The Blurry Lines of Blame: Psychological Safety in the Workplace…

The Blurry Lines of Blame: Psychological Safety in the Workplace…

Guest writer Sonya Law is here to enlighten us again from the world of Human Resources with her latest blog post, “The Blurry Lines of Blame: Psychological Safety in the Workplace…”

“Be the leader that you wish you had, when we become a leader, it is important to remember the IMPACT that we have on others with our words and actions…” Sonya Law

Psychologically Safe workplaces take Ownership

We know that sinking feeling as a leader when something goes wrong in a team, or a mistake is made, especially when the impact on the business is significant.  In that moment it’s easy to assign the blame to someone, in order to direct the spotlight away from ourselves.  

However, this does not provide a psychologically safe environment for employees.  When we immediately pull the blame lever, it makes the employee feel small and powerless, its disempowering. 

Good leaders know about the blurry lines of blame. The better approach is to:

  1. Focus on the problem not the person
  2. Root cause the problem 
  3. Implement process improvements
  4. To stop the problem from reoccurring
  5. Involve the team who are responsible 
  6. EMPOWER the team to be part of the solution
  7. Transfer ownership to the team in a positive way.

The reason that blame is such a slippery slope is that it’s a toxic emotion.  We all have at some stage in our careers been on the receiving end of someone’s negativity.  The risk to the business is the employee feeling disempowered, disengaged and leaves the business adding to the staff turnover.  

It’s not about minimizing accountability it’s about taking a more considered, thoughtful and collaborative approach that produces better outcomes for the business.  When we tackle problems together, we ALL grow.

Positive, Innovative Cultures thrive

It also serves to provide a psychologically safe environment for employees and positive culture in which to thrive.  At a time when there is a talent shortage, it’s important part of the retention strategy that we are supporting employees to feel safe at work.

More importantly when you empower employees to be part of the solution it promotes innovation in the business.  

When we take this role as leader as coach and to role model positive behaviors around making mistakes it leads to improvement in critical thinking and problem solving.  Which are key business skills as we face an uncertain world and business environments. 

Happy employees are productive, open to learning and change

Happy employees are also more productive and likely to take on more complex work or stretch projects and set more challenging goals, when it feels safe to make mistakes.  They tend to be more open to learning new skills.  Leaders and businesses who role model a growth mindset and a curious mind, will have the competitive advantage when it comes to people, product, service and technology and respond better to change.  

Agile businesses position themselves well for Growth 

It’s important that businesses are agile, the ability to adapt and change leads to Growth in any business.  A leader who understands this will be able to attract top talent and have a collaborative work environment where the work gets done but they can also have fun and celebrate the wins along the way.

It leads to better outcomes for the business when you take care of people and take them along on the journey and GROW together.

“View every problem as an opportunity to GROW” Bill Marriott.

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You Only Have One Flashlight

You Only Have One Flashlight

Guest writer Sonya Law shares the importance of honing your focus and discovering your purpose. You only have one flashlight, and you need to be particular about where you shine that light!

What you FOCUS on grows.

When we focus on PURPOSEFUL work that we feel connected to it’s POWERFUL.

“Find clarity on what is your passion, focus on what gives you joy, it will bring you closer to your purpose, then align your life and work with it…” Sonya Law

Driven employees take ownership!

We know that feeling when we can’t wait to get out of bed and get working, we are energized by our work-day not the other way around. Commonly though most employees are out of step with what they enjoy.  

We have all been asked to do things in our job that we don’t agree with but because of our position and responsibility we carry out the task.  In Human Resources this is very common particularly in restructuring and redundancy situations.  Tasks that leave us questioning why we do the work we do? Creates a feeling of emotional dissonance and we feel burnt out, broken and overwhelmed instead.

This isn’t always the case, when we carry out these tasks with humility, care and professionalism we create trust, respect and genuine connection with employees.

Why is this important? Because as leaders we spend a lot of time and money directing, delegating and managing the performance of others and what we need is driven employees to take ownership.

This is a journey of focusing on work that gives us joy and aligning ourselves with it! 

