Earlier last month, we introduced our Top 10 Trends for 2023 and a big thank you for the amazing feedback from many of our 4D online friends. Having given you the first top 5 tips (1. Energy 2. UBU- Unphased by Uncertainty 3. Communicating Vision 4. Impact 5. Presentations) it’s now time reveal the last 5 of the Top Ten Trends for 2023. So, here they are…enjoy!
Hybrid working and learning is here to stay. In 2023 you need to be thinking about your VHV – your Virtual and Hybrid Vibe. There are two key elements here. One, is that fully remote working is over and we will see an expansion of hybrid working and the second is that virtual and hybrid meetings and learning need to be vibrant and engaging.
While many people are still WFH a lot, the focus in 2023 will be much more on a flexible hybrid model. This means individuals will have their own hybrid work schedule – mixing the amount of time they WFH or WFO. It also means we will all be finding ourselves in a lot more meetings, presentations and trainings that have a hybrid audience. Don’t be surprised if this year you find yourself in a training room or creative meeting, in person, where you are partnered with someone on a screen who is dialling in remotely for the same session. The hybrid experience will get better and better, with more and more organisations bringing in specialised tech teams to manage cameras, screens and sound to optimise the hybrid experience and make it as seamless as possible.
Secondly, this expanding virtual and hybrid working world means leaders and teams need to get really good really quickly at creating energised and inclusive hybrid experiences. This means putting a focus on your Virtual and Hybrid Vibe – your hybrid communication, facilitation and navigation skills to keep groups unified, energised and engaged when working across different platforms.
Yes it’s about tech savvy but it’s more about HOW you use the tech and how you keep the connection and collaboration vibe alive every day.
Get a standing desk so that even when dialling in remotely you feel like you are in the room, up on your feet and raring to go
Don’t treat in-the-room and remote participants as two separate groups – partner them up and get them talking across the hybrid divide.
In the arena of inclusion in 2023, two key words will be Needs and Neuro-Diversity.
As a year of action, leaders and individuals in 2023 will be looking for tangible behaviours that can move us forward to further inclusivity. The focus will not only be on rights but also on needs. Expanding the topic from dialogue to doing. What is it that individuals and groups need to help them feel more included? What needs to be done to help them feel they are important, that their voice is wanted and that their perspective counts? What tangible, sometimes simple, actions can they themselves take, can their leaders and can their organisations take to really move the dial on inclusion. A huge part of this will be more and more empowerment to a diverse range of individuals, to really put the emphasis on including and trusting a diverse population to feel empowered to act.
This means leaders approaching daily tasks such as creating agendas, having challenging conversations, giving performance reviews or holding team meetings, with an eye toward – how can I do this inclusively? How can I do this in a way that improves this person’s life? How can I do this in a way that fosters connection? Leaders will not only actively include everyone more but also trust others to take the reins and run with new ideas and projects. These actions may be small at first but they will have a big impact.
Inclusion will mean proactively seeking the thoughts and opinions of less outspoken colleagues, people you don’t usually go to, team members who you clash with, stakeholders from different areas of the business, colleagues and customers with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and outlooks. Empowerment will mean upskilling to understand your own blockers and fears to empowering others and recognising what team members need in order to feel empowered to take risks.
The key questions: What do people need to feel included and empowered?
This year will also see much more awareness, inclusion and appreciation of Neuro-diversity – ADD, ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Sensory Perception Disorder and many other neuro-diverse terms will become far more familiar and understood in the workplace.
Neurodiversity is about recognising those who think differently. Depending on how our brains are wired we will all think, move, process information and communicate in different ways. Approximately 15-20% of the population has a neurological difference. Whether someone is officially diagnosed or has recognised they are somewhere on the scale of neuro-diverse, many more people will become much more aware of how very differently we have all been thinking and perceiving for a very long time.
Moreover that neuro-diversity brings strengths to celebrate as well as challenges to accommodate. When it comes to challenges, we need to recognise that environments and systems can do more to meet the needs of neuro-diverse people. When it comes to strengths we will be tapping into the potential and creativity of diverse thinkers a lot more. Inclusion will move from edgy unfamiliarity to an exciting gift that keeps on giving as leaders and teams start to enjoy the richness, ideas and benefits more and more, as well as the fun and enjoyment that an engaged, diverse working environment will bring.
No matter whether you work solo, in a creative pair, a team or a whole organisation all of us can benefit from different thinkers! Also 2023 is a great year for us all to finally recognise that there is no such thing as ‘normal’ and that we all need to finally accept the end of the mythical idea of the mythical norm!
The fact is quite simply – no two people are the same. Even us – identical twins!
We’ve talked about WellBeing for a few years now but in 2023 WellBeing will no longer be just a nice extra or something that organisations talk about but don’t do anything about. This year, will see WellBeing being truly integrated into the working day and week. This isn’t going to simply be about encouraging people to exercise and eat well. It’s going to become a far more integrated WellBeing plan that helps people stay energised, healthy, connected to meaning and purpose and able to manage stress and their nervous system – everyday.
Through simple tools and techniques leaders and teams will become super aware and super expert at taking care of their stress levels, work flows, schedules, relationships and conflict hotspots to ensure they move more permanently from survive to thrive.
