It’s been a joy and a pleasure to work with so many wonderful, curious and successful people, leaders, teams and organisations all over the world over 2022.
Last year was a big year of adjustment as we came out of the pandemic. There was so much to navigate from WFH to WFO to WFA, from hyper-flexibility, to the ‘new normal’ to the great resignation.
At 4D HumanBeing we constantly keep our ears to the ground about what is coming next. So, as we stride our way into the New Year, let’s buckle up for the ride ahead and take a look at new and continuing themes that leaders, team and organisations need to be aware of in 2023.
Here are 4D’s Top 10 Trends for the year ahead:
2023 is going to be all about energy – your energy as an individual, a team and as a business. Your personal energy resource plays a huge part in your WellBeing, creativity, motivation, relationships and life experience. You will need enough of it to live well, happily and healthily. Don’t panic though – living on full crazy, 24/7, powerhouse energy is all very nineties and naughties. In 2023, rather than feeling the need to be on constant, high energy – this year the key is to live, play and work with ‘smart energy.’ By smart energy we mean the ability to use and focus your personal energy intelligently. This means recognising what and who energises or de-energises you, working at a sustainable pace, prioritising where you place your energy and focusing your effort where you create most value. This also means not working frantically, not working excessive hours and not allowing diaries or SM platforms to be your 24/7 taskmaster.
2022 has seen an energy crisis all over the world. An energy crisis that has left many industries, businesses and homeowners struggling to keep going or has even resulted in businesses shutting down. While this energy crisis has made headlines, there’s another human energy crisis that has equally left people struggling to keep going or even seen them shutting down entirely through burnout. In the same way that we face a global energy supply crisis – we also need to wake up to our own personal energy supply and use.
According to Forbes “burnout is widespread across the globe. A new study by Asana, looked at over 10,000 knowledge workers across seven countries, and found approximately 70% of people experienced burnout in the last year.”
Whichever stats you look at there can be no doubt that burnout has hugely increased.
2023 is the year for action, for less talking and more doing and for getting on with making things happen. However, it is also the year to do all this with a clear focus on working and living ‘energy smart.’ This year is all about that you, your leaders, teams and organisations getting more centred, grounded, intentional and discerning about where you choose to use up your precious energy – so you can stay well, happy, creative and engaged for a lot longer.
Recognise what work, topics, issues, projects and people plug you in and light you up!
Conserve your energy for when it counts!
Recognise what energises you, explore your purpose and learn to set clear boundaries through our 4D Leadership, Teams and WellBeing Programmes:
Trend number two is all about becoming even more comfortable in uncertainty. The successful leaders who can encourage their people to flourish and follow in 2023 will be those who are able to stand in the face of uncertainty and rise to the challenge. These are the leaders who are not frightened of the unknown, but rather who find confidence and strength in the excitement of building together into the void. These leaders not only tolerate but embrace rapid change and uncertainty. They are able to see the potential and the possible in the challenge of change and the confusion of chaos. They can see the connections in the craziness and the links and integrations that will create brilliant new innovations and ways of working. They are agile, curious, flex and flow leaders who find stability not in old, solid, tired corporate structures but in the energy and movement of systems where possibility and co-creation are key.
These leaders are true Systems thinkers. In the language of Spiral Dynamics, they are ‘second tier leaders’ operating from what Don Beck calls Yellow and Turquoise value systems and what Ken Wilber and Frederic Laloux name Teal. Second Tier leaders don’t force a course of action. They try to listen to where the organisation is naturally called to go and are able to trust that connections will emerge, are able to build into the unknown and when needed, to change course rapidly. As I wrote in a 4D article, at the end of last year ‘Welcome to the Age of Soft Skills’ – these leaders embrace the art of improvisation. They are able to be fully in the present moment, working with what is available and at the same time able to make exciting connections to shape a new, vibrant sense of solidity and certainty, based on collaboration and deeper shared meaning.
When it comes to the greatest change process of all – Evolution – it was never the survival of the fittest…it was always survival of the most adaptable. So, adaptability and creativity are the key to successful response to changing times.
The only thing constant in life is change. It’s time to stop wasting energy talking about the fact that things change (the WHAT) or WHY they might be changing – and start putting our focus on HOW we consciously want to respond. By embracing uncertainty and the skills of improvisation – ‘change’ suddenly becomes full of opportunity. When we are more focused on the collective system rather than ourselves, we can truly start to courageously co-create … in the moment.
Business Improvisation is poised to be the next “killer app” for organisational growth and performance. It is a highly valuable tool designed to enhance the, leadership, resilience, creativity, adaptability and productivity of an organisation’s most valuable asset – its people.
The Improviser mindset
Improvisers don’t fear failure – in fact they embrace it
Improvisers know it is not a solo sport. We’re all in it together. Sharing responsibility and all having each other’s backs.
Improvisers know creativity is temporary and disposable – and yet improvisors play in with their full selves with courage and commitment.
Improvisers are excellent at listening, making offers, accept offers and building
The skill of improvisation can be clearly mapped onto the skill of leadership:
The worst improvisers “block”
Average improvisers will passively but agreeably “play”
The good ones “build”
The great ones know how to build AND make great offers to give their partners a good time
The very best improvisers not only fully ‘play in’ – they have their eye on the longer arc of where an idea might be going, ready to drop an idea or adapt and course correct in an instance
To be ‘Second Tier’ UBU leader in 2023 – it’s time to get good at the art of improvisation!
