideas don’t improve because you agree with them. My ideas improve because you challenge me to deeper my levels of thinking.
  • When we care and respect each other, we enable the free flow of information. This does not limit voice. It enhances voice. More voice means more perspective, which in turn means more disagreeableness. Great relationships see this as energy for change and progress, not something to avoid. 
  • Great relationships are less about ‘judged and be judged’ and more about ‘learn and enable learning.’ 

This is why therapy can never replace friendship. In true friendship, both sides add value by sharpening each other through active engagement. Disagreeableness without care may lead to separation. But when it’s infused with love and consideration it energizes, challenges, and fosters growth.

The Power Of Togetherness: 3 Practices To Deepen Connections

R.E.A.C.H. - The Art of Togetherness

We have spoke about many elements of connection today. There is much to digest. A lovely way to summarise it all is to think of it in the acronym of R.E.A.C.H :

R – Relationships built on deep reputation and connection: The power of connection lies not in the number of contacts we have, but in the effort, chemistry, and trust that develops over time. 

 

E – Ears to listen and eyes to see: True understanding and trust are built when we invest time and effort. Getting to know others deeply, suspending judgment, and being humble in our interactions.

 

A – Absence of words, presence of minds: Practice the art of silent presence, where the relationship thrives on being fully aware of the other person and appreciating their presence without the need for constant talking.

 

C – Careful not to rescue, but to empower: Instead of rushing to provide answers and solutions, embrace the art of attentiveness. Give others the permission for expression, simply offering support on their journey of growth. 

 

H – Harmony through embracing disagreement: Embrace the concept that deep friendships are built on challenging each other to deeper levels of thinking; enabling more perspective, and energizing change and progress.

In essence, R.E.A.C.H. embodies the principles of building meaningful relationships based on trust, understanding, and authentic togetherness.

There are many other factors that foster deep connection, but these three practices really speak to me.  They remind me of how technology can never replace presence. Sometimes this presence is silent, sometimes it’s the observance of another’s expression. And sometimes it’s the expression of disagreeableness. All of these are needed to build true, lasting, beautiful togetherness. 

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3 Steps To Creating A Powerful Weekly Work Plan: The Irreplaceable Tool For Success

How many of us can raise our hand and say we are victims of our daily to-do list? I think plenty of us, not excluding me. It can slaughter our plans and keep us on the treadmill, racing after impromptu emails and last-minute requests. The problem with letting our to-do list lead us, is that our priorities are often not seen to – in work, and in life. But there’s good news. We have a powerful weekly work plan that can help you hop off the treadmill for long enough to set your compass to north. 

The Foundation: Understanding Priorities, Roles, and Goals

In the pursuit of success, effective planning and time management play pivotal roles. While daily planning is a popular approach, there’s a number of reasons why weekly planning is a more powerful framework. And it comes down to priorities, roles, and goals. 

Priorities

Some of our priorities shift weekly, even daily. Others are deeply rooted and unwavering. 

Priorities are not just the things we consider to be “urgent” – but also the things we consider to be “important”. 

Some of our priorities will be both, such as a big presentation or a looming interview. Neither can necessarily be procrastinated on (urgent) and both may have a big impact on your future prospects (important).

Other priorities are only urgent; like the last-minute favour your colleague asks for. Whilst on the other hand, some are not urgent at all, but very important. Such as spending time with your growing kids, nurturing your wellbeing, or investing in your health. None of those need urgent attendance, but all of them are incredibly important in the long run. 

3 Steps To Creating A Powerful Weekly Work Plan: The Irreplaceable Tool For Success

Roles

We all wear many hats throughout the day, each coming along with their own set of responsibilities. 

Here’s some examples:

– Parent
– Spouse
– Colleague
– Creative thinker
– Project coordinator
– Individual
– Sibling
– Volunteer worker


Here’s where priorities meet roles: you often have to choose which role you want to prioritise within your day. And that can be pretty hard. I can only think of countless moments where I’ve had to choose between a role in work and my role as a mother – always to be left with a stinging sense of guilt no matter which I choose.

What’s the best way to get past that? Incorporate your goals.  

Goals

Ah, the unavoidable word: goal. The things that drive us, keep us in focus, and act as our compass. Goals can sometimes be overrated, but can never be underestimated.

When our goals or envisioned future outcomes are the force that drives our actions, then our roles and priorities can begin to collaborate.

For the purpose of this blog, we’re going to think of goals in a dual perspective of both future and “next step” achievements.

The future goals will drive our next steps, and short-term prospects, enabling us to make sure we are paying attention to that which is not only urgent, but important, too. 

How to Form A Winning Weekly Work (And Life) Plan

I’ll take this moment to state that the following weekly work plan process is fully inspired by Stephen R. Covey and his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

When I heard his process, I felt myself nodding along with profuse realisation that I’d been doing it all wrong and in consequence, my to-do list owned me. I’ll be breaking his process down into a step-by-step guide so that you, too, can experience that joyous moment and start this incredible journey for yourself.

To make this process even more efficient, you can download a template spreadsheet for your weekly work plan here.

3 Steps To Creating A Powerful Weekly Work Plan: The Irreplaceable Tool For Success

1. Define Your Key Roles

2. Define Your Goals for The Next 7 Days

Make sure your week is organised from a principle centred base. Think of the roles you will play that are most important, and write these down.

As I mentioned, we have many roles we play, so think of this in a sense of the bigger picture, but also in the sense of the key roles you know you’ll need to play in the coming week.

Here’s an example:

– Parent
– Spouse
– Home maker
– Writer
– Project manager
– Content creator
– Individual

 

3. Schedule Your Week Around Your Goals

Look at each role and select two or three results that are most important for you to accomplish in each role within the next 7 days. This will be context based and should revolve around the priorities you know you need to set for the week ahead, as well as supporting your future prospects.

Once again, here’s an example for you:

– Parent: quality time, behaviour building guidance with Resilience In A Box
– Spouse: Dinner date on Friday, reading a book together
– Homemaker: Reinforce a sturdy routine, Dinner at the table on weekdays
– Individual: yoga minimum 3 times this week, personal time minimum once this week
– Creative contributor: Write 2 blogs, all social media captions up to date
– Project manager: Create monthly reports for clients, communicate campaign strategies
– Content creator: Design upcoming poster, deliver well-polished content

Here’s the part where you look at each goal and physically schedule time in your week to achieve them. The intent of this is that your daily tasks that arise will fall around your prioritised goals and not keep you from them. Block out time and days in your diary and make them specific. 

Examine your calendar for the week ahead:

  1. Identify available time slots and potential conflicts.
  2. Assign specific dates and times to dedicate towards each role-based goal.
  3. Prioritise important tasks that align with your long-term vision.
  4. Ensure a balanced distribution of time across roles to foster holistic development.


It’s important to Integrate your role-based goals and time allocations into your daily planning, and craft a daily task list that aligns with your overarching goals and priorities. Ensure that your daily tasks support your weekly goals and contribute to long-term success.

Things To Consider When Crafting A Weekly Work Plan

Unexpected events are inevitable. It’s important to remain flexible and adaptable when these arise, because there’s no way to avoid them. Just make the necessary adjustments to your daily tasks, while keeping a focus on your role-based goals.

There are so many benefits of weekly planning. You’ll find increased clarity, reduced anxiety around important tasks that should’ve been pre-planned for, and more focus on what truly matters. Your productivity will become optimised and you’ll feel a great sense of achievement in having more say over your week.

Not only that, but now you can proactively build your relationships and foster personal growth. 

Incorporating Stephen Covey’s weekly planning tool into your routine is a transformative and empowering practice to elevate your success. By identifying your primary roles, setting role-based goals, and allocating time to focus on them, you empower yourself to achieve holistic growth and productivity. Effective weekly planning harmonizes your daily tasks with your priorities, propelling you towards long-term success. 

Remember, success is not merely a destination, but a journey that requires conscious planning and intentional action. With effective weekly planning, you equip yourself with a roadmap to navigate the week ahead, making each day count towards your long-term aspirations. Embrace this powerful practice and unlock your full potential for success.

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Building Bridges, Breaking Silos: The Path to Effective Collaboration

Are there any significant achievements that can truly claim the title of ‘I did this alone?’ Most often, progress, achievement and even meaning are found in effective collaboration rather than the lone individual. Even when it might appear to be the brilliance of one, we invariably find the influence and support of others, even if it’s nestled in the subtleties. The essence of humanity is about ‘us’ and ‘our.’ This humanity defines our achievements and innovations, as well. When we take this into consideration, we unveil one of the basic principles of success: ‘who is in your corner?’ 

The True Value of Collaboration

I have seen the word “collaboration” on the values posters of many organisations. And it makes sense. The world in which we live demands outcomes that can seldom be achieved by one person or one team alone. 

And yet, one of the biggest obstacles within the corporate world is evident in the common phrase, ‘break silos.’ The inability to work together, to share ideas and information, and to jointly challenge each other to become more effective and impactful, hurts organisations. In addition, the new problems of our world need diverse thinking and not group thinking. 

These problems cannot be solved with traditional answers and singular viewpoints. They need thinking that challenges, finds new ways forward, and is stimulated by the divergent thought of others. 

These two reasons and many others, mean that having the word collaboration on your values poster is probably a must. But what’s even more urgent, is to turn the poster into a daily dance – collaboration in action. 

Building Bridges, Breaking Silos: The Path to Effective Collaboration

Why Do Efforts To Collaborate Fail In Organisations?

So here’s the big question. What underpins effective collaboration? Or put differently, why do efforts to collaborate fail? There are many considerations to ponder here. These include competencies, learnable skills, and supportive collaborative systems. But our starting point, I think, is mindset. 

There are three critical mindsets we need to cultivate for collaboration to flourish. 

Value

If you believe that you have the answers and don’t need others, collaboration cannot work. Why collaborate if you don’t see the value the other person can offer? Collaboration is founded on a principle that people matter and that each of us rely on other people. 

When you don’t see the value of another person, you might go through the motions of collaboration such as asking questions and listening, but nothing really changes, because you only see your value, your contribution, your sacrifice. So, whatever the other person says is simply words. When this happens, people disengage. 

Sometimes it’s easier for us to see our own value. Focusing on our own ideas and noticing the sacrifices we make in the pursuit of objectives. When this is the focus, you notice your own preparation, and are aware of your intentions. You also know the experiences and knowledge you have that is supportive of the objective. 

The challenge with this mindset is that all the above may be vague to others in your team and therefore a blind spot, amplified by our own allusions of self-importance. This mindset stops genuine collaboration and hinders the realisation that others may know something you don’t know, have experienced something you have not experienced, and has unique value to add to you as well as the outcome. For some of us, collaboration takes us to deep rooted issues on how we see ourselves and those who occupy our world. 

Responsibility Bias

In Give and Take by Adam Grant, he talks about ‘responsibility bias.’ Responsibility bias is where you over emphasize your contribution to success and underestimate the contribution of others. 

An experiment was held where couples were asked to share the percent of contribution they feel they make towards the relationship. For most cases, when the individual scores of the couples are added together, the score exceeds 100%. In other words, most over value their contribution. 

To create collaborative environments, we need to become intentional about noticing what the others add to the magic and focus more on their value than yours. Remind yourself that everybody is your teacher and that everybody has strengths and cognitive abilities that you don’t have.

When you create the mindset of inclusive value add, you open the collaborative door.

Safety

Collaboration is handicapped when the people who are together don’t feel safe. The lack of safety causes defensiveness, and when you’re defensive, you’re always guarding what you say. Nancy Kline powerfully says…

“The quality of your attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking.”

There are many things that we do that lower our levels of psychological safety. Sometimes we embarrass people for their ideas, or simply reject them. Sometimes, we create a fear around failure. And who really wants to collaborate when the ‘stick’ is out? 

We also create low levels of safety when validation is low or biased, where others get credit for someone else’s contribution. The bottom line: how people feel directly impacts their contribution within collaboration. 

Linked to safety, is the environment. Environment is the invisible hand that informs behaviour. Some environments are simply not conducive to collaboration.

Years ago I was working with a management team in a leading South African medical aid organisation. The three leaders I was with were bemoaning the lack of responsiveness from their people when it came to collaboration around new ideas and operational efficiency.

 As we dialogued the issue, a somewhat small acknowledgment was made. These three leaders always sat together in the same chairs in the meeting. Their positioning represented a panel type interview. The three leaders and across the table, the rest. This small yet most insightful comment enabled a change to the environment which brought immediate results – so, change how and where you sit. 

When people feel safe, you open the door to collaboration. 

https://cafelife.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/2.jpg

Perspective

Finally, we need to create a mindset open to perspective taking. Perspective taking is the ability to see more and put things in their rightful place, giving it only the amount of energy it really deserves. Sometimes we give too much energy to something that actually needs to be let go; and other times, we can give too little energy to something that deserves more attention.  

An important perspective to maintain for encouraging collaboration is the feeling of winning. For another to feel like they are winning, requires that you understand what’s important to them. 

“As humans we hate losing even more than we love winning. A perceived loss triggers attempts to re-establish fairness through competition, criticism or disengagement, which is a form of workplace learned helplessness. We need to ask, “How can we achieve a mutually desirable outcome?” 

  • Source Unknown 

Effective collaboration needs to be about ‘us.’ Which means that what you want might not always be what another wants. When this happens, you need to seek to understand what another wants, developing a sense of purpose and if possible, a win-win outcome. But if someone feels the collaboration is lopsided in objective, why would one engage wholeheartedly in collaboration? 

This perspective will lead our collaboration into increased levels of empathy, where we consider the world by attempting to be in the shoes of our collaborative partners. 

When we do, we build trust. And when we have trust, we tend to collaborate. 

Collaboration Is a Way Of Thinking

So, if collaboration is on your poster, perhaps a starting point to gaining momentum in this value is a facilitated workshop that enables all of the above. Perhaps we need ‘conversation before conversion,’ where we refresh our mindsets to what is needed prior to the powerful outcomes of collaboration. That’s part of the mandate of CAFÉ Life. Let’s get the roots going deep so that fruit of collaboration can flourish. 

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Contact us to explore how we can facilitate and empower collaboration within your organisation through our facilitated, team focused processes. 

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Belief Systems: Unleashing the Transformative Power Within

Belief systems serve as the invisible forces that shape our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. They are the deeply ingrained frameworks through which we interpret the world around us and make sense of our experiences. From religious and cultural beliefs to personal convictions and values, belief systems play a crucial role in defining who we are as individuals and how we navigate through life.

At their core, belief systems are important because they provide us with a sense of identity, purpose, and direction. They serve as guiding principles that influence our decision-making, shape our behaviours, and determine the outcomes we manifest. By offering a set of core values and perspectives, belief systems help us make sense of the world, find meaning in our lives, and establish a sense of belonging within our communities.

How do we form our core beliefs?

More often than not, our belief systems are formed sub consciously and impacted by our experiences, and the way we internally process this. You could say that our belief systems inform our behaviours, responses, and opinions.

A great way to  visualise this would be to look at the NLP coaching concept of ‘internal maps’:

Belief Systems: Unleashing the Transformative Power Within

Image credit: evolution training

It is essential to take a closer look at our belief systems because they play a direct role in our well-being and success. Understanding your current belief systems allows you to gain insight into why you think and act the way you do. It is a journey of self-discovery that requires reflection and introspection.

How to start influencing your internal belief systems

To begin this exploration, we can start by identifying our current belief systems and evaluating whether they are healthy and empowering or limiting and self-sabotaging. This process involves examining the beliefs you hold about yourself, others, and the world at large. Are your beliefs serving you positively, encouraging growth, and fostering resilience? Or are they holding you back, reinforcing self-doubt, and creating barriers to progress?

By engaging in honest self-reflection, you can uncover any limiting beliefs that may be hindering your personal and professional growth. These may include beliefs such as “I’m not smart enough,” “I don’t deserve success,” or “I will always fail.” Recognizing these negative patterns is the first step towards transforming them.