Happy employees are fulfilled employees!

When we align our life with work that we enjoy we experience fulfillment. Our purpose is a cross section of work that we are good at and that we enjoy.  As an activity we can reflect on our career to gain clarity on what work we enjoy.  

This inquiry asks 3 questions:

  1. What do you want for self, family and the world (greater good)?
  2. What is the problem you are trying to solve in society?
  3. What do you CARE about?

Over the last 30 years I have talked with thousands of people about their career and they talk a lot about not feeling connected to their work and wanting something that makes them feel fulfilled and part of something bigger than themselves.

Because as we know from Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, once we have satisfied our desire for food, shelter and love, we want to experience self-actualization, to live our best lives and work is a big part of our life!
Leader as Coach – what is their role!

As leaders, we lean into the role of leader as coach and engage with our people in new ways.

When, we are given the privilege of a position in leadership it is a great responsibility, our IMPACT has a ripple effect.  

As leaders we need to:

  1. BE clear on our PURPOSE
  2. ENABLE others to find theirs
  3. CONNECT people with work that is engaging and empowering.

What are the attributes of a leader as coach?

  1. Lean in, listen and learn – BE curious
  2. Understand – BE empathetic
  3. Connect and build relationships with their people – BE RELATIONAL.

Purpose is number one in the TALENT game!

Best Practice in Employee Value Proposition (EVP) in human resources and staffing is connecting people with their purpose.  Organizations who focus on the following will retain and attract and develop top talent.

  •  Purpose – to engage employees in work that is purposeful that they enjoy.
  • Autonomy – trust employees to decide when, where and how work gets done.
  • Cultural alignment – provide a sense of belonging, they feel they have found their tribe.
  • Psychological safety – understand people want to maintain emotional well-being and positive mental health.
  • Connection and Community – want time with family, partners, pet’s and be connected to the community in which they live. 

Purpose focuses us on what we are good at and what we enjoy! 

Purpose is a cross section of both what we are good at and what we enjoy.  So how do we know when we are connected with our purpose at work?

  1. Our values are ALIGNED
  2. Our work makes a DIFFERENCE
  3. It doesn’t feel like work, more like FLOW or PLAY
  4. We SHOW up as ourselves
  5. We have increased ENERGY and vibrancy
  6. We deliver VALUE to our stakeholders, employees and customers
  7. We DO life, it does not DO us!

“We only have one flashlight and when we focus on PUPOSEFUL work that we feel connected to its POWERFUL”.

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The Great Reshuffle: How to Retain Top Talent

The Great Reshuffle: How to Retain Top Talent

Guest writer Sonya Law tackles on of the challenges facing businesses today: how to retain your top talent in the face of what is being called the great reshuffle.

The great resignation: could it best be described as the great reshuffle?

It’s true that there has always been staff turnover, so the great resignation is not new, however the reasons for leaving and staying are!

So how do we retain our talent?

  1. Career discussions: We need to be proactive in talking with employees, to discuss their career aspirations or a recruiter will have this conversation for you!
  2. Training: Employees want to learn and grow.  Be prepared to invest in their personal and professional development and ask them an open question: What do you CARE about?
  3. Purpose & EVP: They want clarity on the purpose of the company and align themselves with it. We need to know what our company’s Employee Value Proposition is in order to attract and retain staff, furthermore, we need to believe it and articulate it with authenticity. Ask yourself the question: What do you CARE about?
  4. Empathy: Employees want a manager that CARES for their wellbeing. We need to have a holistic approach to the wellness of employees, both physically and mentally. This will require a budget for the investment into structured wellness programs that detects, monitor and support the wellbeing of staff. What is your financial investment into employee wellbeing?
  5. Leadership: Hiring and educating our mid-level (branch) managers – we know the top reason that employees leave is because of their manager. We need to hire managers who have good leadership skills and educate our existing managers on how to evolve and become better leaders. When was the last time you engaged in leadership training or coaching?
  6. Value: Visibility of leadership and valuing its people is critical in retaining talent, it is also having the conversation with a resigning employee, to ask the reasons why they are leaving and to ask them to stay. Try to keep them!

