Creating a Successful and Innovative Organisational Culture - 3 Simple Elements

I have recently been involved in a project seeking views from over 100 successful international experts in human resources and leadership. You will hear more about the project in the second quarter of next year. I will keep you posted.

What I want to talk about in this article is what these experts, who have spent a lifetime in managing multinational companies, reminded me about creating company culture: Make it Simple!

It is indeed, so simple to create a company culture where people feel safe, engaged and innovative. I know there are thousands of books, blogs and articles on company culture. When I typed company culture on google search it came up with 1,470,000,000 results within 52 seconds! So, one might argue everything in the world that could be said about company culture has already been said! One might be right!  However, it is not what you say but how you structure it is important, isn’t it?

According to Frances Frei and Anne Morris at Harvard Business Review:

 

“Culture guides discretionary behaviour and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. Culture tells us how to respond to an unprecedented service request. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to surface or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day, and culture is our guide. Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is, of course, most of the time.”

 

It is with that culture comes engagement which itself brings productivity and results in innovation. The more engaged people are, the more involved they are and the more “free” and innovative they can be. It is obvious disengaged people will not be innovative!  We all know that innovation is at the heart of every business and so are the employees. Or so, they should be!

How can we have a culture that is engaging people and supporting them to be innovative then? Here are the 3 simple elements of a great culture:

1-    Communication: I can’t emphasize enough how important communication is in creating a culture of success. Communication may mean a lot of different things to different people but my simple view is basically clear guidelines, listening to people rather than dictating to them what to do, being honest and fair, respecting people, building trust and transparency.  You might add many other things into this mix. But the truth of the matter is people do not need much guidance in communicating with each other. So, I always recommend to my clients to keep it simple and straight to the point.

2-    Agility: In today’s world an organisation needs to be agile to be successful. It also needs to be inclusive all the different cultures within itself. Therefore, diversity, respecting differences, valuing the differences and adapting to changing environments are the key elements for an organisation to be agile. If the culture of the organisation is agile, then that organisation will not have a serious  risks in facing with the challenges of the changing environment. If all the members of the organisation, regardless of their ethnicity, where they are based and what they do, feel they are included, they are respected and represented, then they will feel more engaged and help the organisation to be more agile. One size does not fit to everyone! Agility is an important asset for an organisation.

3-    Leadership: There is no way to create a well communicative and agile culture without leadership, a good one! People like to imitate their leaders. Leaders who live by the values and walk the talk will build trust. As we all know this is an important part of communication.  People will follow the leaders whom they trust and believe. If the leader is inclusive, the people feel they are respected. If the leader values diversity and encourages people to think laterally and “outside of the box”, then people will be more innovative.

As you can see, creating a corporate culture that results in innovation and success is not rocket science! It is just a simple matter of talking to people, trusting them and helping them to trust you, being agile to their needs as well as customers’ needs, being inclusive and walking the talk. That is how I help my clients in changing their organisational culture. As they say, less is more!

When talking and thinking about organisational culture, let’s never forget what Peter Drucker said about it: Culture eats strategy for breakfast!

 

Creating a Successful and Innovative Organisational Culture - 3 Simple Elements

I have recently been involved in a project seeking views from over 100 successful international experts in human resources and leadership. You will hear more about the project in the second quarter of next year. I will keep you posted.

What I want to talk about in this article is what these experts, who have spent a lifetime in managing multinational companies, reminded me about creating company culture: Make it Simple!

It is indeed, so simple to create a company culture where people feel safe, engaged and innovative. I know there are thousands of books, blogs and articles on company culture. When I typed company culture on google search it came up with 1,470,000,000 results within 52 seconds! So, one might argue everything in the world that could be said about company culture has already been said! One might be right!  However, it is not what you say but how you structure it is important, isn’t it?

According to Frances Frei and Anne Morris at Harvard Business Review:

“Culture guides discretionary behaviour and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. Culture tells us how to respond to an unprecedented service request. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to surface or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day, and culture is our guide. Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is, of course, most of the time.”