Strategies to develop healthy belief systems

Developing healthy belief systems requires conscious effort and intentional rewiring of your thoughts. Here are some strategies to help cultivate positive belief systems and rewrite unhealthy ones:

  1. Awareness: Start by becoming aware of your thoughts and the beliefs that underpin them. Notice any recurring negative patterns or self-limiting beliefs that arise. Likewise, notice the positive ones that are empowering. Take it a step further and write these down on a daily basis. Soon, you’ll inevitably see patterns emerge.
  2. Challenge limiting beliefs: Question the validity and accuracy of your beliefs. Ask yourself if there is evidence to support them or if they are merely based on assumptions or past experiences. Look for reasons to believe that you can overcome them through remembering past battles won and challenges overcome. Use this newfound evidence to replace negative beliefs with empowering ones.
  3. Reframe experiences: When faced with setbacks or challenges, reframe them as opportunities for growth and learning. See them as stepping-stones on your journey rather than insurmountable obstacles. Start to ask yourself power questions like:

    – What is this moment teaching/offering me?
    – What would be a remarkable response to this?
    – What true, underlying value can I use to inform my response to this?

  4. Surround yourself with growth-inducing influence: Seek out positive influences, supportive communities, and mentors who can inspire and reinforce healthy belief systems. Engage in activities that boost your confidence and self-esteem. Remember that asking for help is not a weakness – it is a part of the road to success.
  5. Utilise empowering mantras: Think of the empowering beliefs that you want to instill in your life and use these to create  affirmations, mantras, and visualizations to reinforce positive beliefs. Repeat these life-giving words that align with your desired beliefs and visualize yourself successfully embodying them.
  6. Take inspired action: Desire without action is merely a nice thought. Take intentional steps to act in alignment with your desired belief systems. Challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone, take calculated risks, and embrace opportunities for personal and professional growth, remembering to always keep your core values at the centre of decisions.

Remember, belief systems are not fixed; they can be shaped and transformed, and often they change as our life seasons do. By consciously cultivating healthy belief systems and rewriting unhealthy ones, you unleash the power within you to create the life you truly desire. Embrace the journey of self-discovery, challenge your beliefs, and watch as new possibilities unfold before your eyes. You have the power to shape your reality and manifest your dreams through the transformative force of belief.

Are you ready to create healthy belief systems in your work culture?

Contact us to have a free discovery call and find out how we can help you!

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Are You Adding Value in The Workplace? Here’s 4 Simple Ways to Measure.

Value add, or value creation, is a term that has been around for a long time and a term that I don’t think is going to run out of destiny. The whole concept of business and employment revolves around this concept. We exist to impact in line with a purpose. Anything other than this is just a hobby. In a profit-based organisation we employ you to add more value than you cost the organisation. But can you even measure value in the workplace?  

Changing work environments add to the complexity of this subject.

There is much conversation around ‘work from home’ or ‘work from work.’ I have found some dogmatic advocates for both philosophies. Some shake their heads with annoyance just at the notion that people can be trusted to do good work from home. Whilst others are equally animated in declaring that home is a ‘right,’ and home enables work.   

I’m sure this debate is only at its infant stage and will take on many further twists and turns as technology advances and our world seemingly moves from one crisis to the next.  

I believe that work primarily is not defined by a place but by an experience and an outcome. Sometimes this outcome and experience are place dependent with little room for compromise, but regardless, what matters is what we produce. And this impacts the overall effectiveness of a team, aswell.  This is well captured by author and consultant Tony Schwartz who says…

‘It is not the number of hours that you put into your work that determines your productivity, but rather the value you create during those hours.’

Are You Adding Value in The Workplace? Here’s 4 Simple Ways to Measure.
Can you measure value add in the workplace?

Well, I don’t think it’s an easy ‘push the button’ answer for most professions. But there are appropriate contexts to consider when asking this question. Here’s what I believe are the most important four:

1. We add value when we have intimate knowledge

There is this beautiful scene in the movie ‘Shall We Dance’ where Mrs. Clark puts the womanizing private investigator in his place. She asks him, ‘why do people get married?’ He replies with confidence, with passion. She responds….

‘Nope. Because we need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage you are promising to care about everything, the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all the time, every day. You’re saying your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.”  

Mrs Clark values her relationship with John Clark because he has intimate knowledge of her. He makes the unimportant and mundane, important. We live in a world where knowledge abounds. All we need to do is Google a subject. And this has brought many benefits to us; and yet, there is a limit to public theoretical knowledge. When we find someone who has an intimate knowing and experience of our own dance, we find something priceless. An employee who just ‘gets it,’ who knows the dance of employer, and who knows what matters at a heart level, is more likely to be value adding than the guy who just doesn’t get it.

To demonstrate your value, demonstrate knowledge of the soul of the organisation.
Demonstrate that you are not a clone, but rather a person who empathises and cares not only about the big issues but about the mundane yet important attributes that make an organisation what it is. 

2. We add value when we do what matters

Staying with the movies, lets go to that classic scene from Jerry McGuire where Rod, the professional athlete, passionately says to his agent Jerry, “show me the money.”

In this changeroom scene, Jerry is desperately trying to show Rod how busy he is, but Rod isn’t interested. Only one thing matters to Rod, and that’s the MONEY! I have learnt this simple yet profound insight: busyness is not a sign of effectiveness. All too often we equate the hustle as value, but hustle in the wrong direction is worthless. Value multiplies when you prioritize what truly matters to others.  Seth Godin puts it like this…

“One of my books took more than a year to write, ten hours a day. Another took three weeks. Both sell for the same price. The quicker one outsold the other 20 to 1.

The cost of something is largely irrelevant, people are paying attention to its value.

Your customers don’t care what it took for you to make something. They care about what it does for them.”

Many years ago, as a young manger in big corporate, my boss taught me a valuable lesson that I’ve never forgotten. The lesson was a one liner. I was proposing investment in a project that would cost a couple million South African rand. She wasn’t uninterested, but she had one question. “Mike show me how this will make us sell more OMO.”

I was flabbergasted. My project had nothing to do with OMO washing powder, and yet what she was saying was, ‘we add value when what we do is aligned to what matters to us.’ 

Are You Adding Value in The Workplace? Here’s 4 Simple Ways to Measure.

3. We add value in the workplace when we deliver a trophy

Life is a sum of small and big moments where your breath is taken away. In the movie Hitch, actor Will Smith powerfully says,

“It not how many breaths you take that matter, but rather how many times your breath is taken away.” 

It doesn’t matter what you do or how mundane your job is. All of us have within us the ability to deliver a trophy where success is celebrated and the world changes. Sometimes it’s the creation of a new performance record, and sometimes it’s the idea that transforms something as small yet relevant as the organisations canteen area. 

The question that’s really at stake is, what will you be remembered for?  

All too often, too many people have lived a corporate life of resigned compliance. Never changing or shifting something within the organisation to enable it to be better, more impactful, more connected. Trophies require challenging the status quo with the intention of making things better. 

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin delivered a trophy when they focussed on the value add of search, rather than seeing search as a commodity. In doing so, they changed our lives, and the way we embrace and access information. 

Trophies tend to take us away from status quo, challenging paradigms, moving the world forward. Sometimes they are huge and sometimes they are small. But they all add up to shifting normal and creating some form of movement into ‘better than before.’ 

4. We add value in the workplace when we bring a little bit of magic

All of us are replaceable. There are thousands and thousands of people who can do what you do and probably even more effectively. But when you add a little bit of your own personal magic into what you do, you potentially become indispensable. 

This magic often has nothing to do with the professional skills you bring to your job.  Most often its grounded in character, personality, and subtle shifts of endearment. Author Edith Eger of the bestselling book ‘The Choice’, says,

“Only you can do what you can do the way you can do it.”

Have you ever heard somebody say something like, “I know I can get it cheaper/better, but what (name) brings to us, far out ways cost or outcome.”

Think of the movie Forrest Gump. Would you want Forrest on your team? You could probably name a few reasons why you would not want him – professionalism, etiquette, etc. But then think of the gift he would bring. The gift of no limitations, of innocence, passion, and childlike playfulness. Think of how those qualities transform work and are often priceless. 

“Miracles happen every day. Some people don’t think so, but they do.” 

  • Forrest Gump 

Adding value in the workplace requires that we allow strengths to shine and that we show up with good intent, willing to take the high road. As per Mary Anne Williamson’s words, it requires that we…

“…ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous. Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” 

Value is found in this type of magic, this type of strength. People who show up to impact the world in which they live, positively. 

Are You Adding Value in The Workplace? Here’s 4 Simple Ways to Measure.
So let’s recap. Are you adding value in the workplace? Well…
  1. Do you have intimate knowledge of what matters to those who employ you – their dance – and does this knowledge demonstrate itself? 
  2. Are your actions meaningful? Are in line with what matters to those who employ you? 
  3. Are there trophies in the cabinet that have your name on? Or to put it another way, will people remember what you did, when you are no longer there?
  4. Do you bring a ‘kind magic’ into the workplace? 

The above might not be scientifically measurable, but ask those around you, and you will probably have a better answer than what science can deliver. 

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Why Everyone Needs A Mentor In Their Corner

Why Everyone Needs A Mentor In Their Corner

A mentor is a trusted and experienced advisor who provides guidance, support, and wisdom. This person serves as a role model and shares their knowledge and expertise to help you develop personally and professionally.

When you have a mentor, they’ll help you navigate challenges and opportunities, offering feedback and encouragement, and providing a safe space for you to explore your goals and aspirations.

The relationship between a mentor and mentee is built on mutual respect, trust, and a shared commitment to learning and growth. A mentor is an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to develop their skills, knowledge, and confidence in any area of life.

A Mentor Enables You To Succeed

Richard Branson is a larger-than-life personality, admired by many people in the business world. He is the founder of the iconic Virgin brand, and in South Africa, thousands flock daily to his gyms, and hundreds board his Virgin Atlantic flights to go abroad. How does one become like Richard Branson?

Nelson Mandela is one of the most prominent people of the 20th century. He is admired around the world for the values and leadership he displayed in his fight against apartheid. Stories of Madiba abound in leadership journals, and his name still echoes in the corridors of business and beyond. How does one become like Nelson Mandela?

One of my favourite movies as someone growing up in the 80s was The Karate Kid. This “feel-good” movie tells the story of a teenage boy named Daniel who gets bullied by all the macho boys. The movie ends with the one special attacking kick, where Daniel gets his revenge on the bullies, by becoming somebody and winning the local Karate competition. How does one become like Daniel LaRusso?

Why Everyone Needs A Mentor In Their Corner

What Does A Mentor Really Do For You?

When we examine the lives of people we admire, nestled in their character and habits, we find similar traits. For example, courage. 

Meaning and achievement always have a hard part, where one must push through fear, setbacks, and suffering. Likewise, those we admire tend to demonstrate a willingness for effort. Seldom is anything of value found or achieved, where the person in question does not demonstrate a willingness to push themselves to engage in effortful learning. Hard work most often is the friend of the achiever.

Can you think of anyone you admire who, in some form or another, displayed admirable qualities?

And what traits did the above mentioned mentors have? For The Karate Kid, it’s a bit of a giveaway: 

• Daniel had Mr. Miyagi. The old Japanese master who playfully taught him everything he knew. 

• Richard Branson had David Beavers. A friend of his parents who would meet a young Branson weekly to discuss commerce and entrepreneurship. 

• Nelson Mandela had the Regent. He credits his adopted Father for teaching him all his leadership lessons.

And we could carry on…

• Michael Phelps had Bob Bauman 

• Henry Ford had Thomas Edison

• Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs 

• Bill Gates had Warren Buffet 

• Michael Jordan had Phil Jackson 

• Cheryl Sandberg had Larry Summers

The Principle Is Simple.

To achieve, we need not only to develop virtues like discipline, tenacity, and excellence within ourselves. We also need, and possibly even more importantly, people in our lives who influence us, who share their stories with us.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell powerfully communicates how anyone who achieves phenomenal success does so because of factors like who is in your corner. Think about these two powerful quotes which probably sum up his book.

“The values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are.”

“It’s impossible for someone who has achieved outlier success to look down and say that I did this all by myself. The outliers are products of history, of community, of opportunity, and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky. But all critical to making them who they are.”

The people we surround ourselves with have a profound impact on who we become, and we are products of the community. Invariably, there is a link between a person’s contribution and someone who influenced that person.

Why Everyone Needs A Mentor In Their Corner

The Impact Of Mentors Can Be Life changing

A landmark experiment began on the Island of Kauai in 1955, tracking the development of the 698 children born on the island that year until the age of 40. Over a third of the children were born into poverty or faced family discord, and two thirds developed learning disabilities and other behavioural problems. 

However, the research paid careful attention to one third of the group who grew up to be confident, competent, and caring despite these challenges. What accounted for their resilience? Genetics played a role, but social support made the difference. 

Children who were able to bond with a mature, nurturing, emotionally stable caregiver had an advantage, whether it was a parent, substitute parent, older sibling, grandparent, aunt, or uncle. As they got older, these children learned to rely on trusted community relationships such as teachers, pastors, neighbors, church members, or the parents of their friends. They recruited helpful adults outside of their own family. (Source: Vivek Murthy) 

It’s fascinating that these children only needed one person to show them love and care, becoming their mentor. 

A mentor is someone who shares their story, path, and most importantly, demonstrates care and connection.

In a world with so much knowledge, what we often need is someone who can make that knowledge practical and who is a living witness of what is possible.

The world can be a scary place. And perhaps what we need most is to receive and give stories of hope and practice. We should never walk alone.

Who do you need to invite into your corner, and whose corner should you be in?

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Why character is important in life and how you can reshape it

Why character is important in life and how you can reshape it

Why character is important

“That’s just who I am; I can’t change.” How often have you heard someone speak these words? And how often have you uttered them for yourself? Character and personality can often be confused with each other. Whilst personality is fairly embedded in us, character is influenced by a variety of factors and can, indeed, be reshaped. This can influence so many areas of our life it’s hard to comprehend – By tapping into character development, we can tap into our natural strengths and unlock potential. That’s why character is so important and needs to be evaluated. 

What is personality?

Before we dive into the influences of character, let’s get clear on what personality is. Personality is the mix of nature and nurture.

This means that it’s made up of what you’re born with: such as your temperaments like energy levels, adaption to change, and emotional responsiveness and curiosity.

But according to the personality models referred to by Psych Central, it’s also influenced by your environment. They go on to explain this saying, “the foundation of your personality is your biology. Your experiences and environment help you develop other aspects of your personality from that point on.”

As you read this, you might be feeling a hint of despair; you may have come to this blog, seeking for hope that a certain habit or default trait of yours can be rewired. Don’t lose hope just yet – personality only plays one role in our total responses and behaviour towards the world. 

What is Character?

Why character is important

Character is the values, ethics, and behavioural approach you apply within your personality. It’s built through time, experiences, and how we choose to respond to given circumstances.  It can therefore be established through these experiences. This means that displaying good character is something we can learn. 

Our personality will always effect our character, however. For example, if a character trait of yours is a firm belief in workers equality, your personality would impact the nature in which you take action. So, you might act in a quiet manner by writing an anonymous letter to your boss or signing petitions. Or, you might take action by speaking out publicly or starting initiatives.

But here’s why character is so important: it is influenced by far more than just your personality. There is a concoction of factors that shape our character and inevitably, shape us.

Yes, Character Can Be Changed

In some ways, character is a fruit of other deeply rooted aspects. you see powerful reflections or blind spots of our character when you face adversity. You may find yourself act in a way that disregards your deeper morals, therefore revealing a blind spot where perhaps a habit has created a default response.

Character is also what you consistently do, and therefore character is how you show up on good days as well. To judge a person purely on their low days can be a mistake. We all have those moments when life has been adverse, and we haven’t handled it as well as we could’ve. To reduce a person’s character to those moments can be unfair, and a mistake. Who of us wants to be judged by those moments alone?  

Siya Kolisi gives a good example of the importance of character. In his book Rise, he says, “I had too much fame and money before I had the character to handle them.” A great perspective of character is to think of it as your watch dog, observing the many trappings and temptations of life. But it needs to be developed in, and through, the process of life.

The Factors That Influence Your Character

“Watch your thoughts for they become your words. Watch your words for they become your actions. Watch your actions for they become your habits. Watch your habits for they become your character and watch your character for it becomes your destiny.” ~ Lao Tzu

This quote highlights that character is an outcome of how you think and how you behave. So, to change character requires a change in thought, words, and habits. This quote offers a nice way to dissect the factors that influence our character.

Why character is important

Thoughts and words

We become what we think. When your thoughts percolate for long enough, you begin speaking them out loud. And words have power – they tend to reaffirm our internal beliefs. If you find yourself feeding the thought that you are unworthy, your default stance will be from that space and you might miss the many signs of love and appreciation people offer to you.