Productivity it is still a word that is going to be used across organisations but what will become important when it comes to workforce productivity is leaders and organisations getting the balance right between what they want OUT of employees and what they put IN to their people. When it comes to energy, wellbeing, self-resourcing and self-nourishing, leaders and organisations will need to be thinking a lot more about the INPUT employees need before they can expect the OUTPUT they want. Organisations will see a lot more mini-WellBeing interventions in meetings and over coffee breaks.
Through digital platforms and at-desk learning – there will be a lot more practical, quick, research-based tips and techniques on regulating the nervous system and keeping the body and mind in balance moment to moment.
Finally, organisations will see a huge increase in demand for leader psychotherapeutic coaching – what at 4D we call Executive Depth Coaching. Where experts will help your leaders develop at a far deeper, psychotherapeutic and psychological level. Meaning individuals and leaders understand and overcome their unhealthy, maladaptive developmental patterns, triggers, hotspots and ego defences – to live and lead from a far more integrated and healthier place.
Don’t just think nutrition and exercise, think nervous system management, self-regulation, breathing, mini breaks/switch offs, and no more back-to-back meetings.
Think WellBeing in 4D – Stop asking How are you doing and start asking what do you need to flourish physically, emotionally, mentally and relationally?
Trend number 9 for 2023 is all about personal branding. We are going to see a shift in how individuals, leaders, influencers and businesses create their narrative, their branding, their profile and their ongoing reputation.
Personal branding will move away from identity and towards interaction. What do we mean by this? This means your personal profile will talk less about your qualities, qualifications, skills and identity and more about what it is like to work with you, be in relationship with you, and interact with you. Whether you are an individual or a business what people are interested in is the ‘experience’ they will have being your colleague or your customer. Yes, it is still about personal expertise but it is more about interpersonal experience. Yes, it is still about product excellence, but it is more about customer experience.
Whether you are a leader in an established multinational corporation or are venturing out on your own, whether you are a global corporation or an SME, your ‘brand experience’ – in the room and online – is going to become a priority.
Your branding needs to reflect the commitment you make to your work, team, employees and customers. It will be about what to expect from you when someone chooses to collaborate or consume with you. What do you guarantee in terms of service and timelines? What values and morals drive your interactions? Will working with you be fun? Intense? Structured? Open to risk? Playful? Fast? Driven? Calm? Spacious? As a customer will you make me feel unique? Safe? Cared for? Heard? A part of your community? Important? Creative?
As a leader, your people are less concerned with your personal brand and more focused on your interpersonal brand. As a business, your customer isn’t interested in you as a dealership but “in you” – as a relationship.
Rewrite your online profiles telling people your leader style and what it is like to work for and with you!
Ask your colleagues and customers what is their experience of you – celebrate and publish the go
Finally, this year all about personalized and accessible remote learning. As we move more and more to flexible, hybrid working – individual learning and development needs to be just as flexible. People and organisations will be looking for the very best in online and digital training that is relevant, engaging, and accessible for everyone, anywhere, anytime. This means online learning that really captures attention and delivers practical tools that really work. Learning will be hyper-personalised meaning individuals can navigate their own way through training to ensure they get the development and skills they personally need rather than a one-size fits all approach. Leaders and individuals will expect to be able to access shared courses in live online experiences as well as digital video modules that deliver key training in bitesize chunks. Dynamic, engaging digital learning platforms for business are going to explode over the coming years, with those rising to the top offering:
super engaging facilitators
clear tools and techniques
bitesize video modules
fun graphics and animations
community chat spaces to share the experience with others
Continuous development is going to be absolutely key for the generations now coming through the workplace. Training and development courses won’t be annual add-ons anymore, they will be fully integrated and woven into the day to day way of working and being right from day one of starting a new job. This means a lot more L&D will take place on digital platforms and eventually in VR worlds where participants will get to practice communication skills and role-play as their avatars or holograms.
Start exploring the best digital training platforms for yourself, your teams and your organisation and in the meantime check out SM platforms like Insta and TikTok for quick-fire tips on communication, conflict and collaboration.
What can I say…check out 4DOnDemand for the best in digital online training!
My personal bonus trend for 2023 is ‘Play.’ We will all be looking for a lot more fun, levity and laughter this year so watch out for more fun coming to the workplace in the form of games, podcasts and events as well as lots more live entertainment.
These are now all my Top 10 trends for 2023 – revealed. Don’t know about you but I am excited and curious and ready for the ride. Let’s dive into the uncertainty and enjoy the changes and opportunities ahead.
For us at 4D that’s the best way to live as a human being! Or should I say, as a 4D Human Being!
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!
I am sure many of you feel as distressed and wretched as I do at the news coming out of Ukraine. Just when we felt we were emerging from the pandemic, the devastation of a war in Europe crashes in.
I have reflected a lot over the past few days on the reaction around the world towards recent events. As with any devastating challenge or trauma coming into our lives, be it a personal, professional, or global curveball, many of us will be spiralling through a powerful, and complex mix of anger and outrage, helplessness and hopelessness, sadness, and despair, as well as love, hope, compassion, and kindness.