We are only as good as our people and our team without our employees we do not have a business.  It’s important we understand as HR and Leaders, what are the roadblocks in our businesses and where do our employees need support.  Its having a difficult conversation about an employment contract that needs to be sorted, so that we can get on with business.  All too often we get sidetracked on what it is we think we should do, what leaders DO is focus on the right things.

When, we are put in a position of leadership it is to serve, it is to understand what is needed to get business done and achieve our goals together as a team.  Gone are the days where apathy is a defense or I don’t like conflict is used as an excuse for not having uncomfortable but necessary conversations.

As leaders we need to be addressing issues and people who don’t fit or risk losing talent.

Post Pandemic, employees are looking for:

  • Autonomy about when and where they work.
  • Flexibility to do LIFE, to spend time with their partners, family, pet’s and be connected to the community in which they live.
  • Clarity on what is their passion, what gives them joy, fulfillment and align their life with it. This is the new work life, do LIFE balance!

The entrepreneurial life:

The most interesting reason, that employees are leaving is to pursue their own start up’s, creating businesses that align with their passion and are becoming entrepreneurs.

  • Forbes reported statistics that in the US, new business applications are up 95% according to the Census Bureau.
  • France is up 20% according to McKinsey.
  • Japan is up 14%, in the UK are up 30% according to National Statistical Office.

Jobs in most demand are seeing increases in salaries of up to 30-40%:

The great reshuffle has also pushed up wages because of the lack of supply of seasonal labour and good candidates, due to a candidate short market.

The industries most affected and experiencing this great re-shuffle and increase in salaries are:

  • Human Resources
  • Information technology
  • Accountancy, Legal and Finance.

Compliance is a constraint on time:

The biggest roadblock HR and leaders are facing in retaining its talent is the constraints on time to invest in these initiatives, so much of the role is about compliance due to Pandemic and Vaccinations.

We know though that if we take proactive and positive steps to engage with our employees our businesses will thrive!

“Take the time to look after your people and they will take time to look after your business.”

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How Do You Build Trust with Your Employees?

How do you build trust with your employees?

This week, guest writer Sonya Law walks us through the critical importance of the employee performance review in part two of her series. In “How do you build trust with your employees,” Sonya shares the methods of trust building we can all use in our businesses.

The irregularity of the sometimes twice a year Performance Review at mid-year and End of Year (EOY) does not lend itself to building trusted relationships.

What is going to build trust is:

  • Approachability – for some this is an open-door policy that physical signal that they are open for business. Others they like to walk the floor and talk with people and be seen.  Either way both methods work and encourage people, employees to come and talk with you.
  • Congruency – for some managers they may have an open-door policy and walk the floor but may give off a signal that they are not approachable. This is where emotional intelligence is important in leaders to have a self-awareness of their body language and tone when talking with employees to ensure that they are also presenting themselves as open and approachable.
  • Regularity – the consistency and regularity of these exchanges with employees encourages people to open up and builds trust.

As human beings we are wired to detect if people or situations are threatening and are constantly picking up on cues in our environment and behaviors of others.  To assess whether a person or situation is psychologically safe, the workplace is no different.  When we build an organisation that is built on trust and it’s not just a token value but a lived experience, we experience greater levels of:

  • Innovation – feeling safe to share ideas without them getting shut down without a fear of making mistakes, which enables learning.
  • Collaboration – when ideas flow freely amongst the team, in a collegiate way this balance of power ensures that everyone is heard and the focus is on a better solution.
  • Problem Solving – this collegiate environment encourages the team to solve problems together rather than a focus on individuals.

Some organisations value technical skills the hard skills; over leaders who are more approachable and collaborative as these are seen as soft skills.

48% of employees in workforce in USA are looking to change jobs, for more flexibility, to align with cultures and leaders who display these soft skills and clarity of purpose.  Cultures who truly engage with their people in an authentic way. Leaders who are self-aware, open, transparent in their communication and vulnerable, win the hearts and minds of employees and extract the discretionary effort that hits the bottom-line time and time again.