If you want to change your internal beliefs, take control over your thoughts and words. Start to intentionally combat negative thoughts with empowering truths that breathe life into your mind. Use words to materialize these things and search for the evidence of this truth in your daily experiences.

Actions

“Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits.” This fantastic quote from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, reveals just how powerful tiny changes can be in our lives. Our actions become our habits – but if we change our habits, they influence our actions. For example, let’s say a characteristic of yours is that you greatly taking care of your health. But your actions and habits have completely abolished your sense of wellbeing. Create habits that encourage healthy actions; make sure your healthy snacks are placed in a visible space, that you carry a water bottle with you, and you remove the temptation to eat sweets by simply not buying them. Do this for long enough, and our healthy actions will form healthy habits.

Habits

“Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits.” This fantastic quote from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, reveals just how powerful tiny changes can be in our lives. Our actions become our habits – but if we change our habits, they influence our actions. For example, let’s say a characteristic of yours is that you greatly taking care of your health. But your actions and habits have completely abolished your sense of wellbeing. Create habits that encourage healthy actions; make sure your healthy snacks are placed in a visible space, that you carry a water bottle with you, and you remove the temptation to eat sweets by simply not buying them. Do this for long enough, and our healthy actions will form healthy habits.

Develop Your Own Character

Now you know that you have more in your hands than you may thought you did. What can we do with that knowledge? We can take action, investing in the type of character we want to create and inevitably the type of life we want.

In Give And Take, Adam Grant talks about 3 reciprocity styles. He doesn’t use the term character, but it definitely relates to the importance of character. And in some ways a type of character that we so need in our world today is the style he calls a ‘giver.’

Character is important enough for us to spend intentional time developing it. Not only does it improve our work life, but our personal life too. Take a minute to define the type of character you most want. Then, ask questions that support this development, such as “what habits and mindsets are aligned with such a character? Create a description of the behaviours that would be useful in your character development, ultimately asking the powerful question, “who is the person I want to be? How do I want to show up?”  

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We Wear the Same T-shirt: Why You Need to Cultivate Trust in Your Team

We Wear the Same T-shirt: Why You Need to Cultivate Trust in Your Team

The biggest predictor of sustained achievement in the workplace is the level of engagement your team has. Control leads to compliance, but engagement leads to the unearthing of potential. It energizes a path of mastery. To discover how to create an engaged team, we first
need to explore why trust matters in your team.

Connection Impacts Trust in Your Team

Research highlights that there are a couple of prominent elements, or levers, that create engaged staff. These are intuitive, and none of them is surprising. Simply ask yourself the question, ‘when do I feel totally absorbed in what I am doing?’ and chances are you’ll name
one of these prominent levers. Engagement is most often a function of…

    • Meaning or purpose: What I do connects me to something important to me and possibly greater than me.
    • Growth and development: What I do stretches me appropriately (we call this manageable difficulty), causing motion in developing skills or gaining experience.
    • Feedback: I see the link between my effort and reward, where the reward is not necessarily monetary. My hard work shifts things in a visible, desirable, and focused direction.
    • Connection: I feel part of something, and my sense of belonging is grounded in trust.
We Wear the Same T-shirt: Why You Need to Cultivate Trust in Your Team

If you follow us on social media, you’d see that much of the content we’ve been putting out lately has been focusing on the last lever – connection. Simply put, connection cannot be overstated in the workplace. Connection is what enables you to navigate difficult and
changing environments, and it greatly impacts how much to trust in your team.  

How Connection And Trust Are Interconnected

Connection protects us from discontent. As per the Grant Studies, a comprehensive research project by Harvard, connection keeps people happy throughout their lives. When people are disconnected in the workplace, their ‘defence system’ is on high alert, disabling them from
doing their best work. Instead of focusing on external opportunities, the focus becomes an internal threat, characterized by acts of self-protection. 

In Siya Kolisi’s book Rise, he expresses the initial awkwardness he felt when he was first contracted to the provincial rugby team, the Stormers. The world he found himself in was unknown and foreign. The changes were so extreme that it was loaded with overwhelm and
confusion. 

How do you survive when the ground beneath you is liquid? The answer is simple: you need a friend. Siya describes the impact of simply having another by his side, and the power another brings to navigating change. Also new to the Stormers was Scarra Ntubeni. Scarra
found himself in a similar position to Siya. Journeying the uncertainty and change with a companion multiplied their resilience and strength. It highlights how resilience within change often depends on whether people within the organisation have friends who can walk along their side through the storm.

Social Science Proves the Importance Of Trust

I was fascinated by an experiment I discovered in Adam Grant’s book Give and Take. Perhaps my fascination antennae were heightened by the fact that I am a Manchester United supporter. Yes, I know, some of you want to stop reading this blog. But please stay with me. 
The researchers conducting this experiment wanted to see what impact a ‘common tribe’ has on kindness. Psychologists in the United Kingdom recruited Manchester United fans for this experiment. 

The group had a tour of Old Trafford (the home ground of Manchester United) and then walked to another building outside the ground. Whilst walking, a runner would trip whilst passing them and writhe in pain, clutching his ankle. For some groups, the runner wore a Manchester United T-shirt. For some, a plain T-shirt. And for others, he’d wear a Liverpool T-shirt. What do you think happened? Let’s hold our breath on that one for a while.

Factors That Impact Trust in Your Team

Many years ago, a dear friend of mine introduced me to a concept called ‘trust builders, and trust breakers.’ Ever since then, I have constantly used this concept in workshops. The basic notion is that each of us has certain expectations of others. When people meet those expectations, trust is built. When the expectations are compromised or not met, trust diminishes. 

For example, if I expect people to greet me by my first name, smile, and be interested in how I am doing, then they would build my trust every time they do that. Another example would be time. For some people, this is a big trust builder. To this person, when they say “let’s meet
at 15h00,” they mean it. Arriving at 15h05 is trust-breaking behaviour. Do this often enough, trust is broken. 

Most of us expect that if you wear the same T-shirt as me, you have my back, and I have yours. The same T-shirt brings an expectation of trust-building behaviour. The results from the Manchester United T-shirt experiment are as follows:

We Wear the Same T-shirt: Why You Need to Cultivate Trust in Your Team

The Result Of The Manchester United Social Science Experiment?

When the runner was wearing a Man U T-shirt, 92% of people helped. They engaged in trust-building around their common identity. When the person wore a plain T-shirt, the help decreased to 33%. When it was a Liverpool T-shirt, it dropped again – to 30%. The results
show a significant principle in the human psyche – people who wear the same T-shirt support each other. 

What was interesting about this experiment was the modified version they conducted. During the tour, these groups were primed around the benefits of football and what they had in common with all football fans. In this instance, the falling Liverpool T-shirt runner received
support 70% of the time. Now the commonality was not a local club, but the tribe of football.

How This Experiment Relates to Your Organisation

If we are a part of the same organisation, what are the implicit expectations most people would have of each other? That’s a good question worthy of much pondering. If you wear the T-shirt of an organisation called XYZ, would you naturally expect someone else who wears
the same T-shirt as you? The answer is YES. Because you trust your team, there would be an expectation that if you fall they have your back. And there would be an expectation that your team doesn’t do things that hurt this organisation. For the football fans out there, have you
noticed how fans can get pretty upset about owners who are perceived to be engaging in activity that threatens the name, status, and potential of the club?

5 Simple Expectations Most People Have In An Organisation, Because They ‘Wear the Same Shirt'

    1. Don’t talk behind my back. Don’t gossip. We ‘wear the same T-shirt’, which should permit us to talk to each other about any concerns between us.  
    2. I have a voice and my voice needs deserve equality with yours. You wouldn’t shut my voice down – I’m on your team.
    3. Fairness. don’t treat some people as more important than others. We all occupy a seat on the same side of the stands.
    4. Don’t lie to me. After all, we are ‘family.’ Be open, and be transparent, even when the news is tough.
    5. Respect. The fact that we wear the same shirt should allow us to have levels of accountability towards our common purpose, demonstrated and guided by our culture.

When you recognise that an organisation invites people to share a common T-shirt, you meet one of the deepest needs in people: to belong. This belonging leads to protection, kindness, and a desire for each other to thrive and live to their potential. The visible T-shirt enables
people to show up and thrive. When the opposite happens, you wear the same T-shirt but don’t show care. This disables good work and causes us to go backwards and can even become frenemies.

We Wear the Same T-shirt: Why You Need to Cultivate Trust in Your Team

What’s A Frenemy And What Does It Have to Do with Building Trust in Your Team?

Do you have people in your life that are sometimes for you, and sometimes against you? In other words, they are inconsistent. When you’re with them, they sometimes praise you. But another time they might embarrass you, reject you, or are harmful to you. This results in you
feeling threatened because you don’t know how they’re going to show up.  The research shows that we are more comfortable with enemies than with frenemies. With an enemy, you know what to expect, and you don’t expect help. But with a frenemy, you are uncertain. Therefore your defence system is heightened. 

When you gossip in the workplace, you create uncertainty. Gossip in the workplace is a frenemy characteristic, and it confuses. We are wearing the same shirt, but we are doing misaligned behaviours that create threats and lower engagement. That is why culture in an

organisation is so important. It defines expectations based on our commonality. Good culture recognises expectations and how dangerous frenemies can be. Remember a frenemy is someone that wears the same T-shirt but demonstrates trust-breaking behaviours.

Trust Is Built When You Feel You Belong

So, let’s sum this all up. Do we want engaged people? Yes, we do. Without engagement, we don’t thrive. What creates engagement? People who wear the same T-shirt live into what that means. When we wear the same T-shirt but our behaviours do not foster trust, we curse
ourselves into mediocrity. 

We violate the fundamental principle that we need to belong. And belonging means we are cared for. In your organisation, make it clear to your people what wearing the T-shirt means, and get tough on discrepancies like gossip, disrespect, dishonesty, and other behaviours that
break the fibre of the T-shirt.

We Wear the Same T-shirt: Why You Need to Cultivate Trust in Your Team
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How To Reflect On The Year Right – A Gift Worth Giving Yourself

How To Reflect On The Year Right - A Gift Worth Giving Yourself

As we approach the last stretch of 2022, we usually start to reflect on the year and ask the ‘quality’ question: was this a good year?

The year certainly was one that felt existentially brutal – chaos and disruption were the background music to our world. Some good news within it, however, was the somewhat sudden and mysterious irrelevance of COVID. No more masks. Life went back to a more familiar rhythm of pre-2020. What a relief. And within this continually changing dynamic, I find myself contemplating whether this is a year to remember. Outside of wars, petrol prices and changing global weather patterns, can I measure it by growth, wisdom and meaning? As I leave this year am I wiser, have I found meaning, and is the world better, because I lived?

Answering questions like these are helpful. You want your presence to contribute to forward motion, where you can look back and see your life portraying some form of positive progression.

Creating Growth Through Self-Reflection

How To Reflect On The Year Right - A Gift Worth Giving Yourself. reflect on the year

There is no greater contributor to helplessness and hopelessness than being stuck. Hope is the fruit of forward movement. The second focus of this blog is the invitation to pause and ponder. But even more so than this, is my primary invitation: self-compassion as you reflect on the year.

‘When we trash ourselves, we don’t find the motivation to change.’

These words come from South African-born author and psychologist Susan David. They remind us that in our reflection, we need to adopt a stance that enables healthy digestion of our experience that supports motion.

Contemplation and mindfulness towards your year are powerful tools when embraced from a from a place of self-care. When it isn’t, your insights can become tangled in webs of “should haves” and “could haves” that make you feel berated and small.

Reflection must be honest and kind. It should energise you towards using the opportunities in your hand. It must move you towards a growth mindset, where you can say, as Nelson Mandela did, ‘I never lose. I either win or learn.’ So how do you reflect on the year in a way that does this?

Adopting the Right Mindset Towards Reflecting on the Year

How To Reflect On The Year Right - A Gift Worth Giving Yourself. reflect on the year

By nature, I can be quite hard on myself and I know I’m not alone. Neuroscience seems to demonstrate that we have a greater capacity to remember what went wrong versus what went right. Failure and uncomfortable events stick like Velcro in your consciousness, even if you’re naturally positive.

For example, someone might share 9 points on how well you did something, and rave about your success. But what do you most remember when you lie in bed that night? The 10 th point, which was the only so-called negative feedback. The feedback that highlights where there is room for growth and opportunity to step up.

All too often, we believe our work must be perfect. And when it’s not, there is this underlying voice of failure. The review of your year must come from the premise that ‘dirt is good.’ That perfection is not the name of the game, and that meaning and progress exist because there are opportunities for growth.

‘There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets through.’
– Musician, Leonard Cohen

As you ponder and reflect on the year, there are 3 typical postures that you might adopt. Each of these postures is necessary, but two of them need to be kept in their place.

The Place for Shame and Regret

How To Reflect On The Year Right - A Gift Worth Giving Yourself. reflect on the year

Chances are, 2022 was filled with missed opportunities. There were probably some responses and choices that were not part of the plan. When your mindset is focused on shame and regret, you berate yourself for these choices and missed opportunities. There is the temptation to say, ‘don’t go down this path – be positive, and eliminate shame.’ But that is not necessarily useful advice either. Imagine living in a world of no shame and no regrets. It would be a highly destructive world. This point is beautifully captured in the writings of Martha Stout. She says,

“Imagine — if you can — not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of
guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the
well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no
struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind
of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken … You can do
anything at all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people,
who are kept in line by their consciences, will most likely remain
undiscovered. How will you live your life? What will you do with your huge and
secret advantage.”

We want politicians to feel shame for their corruption and selfish choices of power. And all too often we watch on as they choose to deny and defend that which should bring shame. Without shame and these so-called negative emotions, we cannot move forward. But the shame is only useful when it’s put in place.

It isn’t helpful when we let it linger and become like rainy weather that just keeps pouring. Instead, it needs to be like the South African highveld thunderstorm: short and powerful, followed by light and clarity. To live is to accumulate regret, disappointment and “should haves”. These need to make us stronger and wiser, not depressed. There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets through.

The Place for Ego

How To Reflect On The Year Right - A Gift Worth Giving Yourself. reflect on the year

Hdealthy self-esteem is essential for navigating life well. Self-esteem focuses on building a healthy identity, where you know who you are, what your core values are, and what you stand for. A solid baseline of self-esteem is critical when you self-reflect.

When you reflect on the year from an ego posture, you consider how well you achieved, and how you have lived into your values. You can ask how you differentiated yourself, how you progressed, and how you have strengthened my authentic self.

This posture is so necessary. And yet, as you read the words above you might pick up on the shadow of this stance. Too much self-focus or ego can lead you down a path of narcissism, selfishness, and even hatred. In his book Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr says,

“The ego is the habit of seeing ourselves over and against someone else. To
my ego, my wealth, my intelligence, my moral goodness, and my social class
are what they are only in contrast to the person next to me.”

The Tibetan word for identity means “to hold onto oneself as a fixed personality”. This fixed identity can make you feel superior and in control, where you seek to bolster and elevate yourself above others. A strong sense of identity is good; provided it’s not used to elevate yourself above others and restrict growth.

Too much emphasis on self-esteem can cause you to reflect on the year based on other people’s years. And the moment you compare, you tend to move into despair. When you’ve set out to prove yourself, it can become hollow. Here, you’ll never feel good enough. And the only way to feel good is to consider how you are at least better than the next guy.

Many years ago, I got caught in a late-night traffic jam as I headed home along the highway from Durban city. The DJ on the radio highlighted that there was an oil spill about 5km from where I was. His advice was, “avoid the N3.” Too late for me. For the next two hours, the traffic hardly moved. But when it did, my focus was on the blue Toyota next to me. Success was measured by whether I was in front or behind him. Sometimes, with despair, I would note how his lane enabled him to be a few cars ahead of me. And I would delight when the movement in my lane allowed me to pass him. Rather pitiful, isn’t it? The reality was that none of us were getting home quickly. Comparing myself to him was a shallow objective.

A Place for Self-Compassion

This is the most powerful and most needed of all the postures. When you move into self-compassion you take responsibility for your year, normalising both the successes and ‘failures’. To normalise these means you see the ups and downs, the highs, and the lows, as part of being human.

In his book The Power of Regret, Dan Pink says that “to live is to accumulate regret.” And Susan David, says, “The only people who don’t feel hurt, angered, embarrassed, fearful, or anxious are dead.”