It is with that culture comes engagement which itself brings productivity and results in innovation. The more engaged people are, the more involved they are and the more “free” and innovative they can be. It is obvious disengaged people will not be innovative!  We all know that innovation is at the heart of every business and so are the employees. Or so, they should be!

How can we have a culture that is engaging people and supporting them to be innovative then? Here are the 3 simple elements of a great culture:

1-    Communication: I can’t emphasize enough how important communication is in creating a culture of success. Communication may mean a lot of different things to different people but my simple view is basically clear guidelines, listening to people rather than dictating to them what to do, being honest and fair, respecting people, building trust and transparency.  You might add many other things into this mix. But the truth of the matter is people do not need much guidance in communicating with each other. So, I always recommend to my clients to keep it simple and straight to the point.

2-    Agility: In today’s world an organisation needs to be agile to be successful. It also needs to be inclusive all the different cultures within itself. Therefore, diversity, respecting differences, valuing the differences and adapting to changing environments are the key elements for an organisation to be agile. If the culture of the organisation is agile, then that organisation will not have a serious  risks in facing with the challenges of the changing environment. If all the members of the organisation, regardless of their ethnicity, where they are based and what they do, feel they are included, they are respected and represented, then they will feel more engaged and help the organisation to be more agile. One size does not fit to everyone! Agility is an important asset for an organisation.

3-    Leadership: There is no way to create a well communicative and agile culture without leadership, a good one! People like to imitate their leaders. Leaders who live by the values and walk the talk will build trust. As we all know this is an important part of communication.  People will follow the leaders whom they trust and believe. If the leader is inclusive, the people feel they are respected. If the leader values diversity and encourages people to think laterally and “outside of the box”, then people will be more innovative.

As you can see, creating a corporate culture that results in innovation and success is not rocket science! It is just a simple matter of talking to people, trusting them and helping them to trust you, being agile to their needs as well as customers’ needs, being inclusive and walking the talk. That is how I help my clients in changing their organisational culture. As they say, less is more!

When talking and thinking about organisational culture, let’s never forget what Peter Drucker said about it: Culture eats strategy for breakfast!

 

Most Adaptable Ones Bring Success -Case Study

Almost 2 years ago, I was approached by a large engineering company to help them with their overseas recruitment and appointments. What they basically wanted me to do was to set out the recruitment process and help them with the interviews to identify the best people within their company to be sent on an overseas assignment. They had their own very successful interview process but they found it failing them in identifying the best internal candidate(s) for the overseas roles. In their last few appointments, either the candidates did not like the assignment or they were not a good fit to the role or the local clients did not like them. There had been a few cases where the families did not like the new country they moved to as well. So, having spent so much money in investing in those people and even coming close to losing clients, the company decided to work with me.

The first thing I did was to review their recruitment process which was working perfectly in most cases but not so with overseas assignments. In order to make recommendations on the process, I talked to the managers, i.e. hiring/ interviewing managers, HR managers. I read the job descriptions.  Interestingly, none of the job descriptions mentioned specific requirements for the client management skills or cross-cultural awareness for those specific overseas roles.

Even more interesting than the job descriptions was the differences between the expectations of the current managers of the employees, the hiring managers and HR in the interview process. The current managers’ view point was mostly shaped around the employees’ performance and knowledge of the subject matter. Therefore, they often used the opportunity of the new overseas job opening as a promotion or fast  track to the top roles for the employee and hence the recommendation. The hiring/interviewing managers wanted also someone who is a subject matter expert and who can start as soon as possible so that the financial loss would be minimum and they would have a happy client. Time is money, after all!  HR was in between the job descriptions, hiring managers and all others involved, trying to manage the process and fill the vacancy within the SLA criteria.

Within all these complexities, no one thought about the employee/candidate being the right one for a cross-cultural experience. Therefore, I introduced several tests to understand the candidates’ cross-cultural awareness in the process. I also introduced a few mandatory questions to be asked in the interview, all about cross-cultural awareness. The reason was so simple: the best engineer in the world might not be the best person to live and work abroad. 