Most organisations know what they do, how they do it but not why, these workplaces are stuck in fire fighter mode, directionless and leaking talent, innovation and in most cases money.

So where do we go from here?

Make feedback and performance reviews a habit, stack it with best practice:

  1. People being aligned with the STRATEGY
  2. Remind employees of your WHY
  3. Connect people with your PURPOSE

The business landscape is rapidly changing and the nature of work and skills required are different.

Businesses need to reflect back to inform their strategy of what is needed to achieve business growth in the following areas:

  1. Continuous improvement
  2. Remove road blocks
  3. Market intelligence – competitor activity
  4. Customer intelligence – customer buying behavior
  5. Pandemic fatigue – shift towards holistic view of employee wellbeing
  6. AGILE – how can we become more agile
  7. Scalable Technology – how are we using technology to solve societies problem of social connectedness and remote work.

In effect how are we building a culture of feedback, performance and innovation, that is engaged and with a common purpose and a spirit of connection, belonging and community.

Humans are the greatest adapters:

In an article titled, Humans May Be the Most Adaptive Species, Scientific American:

“Constant climate change may have given Homo sapiens their flexibility.  Man had two key advantages: our brains and our capacity for culture.  Our brains are essentially social brains. We share information, we create and pass on knowledge. That’s the means by which humans are able to adjust to new situations, and it’s what differentiates humans from our earlier ancestors, and our earlier ancestors from primates”.

If we take care of the people we work with they will share knowledge, pass down knowledge and innovate and be agile, our role as leaders is to provide an environment that fosters trust for them to thrive.

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How Critical is it to Review Employee Performance? Part One

How critical is it to review employee performance? Part One

This week, guest writer Sonya Law walks us through the critical importance of the employee performance review in part one of a series.

It is very critical: you need alignment between the people and the work that needs to be done to achieve the strategy.  Your people are your number one strategic competitive advantage. When businesses can unlock potential of all people it has a multiplier affect to the bottom line.

Its very important to have a business whose people are performing and heading in the same direction.  It’s an obvious thing you can’t get anything done without the engagement of your people.

There are a number of factors for that too, which exist in today’s organisations:

  1. No clear direction: Often what happens is there is not clear direction from leaders.
  2. Feedback loop: There’s not always a feedback loop between the manager and employee on a regular and consistent basis.
  3. Celebrate achievements: Also, one of the things organisations don’t do very well is celebrate their achievements.
  4. Value your people: And the valuable work that employees do over the last 6 to 12 months is not recognised and highlighted in their mid-year or end of year review (EOY) or at all.
  5. Re-engage: Recommitting your people to the purpose and the strategy and their role in it is not something that is commonly practiced and should be.

As leaders, we get caught up in operations, in our own role, blinkers on, it’s very easy to fall into that trap especially during the pandemic, where for a lot of leaders it’s about keeping your head above water.  It is the role of management to let people know what their contribution is and what their value is to the team and the organisation.  Most people join organisations because they want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

So, it’s a really good opportunity to acknowledge those things as well as ASK your employees at the End Of Year (EOY) review:

  1. What are the roadblocks you are experiencing in your job?
  2. What are their ideas in terms of efficiencies and continuous improvement?
  3. Ideas on how they could do their job better? Innovation?
  4. Ask them if they would like to do more training, learn something new, that is going to help them to do a better job?
  5. Open up a feedback loop: Say to the person how can I as a manager, help you to perform in your job?
  6. Ask them are they open to opportunities for challenge and stretch goals?

It’s good to, in that conversation talk about challenges and stretch goals.  What I am hearing from a lot of people lately that they are in a job, where they are somewhat happy, well paid, and it’s kind of easy and they are not really being challenged or stretched.  So, they actually want to leave their organisation for an organisation that challenges and stretches them.

This is the responsibility of the manager to unleash that unrealized potential or capacity within the organisation and when we don’t capture potential it really hits the bottom line.  In terms of productivity and efficiency, and revenue per headcount, so it is the role of the manager to always be thinking about how can I unlock the potential of my people. It starts and ends with potential.

Bias is a block to unleashing the Potential of employees?