Get excited about uncertainty – think about a time you moved through uncertainty and built a new path
Stop thinking obstacle and start thinking opportunity, stop thinking problem and think possibility
As experts in the art of improvisation and leadership, 4D can help you take your leaders and business to 2nd tier – Unphased By Uncertaintyand embracing the art of improvisation.
Check out: Business and Team Improvisation programmes, The 4D Improvisation Keynote and full transformational 4D Culture Change initiatives.
Trend number 3 for 2023 is all about communicating vision. Yes, you need to be a visionary and have the idea in the first place, and as, or maybe more, important than HAVING the vision, is the ability to COMMUNICATE the vision. To be persuasive, convincing and inspiring.
In a time of such rapid change, uncertainty and fear – leaders, teams and businesses need to get very good at communicating future visions that inspire people to follow. This means leaders need to become world-class storytellers. Not only able to tell stories from the past to strengthen their messages – but able to create stories of inspiring visions of the future that move people to step forward with confidence. Creating and communicating vision for others means waking people from fear and apathy, breaking them free from the powerful pull of negative news, communicating a new vision that inspires people to act with meaning, motivation, unity and hope. A leader who is able to communicate a strong vision for others loves to use their skills of imagination and communication.
This leader trend of ‘vision communication’ is all about possibility, positivity, believability, relatability, trustability, and storytelling to create inspiration, community and fellowship.
Allow yourself more time this year dreaming about an exciting future – it’s not time wasted!
Using all five senses, communicate a vibrant picture of what the future could look like.
Personal and Leadership impact will be vital in 2023. While ongoing relationship and trust building remain important – in an increasingly instant world, the instant impact you make when you walk into a room, step onto a stage or click into a video call – it is going to count and count BIG.
Your impact is all about:
How you Communicate
How you Show Up
How you Respond
How you Feel
How Other People Feel About You
How Other People Talk About You
To stay ahead of the curve, impactful and relevant in the current fast-paced environment, leaders need to get super good at making a fast, memorable impact that is at the same time genuine, real, human, relatable, connected and caring. It’s no longer enough to show up in your ‘work persona’– your impact in 2023 needs to reflect a far more grounded, human, integrated version of yourself. This is about world class communication skills becoming a part of WHO you are, everyday, in every moment. You as a leader making an engaging and memorable impact not because you have to but because you are so connected to your message and purpose that you couldn’t show up in any other way.
In a business and social media world that is fighting for audience attention, it will be those that instantly connect who will succeed. This means moving into what Patsy Rodenburg calls 2nd Circle. In the 1st Circle we communicate with a more withdrawn energy that is focused on the data and content of what we have to say. In the 3rd Circle we broadcast, with a generalised energy. In 2nd Circle we connect with our audience in real dialogue – we are ‘present.’
Once you get the energy connected, you want to think about opening statements. Think less about data or stats and more about universal truths – those experiences that connect us as human beings. You might open with words like: ‘You know when you…” “If you’re anything like me you find that…” “We can all feel…” “Wouldn’t it be great if we could…”
With truly connecting energy and words – you will both stand out and grab our attention through the instant impact of the real, genuine, unique you. And by the way, the increase of technology won’t reduce the importance of human impact! With the rise of AI, there’s still no escape from how vital leadership impact and communication skills are going to be. In fact, as tech increases, your big differentiator is the impact you as a human can make!
Focus as much or more on HOW you communicate as WHAT you communicate?
Make the first 5 seconds of any meeting intentional and impactful.
One of the big trends in 2023 is going to be the final decline of the over-long, data-heavy presentation. The days of long, scripted presentations over-stuffed with slides that are themselves over-stuffed with graphs, data and information are over. Not only are we bored to death by this format, research tells us that only 7 days after a presentation, your audience remembers no more than 10% of what you said. We can do better! When it comes to sharing business ideas, strategies, updates and information, the big shift is from big, set, scripted presentations to a more concise and at the same time fluid, natural way of communicating.
The trend for 2023 will be about getting very clear on the 10% you want your audience to remember and then – communicating that. And if possible – making your presentation an interactive experience.
In short: keep your ‘presentation’ to the 10% that matters and get the audience involved.
Not only that but it’s time to get off script. You need to get that information off the page and into your body, heart and soul. This means preparing presentations in a totally different way. You can start by noting down your key points, as a guide and then standing up and practicing speaking your message over and over and over until it’s in your body. Yes, that’s right! Presentation prep no longer means days and weeks writing scripts and half an hour standing up to ‘give it a go’ by reading from the script. This year’s trend is about being able to present information and ideas in a fluid, seemingly off-the-cuff, natural, connected, concise way. It’s about reconnecting to what you enjoy and love about what you do and to express that passion to your audience.
If you really want your audience to have the other 90% of content – don’t worry! Because in 2023 another trend definitely continues – content is still king. This year, people will only get more and more hungry for content. While we will no longer accept being talked AT in a presentation format for hours on end – we will engage in long form dialogues, extended conversations and short videos. So while there may be a decline in slide-packed presentations, there will an increase in Podcasts, Panels and Posts.
Podcasts are set to rise by another 40 million listeners this year to approximately 464 million listeners. With the mobile phone being by far the most popular way to listen to podcasts.
Following the increasing trend of podcasts, when it comes to business events and conferences – conversational panels are going to be far more popular than standard presentations this year. These more informal, fluid, spontaneous formats can last for hours and create huge opportunities to engage employees and customers away from the more formal presentation style format.
Finally, posting video content – whether internally to teams and employees or publicly on SM channels – is a must. As a population we are loving video content as a way of taking on new information and ideas. 80% of people said that videos had helped persuade them to buy a product and 40% love seeing explainer videos. In 2023 leaders will be recording and posting many more entertaining videos to inform and engage their teams.