To be human is to love, doubt, fail, succeed, cry, rejoice, fear, conquer, persevere, quit, sleep, exert ourselves, say no, and say yes. All of these and many more are part of our year. To live well includes a blend of so-called positive and negative experiences. To find grace in all of these empowers us to learn and grow. Self-compassion leads us to ‘speak to ourselves, in a way that we would speak to someone we love.’ It doesn’t dismiss the error but rather seeks to rise from misgivings. Self-compassion is what we need above all else as we reflect.

So, as you reflect on the year and all it has been, be easy on yourself. Allow this grace to propel a strong stance into 2023.

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Bounce back from failure with these 5 reliable practices

It is an all-consuming feeling: You’ve mustered up hope, confidence, and everything within you to take a leap and try something great. But you fell short. You failed. Your heart has dropped into your stomach and left you with an overwhelming sense of shame, disappointment, frustration, and defeat. Can there ever be a way to bounce back from failure? It might not feel like it right now, but the answer is YES, of course, there is.

Facing The Fear of Failure

bounce back from failure

Let’s put our bravado aside for a second, so we can be honest. It’s okay to fail – we’ve all done it. And yet, the social stigma of failure is so sticky, it seems impossible to shake off. Success is so highly praised, and others often don’t see the hard work and misses that happened to get there. And so, we applaud the success, and pull shade over the failures.

But this has come with a danger. It’s taught us to believe we must achieve without falling. And yet, we know that failure is found on the road to success. We know that we cannot achieve until we’ve learnt how to bounce back from failure.

Eloise Ristad is a talented author who so powerfully said,

“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.”

It is important you face your shortfalls head-on. And when you do look them in the eyes, you will find an undiscovered treasure waiting for you.

Own It And Find Meaning

Susan Howatch is another incredible author. In her book Absolute Truths, she makes a showstopping statement:

“In the end, every major disaster, every tiny error, every wrong turning, all the blood, sweat, and tears, everything has meaning. I reuse, reshape, recast what goes wrong.”

I understand that sometimes, it can take an extensive amount of refining, reshaping, and reusing in order to find meaning. But it’s in there. Often time is needed to unveil it.

Where to start? Kick it off with some good power questions:

  • What went well?
  • What didn’t go well?
  • Is there something I need to do differently next time?
  • What do I need to take ownership of?
  • Do I need to let go of something?
  • Am I telling myself untruths?
  • What unexpected positive came of this?

It’s important to move past shame as quickly as you can. Nothing good comes from staying in that ditch. Brene Brown is a professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host who has done an extensive amount of research on the negative repercussions of shame. In fact, if there were anyone I’d want to hear from on this subject, it would be her. Here’s what she has to say on the matter:

“We desperately don’t want to experience shame, and we’re not willing to talk about it. Yet the only way to resolve shame is to talk about it. Maybe we’re afraid of topics like love and shame. Most of us like safety, certainty, and clarity. Shame and love are grounded in vulnerability and tenderness.”

Take ownership of your feelings and actions. Face them, embrace them, sit with them for a bit, and then move through them. This is the first step to bouncing back from failure.

bounce back from failure

Dig into Your Support Structure

Talk to trusted advisors, gain insight, reflect, be vulnerable, and gain perspective. As soon as you start to become vulnerable, you’ll see that you’re not alone. That colleague who appears so well put together has faced a number of failures. So has your CEO, friend, and family member.

Sometimes you may find that a mentor is your biggest asset for moving forward. If
this is the case, be sure to choose them wisely and be transparent about what you’re

asking them to do for you. Demonstrate your seriousness to work hard and take their advice to heart, so that the mentor knows you’re not wasting their time.

You might say something like, “I deeply value your insight and opinion and the road you’ve walked inspires me. I feel like the best thing for me to do right now, is to find a mentor to help me learn and progress and bounce back from this failure. Would you be open to becoming my mentor?”

Reconnect to Your Unique Path

Remember that great childrens movie called Spirit, about the wild stallion who was captured? In this movie, they tried everything to break the stallion in and make him forget his wild, roaming roots. But the horse refuses, holding sternly onto his free spirit and eventually making it back to the place he belongs. His purpose is what drives him, far beyond the challenges that come his way.

When you connect to your unique path, comparison fades away, and your purpose takes centre stage. Now, it’s as if you’ve guided your vision to focus on that which matters most. Your unique path.

When you’ve been shaken and need to bounce back from failure, you’ll need to reflect on your path and make sure you aren’t wandering from it. Looking back on what’s happened and forward to your purpose, remind yourself why you’re doing this in the first place. Does it feel like your actions are aligned to this purpose? Does it still feel worthwhile to try again?

What if the answer to these questions is NO? what if you need to call it quits on this specific venture, and raise the white flag? It’s important to know when to persist, and when to quit …both are equally as powerful. If you choose to persist, spend time clarifying the specific behaviours, actions, attitudes or principles that have not been helpful and need shifting. Then focus on these. If you decide it’s time to put down the sword and surrender, it’s important to move through the process and make sure you use everything, so it has meaning. And remember, just because this venture ended, doesn’t mean you can’t start another.

What's The Next Best Step?

After brewing and moving through your initial emotions, it’s important not to get stuck. You need to take a step and make a start, no matter how small.

You’ve taken the time to process your initial emotions. You’ve invited people in to support you, and you’ve pondered on whether what you’re trying to achieve is authentic to your values. Now, you need to ask, “what’s the next best step?” We’re not looking for giant leaps and bounds. Just for the next foot forward. The power of making a start is that it triggers forward motion. Once you’ve taken that step, just focus on the next one. Before you know it, you’ll be flying.

bounce back from failure

Know The Hard Part

After facing failure, you’re likely more prepared for the hard part now than you were before. It’s important to know what the hard part is because anything with great meaning has one. By knowing the hard part, you empower yourself. You place the decision in your hand as to whether it’s worth enduring or turning around.

You know failure has happened, and it’s bound to happen again. So, don’t be surprised when it does! Instead, use your experience to inform what approach you need to take. And use every failure, big or small, to shine light on your next action. When we know that failure is eminent, that it’s not a bad thing, and that hard parts are to come, we have given ourselves a better chance of success in the long run.

Here are the 5 steps you can take to bounce back from failure

  • Take ownership and find meaning
  • Dig into your support structure
  • Reconnect with your unique path and purpose
  • Clarify the next best step
  • Know the hard part. Don’t be surprised by it

And remember, shift happens...eventually

Nothing lasts forever. The storm will eventually pass. And if you or your team are struggling to bounce back from failure, you don’t need to walk this path alone. You can let CAFE Life be your experienced guide and mentor in moving you through change management, team effectiveness, and creating a thriving work culture.

Remember your unique path and authenticity through all of this. What value are you adding to the world by doing this? What is your purpose driven goal? Whenever you feel shaken, simply return to this, reminding yourself of your reasons to believe, and your unique path. There is no shame in failure. If you failed in trying to do something great, it represents a bravery far beyond those who never tried anything at all.

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To say winners never quit is WRONG…instead, they know when and how to do it.

The saying “winners never quit” has been thrown around with much weight and certainty. I have heard that line so often, and it’s hardly ever argued. Instead, it’s asserted.

This saying is often seen as an absolute truth, with no room for doubt or question. I have had people in workshops become quite defensive when the suggestion of quitting is made. Well-considered individuals, with sternness and confidence state that they don’t have a ‘quitting bone’ in their body. Come ‘hell or high water’ they push through. This badge of honour is proclaimed as the cornerstone of their success and cultural heritage and often reasserted by the leaders in our workplaces.

But is it true that winners never quit?

Grit is a wonderful quality. Without grit we fail to achieve anything of worth, because facing hardships and overcoming them is a necessity within that pursuit.

Grit comes from passion. Seeing passion demonstrated invariably inspires. Joseph Campbell articulates this beautifully when he says,

‘Passion will move men beyond themselves, beyond their shortcomings, beyond their failures.’

We want passion. We need passion. Without it, the world wouldn’t move forward. But can there be too much passion? Is it possible that unbridled passion can lead us away from wholeheartedness? The answer is a clear YES, and I’m sure you’re probably nodding in agreement with me right now. 

And yet, “succeed at all costs” runs deep within the bones of organizational systems. And whilst most the time we need to be cheerleaders of tenacity and determination, sometimes you need to know when to quit. Sometimes, the best answer is not to persist. Quitting is underrated. To believe winners never quit is wrong. You can learn how to lose like a winner, too.

What are good reasons to quit something?

To say winners never quit is WRONG...instead, they know when and how to do it

I wonder how much regret people have today, that would not exist, if the option of stopping, or changing direction, was considered more carefully. Have you ever been in a hole, and your passion for continuance, just made it deeper? If you are in a hole…stop digging. Because in the end, the prize for grit and determination is shallow if the outcome is not positive.

The escalation of commitment ” is a term used to describe our stubborn actions to keep seeking focused achievement, even when the signs are showing we should stop or reconsider. The drive to continue often comes because we have already invested so much into getting a given outcome – this is commonly known as “sunk costs”. Coupled with pride and the desire to protect our reputation, we, like the fiery bull terroir, bite down and don’t let go. And so, the hole gets bigger.

Famed Norwegian explored, Amundsen, was the first man to reach the South Pole. He believed that bad luck is often the result of insufficient preparation, and famously said,

“When conditions are not right, it is better to turn back rather than rely on hope and luck.”

We live in a world where our reason for doing anything is to get somewhere or achieve something. This is certainly the western mindset. This obsession about outcome can dim our attentiveness to what is here now and to our purpose. We focus so much on the result that we miss the process.

When we are mindful of the process, we begin to find subtleties that are missed when all the attention is on outcome alone. When this focus is shifted, suddenly we notice our environment more. Suddenly, our perspective is opened and might even lead us to a bold awareness: that more often than not, our perceptions are wrong.

Consider this most amazing thinking by author Seth Godin:

“Which is better: Feeling like you were right the first time or actually being correct now? When we double down on our original estimate, defend our sunk costs and rally behind the home team, we’re doing this because it’s satisfying to feel as though we were right all along. On the other hand, if the outcome is important and we’re brave enough to learn, we can say, “based on when we know now, we should change course, because the other path is actually a better way to go forward.”

More often than not, there are moments when we’re wrong. We can either acknowledge that we were wrong yesterday, or we can curse ourselves by choosing to be wrong going forward. Flexibility in the face of change is where resilience comes from.

Some have said that the willingness to change our minds is a sign of genius. And often, changing your mind is more difficult than holding onto your first thoughts or ideas. To thoughtfully change your mind you need a willingness to consider other information and changing events. It’s far easier to simply hold your course and ignore what’s going on around you. To deny and become attached to your way of thinking. Mental agility is the willingness to embrace context and to refuse prefabricated solutions and methods. 

When to quit and how to lose like a winner?

When do we quit and when do we grit? This is not always easy to answer, and this is where the BIG word wisdom comes in. Here’s some questions you can ask to gain some: 

  1. A pattern of quitting is telling you something.
    When quitting is a default, you need to add more grit. You might also need to carefully consider what you commit too. A history of quitting lowers your confidence and leads to quitting getting a bad name. If you find yourself in a downward spiral of quitting, begin to set small, short-term goals that stoke the hunger for achievement and completion. As human beings we need to experience the feeling of getting trophies. No trophies in the cabinet will bring us down.

2. Your reasons for quitting should come from quality questions like…

  • Has achieving this goal become less important or relevant to you?
    Sometimes, what you are chasing becomes less relevant, due to changing circumstances. For example, good corporate strategy is often founded on a set of assumptions. But sometimes, we discover that those assumptions are wrong. To persist with the strategy, would now be costly or even detrimental. Polaroid went bankrupt, because they refused to quit the strategy on instant photography, within an emerging digital world.                                                                                                                                                                           
  • Does my pursuit of this achievement conflict with my most important values?
    Sometimes you embark on a journey, only to discover that it jeopardizes the values that you hold most dear. Here, achievement will be hollow, and probably accompanied with regret. Our values are great sources of clarity and act as a sturdy guide for what we must say no to – even if the journey’s already begun.
  • Are you confident that you can win? 
    The act of doing should create insight. Insight should influence your decision making. There are times where you must journey for a while before reaching the stop sign. For example, take a hiker who embarks on a strenuous journey. At the start she believed that she could do the journey. But as time goes on, she realizes that she was possibly over ambitious about it. In the movie Everest, we hear the tragic true story of a climber who would not quit, and whose actions caused not only the loss of his life, but others as well.                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • How much of what you’re doing is about looking good?
    We all need a baseline of ego. But too much ego can cause you to follow a path that is destructive. Questions like, ‘why I am doing this’ and ‘who am I doing this for’ need to be pondered. American president Lyndon Johnstone had enough evidence that the Viet Nam war was unwinnable. Yet he kept sending soldiers to their death, refusing to become the first American President to lose a war. 
  • Where is the joy?
    Whilst we all know there are things that we do based on levels of duty, a life wholly dutiful leads you to despair. Desire is the engine that fuels success and achievement. And although there are many ways we can reignite the fun and joy, sometimes seasons end, and you need to let them go. They have lost their joy. Loyalty is a great virtue, but some things you are loyal to, may be the very things that stop you from moving into new and wonderful places. Some people refuse to quit their job, even though they hate it, and other options exist. The absence of joy is informative. Sometimes it calls for us to transform, and sometimes it calls for us to know when to quit.                                                   

    Finally, the absence of a quit resume might be an indication of compliance and resignation. Adam Grant powerfully says,

‘The more you value achievement the more you come to dread failure. Instead of aiming for unique accomplishments, the intense desire to succeed leads us to strive for guaranteed success.

Still think winners never quit? It’s clear to see that outstanding achievement is always couched within an array of failed ventures. If two out of ten dreams come true, the failed 8 efforts you chose to drop are probably worth it. When we refuse to quit, we just might live into that prophecy by refusing to do anything that might test that resolve. It would be better to allow a venture to fail and leave when you need to so that you can gain insight and set your next journey toward success.

May you add to your hand the freedom of choosing to PERSIST, PIVOT, or QUIT. Each of these have their place.

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The Real Reason It’s Important to Manage Expectations In Life And At Work

Expectations are a dicey subject. There have been expansive debates over how healthy they
are for relationships, workload, and personal well-being. And then, I had an experience that
really got me thinking about why it’s important to manage expectations.

It’s 7 pm in London. Two young women in evening dresses and high heels are running down
the road trying to flag down a taxi. 

 Ever since we were little, my older sister and I dreamt of watching the Broadway show
Wicked. We would sit in front of YouTube singing “Defying Gravity” at the top of our lungs,
word for word. Thanks to a well-due visit of mine to the UK, this dream was coming true for
us. Only it was not quite in the way we’d imagined.

Trains were delayed. Taking the bus would double the time it took to get to the theatre. We
were starting to worry that we could miss our show…and so, there we are, racing through
London’s streets, hailing down a cab. By this time, it had become evident that we’d be late,
and they could very well close the doors, which might mean we’d miss our show. This
possibility was dawning on us quickly. “No way,” I thought to myself, “We won’t miss it.
We just can’t.” To me, the idea of not making it on time wasn’t an option. 
 
 My sister shows me the time on her phone. 5 minutes before the doors close. “Can you just
stop here?” I ask the driver, seeing the traffic ahead and knowing that the theatre was just
down the next road. And so, we get out and start running again. Hairdos had come undone,
lipstick rubbed off, and all sense of elegance we had thoughtfully applied was thrown out the
window.

We were too late. Holding back tears, we nodded while listening to the security as they
kindly explained their latecomer’s policy meant we’d miss 25 minutes of the show. 

Once we made it to our seats, we had a wonderful time. But the whole experience somehow
felt tainted. This dream that finally came true was tarnished by tears and disappointment. It
wasn’t the fairy tale we’d imagined. This reality felt really sad to me, but it was nothing I
could change. The experience would forever be a disappointment…unless I let go of my pre-
set expectation.

 But how do you do that? And what does it take to manage expectations?

Expectations vs Standards

Although they can cross lines, these are not the same thing. A standard is what someone sees
as an acceptable level of quality. These are usually fairly personal, although they are also
commonly influenced by society. 
We often use standards to base our judgment of quality on one thing in comparison to
another. For example, if “good coffee” is to me only coffee that meets the standard of my

favourite coffee from down the road, I’ll use this to base my opinion on all other coffees I
taste to decide whether it’s good or not.