As leaders, we experience bias in our decision making all the time, we put people in boxes because it enables us to make sense of the world and provides certainty something that still plagues us during the pandemic.  Or we are too lazy to think about what that person’s potential is within the organisation.  Managers who are disengaged have a detrimental impact on the overall performance and wellbeing of their team and organisation.

What can we do as leaders to overcome this bias?

To be aware of how limiting it is when we put people in a box, when we sit down at EOY review we need to appreciate that they are not the same person as they were when they started in the role and with the company.

Important preparation tips for Managers:

  1. Awareness of our own biases
  2. Look at your employees with fresh eyes
  3. Go in with the mindset like you are interviewing them for the first time
  4. Don’t assume, that their past performance is a reliable indicator of future performance.

We need to go into the EOY discussion with the employee as if we don’t know them because, our biases, and our assumptions, and experiences overpower where that person is.

This practice will ensure a successful EOY review on both sides.  With the knowledge that people grow and change as people within an organisation.  Consciously or not, we are putting people into boxes that underutilizes our Human Resources.  By holding a space for employees, it enables you to assess their performance.

Exert from a Candid Conversation with Ron Slee:

( Podcast button)

Ron: The EOY and mid-year review is all about the employee, its not about the manager, and many times, most times, I don’t believe the manager knows how to do it?

Sonya: This is true.  Some managers don’t want to do it, they find it intimidating.

Ron: Have you seen that?

Sonya: Yes, they just want it over and done with and tick the box, and send to HR. Often it comes back with limited feedback or comments. Yes, they talk with the employee and tick it off and go back to their job.  They are often uncomfortable with having conversations about barriers they might be experiencing, professional and personal development questions, conflict in workplace and delivering feedback.  Those skills are important but a lot of managers don’t like to do it, or want to do it.

Ron: Why?

Sonya: It opens them up, they won’t always have the answers.

Ron: We have to be vulnerable to each other.  If I asked what I could do to improve my relationship with you as a worker of mine, that employee has to trust me explicitly, implicitly if they are going to tell me the truth.  I don’t know that, that kind of trust exists? I get a paycheck, I don’t want to do anything that is going to jeopardize that paycheck, I need the paycheck.  The employee is coming to the discussion nervously and anxiously, and the boss thinking what a pain in the neck.  I am busy don’t they know that. We’re on the wrong foot from the start?

Sonya: True, there is also a power disparity which makes it difficult, in the workplace, often if face to face in the bosses’ office, manager title on the door, its intimidating.  The employee just wants to get home, take a paycheck and goes into survival mode, which is quite common.   Fear kicks in and fight or flight depending on the degree of trust.

In my next article we will explore this more on how to have a successful End Of Year (EOY) review in

Part Two: How to build trust and get the most out of the End Of Year (EOY) review. 

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Making Our Teams and Ourselves More Successful

Making Our Teams and Ourselves More Successful

This week, guest writer Sonya Law walks us through the people skills we need as we work towards making our teams, and ourselves, more successful.

We achieve more as a team when we operate from a place of openness rather than fear – when we chose to thrive not just survive, we achieve more. On the road to getting there you will no doubt come across fear which is the greatest roadblock and inhibitor of growth and missed opportunities.

Recently I was asked to chair the Human Resources Summit for 2021 and immediately I went to FEAR, I said to them I think you have the wrong person.  They said no we don’t you are perfect for this; I remember then asking them what makes you think that?

The number one inhibitor of growth is fear. Rather than see the opportunity we sometimes succumb to FEAR.

WHY is that?

Usually it’s our own self-limiting beliefs, the story we tell ourselves that holds us back, the narrative.  We believe that we can only do something if we have done it before and we look for evidence that proves or disproves our fear.  When we operate in this way it is from what is called a fixed mindset.  Whereas a growth mindset is directed toward, I like to try new things.  The top three thought leaders and books that explore this in more detail are:

  1. Mindset, author Dr. Carol Dweck.
  2. Atomic Habits …author James Clear.
  3. What got you here won’t get you there …author Marshall Goldsmith.