To, this year, it’s about:
1. Concise and more natural presentations
2. Longer spontaneous conversations
3. Short engaging video content.
The trend across all these formats is a real, down-to-earth, conversational style of communication that is heartfelt and personal. Consumers and employees are wise to what is genuine, and this year, only if your presentation truly means something to you – will it truly mean something to your audience.
Focus on the key 10% of your message, think structure not script, jewel not general, bullseye not board
Imagine you only have 1 minute to present – what is your core message
You can check out our live 4D Presentation Skills Training as well as our digital 4DOnDemand Presentation Skills Series
Do get in touch if you’d like to talk about how 4D can help you, your leaders and your business communicate, connect and create in 2023.
Lots of love to you all you fabulous folks. Take care of yourselves and enjoy seeing what’s possible along the way!
4D Human Being Podcast
Check out the 4D Human Being podcast where Philippa and Penelope run through the first five Top Ten Trends of 2023 in detail.
As the festive season approaches – we want to talk about L.O.V.E. LOVE!
Love is not a word we often hear in the office or in meeting rooms. Yet feelings of love have a huge impact on teams, wellbeing, performance, and workplace outcomes.
When we say ‘love’ we don’t necessarily mean romantic love, but rather ‘compassionate love.’ Love based on caring, warmth, connection, and affection.
Research tells us that the more love we feel at work from our leaders and colleagues – the more engaged we are, the more we show up to work, the more satisfied with our jobs we feel, the more commitment to our organisation we express and the more accountable we are for our performance. Not only that but when we are with people we love, the body releases hormones, such as oxytocin and dopamine, that generate feelings of trust, pleasure and closeness.
Feeling connected to other people is one of the most satisfying experiences a human being can have.
Individuals, managers, and leaders who forget to focus on the emotional culture of their team and organisation – in other words, who forget to spread the love – are missing a very big trick.
As Martin Luther King once said, “Love is the greatest force in the universe” so let’s tap into this powerful force to help build more trust, collaboration and caring, to increase team performance, creativity, and commitment as well as to improve the physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing of everyone around us.
Here are some tips on how you might spread a little – or a lot – more love today.
Check in on the emotions you are spreading through what you do and say – emotions are contagious and create the ‘cultural blueprint’ of your relationships, friendships, team, and organisation.
1. Language of love – Consciously choose to spread more love by using the word LOVE a lot more today. As human beings we need to know that we are more than just an object or machine performing tasks. “The feeling of being a mere thing for someone else’s use drains the self of meaning and value” ― Sue Gerhardt, Why Love Matters. We need to feel and hear that we matter. So, what do you love about an individual? What do you love about a team? What do you love about a client? What do you love about the way something was done? Say it! Tell them! Start with the words “What I love about you/this team/this partnership/this idea….is….” And spread the love this holiday.
2. Smile – Smiling at others is super contagious. It is very difficult to frown at someone who smiles at you. Smiling reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and increases endorphins. Smiling makes you appear more likeable, more courteous, AND more competent. Studies show that people who had a big smile in their school yearbook photo went on to have far more successful relationships, higher wellbeing, and more ability to inspire others – compared to people who didn’t smile in their yearbook. They also lived on average 7 years longer than the non smilers! Plus, one smile can generate as much brain stimulation as up to 2000 bars of chocolate! And no calories.
How fabulous is that! So, spread the love and spread the sunshine today by consciously smiling a lot more.
3. Ignite Love – Sometimes you can do even more than spread love. You can ignite feelings of love in other people. Meaning they are then more likely to express and share love with others…the big love ripple effect. An easy way to ignite love in others is to ask leading, specific questions using the word love. For example, rather than simply asking a team or colleague “how is the project going?” or “how are things with that client?” – you can ask much more love-igniting questions like – “what one thing do you love about this project team?” or “what do you love most about this product or service?” or “what one thing could we do for this colleague or customer to feel more loved and cared for?” or “what one thing can you each do to bring more love to this team?” Ignite the love this festive season and watch the pleasure grow and the people glow!
We’ve been saying it for a few years but now we are well and truly in The Age of Soft Skills.
By soft skills we mean the ability to communicate, motivate, inspire, connect and care. All those very human skills that, in an age of technology, still make us humans very unique. And as it turns out…very valuable.
Research from Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center found that 85% of career success comes from having well-developed soft skills and people skills. Hard skills, including technical skills and knowledge, only make up 15% of career success.
Another study found that 92% of talent professionals said soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills when it comes to hiring, and 80% said they’re increasingly important to company success.
Gone are the days when your hard skills and technical knowledge can guarantee your ongoing success, career progression or even job security. Whether you are a team leader or technician, early in career or engineer, CEO or solopreneur, prime minister or primary school teacher – if you really want to invest in yourself as a leader or individual, if you really want to build top teams, if you really want to hold on to your best people and if you really want to future-proof your organisation – you need to invest in soft skills.
Your soft skills and people skills are no longer just a nice add-on. We are a long way from the days when a one-day course in communication skills every year or even decade is enough to tick the leadership box. Today – every day is soft skills day. Every day is the day to focus on, develop and hone your communication skills and increase your leadership impact.
In other words, for all of us human beings – in whatever field we work – soft skills are where we need to invest more of our time and attention. As well as our resources.
Current spending for organisations is the wrong way round. The average business spends the majority of its development budget on hard skills, when the research is clear that, even if budgets are tight, it is investment in soft skills that bring the most benefits for your organisation.