Before, we started the interview process, I also trained all the parties involved on cross-cultural awareness and what kind of thinking and behaviours they should be looking for.

The company embraced this process and we started the interviews. Despite, the new process and new criteria to identify the candidate internally, we came across candidates who were high performers and fitted all the business criteria other than the cross-cultural awareness. However, thanks to the new process, we also had different candidates, who were “just good” at their jobs but who were much better in cross-cultural awareness than some of the best performers.

At the end of the interview process we had 2 candidates who were highly thought of  by the hiring managers and HR. As I was getting ready for the next step of our project, which was coaching the candidate they were going to choose, due to the strategic nature of position, higher level management had to be involved in the decision making and  we were told that an earlier  candidate who was a top performer but we had not short listed due to improvement needs on cross-cultural awareness, was going to be given the job!

You can imagine, everyone involved in the project was disappointed to say the least! I prepared my report on the reasons why choosing him would not be a good idea, taking into account the culture he was going to be working in and his attitude towards relationships, leadership, power distance. The list goes on and on. Almost before, I was on the train home, the candidate was on his way to manage clients and projects in Japan.

Exactly, 13 months later, the company approached me for another project and while we were discussing the details HR Manager told me that superstar of the UK who was sent to the overseas assignment with high expectations, unfortunately could not make his new business a success. He made clients upset and caused issues among the locally employed staff. Long story, short, he was kindly asked to leave the company!

The company has not only lost time and money on this specific placement but they also lost one their most talented high performers!

Moral of the story: Not the best performers but the most adaptable ones bring success in overseas assignments!         

Should you like to know more about cross-cultural awareness consultancy and coaching, please contact me on hande.binns@yournextsteps.co.uk

 

Future of Employment: It is time for HR to step in?

Since the publication of a book The Future of Employment by Dr Carl Frey and Dr Michael Osborne from Oxford University in 2013, the issue has been debated at different platforms, especially by management consultants and economists but it seems infrequently by HR Professionals. 

Frey and Osman predicted that 47% of jobs will disappear by 2030. These jobs either will be extinct or will be performed by robots. A more recent study from PwC makes a prediction that the nature of some occupations will change rather than the jobs disappear. Whether some jobs will disappear or not, one thing is for sure that we as humans will need to share our jobs with robots or in some cases lose them

Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Robots (automation) are the answer to productivity issues that have been on the table since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Automation is the cheapest way to improve productivity which is highly valued by shareholders and the capitalist system. Technology (automation) reduces accidents, saves time, maybe results in less mistakes and of course helps to maximize the profit! It will have a huge impact on our current systems around employment, retirement, tax and social care, more than we can imagine! 

Due to the increasing amount of automation, indisputably unemployment will increase. As the journalist and author of PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future, Paul Mason stated the future of work will soon become “the survival of the most adaptable”. Those who can adapt to the new ways of doing work due to automation will be able to survive. People will need to learn additional skills and use them simultaneously within different roles. This will require more training programs from the companies. Universities will need to review the content of their courses to givea wider range of skills to the future employees. Meanwhile companies will think about what kind of a skill they need rather than a specific role and where and how they can find that skill and for how long? As you can see, the whole structure of employment as we know, as of today, will change.

Unfortunately, not everyone will be employable despite the efforts. Therefore, society will face unprecedented unemployment rates. Our society, one that is already aging and already struggling with changing dynamics of aging, such as high life expectancy, will need to rethink how to support pensioners and unemployed as well as younger generations. How is our precious NHS going to be supported with loss of tax revenue due to employment of robots?

As HR professionals, it is our job and ethical responsibility to help our employers and fellow colleagues to draw a road map on how to cope with all these changes almost on our doorsteps. We need to put automation at the top of the HR agenda not for productivity purposes but for the future of employment. We all know that that there is no job for life any more but with automation the life span of that job is going to reduce drastically.

We, as HR professionals, need to work with governments to create different skilled jobs and champion different remuneration structures for multi-skilled employees working on different time schedules and periods. We also need to drive the discussion of the loss of tax revenue due to “robot employees” and how to support governments to earn tax revenue on robots so that the social welfare system could be sustained to a certain level.  I think it is time for HR professionals to step into this unknown area of future employment and drive the agenda at the macro level.