And as many of us watch the often-overwhelming footage of destruction and hear the heart-wrenching stories of pain and loss, we may be asking – What can we do? How can we help? We can donate of course but perhaps this doesn’t always feel enough. While we can admire and appreciate those who hurry to the borders to help refugees, that is simply not an option for so many people. So, what can we do?
Aside from doing anything we can to help individuals, support those in need and stand up for freedom and peace…we can also come back to ourselves and start there. Whether in conflict with one other person or a group or a state – we can rage and blame of course…and we can also choose to come back to ourselves and ask: How do we want to ‘be’ in this? Who and how do we want to be in response to aggression and conflict? Here are three reflections which we hope offer some support…
Behind the Boundary
Strong, supposedly negative, emotions like anger, rage or sadness can get a bad rap. These ‘negative’ emotions can be discouraged or rejected throughout our childhood and into our adult lives. And, yes, getting stuck in an emotion like anger is dangerous for us, our relationships, our society, and our health. However, whether you think about a personal conflict in your life or current events, we can understand the response of strong emotions in a different way. Whether we respond with rage, anger, sadness, or despair – strong and often difficult emotions can carry important messages for us. Anger, for example, can often arise as a ‘no’ to someone crossing our boundaries or ignoring our values. And when we understand anger as ‘no, this is not okay’ then we can start to take agency and make choice in a situation. Fear on the other hand may be calling us to act towards our safety and the safety of loved ones. Rather than getting stuck whirling around in a storm of difficult emotions for days, months or years, we need to understand these feelings as messengers that something isn’t okay, something has to change – emotions as a call to action. Signals sent by our body to help move us to a better place. As therapist Diana Fosha explains, “No matter how scary emotions can sometimes seem, if we allow ourselves to process and metabolise them, they will invariably take us to a good place”. So, if you are in conflict with someone or having strong feelings of anger, sadness, fear, or despair to events, can you listen to the feeling and ask what it is trying to tell you? From there, you can start to act and make choices. You can set boundaries, you can state your position, you can stand up for your values, you can communicate your beliefs and needs, you can feel more solid and sure of your footing and know what for you is okay and not okay.
At 4D we constantly ask the question – “Are you happening to the world, or is the world simply happening to you?” We ask this in terms of leadership, communication, and the impact we make. And this question is as, if not more, relevant when the hardest of times are upon us. When we lose someone we love, when our security feels threatened, when we are hurt, when we are scared and when we see war unfolding around us. It is at times like this that the world can happen to us, that we can feel so emotionally overwhelmed that we are lost in feelings of rage, anger, hurt or helplessness. It is by coming back to our 4th dimension – our intentional dimension- that we can start to get back to choice. It is from our intentional selves that we can happen to the world again.
Be the Change
You have no doubt heard the often quoted and yet highly relevant quote from Ghandi “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
As we face conflict or injustice in our lives, it can be tempting to let our anger, grief or hopelessness dictate our actions. But, if we want to live in a world where kindness, care, love, understanding, compassion, and humanity far outweigh cruelty and conflict or despair and defeat, then where in our own lives can we reduce conflict, increase understanding, reach out with love, or show an act of kindness? How are we living the values we so desperately want to see on the global stage?
By firing up our 4th dimension – our intentional dimension – we can surface from drowning in overwhelming and sometimes paralysing emotions – and get back to choice. From here, we can choose to put into the world and into our relationships more of the qualities we ourselves want to see in the world. So, what one word can you put in your head today that will set your intention for the day? That helps take you from feeling paralysed to purposeful, that redirects your anger to action, that helps you climb out of a spiral of hopelessness back up to a place of choice and hope. You may choose a word like loving or kind or motivating or caring or even playful or fun…by setting an intention through simply putting that one word in your head today, you will change your state, change your impact, change other people’s day, and create a ripple effect that can truly effect change in the world.
By coming back to ourselves and coming back to choice – we come back to possibility. And by coming back to ourselves and then coming together, we are working from the kind of consciousness, collaboration, leadership, and love that really gives us all a chance to build the day, the relationship, the business, the community, and the world we truly want to build.
Let go of the Past
Finally, conflicts can often arise from the seeds of ancient historical disagreements and bitterness. While we might question global actions based on decades or centuries old grievances, we might also look to ourselves and question how this very practice shows up for us. How many of us hold onto old narratives of wrongs done to us in the past that justify our feelings, actions, and choices today? How many of us live moments of aggression or anger, sadness or stubbornness that have their roots in arguments or hurts from months or years ago? Even without knowing it, many of us can still be holding onto old hurts that continue to hurt us every day. We carry those past pains into the present day and live and breathe them as part of our story. What would it be like to let go of those stories? To release ourselves from the past hurts, to choose today to put down that emotional baggage and let it know we don’t need it anymore. That we are choosing to walk forwards without it now. While the pain we feel from past wrongs done to us may be totally justified, when we carry them with us every day, they become a burden that often end up hurting only us in the here-and-now.
I hope these three tools are as helpful to you as they have been for me.
I send you much love and to all of you caught in conflict – you are in so many hearts and minds and prayers.