At 4D we are often approached by individuals and leaders who KNOW how much they want and need to invest in their communication and people skills but ask us if they can self-fund as they do not believe their organisation would support them. This phenomenon has increased month on month over the past few years and some organisations need to now catch up with what is needed.
So, it’s time to get focussed and intentional around great leaders being great communicators so that we are ready to thrive in this new era.
The 4 things on the 4D soft skills checklist to help you become super successful in this new age are a focus on: The Interpersonal, your Impact, Improvisation and Inspiration. So let’s take a look at what you can do to dial up your 4 soft super skills and take your personal impact to the next level.
Quite simply a focus on what goes on between you and other people. This is about getting good, no actually, it’s about getting great, at relationship. At connection. At empathy. At collaboration. At caring.
People with good interpersonal skills are brilliant at communicating and motivating others. In a leadership survey in 2019, communication, emotional intelligence, and people management came top as the most critical interpersonal skills for leadership – way above hard skills like strategic planning or business analysis.
One super quick tip on dialling up your interpersonal skills is to think about the balance of Task Vs Relationship.
What if your next meeting was about relationship first and only then about the task at hand? What would you ask or do differently? How would you open the meeting? What would you make sure happened before the meeting ended? Try a meeting or a whole day or an entire week focussed on relationship first and only then on task or targets. See what happens and how people respond. More motivation? More ownership? More energy? More collaboration? Become a relationship researcher and an interpersonal anthropologist. Get curious about how becoming more intentional around the ‘interpersonal’ can change the game for you and for others.
Your Impact is:
How you Communicate
How you Show Up
How you Respond
How you Feel
How Other People Feel About You
How Other People Talk About You
At 4D we like to say that on the catwalk of leadership you are always on display. In other words, you are creating an impact in every moment of everyday. So, you might as well create the impact that you WANT to make. Being impactful also comes under the Interpersonal, but it is more than that. It is the ability to walk into a room and leave a strong impression. It is about understanding how you come across and how people experience you. It is about being memorable. It’s about choosing to have an energy that can be calming, contagious, engaging or exciting. It is not about being the loudest in the room. It is about being someone that others want to work with or follow.
A leader who consciously creates their own impact, signals to people around them that they are in charge of themselves and therefore more in charge of the goals, targets and outcomes they are heading towards.
Good actors know how to make an impact. They know how to use their body language, their energy, their voice and their expressions to engage and enthral. In leadership this isn’t about pretending. It’s about being aware of the range and options you have, to really make an impact.
The British historian Simon Sebag Montefiore recently said:
“…all governments – they’re all theatrical, they’re all theatres, they’re all actors. The great politicians understand theatre. Poor politicians have no consciousness of how they appear on stage.”
The same is true for leaders and individuals who need to command a following or motivate people to act.
Here’s a quick tip on becoming a more impactful leader. Immediately after your next 1-2-1 or team meeting, take 5 minutes and note down how you think others in the meeting may have experienced you? Start simply with the Physical and the Emotional. How present were you physically? What was your body doing? Your gestures? If online, what virtual impact did you make? How were you framed on screen and engaging with your camera? Emotionally how might they have felt after the meeting? Avoid words like – they would have ‘understood’, ‘known’ or been ‘informed’ about…This is about how they FELT after you spoke. Make some notes. At your next meeting dial your energy up by 2 or 3 points. Repeat the exercise and make some notes about your possible impact on others. What differences do you notice?
The ability to create spontaneously without a plan or script. The act of making or doing something with whatever is available at the time, even without the necessary equipment or ideal conditions. The practice of accepting what is and building from there.
People can be frightened of the word Improvisation – which is kind of ironic as the ability to improvise is one of the most fear-reducing skills you can have.
Good improvisers aren’t afraid of the unexpected or of uncertainty. They don’t block or reject what is offered. Good improvisors are drilled over and over in the art of accepting whatever is thrown at them, until they fear nothing from an audience. In fact, they welcome the challenge or the heckle. Good improvisers are not solo comics, they are team players, ready to give and receive in every moment and always, always, fully have the back and take care of each and every team member. Good improvisors learn to not just accept uncertainty and change, but to welcome it. They don’t fear the void because they know they have the skill to build into the unknown and create new realities and possibilities. Good improvisors know they can commit to the next immediate step with half an eye on what the outcome might look like, but are always ready to drop that future vision and reshape it based on new information in the present moment.
As I said in my 2018 TedX talk – improvisation is one of the most valuable skills I have ever learned. It is improv that helped me imagine and build a business and then co-create with the 4D team to navigate it through change, growth and a pandemic.
At 4D we have been struck by the fact that President Zelensky was often ridiculed for having a past as a comedy performer. But he wasn’t a solo comic, he was a highly skilled competitive team improvisor who rose to the absolute top of his game on the international circuit. He had spent years drilling the skills of improv and training in the art of fearless, committed response to uncertainty and to the unexpected. Arguably just the leader for such uncertain times.
Much of our education and career is spent identifying and dissecting problems. More time could be spent training to become great improvisors – the skill of feeling confident to co-create and improvise through uncertainty and scarcity towards new solutions.
Here’s a tip to help you access the wonderful world of the improvisor mindset. Move your focus from problem to possibility. Look at the problems you have right now at work. Remind yourself of all the things you, your colleagues and your team members find yourselves complaining about. Think about the constraints in the market or the internal budgets. Now, time to play. Stop focussing on what things SHOULD look like and stay with the reality of what IS. Think about this current reality as an ‘Offer.’ Now ask yourself and your team – what is the gift in this offer? How can you all build on this offer? If customers don’t want this product what version of it DO they want right now? Or HOW do they want it delivered? If things feel tough – that’s useful information, that’s your offer. So, what is your build? What is possible from here? What, in the words of a true improvisor, is your YES AND response to the situation?