Despite the challenges, there are many reasons to be optimistic and one of them is that we make and program the robots! And that means we can control and manage the change that will happen!  

I would like to hear your views on how HR should drive the agenda on the future of employment and the co-existence of human employees and Artificial Intelligence.

Get Me Out of This Place!

A client of mine has moved to a different country 9 months ago. She had been head hunted by one of the government agencies in a fast-developing country in the Middle East. She is a very clever and competent lady with excellent professional skills. She has spent her last 25 years in her area of expertise as a leading consultant. When the opportunity arrived, she took it with a great enthusiasm. It was an opportunity of life time as she was going to be able to make a huge contribution in setting up and implementing the strategy for that country to be the number one in the world in her area of expertise. Although she was very enthusiastic she was not blinded by the opportunity and financial benefits that came with it. She was aware there were cultural differences and although she has been at the top of her profession, she has never worked abroad. Therefore, she reached out to me and asked me to coach her in her first three months of this cross-cultural journey.

The first few weeks, she was happy. More than happy, I think, she was excited and enthusiastic. She had every reason to be. The weather was great and sunny, the culture was new and exotic, food was excellent. She was meeting new people from all over the world and everyone at work were very friendly. I call this honeymoon phase. This is the phase where people live in the clouds and think all is great. She was even thinking to cut our agreement short as she did not think she needed any support in adapting herself to this new environment. Four weeks into her new life, she emailed me and she asked for a session immediately. After few emails we managed to find some time in our diaries and we had an “unplanned” session. She was visibly in distress, shaking her legs, biting her lips, talking about an upset stomach etc. She talked about things being difficult at work such as people not listening to what she suggests or asking her to proof read their documents rather than working on the strategy as her job description and contract required. She was having difficulty in understanding all these things happening around her and she was literally shocked. Her employer also told her that they are making some amendments to her contract and none of them was for her benefit. This was totally against her professional understanding, her culture where business ethics were different. The result was headaches, anger, resentment, homesickness and sleepless nights. She was feeling like nothing but a failure. Suddenly that wonderful country she moved to 4 weeks ago turned out to be a giant prison for her, in her mind! She did not believe anything would be resolved and all she could think of was to go back to the UK. All she was saying was : Get me out of this place! I must admit that she had made some mistakes before arriving in the country such as signing the employment contract of another country without consulting a lawyer or someone who can help. But put this and a few other things aside, that once clever and self- assured woman was crumbling in front of my eyes. This was an important stage for her and for our coaching sessions. I call this stage shock phase.

It is in this stage some people give up and decide to go back to their home countries. It is in this stage people experience the most change in their lives. They suddenly realize it is not a holiday anymore! It is for real! It is in this stage people realize their life is changing for good and change itself is scary. To get over all the fear of change, I often refer to the Kubler-Ross Change Curve with my clients. The Kubler-Ross Change Curve, which is also known as the 5 stages of change, is a model consisting of the various levels or stages of emotions which are experienced by a person who is soon going to approach change or is going through change. The 5 stages included in this model are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. When my client called me, and insisted to have a session, she was at the anger stage.

Throughout our sessions, we worked through the stages and she finally reached the point where she found herself happily living in her new life and contributing to the strategy of that government office as she had promised to do. She made new friends, joined some social groups and learned more about the local culture. This is the cultural adaptation phase.

So, should you be planning to move abroad, work abroad or should you be managing a multicultural workforce, it will always be advisable to get some cross-cultural coaching. A simple hint: make sure the offer you have received from abroad is reviewed by a cross-cultural expert!!

Should you like to know more about how I can help you, please get in touch with me at hande.binns@yournextsteps.co.uk

Kübler-Ross-Model.png

Cross-Cultural Leadership in the Global World

In the early 1960s when Marshall McLuhan introduced the concept of “Global Village” no one really understood what it meant to humanity until the late 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century. Today, the term globalization is most closely associated with the term economic globalization: the integration of national economies into the international economy through reduction of barriers to international trade and through international division of labor.