Expectations are slightly different. An expectation is what we believe, or expect, will
happen. For example, I might expect my cappuccino to taste as delicious as it always does.
But as I sip it, I’m met with heavy disappointment. The coffee is too weak, and it’s cold; not
what I expect from the place I set my standards against. It didn’t live up to my preset,
imagined experience.

Someone might argue that expectations and standards are tied and that standards inform our expectations. Whether or not it’s true, I think we can agree they are different in nature.

Expectations vs Reality

The Real Reason It's Important To Manage Expectations In Life And At Work

Because expectations are a reasonably firm belief that something will go the way we’ve
imagined, they can bring great disappointment when they aren’t met.

But here’s the catch. When an expectation isn’t met, we’re more likely to see others’
wrongdoings over ours and start pointing fingers. We begin to play the blame game, resisting
the idea that we had a part to play. But we can rectify this distortion by evaluating ourselves
and asking helpful questions such as,

– Were my expectations realistic, or unrealistic? Were they helpful, or harmful? 
 – Did I communicate my expectations clearly? 
 – What role do I play in this? 
 – In retrospect, what role should I have played in this? 
 – What is this expectation trying to serve for me – and is it helpful and healthy?

I’m going to give you two examples here, that we’ll revisit later in the blog: 
 
 1) A man comes home from work. He’s exhausted and expecting a clean home and cooked
supper, only to find a chaotic house and nothing on the stove. He is surprised because his
partner has been home all day. Feelings of disappointment and anger arise, as well as
thoughts that tell him the workload is unfairly weighing on his shoulders. 
 
 2) A woman arrives at work, feeling light in spirit and unbothered. She is expecting a pile of
work to be waiting on her desk from her colleague whom she routinely asks for help. This
colleague has previously volunteered to do the work, so when she finds out it’s not been
done, she is met with heavy disappointment, resentment, and frustration.

Expectations & Perspective

Expectations happen on a daily basis, and I don’t think there’s a way to escape them
completely. But what is important, is knowing how to manage expectations when they are
disappointed.  
Many areas of life are unpredictable. Remember, this world is a blend of billions of people’s
experiences and choices. Often, we need to create space for the unpredictable side of life to
unfold. Knowing things might not go as you planned allows you to prepare for alternate
situations. 

Loosen your grip on the expectations you have over unpredictable things. It is hard to do
when you feel like your expectation serves you. But by holding onto it, you can stop yourself
from moving forward into new seasons, opportunities, and experiences. The world is full of
spontaneous happenings. Don’t be surprised when one comes your way.

Expectations & Others

When it comes to expectations within relationships, we’re probably looking at one of the
‘birthplaces of bickering.’

Tony Robbins shares in his blog about healthy expectations within relationships that there
are realistic and unrealistic expectations within relationships. Realistic ones are generally tied
to things such as mutual respect, love, trust, appreciation, and intimate connection. We all
deserve these, and they are standards we shouldn’t drop.
Unrealistic expectations are ones that have not been communicated, do not include an equal
give-and-take, or expect perfection with little room for failure.

The Real Reason It's Important To Manage Expectations In Life And At Work

Tony Robbins says something incredible:
 “Turn your expectations into appreciation and your whole life will change.” 

So, let’s apply the above two principles of perspective and appreciation to the example I
shared about the man who comes home to a messy house and no supper.

Let’s say the man decides to gain perspective by paying attention and becoming aware of his
partner’s energy, who he shortly notices is looking very tired. He asks about her day and
learns that their child was sick and came home from school early. She then had a last-minute
meeting to attend that shortened the deadline on her project, meaning work had soaked up any free time she might’ve had to do other things. Perspective has allowed him to enter her world and painted a full picture. Appreciation is now free to flow and the man acknowledges the sacrifices and efforts she has undergone that day. Suddenly, the house and food don’t seem to be such a big deal. 

Appreciation is the antidote for resentment.

Expectation & Work

Work doesn’t exist without expectations from your colleagues, boss, and clients. And often
it’s important you meet them to maintain satisfaction and progress.

But expectations can be easily misunderstood if there is a lack of clarity around them. This
conversation takes us to a card from our product Resilience In A Box, called Clear Expectation.

In this card we describe a healthy way to manage expectations: 
 
 1) Create alignment. When something really matters, make sure you’re on the same page
by seeing and understanding another’s viewpoint.

2) Don’t assume the other person is at fault when it goes wrong. Consider the saying,
“The meaning of my communication is the response I get back.” Learn through your failings.

3) When you experience unexpected tension, test whether expectation gaps are at play.
If there are some, have a conversation to create clarity around these and communicate
whether these expectations can or cannot be met. It might be a tough conversation, but
vulnerability and transparency create trust. 

Communication is the key to creating healthy connections. Without it, we are left in a
jaded bubble of misinterpretation that is void of empathy and meaning.

Healthy Expectations vs Unhealthy Expectations

I think it’s clear that you can’t avoid expectations, and they do indeed have a rightful place
in our lives. As long as you keep them realistic by infusing them with perspective, appreciation, and clarity.

We can test this theory out by looking at the other example we gave. The woman who found
out her colleague hadn’t done the work she’d expected them to do for her, felt let down. But
let’s say that she took the time to create clarity by sharing her expectations. Her colleague
then explains that when he first volunteered to do her the favor, there was no clarity that it
was expected to be on an ongoing basis. This has given her perspective and allows her to feel
appreciation for the efforts her colleague has made to do her these favours. She now realizes
that this isn’t to be taken for granted and that she played a role in her expectations not being
met.

The Real Reason It's Important To Manage Expectations In Life And At Work

Let’s return to my first story, where my sister and I were late for our show. I needed to
accept that our experience wasn’t what I had imagined it would be. And once I did, it brought
with it a story that we laugh about and share, with many lessons along the way.

I love what Yuval Noah Harari says:
Happiness = reality – expectations.

A lot of unhappiness is a result of unclear, un-communicated expectations, or over expectation. People hide in vagueness. When expectations are not clear, it becomes very difficult to hold people accountable. The best way to predict success is to be clear on what success looks like. And every experience we have, whether it is what we’d hoped for or not, brings unique opportunities to embrace and learn.

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Want Everyday Superpowers? These Are The Skills To Strengthen

 “What superpower do you wish you had?” This is a rather popular hypothetical question. It was asked at a conference I recently co-facilitated and got me thinking. I imagined the power of being able to take the world backwards so that we can fix it with hindsight. Imagine that – superman style. As I pondered this, I realized a big idea: there are everyday superpowers out there. We just need to know which skills to strengthen to achieve them.

In fact, I had just thought of one of those real-life superpowers. Others desired things like teleportation – the beam-me-up ‘Scottie’ type, where you reach your destination in an instant. Some liked the idea of walking through walls, and many wished they could make bad problems disappear, like hunger. 

All these desires, at least for now, are fantasy. But my concept of going back 5 minutes is achievable; just not in the mode of reversing time. It’s in the power of pause.  This superpower could erase that stupid comment, the uncontrolled emotional lash-out, or the WhatsApp distraction that propelled me into the braking car in front of me. 

We might not think of pausing as a superpower. But those who can pause their emotion, reaction, or temptation towards distraction, are to be envied. The pause has the potential to change so much and to avoid so much. And that is why it’s an important skill to strengthen. Psychologist Victor Frankl put it this way…

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” 

Growing your ability to create space between an event and your response, moves you into superpower territory. Especially in a world where the instant reaction is a norm. The power of pause is doable. It’s hard work, but if you get it right it’s like taking time back. Makes me wonder… what other superpowers are up for grabs, if we only looked at them through a different lens and discovered what skills to strengthen in order to achieve them?

Want Everyday Superpowers? These Are The Skills To Strengthen

Skills To Strength The Power of Context

Imagine being able to instantly know the context of a situation. When somebody reacts in a particular way, you understand their context and therefore you are able to judge, or not judge, from a premise of heightened perspective. 

It’s like that story Stephen Covey shares in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He speaks of a father and his boisterous children on the train. A fellow passenger is getting irate because this father is not noticing how disruptive and loud his children are. And when this disgruntled guy speaks up, he suddenly discovers context. This man has just lost his wife and the mother of his children to an illness. Now, the noise matters less. Now, with context, the response and emotion change. But imagine having had that insight from the start – what a superpower that would be. 

Maybe it’s more available than we realise. We just need to know the skills to strengthen, and maybe slow down a bit more in our responses. We live in a world of context crisis. Few people want to consider the unpopular notion that their first interpretation just might be flawed. 

Have you ever heard of a condition called the ‘trained incapacity of the expert’? It’s a rather fancy term for saying that the more familiar we get with something the less likely we are to engage in context around it. We…

Assume

Fail to notice subtleties

Don’t ask questions

Don’t doubt our knowledge.

Context is the ability to see more so that you might change your first impression. And when we have context, we increase our options of response. The good news is that to have this superpower you must strengthen some skills that are completely within reach: curiosity, mindfulness, and humility. 

Once again, these skills might take some hard and focused work. Whenever this topic comes up in CAFE Life facilitation or workshop, I emphasize that starting from the premise that doesn’t assume you’re right, unleashes super-energy towards discovering context. Begin with asking this question every day: what else? 

The Power of NOT Curing, and NOT Healing

In stories, our comic superheroes typically rescue the world. But here’s a thought. A superpower might also be the ability to restrain action when it’s within your influence. 

Our culture is very pro ‘instantaneously satisfying.’ As per Richard Rohr, we “give answers too quickly, take away pain too easily, and too quickly stimulate.” To avoid the quick fix and be open to transformation, requires the power of restraint. There will always be the need to rescue people and situations. But sometimes rescue is not the answer. I love this quote from Henry Nouwen:

“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” 

The skills needed to strengthen this superpower aren’t about not caring. It’s about caring so much that you stay with another, fully present, allowing them to own their experience. This takes a great degree of discipline, as our natural stance is to be the guy who saves the day. But you can attain this power through a lot of resolve and by nurturing a willingness to give people the gift of attention above the answers of your mind.

Want Everyday Superpowers? These Are The Skills To Strengthen

The Positive Power of The Negative Emotion

Imagine never having a negative emotion. Imagine always being super happy, super positive, and super motivated. It does sound good. That indeed would be a superpower worth considering. But all healthy human beings have feelings like doubt, fear, and overwhelm. As per author Susan David, this is the human brain doing its job. 

The only people who have no fear or experience no rejection, are those who’ve already left this world. 

But there’s still a superpower to be unearthed here. Imagine a person who finds positive power in negative emotion. This person still experiences negative emotions. But they make space for the negative emotion and allow the negative to create positive power. Hmm – I know sounds rather paradoxical. But did you know that you often have to  experience a negative emotion to…

      • Reconsider an argument
      • Listen
      • Demonstrate increased empathy
      • Ask for help
      • Give support 
      • Slow down

Negative emotions that are dwelt on can consume and slay us. But negative emotions that are embraced with curiosity can be highly informative. In his most recent book, Dan Pink talks about the power of regret. He says…

“Regret is not dangerous or abnormal. It is healthy and universal. An integral part of being human. Regret is also valuable. It clarifies, it instructs. Done right, it needn’t drag us down. It can lift us up.” 

To take hold of this superpower requires that you change your stance towards the negative. It requires that you notice and name your emotions and stay with them, asking questions like, “What is this telling me?” Seek a growth mindset and intentional response through that which you discover. The negative will always be around. But you might be able to do even better and get propelled forward if this is one of the skills you choose to strengthen.

There are many more that we could talk about, but I hope the point has been made. Fantasy superpowers might not be attainable. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be superpowered. We just need to know the right skills to strengthen, and how. 

So, what superpower do you wish you had? How possible is it that you could attain similar benefits? Perhaps all you need is the superpower of seeing it differently. 

We Wear the Same T-shirt: Why You Need to Cultivate Trust in Your Team
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To Build A High Performing Team, You Need Effective Internal Language

What are some fundamental building blocks needed to build a high performing team? Over my years of working with teams, the pursuit is most often high performance and effectiveness. To achieve this, there are the necessary and well-known pillars of strategy, leadership, and culture. However, another group of fundamental building blocks lie below the surface, often ignored. These building blocks are so powerful, yet so simple…

  • Values that translate in behaviours 
  • Identified learnable skills that relate to a team living their values and stepping up to objectives
  • A toolbox of resources that people know, can call on, and use 
  • Practical systems that make aspirations possible 
  • A supportive environment that primes behaviour and mindset towards aspirations. 
  • Language that aligns, motivates, and focuses people

Developing any one of these with intention and consistency can transform your organisation. And being bankrupt in any of these, will add frustration and risk to the team dynamic, no matter how good the strategy is. It would take a long time to dive into each of these often-overlooked aspects to build a high performing team. So, in this blog our goal is to focus, just for a moment, on the last point: internal language that aligns, motivates, and focuses.

Unclear language creates no progress

Imagine I go to the doctor, feeling unwell, seeking help. She examines me and then declares, ‘Mike you are sick.’ I would look at her, expecting more words to follow. But imagine she then ushers me out her office. The word ‘sick’ doesn’t help. I need clear language for the sickness so that the I can understand, and so that I can respond. The moment she diagnoses my unhappy situation to a term that is understood by both, we begin to move forward. For example, ‘Mike you have bronchitis.’ Ok, that helps. She might need to fill in some gaps, but I do have a basic appreciation for that condition. Now we can talk. Now we can move forward. 

In your organisation, are there words, phrases, mantras, and spoken ways of engagement, that everybody gets? 

‘That and many other smaller incidents in my life, made me realise that language, even more than colour, defines who you are to people.’ 

Trevor Noah made the above statement in his book, Born a Crime. It’s loaded with emotion, hurt and controversy. And this blog is not meant to go there. But even at surface level, this statement demonstrates how language can either build or breakdown connection. Language that connects and creates understanding has the ability to transcend differences and challenges. The lack of common language can often take us in a downward spiral towards an empty pit. Whenever you have a collective group of people, focus on creating unified understanding expressed through the spoken word. 

To Build A High Performing Team, You Need Effective Internal Language

To build a high performing team, sometimes all you need is deeper understanding

As an avid reader and student of life, I cherish moments when I discover new language that illuminates something that was previously in the fog. Moments like when someone says something and you think, ‘oh, so that’s what it’s called,’ or, ‘that’s what’s happening here.’ 

What the other person has done for you is given you language that produces insight and coherence. For example, South African born author and brilliant TED talker Susan David, once shared a concept called ‘social contagion.’ This term is also in her brilliant book Emotional Agility. She describes how this is a condition we are all tempted towards. 

Social contagion describes how we are easily influenced by the actions of other people. When one person does something, permission is given to others to follow suit, regardless of whether the action is helpful or unhelpful. So, the person who starts to text in a meeting, invariably gives others permission to text as well. And soon we have a disrupted, unproductive meeting where anything goes. 

Understanding this term enables an understanding around what is happening. A group who understands this term can create awareness around it, and identify it when it happens. The team that knows this concept and can label it, can act against it. All they needed to enable action was language.  

A few examples of clear internal language

Lumina Spark is a powerful personality profiling tool that enables self-awareness, peer awareness, and helps to build a high performing team. The tool is powerful and provides incredible insight. The insight in turn allows people to focus and choose informed responses to differing stimuli and context. 

It’s also powerful because it provides you with language that can be easily interpreted and understood. The tool makes use of colours, describes different contexts, and uses language like ‘dial up’ or ‘over extension.’ Those who have had the privilege of experiencing Lumina Spark would immediately understand what another person is saying, when they use these terminologies or say things like, ‘let’s dial up a bit of green here.’ It needs no explanation, probably little debate. Its common language supportive of effectiveness.

To Build A High Performing Team, You Need Effective Internal Language

Creating language for attitudes and behaviours builds a high performing team

I make use of a model that I adapted from Seth Godin. It shares 4 roles that people play within a team, and within life. The model is simple, and the roles have been given a very distinct name. 

For example, in this model we find a role nicknamed the Zealot. The Zealot has passion and attachment. What does a passionate yet attached person look like? Have you ever been in a meeting where a person is passionate about an idea, usually their idea, but only for that idea? That’s a Zealot in action. I can guarantee you we’ve all observed a Zealot and that you, too, have played that role. We just did not have a name for it. 

The moment we have language for this attitude and behaviour, we can name it in action.  And if it’s well understood, we can do something about it. Imagine the person who, with good intentions, says to another, ‘I love your passion, buts it’s coming across a bit like the Zealot.’ The other person understands exactly what is being said, and hopefully can choose an informed response. 