The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. The ability to make other people want to do or achieve something. Someone people admire and want to be like.
Inspiration wakes us up to new possibilities for the future. Inspiration can transform people’s belief in their own capabilities.
Inspired and inspirational individuals are not only able to tell compelling stories about the past, but are able to create exciting stories and visions for the future. These people are more open to new experiences and brilliant at communicating possibility. Inspiring leaders can take people from apathy to possibility to action. They are less competitive and don’t get bogged down with the need to win. They are intrinsically motivated rather than extrinsically motivated, meaning the very vision or creative goal itself is enough to motivate and inspire without the need for extra money or rewards. Inspired people feel more creative and actually do become more creative over time. Inspired leaders spend more time in the flow of work and less time blocked or worried. Inspired individuals tend to set more inspiring goals and go on to successfully attain them, taking others with them.
In a time when the global record has got stuck on the track of ‘rapid change, a VUCA world, uncertainty, doom and gloom’ – we need inspirational leaders now more than ever. And being an inspiring leader doesn’t mean having to be a world-famous author or president. It means being inspiring at your next team meeting or in your next conversation. Helping people share a vision for the future rather than staying stuck in fear, uncertainty and the unknown.
In a report in the early days of WW2 it was noted that people in the UK were experiencing ‘negative apathy.’ As opposed to positive apathy. Positive apathy means having a clear sense of what you feel apathetic about, a vision of the future or new idea that demotivates or de-energises you. Negative apathy however is when you are de-energised and demotivated because you DON’T have a vision or idea about where you might be headed. In WW2 Churchill helped turn this around with his inspiring words and vision.
We risk the same negative apathy today. We humans need more than a story of fear or a money target, we need a compelling vision that unites us, that we can share and drive towards with hope and determination. Even if that vision changes along the way – we need inspiring leaders to paint a picture of a possible future.
In your next presentation or meeting or when a colleague is worried about where a project or the business is headed – take a moment to inspire them using the 3xE Model. Paint a picture of what the future could look like – short or long term – in this order:
Emotion – first give them the emotion you want the future to feel like. Tell them how exciting or vibrant this future will be.
Experience – next paint the picture of what it will be like in this future, how the team or the business will feel and what they will be doing, how things will have changed, what will be better, the opportunities and experiences that will be available
Expectations – finally tell them what they can do right now to help or to take a step towards this future, what needs to happen to get there and what is their part in that journey.
The Age of Soft Skills is here and it’s exciting. Imagine a time when there’s no such thing as another boring presentation or meeting? When the priority at work is to engage and inspire each other. When our time is respected, and our attention is valued so much that we place relationship, communication and connection above information overload and three-hour updates. A time when we don’t get lost in the downward spiral of negative narratives of uncertainty but are able to spiral each other up into visions of possibility. When we don’t just download information but uplift with inspiration.
So, remember, your next presentation or meeting isn’t prepared just because you have a script, a slide deck or an agenda. That is only stage 1. Your real work as a leader is to practice bringing that message to life physically and emotionally with intention, colour, story and passion.
We love what we do at 4D. We are passionate about helping you become the very best leaders, teams and communicators you can be. We say – bring on The Age of Soft Skills. It will be so positive – for all of us. And it does need to be for all of us. The age of soft skills needs to be inclusive. So, excuse the quick – and yet super important – plug and promote…
You’ve heard the old saying that people quit bosses not companies. The thing is it’s true. Put simply – successful leaders make successful teams make successful workplaces make successful businesses. And while there are many collaborative, technical and strategic elements that go into creating a successful business, when it comes to being a successful leader, there are 4 things that you – and only you – must do for yourself. Four things that no one else can do for you. You can hire in for problem solving, strategy planning, specific skill sets and talents, but as a leader you cannot hire in for the 4 most important elements of your role.
Once you are clear on these 4 key areas then you can start to focus on these personal leadership skills every day, ensuring you are doing everything you can to become the very best 4D Leader you can be. And goodness knows we need great leaders right now.
Many leaders want to focus on strategy, problem solving, targets and results. Those nice, tangible aspects of business that we can pop into a flow chart or Powerpoint slide. But the true art of great leadership cannot be squeezed into an excel spreadsheet. It is not in your analysis, or in your projections or in your MBA that you will find the qualities of a stand-out leader – it is in YOU. More than that, it is 4 key aspects within you. 4 things that only you can control, 4 things that only you can choose to develop and 4 things that if you focus on will take you to an elite level of world-class 4D Leadership. These 4 pillars of outstanding leadership are:
A high level of self-awareness and positive self-leadership
A healthy ego
Strong, trusted networks and relationships
World-class communication, presentation and storytelling skills
During a challenging period of my life some time back when I was in my twenties, when things around me felt dark and difficult, someone said some simple and very wise words to me that I have never forgotten. “No one can come in there and get you out. You have to do it yourself.” And I understood in that moment that while friends, colleagues and family could cheer me on from the side-lines, there was personal work that only I could do myself. Work around my self-understanding, my responses to life and people, my relationships and the impact I chose to make in the world. That lesson has stayed with me ever since. And so it is that over many years I have sat with many leaders and witnessed their different levels of leadership development and success. The differences so often depending on whether they can find the courage to drop their defences, to take a clear look at themselves, whether they can take the tough 360 feedback that can feel like body blows to the gut, whether they can breathe, recover and get themselves back to centre. Then rather than retreating into old habits and defences, whether they can unfold their arms, sit forward and ask the question ‘so now what?’ I am moved even as I write these words remembering the courage and humanity of those leaders who have chosen to work on these 4 key areas of their development and who have gone on, time and time again, to great careers and inspiring levels of leadership. I also feel moved as I write this, because these moments are some of the most exciting moments of our work at 4D Human Being. Moments when we know that the work can really begin. Moments when the doors have suddenly opened up to incredible growth, life-changing development and inspirational leadership. Today as I remember so many of those leaders I recall them with so much admiration for their courage, their determination and for the hard work that they put in, the work that they understood only they themselves could do to break through to the next level, to become the leader and the person that they – and I – knew they could become and to live the life that they really wanted to live.