 Large or small, local or global, all the firms are facing with a different challenge than in the past as workforce demographics are changing as a result of many factors:

1.    decreasing population growth in industrialized countries

2.    increasing life expectancy in industrialized countries (By 2050, one fifth of the world’s population will be aged 60 or older)

3.    mobilization due to changing economics

In the next 20 years, availability of skilled workers will not be balanced by the in-country need. Some countries such as India, Philippines, Mexico, and Vietnam will have a surplus while others such as US, UK, Japan, and Russia will suffer significant deficits. All this demographic turbulence means that industries around the world will have to find new sources of labour and many countries will need to get used to working with workers from different nationalities and from different cultural backgrounds.

Technology on the other hand is developing very fast and enabling people to communicate with almost no time and space boundaries. It has been one of the key drivers of globalization.

As a result of all these factors, today’s world is more competitive than ever. It is almost impossible for companies to stay local and be successful in the long term.  Expatriate or international assignments have been rising and companies need skills to be successful in the global context such as adaptability to different cultures.

The most effective way to cope with this changing world and increasing competition is to work with leaders who can effectively and efficiently work across different cultures, who can build trust and influence people from different backgrounds.  However, those leaders, unfortunately, do not grow in the trees!

Companies need to define their requirements very clearly and then invest/hire the right people to create their very own cross-cultural leaders.

In my Cross-Cultural Leadership in the Global World Training Programme, I help/support companies to have a competitive edge by simply creating cultural awareness, discussing and assessing Cultural Intelligence (CQ) and improving skills in cross-cultural leadership.       

The framework of my training programmes is:

·       Self-awareness

·       Cross-Cultural awareness/CQ

·       Communication skills

·       Cross- Cultural leadership skills  

Within this framework, attendees:

  • understand the benefits of understanding the cultural differences

  • experience how understanding herself can help the person work with other people from different backgrounds

  • learn different communication styles, understand the difficulties of using English as a medium of communication, learn to overcome the prejudices, deal with misunderstandings, learn to manage conflict

  • learn about cross-cultural leadership styles

  • Embrace diversity and recognise its role in innovative problem solving 

For more information- hande.binns@yournextsteps.co.uk 

How Culturally Intelligent is Your Business?

We are all familiar with HSBC’s slogan of the world’s local bank. It is a reflection of how important it is to understand the local environment while you are still being a part of the global world.   

In today’s world one of the skills that people should acquire is the ability to adapt to different cultures and manage interconnections. Similarly, organisations have to adapt to globalization and have people with the right skills to cope with the constantly changing global environment.  Globalization is an intertwined relationship between the local and the global, the so called local being the environment in which people create flexible transnational as well as trans-cultural communities (Bauman 1998, Giddens 1991).

Today companies are striving to become truly global and they try to acquire specific knowledge for individual and organizational goal achievement in culturally mixed settings and be able to handle “glocal” encounters.  This requires a different set of skills from the employees such as interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds and being able to adapt to working with and in different cultures.

As the world gets more global and so do the businesses, we need to acknowledge that the unfamiliar experiences created are unknown to us. Thus, Cultural Intelligence - the ability to create an impact across different cultures - is required in order to make sense of the unknown differences. Intercultural success is more reliant on Cultural Intelligence than any other forms of intelligence such as IQ and EQ.

A company’s level of adaptiveness to the different cultures and therefore its success is directly linked to its people’s cultural intelligence. Therefore, starting from the recruitment process, companies need to adapt different techniques to hire/appoint the person. Then comes the orientation programme. People with any managerial or leadership role would agree with me that having the right person in the right place is vital.

I personally experienced how cultural intelligence can be vital as an HRD working for many multi-national companies on 3 continents. I witnessed people being sent on overseas assignments by the HQs based on their technical skills or the skills that are relevant to their home countries. Sadly, they often failed in their roles by not being able to adapt to different cultures, different styles of doing business……Even having different weekends. That resulted in losing business, losing people, losing market share, losing clients and inevitably losing money. Therefore businesses need to have culturally intelligent strategies in entering overseas markets and more importantly they need to have culturally intelligent people to make the “unknown”, familiar!