This beautiful model connects us with other roles like the Whiner, the Bureaucrat, and most importantly, the Pathfinder (Godin calls this person the Lynchpin). I have done series of workshops with teams where these roles allow us to explore difficult and emotional topics around feedback, accountability, crucial conversations and values. 

Do you know what Alexithymia is?

Alexithymia is an inability to label and express emotions. In other words, to have a limited language for your emotions. This condition is very disempowering. Failure to label emotions renders us more helpless within the emotion. To have healthy engagement with your emotions requires language. 

Here’s an interesting exercise to do. When you are talking with someone and they are displaying emotion, label the emotion for them. So, for example, I might say to John, ‘John I can see this is making you feel angry.’ Now watch what happens next. Assuming John does not battle with alexithymia, he might say, ‘yes it is,’ or he might correct you and say, ‘no I’m not angry, I’m just frustrated.’  This distinguishing is important. It helps John understand his feelings and also helps me more correctly understand John. 

The label supports us. Edith Eager in her amazing book The Choice, encourages people to start with a small feeling vocabulary, if need be, and from there try and increase the spectrum. By small, she means, describing it as ‘am I feeling glad, sad, mad, or scared,’ etc. Imagine the team that stops during a meeting to simply clarify the prevailing feeling in the room. By naming it with language they empower response.  

To Build A High Performing Team, You Need Effective Internal Language

What does the 5 love languages have to do with building a high performing team?

Lastly, let’s go to a best-selling book by psychologist Gary Chapmen – The 5 Love Languages.  I am amazed at how many people know this book. What Chapman does is in this book is so powerful: he gives love, language. Is that allowed? Well, it’s certainly helpful. The book empowers people to understand their partners within the domain of love. 

Use your choice of words to empower, uplift, connect, and progress

Like the doctor who would be unhelpful in just using the word ‘sick’, Chapman highlights that ‘love’, which is probably the greatest virtue of all, is sometimes unhelpful if it’s not supported with the right love language. When somebody understands that their partners love language is centred around receiving validation, they are empowered to love their partner in the way they receive it best . The use of language enables deeper connection.

And so, I could go on and on. We could talk about things like values or meetings, all which are enhanced when there is a vibrant language in use and in development. 

Here’s the big question. Does your team have language that enables meaning and effectiveness? Does it create unhealthy structures, or does it build high performing teams? When was the last time you did a team ‘language workshop?’ Perhaps you should. 

To continue learning and be a student of life, you require an ever-increasing repertoire of language. When you are the student, you recognise that not only must you grow in understanding, but that your understanding is supported and sustained through language. 

We Wear the Same T-shirt: Why You Need to Cultivate Trust in Your Team
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If There Were A Formula For Success, What Would It Look Like?

Usually, a title like the one above would put me off immediately. I generally have apprehension about the idea of any type of formula, especially one that is found in the domain of behaviour and titled so boldly as “formula for success.”

Ironically, I love social science. I often refer to thought-provoking experiments in my work and conversations. But even then, I hold them loosely, knowing that as a species we constantly learn more about ourselves. We can’t get too attached to a single idea, because new science might alter that idea. But when it comes to success, is it a different matter? Is there a formula for it as many self-help books would imply? Oh, and on that note… what is success?    

Adam Grant’s Formula For Success

Many years ago, I came across an interesting formula by Adam Grant in his book, Give and Take. This formula resonated with me. It challenged my thinking and rose more questions than answers. On the surface, it’s not controversial. But beneath, it’s potentially loaded and challenging. Let’s look at each part of this formula for success in detail. 

Success/Achievement = Talent + Discipline (Hard work) + Opportunity (Luck) + Reciprocity style (The nature and quality of your relationships) 

Reciprocity

Many of us would probably be familiar with this formula, except for the reciprocity addition. We often overlook the role relationships play in achievement. But when we intentionally develop strong and trustful bonds (which include the ability to create boundaries), then success, whatever its definition, is enhanced. Simply put, when opportunity allows, people will punish the jerk. When you are a jerk, maintaining success becomes hard work. 

Opportunity And Luck

The word ‘luck’ in the formula above, would probably have caused a negative interpretation to many readers. We don’t like that word and probably prefer the softer word ‘opportunity’. After all, if we have achieved, we like to think it’s because of our talent and discipline. We gravitate towards quotes on luck which say, ‘luck favours the prepared mind’ and ‘the harder I work the luckier I get.’ I agree with these quotes. But if we look at our success in honest retrospect, there’s always some form of undeserved favour. Success and achievement invariably have a good dose of privilege that allows opportunity, and a sequence of events where we are plain and simply ‘fortunate/blessed’ – whatever the word.  

If There Were A Formula For Success, What Would It Look Like?

Talent

Discipline, opportunity, and reciprocity are generally underrated. Talent, on the other hand, is overrated. 

So, let’s provide a little more substance to the above. To chase a goal, the formula is very enlightening. To succeed, focus on your strengths, be prepared to do the hard work, look for and find opportunities, and enlist the help of others. All four of these ingredients are vital.  

Don’t conclude, and don’t overestimate talent. 

Talent opens the door for achievement. The problem with talent is, who decides if you are talented? And once a verdict of talent is made, does that mean that talent cannot be developed? 

The very first time I volunteered to give a speech was in High School, and I became the laughingstock of the debate evening. I displayed so much nervous energy while speaking, that I got a special mention by the adjudicator at the end of the evening. I was the young fellow who ‘hypnotized’ the audience through my constant rocking. while at the same time, happened to offend the school Principal, in remarking that mathematicians were “old fuddy daddies.” He was my math teacher. 

Truth be told, I had no idea what I was saying in that impromptu speech, as I was a wreck. And yet for the past 18 years, my profession lies in public speaking, and making others feel safe through the beautiful art of facilitation. That night should have killed any desire of mine for public speaking. But fortunately, it did not become the verdict on whether or not I was talented. 

There are so many stories like mine out there. Renowned artist Jackson Pollock was considered by early teachers to have no skill. And yet he became Jackson Pollock. 

Discipline And Hard Work

A second consideration around talent is that if I consider myself to be talented, I might not do the second part of the equation – the hard work. Talent can be seductively deceptive, making us believe that we are better than others. In his brilliant book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell refers to a nineties experiment by psychologist Norden Erickson, who did research at a top music school in Berlin. The musicians were divided into three groups. Group 1 were those who had the potential to be great musicians. Group 2, had the potential to be good musicians. And Group 3 were those that based on demonstration, were more likely to become teachers and not performers.  

They tracked the musician’s past and how much they had practised. Most started at age 5, and for a few years, their levels of practice were the same. But as they grew older, the intensity of practise began to differ. Those in Group 1 ramped up their dedication, practising much more than those who were in Group 2, and much, much more than those in Group 3 who would become teachers.

The bottom line? Once you have enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard they work. Talent, whilst important, is often overrated in success. All it does is open the door. 

Success Is Not Accidental

Author John Maxwell says, “nobody ever talks about accidental success.” I think he’s right. Whenever there’s success, somebody has worked hard to attain it. They have put in the hours, reckoned with the hard part, and persevered. They have done the ‘reps’ even when it was boring and totally sacrificial. Read any good biography on achievement and you’ll find this ingredient. 

Focused energy on the ‘hard part’ is often the separator between good and great, a powerful principle made in Jim Collins’ epic book called Good to Great. We cannot say enough about this simple principle, and I don’t know people who disagree with the notion that discipline and hard work are critical to achievement. I definitely think discipline deserves to be in the formula for success.

If There Were A Formula For Success, What Would It Look Like?

The Problem With Work Ethic

People who work hard deserve the success that comes their way. There is a challenge though. The ‘hard work ethic’ can become a self-righteous entitlement, where I deserve what I have because of my hard work. Whereas those who don’t have my accolades have what they have because they did not work hard like me. I have had endless conversations with friends and acquaintances on this topic and it does get emotional. A friend said to me, “I took the risk and worked hard and that is why I have succeeded”. My response was, yes you did and well done. However, your privilege allowed you to take risks until you succeeded.

Now in no way is such an answer meant to diminish his success.

It’s simply challenging the notion that hard work alone, did not bring success. Other factors enabled or rewarded the at appropriate times. This is the essence of Gladwell’s book, Outliers. Our ability to succeed is powerfully bound to where we’re from and often includes undeserved or favourable outcomes that were not in our control. 

A great exercise to do is to think of one of your achievements. Then pat yourself on the back for the hard work and effort applied. Then move into the place of gratitude and name those things that came your way not because you deserved them, but because they were given to you. 

Oh, and by the way, when an opportunity came your way and you seized it, well done. Don’t be ashamed of your opportunity or privilege. But use this for good, to make the world better, acknowledging the grace that you received. 

Be A Person Who Others Want To Succeed

Lastly, we often underestimate the role of others in the formula for success. Sometimes people succeed at the cost of others. There are unfortunately too many examples of this. But this kind of success comes with huge ramifications and ultimately, regret. To sustain an achievement that is the story of legacy, develop strong circles of trust and collaboration.

In his book Give and Take, Adam Grant highlights that this is the domain of Givers, who achieve through and with others. They are distinguished from Takers and Matchers, who often have early but less sustainable success. The achieving giver, who values virtues of trust and accountability, develops networks that support long-term achievement. 

Become intentional about networking and relationships. Invite people into your corner. Cherish and value them. Try and move away from the notion of achievement being an individualistic game – one that is all too common in our world.  Learn to say, ‘thank you,’ and ‘I need you’, and ‘what matters to you?’  

We are always a student of life. And being a student of life demonstrates a willingness to embrace difficult concepts. Be curious and if need be, become open to changing your mind.
Maybe there is more than one formula for success. Maybe this one works for you, maybe it doesn’t. Regardless, it packs a punch of truths that are applicable and impactful in all we do. 

So, may we continue to hold these formulas lightly, to hold success lightly, and when it comes to success and achievement, may we never stop being the student. 

If There Were A Formula For Success, What Would It Look Like?
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How To Foster Curiosity In The Workplace And Why It’s Important

To be an effective leader and create a thriving workplace is a feat that requires a rather intricate concoction of hard and soft skills. You may be quite familiar with some of them: the ability to engage and inspire, and navigate tough conversations. But have you ever considered the role of curiosity in the workplace? Turns out, it’s more important than you may think. In fact, it might be the missing puzzle piece your team is needing. 

Only about 24% [of employees] reported feeling curious in their jobs on a regular basis, and about 70% said they face barriers to asking more questions at work.

Why are the above statistics important? Why do we want curiosity shown by our team, and even more so by our leaders? And if curiosity in the workplace is so impactful, why do people feel like they cannot be curious at work?  The answer is within the question – literally. 

According to the research written by Francesca Gino in the Harvard Business Review, most leaders and superiors know that curiosity is beneficial. And yet, they still stifle it.
Why? Gino explains, “Exploration often involves questioning the status quo and doesn’t always produce useful information. But it also means not settling for the first possible solution—and so it often yields better remedies.” 

When you become curious about something, you have a different type of engagement. Your mind goes into a space of asking questions and feeling a bold, almost excited approach towards the unknown. Needless to say, without curiosity the new and unknown can be a scary thing indeed, and often avoided.

Perhaps it’s out of fear of causing a costly mistake, or resistance to abandoning the status quo. But either way, leaders are missing out on igniting innovation. Which type of leader do you want to be?

Why You Need Curiosity In Leadership

Take a look around you. Everything you see is a result of someone being curious. The reason we have moved from cave dwellers to the species we are today, is because we were brave enough to question and explore. No great idea was born without the flame of curiosity driving it.

When we are inquisitive, we see things from alternate angles. This is a powerful way to break fixed mindsets and engage someone’s attention around a matter that needs the welcoming of new ideas.
As a leader, you set the bar for your team’s work culture. By demonstrating thinking, you are encouraging innovative and creative thinking from your team.

When you as a leader are boldly curious, unafraid to ask questions and grow your understanding, you are revealing an authenticity that seeps into your surrounding workplace. By showing that you can be authentic, you are showing others they can be too. 

Curiosity in the workplace also means more is noticed. If you are eager to see and be inquisitive about your team, you could unearth previously hidden potential and growth. Leadership requires a readiness to embrace and utilize growth to avoid a stuck and stagnant team. To do this, you need to become a student of life. Here, you will find electrifying energy for learning and asking questions. This energy towards growth is so tangible, that your team could start waking up to it in front of your very eyes.

How To Foster Curiosity In The Workplace And Why It’s Important

The Benefits of Curiosity In The Workplace

Like anything valuable in life, this needs to be nurtured if you want it to become a part of your work culture. You will need to prove to your team that questions are encouraged and welcomed, not shamed or shunned. You might need to abandon old beliefs of yours so that you can challenge ones that no longer serve your organisation. Perhaps this is the belief that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Or, that asking questions demonstrates a lack of capability. Whatever it may be, growth must start at the top; with you.

Once you are a curious leader, you start to awaken the inquisitive minds around you. And when you get that going, you’ll see an array of benefits that might even surprise you.

- Curiosity fuels goals orientated around learning, which are more productive than performance goals.

Performance goals are valuable and have their place. But learning goals have been proven to be more effective. Studies have shown that only focusing on performance goals produces lower results in success both on a financial and personnel-based front. Although performance goals have their place, learning goals allow people to think out-the-box and focus on things such as how to become more effective in their role, or improve customer service. Inevitably, this produces more successful results. 

- A curious team doesn’t get stuck.

We mentioned it earlier, but it’s worth highlighting again. Inquisitive minds are always seeking, questioning, and creating movement within an organisation. We all know the pressure we face to remain relevant. Without a curious culture, you become rigid and stop exploring new ideas. This is important both on a personal and collective scale. Motion is vital; as long as we’re moving, no matter how small our steps are, we are making progress.

- It increases engagement.

You know that a leader must demonstrate the culture that your team is expected to adopt. Curiosity increases engagement with your tasks, even the most mundane ones, because it allows you to ask questions like, “how can I do this better?”, or, “what isn’t working here, and what is?” This kind of thinking has the power to re-mould your approach towards tasks. 

- Curiosity encourages brave thinking and risk-taking which produces progress.

We might still be a species that lives in caves and wears loin cloths if it were not for inquisitive minds. The biggest hesitancy that comes with embracing curiosity is the fear of risk and failure. But success will not stem from anything other than learning and experimentation. So, in order to progress, we must be bold enough to question, experiment, challenge, and take risks. 

How To Foster Curiosity In The Workplace And Why It’s Important

How To Foster Curiosity In The Workplace

I think we’ve built a pretty good case to support the importance of curiosity in the workplace. But the big question is always “how do I make it a reality?”
It can be a daunting task that requires you to embed curiosity within your culture. Therefore a lot of companies who don’t have the resources to dedicate energy to this, opt to get CAFE Life in to support and transform their work culture. 

But there are still many things that leaders can implement to support this growth and encourage inquisitive and innovative thinking in their team. You will need to become a facilitator of curiosity; a ponderer and a ‘question enthusiast.’ Here are a few ways you as a leader can encourage this type of curiosity in your workplace. 

1) Create a safe space for creativity to cultivate and bloom

Where people don’t feel shunned or shamed for trying something new and failing. Where speaking up, asking questions, and challenging the status quo, becomes unthreatening and welcomed. Create ways to encourage and celebrate your team’s diversity, whether this is dedicating time towards a playful and easy space for brainstorming, or initiating weekly exercises that cause people to ask questions and create perspective. 

2) Set learning goals for the team.

Reward people for achieving learning goals as well as performance goals. Remove the pressure to produce results and instead, focus on igniting growth mindsets. When your team achieves a learning goal don’t forget to reward them. This could be by using their idea in the next project, or allowing them to take the reins on a task with their new knowledge, or escalating a valuable question of theirs to a decision-maker above you. 

3) Ask the right questions.

As a leader, ask yourself the right questions, as well as your team. And encourage them to do the same. Don’t be afraid of a challenging question coming your way. But by demonstrating openness to engage the question even if it’s a tough one, you’re showing your team that curiosity is not to be feared and will in fact be respected. Make sure you’re not just asking reflective questions such as “how will my day become more meaningful?”, but questions that specifically make you inquisitive, such as  “What aspect of my role do I have room for learning in?”, and, “What fascinates me about my work, and leaves me hungry for answers?” You can encourage this type of thinking by regularly stimulating it in your team. You might even say to them, “Have you come across a ‘why’ question today? Write it down, and make time to ponder it.” 