We probably wouldn’t argue against improving our self-awareness. But we may think we are more self-aware than we actually are. In a five-year study, organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich found that 95 percent of people believe they’re self-aware. Yet only 10-15 percent actually are. So there is more most of us can do in this area! And it is worth it…
“Research suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative. We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. We’re less likely to lie, cheat, and steal. We are better workers who get more promotions. And we’re more-effective leaders with more-satisfied employees and more-profitable companies.” – Dr Eurich
How many of us have sat through meetings with leaders who are totally unaware of the impact they are having? I have even observed team meetings where I have watched as the whole team carefully managed the leader as all of them had more awareness of the situation and the leader’s clumsy impact than the leader did themselves.
Self-awareness is rising on the list of critical capabilities that leaders need. This means having clear knowledge of your external impact and internal workings. When it comes to internal workings it is key that you as a leader are aware of your own relationship with yourself, with your biases, your patterns, your conditioning and beliefs – what renowned British psychologist John Bowlby called our Inner Working Models. In other words, the blueprint laid down for you by your early caregivers that serves as the template for your future relationships and responses. It is also important that, as leaders, we develop positive self-leadership meaning we create a healthy, positive internal relationship with ourself rather than a harsh critical one. As this dictates both how we ‘lead’ ourselves and of course, how we will lead others.
‘Positive self-leadership refers to the capacity to identify and apply one’s signature strengths to initiate, maintain, or sustain self-influencing behaviors’.
It is vital as a leader to know your blindspots and sensitivities. It is also vital to know your strengths and values and how to live to them. Positive self-leadership means being self-compassionate. Self-compassion means replacing your inner critic with your own inner cheerleader. Being self-compassionate is not a soft and fluffy new-age suggestion, it is key to helping you reduce your stress, make better decisions, and increase your resilience. Positive self-leadership also helps you develop a growth mindset focussed on possibility, it helps you be more self-motivated and able to set goals that inspire you. A good self-relationship encourages you to embrace failure and learn from it. It means you have your own back. It may feel like your inner critic motivates you, but being driven by fear is a short term strategy that leads to imposter syndrome, burnout, anxiety and stressful, conflicted, poor relationships with others.
Here are two tips on how to nurture more self-awareness and positive self-leadership:
Mirror Back: It is easy to look at what we do and don’t like in other people’s behaviour. Start making it a daily habit to turn the mirror back on yourself. How did YOU show up in that meeting? What impact did you have on that client? What was YOUR part in the disagreement. Remember when you are sitting in a traffic jam, complaining about the traffic…YOU are also the traffic!
Back Yourself: Shift your inner critic to your inner cheerleader. Watch out for the inner voice that is negative or self-blaming. Give that part of you a rest and get your inner cheerleader off the bench. What might your inner cheerleader say to you that supports, soothes or encourages? ‘Ity’s ok, no one is perfect’ or ‘Don’t worry we can work it out as we go’ or ‘You can do this’…create your own inner cheerleader slogan to increase your positive self-leadership
An elder was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them: “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, and superiority. The other stands for empathy, truth, faith, humility, friendship, joy, kindness, compassion, hope, and love. This same fight is going io inside you and every other person too.” They thought about this for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather…“Which wolf will win?” The old man simply replied, “The one you feed.”
This story rings true for leadership as well. Becoming a truly great leader from the inside out depends largely on which wolf you choose to feed every day. The threatened frightened wolf or the wolf of connection and humanity. How we manage ourselves every day, how we direct our thinking and how we respond.
Whether you are an individual contributor leading yourself and your own ideas, whether you lead a team, a region or a huge corporation, we all share this choice around how we choose to view and respond to the world.
We all have an ego, we are all human and the idea of totally ego-less leadership is a challenging one to say the least. I would go as far to say unrealistic. But leadership with a healthy ego – now that is something worth working towards. While an unhealthy ego is reactive, defensive, fearful, angry, blaming and unable to show humility, a leader with a healthy ego can embrace conflict and difference, remains curious and open, is able to acknowledge other’s feelings without fear of defeat. A leader with a healthy ego is able to demonstrate self-accountability as well as encourage others to do the same. This leader can capitulate with grace when wrong, remaining excited and engaged with the new possibility they have discovered. Equally they can move through their own ‘wins’ with as much grace, able to validate the importance of other opinions and challenges to their own thinking. We often talk about big and small ego. But when it comes to great leadership it really isn’t the size of your ego that matters – it’s how reactive it is. In other words, how healthy or unhealthy it is. The leader with a healthy ego does not lead from fear but from courage, connection, passion and possibility.