In my next post, I will discuss how to embed cultural intelligence into a recruitment process especially for overseas assignments.

Bauman, Z. (1998) Liquid Modernity. London, Sage

Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 

High Performance Culture: What Team GB’s Olympic Success Reminds the Business World About Executive Coaching?

Great Britain is celebrating its most successful Olympic Games ever in Rio 2016, with a total of 67 medals, nearly 130 medalists, across 19 sports, their best since 1908!. Now, everyone is asking the same question: What has been the secret of Team GB’s Olympic success?

 It was only 20 years ago, at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, GB finished in 36th position, their lowest ever and behind New Zealand, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Ireland and winning only one gold medal.

 This prompted a fundamental question: how could they do things differently in order to be a winning team?

 First of all, they started putting clear goals, ambitions and targets. It was obvious that they would only go upwards and this message was made clear to all sporting parties. Step 1 in creating high performance culture: Creating a clear, shared vision!

 Next step was reviewing the resources: Both people and financial resources. The biggest impact of the results of 1996 Atlanta Olympics was on the way GB funds its Olympic sports. In 1997, there came the use of National Lottery funding whichhas changed the face of British sport. It played a huge part in driving the agenda in creating a high performance culture. With the money coming from the National Lottery, it has been possible for athletes to train full-time.  

 The money also supported the strategy on finding the best coaches, introducing better training schedules, diet, medical support and bringing expert advice from all over the world. Step 2: Reviewing the resources that would support you in creating high performance culture!

Then there came an action plan with strict measurements of performance. The National Lottery funding helped UK Sport introduce the World Class Performance Programme in 1997. With all the support from both financial and people side of the sporting world, there is now an expectation to succeed as failure results in funding cuts. A prime example of this is British gymnastics team as they achieved their 4 medals target at London 2012, they were awarded with a 36% increase in the funding which resulted with their first gold medal ever in Rio 2016. Step 3: Set clear performance targets, give more support to those who achieve the targets and give them more challenges. Review the reasons behind the failures and do not be afraid of making difficult decisions.      

This programme of World Class Performance also monitors the risk of people most likely to be targeted to join another country, and a succession plan for our best coaches, scientists and medics. Thinking long term is behind the success of Team GB. Step 4: Put a succession plan in place!

Creating the enviable team spirit was an important factor behind Team GB’s success, if not the most.  Being able to give people a long-term future creates the huge sense of belonging. People really want to be part of this success. Step 5: Create the team spirit.

And finally, when Team GB returned from Rio yesterday, they were greeted by the whole nation. They were all over the TV, radios and newspapers and they will be for a while. And in October, in Manchester the whole country will come together to celebrate their great success together with the Paralympics Team. Step 6: Celebrate your success!

Thanks to Team GB , it is becoming more clear to the business world that the path to high performance in Olympics is identical to the one in business. The term coaching has been in use in sports far before it has been used in business and there is a reason for that: People in sports have been focusing on high performance more than the people in business until recently. When the competition got tougher, business world have started looking for better ways of performing and this is where executive coaching has been  providing expert support to create high performance teams. Through its systematic approach, executive coaching helps the executives to develop insight, self-confidence, skills to cope with the challenging world and ability to make difficult decisions. 

In order to make those coaching efforts impactful, businesses need to make right decisions as to whom they would support through executive coaching like Team GB does. Executive coaching can help businesses in making those decisions. Sometimes, those decisions might be difficult or tough to make but one thing is sure making the investment in the right people pays off!  High performance culture is possible!       

 

What is stopping you to reach your potential?

We all have a tendency toward self-actualisition. That is, it is in our nature to reach our potential.   However, we bump up against family norms, society norms, expectations from significant others, education system and many other imposed standards.  We all learn how to love ourselves, when to love ourselves, conditions to love ourselves and we all assimilate those into our self-concept. In this “process”, we end up “being conditioned” to respond the experiences based on those standards and not on the basis of enhancing ourselves to reach our potential.  Yet, we continue accumulating the wisdom that is needed for self-actualisation. As a result, the tension tarts building up between the inner force to reach our potential and external inputs, i.e.