4) Encourage “intellectual humility”.

This helps us remember that we don’t know all, and that allows a growth mindset. Encourage others not to fear failure – remind them of times when you or the company tried and failed, and how there was a silver lining. Create a space where everyone from every division is heard, their voices valued and ideas acknowledged. 

5) Create a colourful team.

When your team needs to group for something, mix it up. Combine various skill sets, cultures, beliefs, opinions, characters, and values. You’ll see an incredibly colourful result when perspective and innovation are unboxed.

6) Don’t mistake being curious as meaning that you don’t ever follow someone’s lead.

Curiosity is a partner in teamwork. It doesn’t mean you cannot get help or follow the lead. In fact, if you are curious, you will not be afraid to ask for help and receive valuable input. No matter your position, you can always be curious and ask questions. 

How To Foster Curiosity In The Workplace And Why It’s Important

“The inspiration for the Polaroid instant camera was a three-year-old’s question. Inventor Edwin Land’s daughter was impatient to see a photo her father had just snapped. When he explained that the film had to be processed, she wondered aloud, “Why do we have to wait for the picture?” – Francesca Gino

And lastly, remember that how you speak will either foster or kill creativity. Don’t create walls with your language. Instead, notice when you are facing hurdles or barriers and practice reframing your language. Instead of saying, “I cannot do this”, say, “I cannot do this YET…. But what needs to happen for me to do this?” Speak to yourself and others in a way that opens doors, encourages conversations, and allows questions to bloom into great ideas. 

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Prioritize These Values If You Want To Increase Employee Engagement

What makes people feel connected and engaged with their work? And how do you increase employee engagement when it’s low? These questions have been pondered, researched, debated, and written about numerous times. It goes without saying that those who feel connected to their work perform much better than those who are disconnected and disengaged. 

Prioritizing rewards and recognition doesn’t increase employee engagement

When pondering this question, reward and recognition is often the first thing that comes to mind. Surely if we pay people fairly, and look after their material well-being, then they will be present and return the favour? But we know this is not true. 

How many people do you know that earn handsome salaries, yet are not ambassadors of their job? Yes, reward must be fair. But reward alone seldom ticks the box for increasing employee engagement. 

This principle is wonderfully captured in Dan Pinks book Drive, where he explains that monetary reward is, by nature, an extrinsic motivation that has a short-term life span. To do your best work, your motivation must be driven by an internal engine that moves you from the feeling of “I have to” to, “I want to.”

The top 3 intrinsic keys that increase employee engagement

Although there may be many more, we’ve come to find that there are 3 keys that need to be turned on if you want to ignite engagement and motivation in the workplace.  

 

  • Purpose and Contribution
    When you can connect what you do with who you are, you walk the path of purpose. And as Dan Pink says, “The most motivated people, not to mention those who are motivated and satisfied, hitch their desires to a cause that is larger than themselves.”

 

  • Belonging and Connection
    The more you enjoy the people you work with, the more you’ll feel a sense of belonging and safety. This is known as ‘relational energy’. When relationships are strong and congenial, focus and energy emerge. Contrary to what some believe, good relationships, make it possible for people to have healthy conflict, hold others accountable, and achieve results. 

 

  • Growth and Development
    The recipe to finding happiness and resilience in the workplace must include growth and development. The feeling of being stuck seldom produces engagement. Compliance is born from the despair of going nowhere. 
Prioritize These Values if You Want To Increase Employee Engagement

Which is the most important one needed to increase employee engagement?

Although they are all vital, the first one you need to ignite is growth and development. 

Over the past few weeks, we have been focusing on one of our company values that is most important to us, namely, ‘always the student.’ This value, both core and aspirational, speaks very much into the intrinsic motivation of growth and development. And yet it is inextricably tied to the other keys mentioned above.

The base line for this value is quite simple: people are more likely to be engaged when they are in a place of growth and development.

What can you do to promote growth and development?

First and foremost, you must understand that growth is a mindset. We grow because we believe that we can. All too often, organisation’s project an unspoken message that you need to fit into a box. This box lives on the idea that you’ve got a fixed personality that cannot be developed or improved. You might be sent on training, but because we don’t believe people can grow, all we succeed in is ticking the box and spending the budget. I have been involved in training and development for almost twenty years now, and sadly I have far too many examples of people coming to our workshops with no clue what it is about. HR has prescribed the workshop, and the manager has complied. But the manager does not believe in growth, does not take an interest in the growth of the direct report, and therefore does not create the environment for their people to apply insights, learnings, and change. They see there people as fixed people, who cannot change, who cannot learn. 

A learning organisation is the one that believes with the right context, method, and attitude, people can, and do, grow. Does your organisation promote messages that say ‘you can grow’, or does it send subtle messages that you are ‘incapable of growth and change?’ 

Prioritize These Values if You Want To Increase Employee Engagement

What is a learning environment and how do I create it?

Learning environment – that’s an interesting term. A learning environment is an environment where knowleadge is shared, acquired, and created. Every situation, every challenge, is an opportunity to know more and to transfer this knowledge. But for a learning environment to exist there are a couple of building blocks that need to be in place.

1. Creating ways to acquire and transfer knowledge


People are busy. Every day you are bound to experience untold urgencies. Learning and development are not urgent matters. But they are important ones. And important matters tend to be postponed so you can attend to the urgent ones. Some of you might be familiar with the powerful time model of Stephen Covey’s that engages this tension. 

Learning and development needs systems. Such as:

  Time in meetings to share learnings.
– Cross functional engagements to broaden awareness around what others are doing and why
– Technology, to facilitate sharing.
– Mandatory deep dives into discussion following failure or success so we can grow
As Brene Brown says, ‘slogans need systems’, and so does growth and development. The bottom line is, we are unlikely to be a learning organisation without stipulated time in the diary. 

2. Psychological safety so we can share freely

This connects us with the ‘belonging and connection’ component of motivation. People don’t share voluntarily if they don’t feel safe. In fact, it’s even worse; they hide information if they are not feeling safe. 

Bridgewater Associates is considered to have one of the most compelling cultures in the world. This culture is based on its first and most important principle: you have a voice and you are safe to speak up. Their founder Ray Dalio writes, “The greatest tragedy of mankind comes from the inability of people to have thoughtful disagreement to find out what’s true.” How good is that? In a learning environment, people feel safe enough to express difference, which is honored and in return takes them deeper into ‘truth’ and good decision making. Strangely, psychological safety promotes conflict. Not the bad destructive type, but rather the type where people share truth in pursuit of the best way forward. To create a learning environment, focus on safety.

3. Managers must become a resource for learning and development

This means that sometimes managers will be mentors, coaches, and facilitators of insight. Their role is therefore not to ‘catch someone doing something wrong,’ but to develop someone so they can excel within their potential. Sadly, within the pressures of corporate life, far too many managers are unavailable for the growth of those within their organisation and become rather grumpy when they’re asked to develop others. But in a learning environment, managers make time to be the resource of education.

4. Tasks, values, and behaviors are translated into learnable skills

I am terrible at drawing. I concede defeat even before I put pencil to paper. I have always believed that I cannot draw and that it’s a gift that some have been given. Growing up I was never presented with (or perhaps I was uninterested in) the notion that everyone can draw. There are learnable skills to drawing. Yes, I probably wont sell pictures for much, but simply presenting art as something that can be learnt, changes everything. Carol Dweck, in her brilliant book Mindset, refers to renowned and revolutionary artist of the 20th century, Jackson Pollock. As a young boy he was told he could not draw. And with much effort, and the acquisition of skills, he became incredible. In a learning environment, the values of an organisation are translated into learnable skills. For example, if we have a value of courage, then let’s engage the learnable skill of having ‘tough conversations.’ Teach your people the skills and provide the tools so that growth takes place. 

5. Feedback is always orientated around growth

I’m sure we have all been on the other side of negative feedback and walked away scolded yet uniformed and uninspired. It’s a horrible place to be in. But when harsh feedback is accompanied with a desire for growth, people can create change. And this starts when you change the story you tell yourself. Managers can make a difference instead of making a point – if you decide to become the teacher, mentor, and coach. This is not about getting ‘soft’ on wrong doings, but about redeeming the wrong through growth. 

Finally, let’s make quick mention of the motivation of Purpose and Connection. For us in CAFE Life, when we are the student, we live into our purpose. We believe that we live in this beautiful world of mystery and science, of evidence and experience, that calls us daily to learn. A student is therefore a part of who we are, and when we are learning we find a deep sense of purpose. The purpose is learning itself. Maybe not everyone will see it this way, but some will. When you create a learning environment, some might see learning as it’s own deep sense of purpose.  

The world is a crazy place that brings disruption every day. Creating a learning environment is an antidote to disruption and confusion. It connects, redeems, transforms, and ignites.  

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Make Work Fun And Feel The Benefits With These Practices

Let’s be honest. No matter how much you love your job, the idea that you can make work fun is always enticing. And what if I told you that there are proven benefits to bringing fun into the workplace? Sounds too good to be true, and yet it is indeed true.

As a mother of two who works from home, I am fully aware that ‘fun in the workplace’ will look vastly different for someone who works from home as opposed to someone who works in an office. But never-the-less, I’m confident that the tactics in this blog can bring fun into your day regardless of whether your work acquaintances have fur, wear nappies, or are fully grown adults. 

Why Is It Important to Make Work Fun?

Firstly, of course, we all want to have more fun at work. It’s not very enticing to picture a workplace that doesn’t bring joy or lightness into your life, especially considering the average person can anticipate spending roughly 92,000 hours of their life working. 

When you think of it like that, you might agree with me that fun in the workplace isn’t a luxury, it’s an absolute necessity. The good news is that having fun at work isn’t a recipe for low productivity or negative impacts on a business as we might have assumed. Studies are revealing that it actually packs quite a punch of advantages. 

This month, we’re focusing a lot of our content around one of CAFE Life’s values “always the student.” This value speaks to the importance of keeping an open, growth mindset. The eyes of the student see everything as new and curious. They seek to understand, with the attitude of expecting great things ahead. Imagine how good it could be to combine this value with the intention of making work more fun? Suddenly you have the recipe for a vibrant, innovative, and exciting workplace. 

The Benefits Of Making Work Fun

Not only will fun increase your levels of work satisfaction, but according to research “it has a positive impact on engagement, creativity, and purpose – increasing employee retention and reducing turnover.” A workplace means more productivity and purpose-driven work. It means you’re feeling more positive about being at work, and therefore, about doing work too. 

So set your concerns aside. Here are a few ways that it can benefit you if you make work fun:

1) Having frequent bursts of fun can boost productivity by 12-20%

2) Improves levels of engagement

3) Increased comradery between colleagues

4) Increases job satisfaction

5) Boosts creativity

6) Contributes to a healthy workplace culture

7) Encourages healthy work-life balance

Make work fun and feel the benefits with these practices

How To Add More Fun To Your Workplace

Now that you know why it’s important to have fun at work, it begs the question, how do you inject your day with fun and light-heartedness? Perhaps you’ve been like me and found that working from home calls for a greater level of creativity towards getting work done and fostering motivation. 

After the numerous lockdowns that rendered most of us ‘workers from home’, we’ve even seen organisations make more effort to create alternative ways to connect and cultivate comradery with their team. Rightfully so, because we all know having digital conversations just aren’t the same as having a face-to-face one. 

This has even been a major reason for us being called into workplaces. We’ve come in to encourage a healthy workplace culture regardless of the challenge and changes that have occurred to our work environments in the last few years.

I know fun means something different to all of us, but hopefully, you’ll find some of the practices we have listed here helpful in your quest for finding fun. Let’s explore these techniques:

1. First, adopt the mindset of a student. 

One that is curious, eager to understand and sees the world through optimistic eyes. Let this mindset become your framework for finding fun, lightness, and ease within your day. This mindset is powerful in every area of your life. If you haven’t yet, I suggest you read our last blog on ‘how to become a student of life’.

The first step:
The most important thing to remember when trying to adopt the student mentality is to encourage a ‘growth mindset’, one that sees challenges as an opportunity to grow and improve. Carol Dweck is a psychologist that has done many years of research around growth and fixed mindsets and the impacts they have on our success.

2. Adjust your perspective.

Your perspective is the window from which you view the world. Choose to look through one that sees delight in all you do. Perhaps you can turn your to-do list into a game where you receive rewards every time you achieve a task. Or maybe you introduce different activities within your breaks that encourage fun. It might even be as small as changing your dialogue from, “I have to…” to, “I get to…”

Perspective is also a key, fundamental pillar within building resilience, which is something all of us need. It also plays a vital role in creating and maintaining a healthy balance in life.

The first step:
Never underestimate the power of shifting your perspective or asking power questions. Some great ones are, “what else am I needing to see here?”, or “how might this look if I were the other person?”

Here’s a short video from us on perspective-taking.

3. Start your day right. 

“Winning is a feeling before it is an outcome.” If you start your day with that feeling, it’ll be carried through your day and automatically lightens the load, starts a flow, and makes it easier to have fun. Start your day off by achieving something important that you tend to put off – such as a workout, journaling, meditation, reading, or working on an important project.

The first step:
Always try to prepare for this task the day before. Make it easy to start by prepping anything you might need, such as a yoga mat, running shoes, a book, or setting an alarm. The secret here is to make it as easy as possible to start – the rest will follow.

4. Welcome laughter into your day. 

“Those who laugh together can work together.” Never underestimate the power of laughter. Not only does it have various health benefits, but it’s incredibly healthy for your relationships and mental health, too.

The first step:
I love the story that Ben and Ros Zander share in their book The Art Of Possibility. They talk about what they call “Rule No. 6”, which translates into the timeless motto, “don’t take yourself so seriously.” Every time you find yourself slipping into the inevitable mode of seriousness and sombreness, remind yourself of Rule No. 6.

5. Bring music into your day.

 More often than not, music accompanies happy moments. It only makes sense then, that it should entice feelings of happiness and fun. Whether it’s incorporated into your breaks, group brainstorm sessions, or to pump you up for the day ahead, music definitely deserves its spot on this list.

The first step:
Why don’t you take a page from our book and make yourself a ‘comeback playlist’? This playlist is all about collecting those songs that really move, motivate, and liven you up. You can use this playlist to pump you up for a presentation, centre yourself after a hard day, or reset your energy.

6. Take intentional breaks.

When you set an intention for your time-out moments, you get the most out of them. Perhaps it’s a chance to do some deep breathing – or go for a walk. Or maybe it’s your moment to have a good conversation with a friend or do a crossword puzzle. Taking breaks, even short ones, will help you avoid burnout and keep you functioning at your best. It also gives you time to do something that you find fun!

The first step:
Write a list of things you consider fun that can be done within the timeframe of your breaks. Keep this list handy to remind yourself and set intentions at the beginning of the day so you know what activity you’re going to engage in that day. 

7. Shake it up a bit.

Routine is great. But every now and then, it deserves a little shake up. When you feel yourself being slumped down with the feeling of monotony, it’s a sure sign you need some freshening up in your day.

The first step:
Is there a way you can start your day differently? Or perhaps there’s a different flow you can use within your workday? Or maybe it’s as little as writing your to-do list on post-it notes or adding a vibrant object to your desk. 

8. Change your environment. 

This is a powerful fun-booster. Almost daily, I find myself moving from my desk to the couch, to the outside table, to the standing desk. It’s a great way to add some variety to your day, encourage creativity, and keep your mind fresh. Couple this with intentional breaks and you’ve got a fresh and interesting day ahead!

The first step:
If you work from home, prep and clear up a variety of spots to make them appealing for you to work in. If you work in an office, take a walk around the building and find some pleasant spots where you can seat yourself for a while. Make an effort to pick up your laptop and move to those destinations. 

Make work fun and feel the benefits with these practices

What Are The Key Take-Aways To Make Work Fun?

While I’m aware that fun means something different to everyone, we’ve considered quite a number of tactics in this blog and I’m sure that if you have the right mindset, you can find a number of them that work for you. Some days will have more fun, others less.

So….

– Become a student of life
– Stay conscious of broadening your perspective
– Start your day right
– Welcome laughter into your day
– include music and melody
– Take intentional breaks
– Shake up the routine
– Change your environment

It’s important you remember there’s an ebb and flow to all that we do, and you need to allow space for this. But whenever it’s in your control, bring fun into your day and liven up your work life. We only live once, and I’d hate to live just for the weekend when every day can be a joy.