“Much research has accumulated over the last couple of decades that people’s career success directly correlates to how well they can manage their responses…research in emotional intelligence…indicates that self-management skills are more important to career performance than intellectual bench strength… A leader with a healthy ego admits mistakes and learns from mistakes. In fact, leaders with healthy egos are very committed to learning – they don’t think they already know everything.” Art Horn, ‘From Beyond Ego – Influential Leadership starts within’
Great leaders understand that controlling their ego is a personal challenge that is critical to success, and it’s something they have to do for themselves, every day.
Here are some tips to leading with a healthy ego:
A) Trigger Test: The first thing we need to do in order to have a healthy ego is to recognise what triggers us into reactive behaviours. There are 6 common ego triggers you can test. Ask yourself the following questions:
Is it important to me to be considered or seen as:
Competent? The best? Liked? Good? Right? Respected?
Which one is your strongest trigger? Add you own and recognize your hot buttons or triggers. Write them down. Of course there may be a few different ones – depending on context and relationships.
B) Conflict to Curious: Once you have taken a moment and calmed down, the quickest way to eliminate fear-based behaviours and get back to a healthy ego is to get curious. About your response and about what’s going on for the other person. So rather than going to conflict go to curious. Rather than ask for a fight, ask a question. “Can we explore this further?” “Can you tell me more about your idea?” “That is so far away from my view, I’d love us to explore your thinking.” “I wonder if we go right back to what we are both wanting to achieve here – shall we talk?”
Strong leaders build strong networks. There is plenty of research around the power of building strong and diverse networks. If you haven’t already – check out Margaret Heffernan’s Ted talk on the power of social capital and Christakis and Fowler’s famous work ‘Connected – The Amazing Power of Social Networks and How they Shape our Lives.
Building strong networks and making or strengthening connections is something great leaders need to be thinking about regularly. Even if the relevance of a particular connection does not seem immediately obvious. Outstanding leaders understand the value of investing in their network and building a bank of strong, unique connections as a daily practice. Strong networks are a rich resource of people and information and are vital for three key reasons:
Getting things done day to day – a strong, varied network means you have more talent and skills available to help you achieve your current tasks and projects
Personal – a diverse and interesting network benefits you personally in terms of referrals, new or relevant information, personal and career development, mentoring or sponsorship opportunities
Strategic – building a strong network means you are more likely to be at the leading edge of learning about current or future trends, market forces, new business directions and possibilities
Plus, having a diverse, vibrant network helps you when it comes to leadership systems thinking – bringing you a wealth of facts and ideas that allow you to connect new ideas and become a thought leader.
A great leader is not only well networked but is inclusive and nurtures their relationships in a positive and motivating way. This is vital for successful leadership today. In many ways leadership IS relationships.
Research shows that positive relationships between employees and managers increases activity in areas of the brain associated with an openness to new ideas and social orientation towards others.
Positive relationships and connected, inclusive leadership create an environment in which people can connect with those around them, helping employees to feel more valued and better understood. Feeling valued and understood are two driving factors in increasing employee engagement and commitment, helping to attract and retain top talent.
What’s more, we know that someone’s experience of their manager accounts for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores.
There are so many stories from our years of executive training and coaching at 4D that demonstrate the power and importance of leadership as relationship. I remember one leader had to give a very difficult message of mass redundancies to 400 employees. And because of the strength of this leader’s positive relationship with the workforce, many of them actually thanked him afterwards saying “I’m so glad it was you who told us that.”
I remember the boss who demonstrated such trust in her relationships that when she was off on holiday she said to her covering VP, “I want decisions made and I expect you to make mistakes, probably at least three out of four, and I don’t want you to contact me.”
I remember a team member feeling he had massively screwed up going to his boss saying he was going to leave. And his leader, embracing failure, said “are you kidding me, you think I’m going to let you go somewhere else with all the experience and learnings you’ve just had.”
And at the other end of the scale there’s the leader who aggressively and wrongly berated a team member publicly in front of other colleagues. The leader never apologised and in a short time he had lost half his team.
Creating more positive relationships as a leader means you are creating more inspiration and influence. If you as a leader increase your effort by 20-30% that is not going to make a huge difference to output and you’ll probably end up burnt out. But if you are able to inspire your team, colleagues or whole organisation to up their game by only 10% each – now you’re talking significant change in terms of culture and results!
Here are two tools and tips to help you strengthen your network and build more positive relationships.
Reciprocity Bank: the law of reciprocity means that people find us far more likeable and will be more willing and co-operative when we have done things for them. Filling your Reciprocity Bank with connections as a daily or weekly habit is a powerful way to build trust, liking and influence in your network. Can you identify what individuals or groups would value highly and make a commitment to offer them gifts in this area? Examples would be new information, articles, new introductions, referrals, support, advice, some positive PR online or in person, resources, rapid responses, quick turnaround…add your own and commit to filling the reciprocity bank in your own network.
Appreciation: “A whopping 79% of employees will quit their jobs due to lack of appreciation from leaders.” A simple way to build trust and good feeling in your relationships is to regularly appreciate people around you. Take some time every week to write a note, leave a voice message, send a certificate, give a gift, publicly recognise someone you appreciate. What specific qualities, strengths and achievements can you appreciate? Make a point of appreciating people who you find more challenging…there is always something we can appreciate if we look for it.
4.World-class communication, presentation and storytelling skills
3 out of 4 employees see effective communication as the number one leadership attribute. Yet, less than 1 in 3 employees feel like their leaders communicate effectively. A leader’s ability to communicate well has a direct impact on employee satisfaction, motivation and productivity.