It is however, possible to reach our potential, live the life we want to live. Simply because we are already born with the capacity to reach our potential. All we need is to have the right conditions in the present and our urge to reach our potential will start coming out to the light and we will gradually overcome the obstacles in front of our potential.

The foremost important condition is self-compassion. It is extending compassion to one's self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. Or it is called “unconditional positive regard” by Carl Rogers.  Or it is called “unconditional self acceptance” by Albert Ellis. 

Several studies have shown that treating oneself with compassion when faced with challenges and suffering improves resilience and well-being. In addition, studies found strong association between self-compassion and happiness, optimism and emotional intelligence.

Although we innatelyhave compassion in all of us for others as well as for ourselves, it seems that during the “process” we start being more and more compassionate our others than ourselves. There is nothing wrong to be compassionate to others and it is really important to be empathic and compassionate to others. But, there is nothing wrong to be compassionate to ourselves either.

It looks like throughout the “process”, we become more judgmental towards ourselves, more isolated and overly identified with mental or emotional suffering.  No wonder, why we are not able to reach to our potential. We tend not to have an unconditional positive self-regard.

So, in order to reach to our potential and have a fulfilling life, we need to replace the conditions that causes lack of compassion for ourselves. As we have learned all those behaviours, we can unlearn them too! This starts to be in environments that treats us with unconditional regard. Hard to find, I know but coaching provides such an environment.

When you find yourself self-judgmental, try to think howyou would treat someone in your position. We are more compassionate to others, remember!

Remember that you are not the only one who is going through the experience. It is a human experience that sometimes we fail.

I know it is easier to say than practicing the love for yourself. But I am afraid that is the only way to start reaching your potential and have/do/be whatever you want to in your life. You are worth it!

 

For more information on self-compassion, please visit my website:www.yournextsteps.co.uk          

What makes a good relationship? .... Values!

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, 
Your thoughts become your words, 
Your words become your actions, 
Your actions become your habits, 
Your habits become your values, 
Your values become your destiny.” 

 Mahatma Gandhi

 In my previous article “What makes a happy life?”, I talked about the longitudinal study of over 75 years on “What makes a good life” and the findings that a good relationship makes us happy and feel good.

In this article I would like to take a step further and discuss more about how can we have good quality relationships so that we feel fulfilled?

Despite the thousands of books on how to have a fulfilled relationship and life, fulfilment is still a personal experience and definition of fulfilment is also very personal. Having a fulfilled life by all means does not mean a life without struggle. People can be fulfilled even when there is struggle. Fulfilment is about who the person is becoming, it is about being fully alive.

The values that people hold play a critical role in having a fulfilled life. Like having a fulfilled life, everyone talks about values. Politicians promote them, companies engrave them, parents transmit them, and our environment shapes them. So what exactly are values? How do we portray our values? What happens when we have a life where we don’t live by our values?

Leonard et al (1997) defined values as those qualities, interests or aspects of life which have continuously drawn or attracted people since childhood. Values are "who we are.”   When we honour our values, there is a feeling of harmony. Values are like finger prints. They are products of our unique experiences, knowledge, feelings, preferences, etc. Our individual sense of values determines what we consider meaningful and important. If we are not clear about what is important for us, then we will have a difficulty in making decisions. 

As the world is constantly changing and people need to adjust to new situations, problems and opportunities, they might “choose” to tolerate these and compromise their values. This creates dissonance, tension, unhappiness and more importantly an unfulfilled life.

So, the key determinant of the quality of a relationship is how much both parties can live by their values when in the relationship. And this relationship could be between you and your partner or you and the company you work for or between you and your boss!

Within this context, how many of us is living a fulfilling live, having a good quality relationship? Above all how many of us is really, truly aware of what their values are?

Let’s discuss how value clarification would help us, in my next post.