It's Time To Become Playfully Engaged With The World Around You .

CAFE Life’s published book Playfully Engaged rekindles a curiosity and positivity in your heart, allowing you to approach both life and work with a lightness in your step. 

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The Surprisingly Simple Secrets Of How To Become A Student Of Life

One of my favourite pop songs comes from an 80s band called Alphaville. The song is entitled Forever Young, and it’s a legendary anthem. If you don’t know it, you must listen to it – it’s so good. Now you might ask, what does this song have to do with becoming a student of life? And what does that have to do with staying young?

The musical makeup of this particular song is brilliant. The flowing, somewhat predictable melody, is comforting. But it’s not the melody or arrangement that seduces me. It’s the haunting nature of the words that leave a deep impression. Words like…

 

“It’s so hard to get old without a cause
I don’t want to perish like a fading horse
Youth’s like diamonds in the sun
And diamonds are forever

Forever young, I want to be, forever young
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever and ever.”
 

 

I’m certainly in no rush to get old. Age happens and is happening, far quicker than I want it to.  If being forever young were an option, I would be scrambling to grab it. But maybe it is available, and maybe I am grabbing it – just not in the way we might think. 

One of my top 5 mantras that I use and reuse repeatedly is, ‘I am always the student.’ This is a beautiful mantra which has developed and matured in my life with age.

Falling In Love With Becoming A Student Of Life

When I was in school, besides for sport, I could not wait to get out. Life was to be lived beyond the walls of the formal, dictatorial classrooms. When I was in varsity, I sought the quickest route to success and exit. The lecture room was a means to the outcome of work. Thankfully these ‘let’s get out of here’ mindsets are long since buried. 

Today, life is the classroom, the joy is in the lecture room, the meaning is the textbook, and the purpose is learning. Being a student does not represent age. It represents the mindset of youthfulness. Maintaining the mindset of a student creates the posture of being ‘forever young.’ Is it possible that youthfulness is primarily a function of mindset, evidenced in our willingness to learn? Is it possible that the goal of life is to grow wiser as we grow older? If so…

What are the implications of this mantra?

The Surprisingly Simple Secrets Of How To Become A Student Of Life

If You Are Always The Student, Everybody Becomes Your Teacher

Think about it. Everybody you meet knows something you don’t know and has experienced something you have not. This profound awareness, which is both humbling and centring, has the potential to transform our relations, be this with the stranger or the more familiar.  Imagine what happens when we approach people through the  lens of the student, observing and enquiring, seeking understanding. 

A couple of years ago I began a journaling project. At the end of every day, I would write one thing in my journal I had learnt from either my conversations with or my observance of, the strangers around me. It was fun and playful, and it propelled me towards awareness and connection. 

It’s amazing what we learn when we are mindful and start to ask good, informative questions. 

The Uber Driver Who Became My Teacher

Here’s an example of finding teachers in everyday experiences. The other day, an Uber driver asked me to share my dream with him. The request took me by surprise, and I soon realised I was battling to articulate my dream. He was teaching me through his question, and then later, through sharing his aspirational dream. 

Now you might not like everybody you meet, but that does not mean they cannot be your teacher. In fact, they always are. The quest of becoming a student of life relies on your ability and willingness to pivot and learn. Khalil Gibran said…

“I have learned silence from the talkative, 

toleration from the intolerant, 

and kindness from the unkind; 

yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.”

The Surprisingly Simple Secrets Of How To Become A Student Of Life

To Stay Always The Student, Carve Out Time For Formal Learning

The mantra, ‘I am always a student’, serves a purpose. Mantras exist to direct you towards better behaviours and attitudes. But mantras need systems and habits to make them come alive. 

When I speak this mantra, the intention is to choose my response. The intention is also mastery, which is the desire to get better and better at something that is both meaningful and valuable. Mastery requires that you push through boredom and become endlessly fascinated with doing something over and over again, seeking small incremental gains over time.   

You cannot be a student if you dedicate no time to intentional growth. I spend at least an hour a day in focused growth, waking up early to ensure that this time is available and protected. Being a student is part of my identity, so it must be given time and energy. This requires discipline and certain rhythms. And yet, growth is a delight; growth makes us come alive. Show me somebody who is growing and learning, and I will probably show you someone who experiences happiness. The different situations in our lives may enhance or limit the time available for formal learning. But whatever your constraints are, never allow circumstances to eliminate learning and development. 

Becoming A Student Of Life Means Nothing Is Wasted, All Is Redeemed Through Growth

This statement can be problematic. Without a doubt, there are many events that humans experience which isn’t welcomed or wholesome. An example could be violence and corruption. Where we can, we should seek to reduce, remove, and eliminate these unwelcome events. We cannot tolerate them. Being ‘always the student’ does however seek growth in and through all the events of your life. Some people ‘go to hell and back’ and are none the wiser, and some people experience ‘heaven on earth’ but relish this privilege with shallow knowing and understanding. The fragility and blessings of life, be this failure, disappointment, or the wonders of love and beauty, provide an opportunity for learning and development – if we are curious and seek depth. Note these powerful words from Susan Howatch that speak to this point: 

“In the end every major disaster, every tiny error, every wrong turning, every fragment of discarded clay, all the blood sweat and tears, everything has meaning. I give it meaning. I reuse, reshape, recast all that goes wrong so that in the end nothing is wasted, and nothing is without significance, and nothing ceases to be precious to me.” 

The Surprisingly Simple Secrets Of How To Become A Student Of Life

To Be Always The Student, You Must Adopt A Growth Mindset

The book Mindset by Carol Dweck highlights the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.  Since I have read the book, I have become so much more aware of my fixed mindset traits. 

One of my big takes from the book was how a fixed mindset loves and adorns titles and labels. Once we classify ourselves a certain way, we will find it hard to grow beyond it. Some classifications may seem positive, but the label begins to define possibility and capability. This can paralyze growth. Best to keep your identity small and positioned in a narrative of growth. I love how Michelle Obama ends her autobiography. As you read these words, can you pick out the growth mindset nature inside them?

“At 51 I am still in progress. It’s all a process. BECOMING is never giving up on the idea of growing.”

The mantra ‘always a student’ reminds us to avoid labels or permanence. As a student of life, I am growing, and who I am today is not who I am tomorrow. I am a work in progress. 

Unlock A Growth Mindset In Your Team Today

Contact us to receive a free consultation and learn how we can help you create the work culture you dream of. 

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How To Stay Positive When Things Go Wrong

I’m willing to bet that everybody reading this blog has had a recent situation where things have not gone as you’d expected – either in a major or a minor way. Feeling disappointment, frustration, loss, and even anger is a common byproduct of this. And when all these powerful emotions surface, the trick is finding how to stay positive when things go wrong.

I do want to clarify here, that I am not endorsing the societal pressure to always seem positive and happy. I know that when life happens, it can be really tough. And it’s so important to allow space for the real and ugly emotions to take their place, so that you can move through them. But, we must move through them. And even when you are lamenting the loss, challenge or defeat, one must keep placing one foot before the next. This blog is about learning to see the beauty, to find the opportunity, and to cultivate growth and gratitude so that through it all, you can still find the positive.

Chaos is all around us. From torrential rain and flooding (yes KZN, we’re in it knee-deep, aren’t we?), to petrol prices, wedding cancellations, companies closing, and plane tickets being cancelled…we have, at large, been dealt the harsh hand of inconvenience and disappointment several times. 

Sometimes, the biggest challenge is knowing what to do. There’s a way to learn how to stay positive when things go wrong. But it does take a little digging, a lot of honesty, and the recipe of action, acceptance, and perspective.

Learning To Have Perspective When Things Go Wrong

This should always be the first step you take. It will help you determine whether it’s action, acceptance, or both that needs to take place.

Perspective allows us to ensure that before we are making any decisions, we have contemplated and considered every angle there is. This dilutes the possibility of getting a nasty surprise from something you didn’t think about or the frustration of missing a great opportunity. So how do you create perspective?

 

    • Create alternate viewpoints
      Have you ever noticed how if you turn a picture upside down, you see things you didn’t notice before? Creating alternate angles with situations does the same thing.
      So, take a step back from it, turn it upside down, shake it up a bit. Ask questions, even the ones that might seem ludicrous, and see what surfaces. Let creative thinking rule this step, so try to put your inner critic aside. 

 

    • Centre yourself in your values
      Once you’ve explored the possibilities and before you decide what route to take, let’s make sure it’s centred on values. Whether you’re making decisions for a multimillion organisation or your personal life, values need to be the pillar at which our choices swivel around. Without this, how can you be sure it’s the best action to take?

      Consider your values against the ideas you’ve come up with and whether they compromise any of them.

 

    • Receive input from others 
      We shouldn’t make our own decisions based on others’ opinions. But the opinions of those you trust can act as valuable insight and open you to things you might not have considered before. Invite a few trusted people into your circle and confide in them. You might be surprised at the input and perspective they can create.
How To Stay Positive When Things Go Wrong

Choosing The Right Action When Things Go Wrong

Innovators are born under the light of unprecedented challenges. It’s the drive to solve a problem that really gets you thinking out the box.

The way to move forward is always by making a start. The trick here is to ask the right questions:

    • “Today’s actions shape tomorrow’s reality.”
      What’s the next right thing to do? This should be the question you ask the next time you find yourself stumped and staring at a brick wall. The answer to this question is completely dependent on the context – there is no formula. In one of our cards from Resilience In A Box, we say that, “Sometimes, the answer is to be tough. And sometimes you need to be gentle.  Sometimes you need to go, and sometimes you need to stay.  You  might need to sacrifice something, or you might need to give. But it is always honest and accountable.” 
    • Find your reasons to believe
      Taking action in untethered waters can be very daunting. And yet, you can take comfort in knowing that whatever the circumstance, someone has walked a similar road. And even within our own lives, you’ve most probably already come across situations in the past that have called for similar resolve or skills to what you are needing now. Name these, and write them down. Let them remind you that you are capable. Do you know anyone you admire that’s overcome similar obstacles? What did they do? Name them and let this also be a reason to believe.
    • Ask others for support
      The people around us are our greatest asset. When you’re needing particular knowledge or skills, be brave enough to ask others to journey with you and share theirs. You might even be surprised at the willingness they have to give. 

Releasing And Accepting When Things Go Wrong

What do you do when it’s out of your control? When no action or alternate angle can change what has happened? This is perhaps the hardest of all these steps to take, as it requires absolute surrender and release of that which cannot be changed. It requires you to let go.  

    • Time for release
      We wrote a blog some time ago where we ask the question, ‘what closed door do you need to trust?’ Here, we share a fantastic quote from Lesly Odom Jr.’s book, Failing Up, where he says, “Over time I have come to realize that try as we might to knock down the barriers, every now and then we might need to trust the closed door.” 
    • Finding attachments that don’t serve you
      The danger of holding on to something long after it needs to be let go, is that it turns into an attachment. In this case, you might be desperately clinging to an idea, habit, or notion that no longer serves you. In fact, after creating perspective you might find it’s negatively impacting you. Check out our podcast on “Letting Go Of The Remote” to go deeper here.
    • Look for opportunities within the challenge
      Let’s look at Polaroid as our case study here – a well-known, iconic brand. Unfortunately, it’s also well-known for a very sad and unnecessary fall. Polaroid was the leading brand in photography for many years. But their challenge came when digital photography started emerging. It was not a lack of awareness, or even research into the emerging digital field – but rather, it was adamance from top decision-makers. They firmly believed that digital photos would never overtake the popularity of instant photos. And so, they chose not to invest in it. For this reason, and a few other related ones, the corporate giant went down.

      What can we learn here? Challenges are opportunities for innovation, and they demand adaptable mindsets. If only Polaroid had seen the challenge of a door closing for instant photos, as an opportunity to progress.
How To Stay Positive When Things Go Wrong

Key Take-Aways

We’ve had quite a conversation here. There are many viewpoints to consider, lots of emotions and so many contexts. But I think, regardless of all these variables, some key takeaways that can be applied to most situations and hopefully bring something valuable to the table when considering how to stay positive when things go wrong.

 

    • Give your emotions space to be present – validate them and move through them. It’s never easy to face a loss or defeat of something we hoped for. In other words, it’s incredibly helpful if you learn how to embrace your humanity.
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    • Create perspective. Find ways to view every alternate angle, inviting others to share insight, but always centring yourself in your values.
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    • Decide if the situation calls for action. And if it does, start by focusing on doing the next right thing. Remember that failure does not always mean defeat. And defeat does not always mean it’s the end of the road. Dig deep into your reasons to believe, ask others to rally behind you, and don’t be afraid of facing the hard part.
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    • Accept and release what needs releasing. It’s easier said than done; but by surrendering to that which you cannot change and letting go of unhealthy attachments, you can seek new opportunities, you can make sure no efforts are wasted.

Some Inspiration For You

We all need to be reminded that through challenge, there is always hope. Here’s a powerful story from Jason Redman about focusing on positive responses to challenges and how it got him through a crisis: 

And, here are some CAFE Life resources to help you on your way, and add some supportive tools to your belt:

It’s hard to accept, but there isn’t one right response to challenge. It takes resilience, support from others, and a willingness to grow and learn in order to move forward. The fact that we are alive, means we face challenges and hardship. May you find the positive within it and allow this to create your silver lining.   

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THE ART of FACILITATION

Thirty years ago, I found myself in a job that gave me a stage. Immediately, I fell in love with the power of positive influence. The stage made me come alive, centred me, and gave me purpose. The desire to grow and strengthen myself in speaking publicly excited me. And then, twenty years ago, I found myself in a job that exposed me to facilitation.

After I discovered this, my passion expanded. It changed the course of my life, my profession, and my journey. Facilitation provided me with a wonderful new tool of influence, and the desire to master this beautiful art form began. 

I wanted to unearth the secret to creating spaces that connect and engage, creating environments of adventure and intrigue. If you create this space, a magical dance starts to take place where people discover, grow, and contribute. This type of facilitation takes me to the most wonderful places that I know.

What is Facilitation, and what does a facilitator do? 


A facilitator is accurately described by the Association for Talent Development as a “ ‘guide on the side who asks questions, moderates discussions, introduces activities, and helps participants learn.

Facilitation can be powerfully used in many situations: to foster connection, achieve a goal, trigger learning, activate potential, and embrace change to name a few.

A good facilitator is like a composer – directing conversation and setting a bass note, but always allowing people to speak and share their ‘song’, unedited. This real, raw, vulnerable place is where the magic and learning lies.

Facilitation – the right type of facilitation – is about focused expression from both the group and the individual within the group.


Some will say more, some will say less, some will reveal more feelings, and some will reveal less, and that’s ok. The important part is that we talk about that which matters. This is why organisational change and culture creation should always facilitate in a way that reaches the heart. Adopting new norms happens from the inside out, where people connect with the urgency and necessity for what needs to be done.

THE ART of FACILITATION

The power of Facilitation

When I was young, there was a coke advert that had a line something like, ‘I wish that I could buy everybody in the world a coke.’ As I look at the world I think to myself, how I wish that everybody in the world could experience the magic of facilitation. Especially on topics like gratitude, or contribution, or slowing down, or LOVE.

I know these topics might sound soft to you.  But seriously – it’s time we replace these incorrect attachments with the right feelings and thinking. In the magical circle of facilitation, people are honoured and their feelings are engaged. This is what makes it so powerful, as no true change or growth occurs when feelings are ignored. 

Feelings are arguably the most important aspect of our being. Most of our endeavours in life revolve around ‘feeling good’ and this requires that we feel ‘heard.’ We make all our decisions based on our feelings. 

The secret to an effective facilitation

The prized environment of this beautiful art form is psychological safety. Here, people don’t fear rejection, embarrassment or punishment for ideas shared or commentary made. Over the years, I have experienced surreal moments where safety produces the most innovative breakthrough and ideas. 

I believe innovation and fresh thinking (a core value of ours), ultimately follows surrender. We must let go of attachments and dominance, yielding to the power and resourcefulness of ‘us’. Collaboration requires such safety, and the art form of facilitation is to make beautiful spaces like this possible. Sometimes it happens quickly. And sometimes, there are some roadblocks to move through. 

So whatever the challenge, whatever the possibility, don’t get caught up on the transaction alone. Find the transformative magic within facilitation.

Ready to experience the art of facilitation for yourself?


YES! I want a free consultation.
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