“The utmost essential key to great leadership is communication” (Towler 2003)
Communication used to be considered as a soft skill which had no impact on organizations. Communication skills was never even a major factor in hiring. But this has changed. Today we know that communication has a huge impact on business.
Great leaders are world-class communicators. They have clear values and ideas and are brilliant at communicating these to influence and inspire others. These leaders communicate in all 4 Dimensions. They are physically present, emotionally connecting, intellectually clear and have a strong intention. They are able to energise and engage others in person or online, they are able to communicate good and bad news with commitment and care, they are approachable and understanding. Through their communication skills they create trust which creates a good work environment which leads to motivated employees which promotes co-ordinated teams which results in excellent productivity.
As a leader have a think about how much time you spend communicating and presenting. It is probably 50, 60 70% or more of your time. As a leader, whatever sector or role you are in – really you should be thinking about yourself as a professional communicator. This includes presenting and storytelling. The leaders that can find it difficult to break through to the next level are often really good at doing and implementing. While they want to motivate their team to hit targets, they can resist the idea of inspiring possibility, sharing a dream or creating a vision that does not yet exist. But to be a truly exceptional leader you need to dream the dream, paint the picture, and communicate the vision that your people can step into.
“No doubt about it, the best speakers are good storytellers. The best writers are good storytellers. The best leaders are good storytellers. The best teachers and trainers and coaches are good storytellers. It might even be argued that the best parents are good storytellers. While storytelling is not the only way to engage people with your ideas, it’s certainly a critical part of the recipe,” says Rodger Dean Duncan, a contributor to Forbes magazine in January 2014.
Here are two tips to take your communication, presentation, and storytelling skills to the next level: a) Focus First: it may sound obvious but great communicators put their focus on the needs of the audience or other person. Like a brilliant host – a brilliant leader, communicator and presenter thinks about how much information the audience actually needs, how they want to make other people feel. They set a clear intention and put their focus first on others. b) Personal Touch: To make your messages memorable – or sticky – include a personal story, example or anecdote. Distil down the theme or core meaning of your business message – such as we need to be courageous or we need to pull together and tell a short story from your own life that speaks to this theme. It doesn’t have to be an epic crafted story, it can be a simple memory or moment. The time you went bungy jumping or braved a costume party. The time you got lost and needed someone else’s help. However small, real life, personal stories are the way to becoming an inspirational and memorable speaker.
For more on world-class 4D communication and impact, check out 4D Executive Coaching, 4D Communication Skills, 4D Presentation Skills, 4D Business Storytelling and the 4D Interactive Keynotes.
A great leader with good self-awareness, a healthy ego, strong relationships and world-class communication skills will inspire people to believe in them, follow them and go the extra mile for them – even in the toughest of times.
As a leader you can get help with strategy, structure and solutions. But to be a truly great leader – and not only a great leader but a great friend, partner, husband, wife, son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister – these are the 4 things that you must do for yourself. So, give yourself the gift of focussing on these 4 key areas so that with positive self-leadership, a healthy ego, a trusted network and communication skills that inspire – you truly can live and lead in from the inside out.
If you are interested in exploring further – do get in touch, we’d love to talk. And you might like to take a look at out new 4D OnDemand platform too. Have a very happy rest of your day.
Maybe you can’t solve all your problems right now. Distribution jammed, resources scarce, staff resigning, delivery uncertain, customer satisfaction at its lowest level. What you CAN do though is COMMUNICATE to an exceptional level.
When things go wrong – it’s not the mistake or the error that has to be the deciding factor… we are all human, we all make mistakes, and we all know other people make mistakes too…But poor communication or lack of communication can really tip us over the edge. Human beings often hate poor communication more than they hate mistakes. As babies and infants, we are not wired to notice distribution chain errors or product challenges – we are wired to notice good and bad communication. We are wired to notice when someone is taking care of us, paying close attention to us and is truly focussed on our needs. We are wired for connection. In your business, whatever deals you are trying to make or keep – it is communication skills and human connection that are the real deal-breaker.
Your business cannot always find the solution to the problem, but it can always focus on excellent communication, leadership and relationship building. Even when a service is disappointing, or when we face uncertainty, loss, change or a crisis, if the communication is good, you can turn that experience around and actually bring some meaning, joy and human connection to your employees and customers’ lives.
I’ve had a number of customer service moments over the last few weeks. Some good some bad. I’ve cancelled a delivery service but had a complete turn-around with a company I had a product issue with.
I really liked my grocery delivery service – they were far more convenient than going to the shops. On the other hand, I wasn’t hopeful about my complaint call to the company about the faulty product – which started with me, not in the best of moods. So why did I cancel the delivery service and yet feel totally different about the company that sold me a faulty product? Simple. The way they communicated. The way they interacted with me. The way they made me feel. As our dear 4D friend and colleague Anthony Etherton would say – it’s not rocket science, is it??! It’s good, clear and above all INTENTIONAL communication.
Take a moment now and think of a time you got annoyed with a company that you have dealt with – not because they made a mistake, but because their communication was poor.
And now think of a time when a company you were using made a mistake but because of the great communication and relationship management – you not only stayed with them but were grateful and appreciated their care, attention and impact on you.
Notice how you feel when you think of those very different experiences. This is the ripple effect on you and your business. Right into people’s lives, experiences and memories.
And 4D is here to help – with courses, coaching, keynotes, plus our new 4D OnDemand digital platform – – we are here to help you, your leaders and your people become expert communicators who can inspire, motivate, energise and turn even the most challenging situations into golden opportunities. Stay tuned for some tips and best practices coming in the next article!