 

Leonard, T. J., Talley, L. and Coach, U, Inc. (1997). The Dictionary. Available at: www.coachville.com

 

 

What makes a happy life?

In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. 
Andy Warhol

A recent survey asked this question to young people who are at their teens. 80% said getting rich and 50% said becoming famous! What kind of a message those kids are getting to believe that to be happy they need to be either rich or famous or both!

I will give you a hint: We are living in a society which constantly pushes us to work harder, do better, achieve more. More is not enough. We want more and more and more…. But the question is Would working harder, achieving more, becoming rich and famous make us happy and keep us happy?

The longitudinal study that took over 75 years (started in 1938) and is currently led by Harvard University’s Robert Waldinger on what makes a good life revealed some contradicting results to the popular belief in the society.

In a nutshell, what makes us happy is good relationships! As simple as that! Not a rocket science!

It is quality of the relationships that makes and keeps us happy and healthy! It’s not about the number of friends we have or whether or not we’re in a committed relationship. On the contrary being in a high-conflict relationship without much affection is very bad for our both physical and mental health. And in some cases it might be worse than getting divorced. So settling for someone or trying to have more friends just because you don’t want to be alone might cause you more harm than being alone.

Good quality relationships provide us with security and just physically, but mentally, too. Knowing we have someone we can count on during the tough times keeps us happier and healthier. And good relationships do not come in a pink, happy package! People can experience conflicts from time to time. But as long as both parties know that they could rely on the other person for support.

So, being happy and healthy in life are not dependent on how much money we make, how many friends we have, what type of car we drive. But it is dependent on the quality of our relationship(s).

The question now is how can we have good quality relationships so that we feel our life is complete, happy and healthy? I will talk about it in next week’s post. 

Unchain Your Courage

Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It's courage that counts.

John Wooden

 

It is not surprising that the quote I used as an introduction is from a very famous basketball coach! John Wooden, as head coach at UCLA,  won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period, including a record seven in a row.  He was nicknamed the "Wizard of Westwood”.

Many people I coach want to be either wizards or to have a magic wand to do or get what they want and become who they want to be. All the self-development books and experts repeatedly state the same thing: You don’t need to be a wizard to change your life or be who you are! You really do not need a magic wand!

There is no formula to change your life or totally transform it! But it is a good idea to start from letting go off the past!

As a coach, I usually spend the first few sessions listening to my clients tell me who they really are, how much they want to be themselves, what they want to be and the obstacles in front of them. 80% of the time those obstacles are from the past experiences and believe me most of them have no relevance for today or the future. But it seems like some of us like to hold on to the past and don’t want to let it go.   

What happens when people hold on to the past? Well, to start with they miss the opportunity to live in the present and plan for a wonderful future. But perhaps the biggest challenge they face is the memories of the past in similar situations which they use for their decisions/choices for today.

Those people who are “stuck” in the past tend to focus on their duties and obligations and therefore they miss their immediate situation. They always experience tension between their present situation/thoughts/actions and commitments made in previous situations. They tend to be ritualistic. They like to hold on to habits as things from the past to inject in to their “present”. 

Not surprisingly, they do not like new experiences. They do not seem to appreciate the new ways of doing familiar things. They are afraid of new. They are afraid of taking risks. So, they get stuck with their past.

Being stuck in the past is one of the most important factors that holds people back from living the life they want, being the person they are and transforming their lives. If you ever find yourself in this situation, ask yourself: This is similar to my past, so what are the odds of having the same results/experience a second time? Ask yourself if your assumption is correct?  

Remember, it does not matter what your past is, who you were in the past. What matters is to have the courage of being who you are and letting gp of the past. What matters is to have the courage to brake the chain of your past. Unchain your courage! That is what matters.

And you do not need a magic wand. You have all the resources you need. You are a beautiful, smart, skillful human being with love in your heart.  You can do it!  You can choose love over fear or the shadows of the past.

I believe in you and your ability!  You can take the first step in being who you really are by braking the chain with your past. Once you do that, you will see how liberating and fulfilling it is.

As Oscar Wilde once said Be yourself; everyone else is already taken!