As Albert Einstein said “We can’t use an old map to explore a new world”.

So, what’s holding you back?

It all flows from your mindset, through the lens of The Biology of Belief by Dr Bruce Lipton PHD says:

Your beliefs become your thoughts.

Your thoughts become words.

Your words become actions.

Your actions become habits.

Your habits become values.

Your values become your destiny.

To put it in a business context, our mindset, habits and values will guide your decision making, willingness to change and appetite for risk, innovation and growth.

So how do we overcome this?

  1. Self – Awareness, what is our narrative the story we tell ourselves?
  2. Become a lifelong learner, what matters is what we learn today and even more important what we will learn tomorrow.
  3. Cultivate a Growth Mindset, be open to feedback and willingness to

A great book that explores this further is The Journey BEYOND Fear, leverage the three pillars of POSITIVITY to build your success, by John Hagel.

Still the journey beyond fear is still a primal one and still many set themselves up for failure because they are not aware and not invested in changing their mindset or habits to orientate themselves toward success.  People still diet, even though they know they should exercise and eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep, we can be our own worst enemy by not engaging in healthy HABITS.

It’s the same with FEAR, if fear is a false expectation appearing real, why do we feed ourselves negative narratives about what we are capable of, thus limiting our potential?

How do we explore this further and adopt a practice of self-enquiry to gain insight into why we act the way we do?

Three very important questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the story I tell myself?

The Narrative is it consistent with me moving towards achieving my goals.

  1. Positive: is it enabling?
  2. Negative: is it Disabling?
  1. What am I passionate about?
    1. Positive: Do I focus on what I am passionate about what brings my life meaning, purpose and joy, does it align with my values?
    2. Negative: Or am I easily distracted and reactive?
  2. How am I choosing to respond and show up, what energy do I bring into the space? Do I explore opportunities?
    1. Negative: Do I practice avoidance and blame others.
    2. Positive: Or do I take responsibility and stay curious.

What are the benefits to a Team of operating from a place of openness rather than fear?

  • Openness to explore new ways of solving problems, collaboration,
  • Leads to Innovation,
  • Which facilitates Growth.

A good leader has vision and can frame the opportunity to be explored by the team.  Which allows the team to thrive not just survive, to innovate and grow both professionally and personally with passion.

If you are interested in a presentation on Growth Mindset, please contact Sonya Law from

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The Five Bs for Baby Boomers

The five Bs for Baby Boomers to cultivate a culture of innovation

In this week’s guest post, Sonya Law offers an explanation of the five Bs for Baby Boomers and the ways in which they can help to cultivate a culture of innovation.

What’s the most important part of being a leader today?

It’s not about being the smartest, wittiest, or being politically astute.

It’s about being innovative, leveraging the talent of the people around you, and thinking beyond today to solve the future problems that society will encounter.

How the best leaders make everyone smarter is to utilize the talent of everyone in the organization through effective listening, communication, and collaboration.  The book Multipliers by Liz Wiseman explores why some leaders drain capability and intelligence from their teams while others amplify them to produce results.  Post the pandemic, the number one skill employers seek in their people is Innovation.  Prior to the pandemic, we expected innovation to be the top skill for startups and tech firms but now it is a requirement of all employees in today’s world.

However, those for whom being innovative, open-minded, curious, and experimental comes most naturally that is Millennials, are being overlooked which erodes agility.  Especially in work environments where both Millennials and Baby Boomers cohabitate, they are often not on the same page and speaking the same language.  In some cases, not all, Baby boomers think Millennials can’t focus are distracted by their mobiles, and are not motivated or ready to be taken seriously.  So how do we get baby boomers and millennials working together to better understand each other and leverage their combined talents, we everyone serves each other.

The five Bs for Baby Boomers when communicating with Millennials:

  1. Be an empathetic listener
  2. Be prepared to give informal feedback more regularly
  3. Be clear about the goals and connect us with our WHY
  4. Be socially aware of how we are making a difference in the world and share these good news stories on social media
  5. Be open-minded to take a different route and open to using digital platforms as a collaborative workspace

The most comfortable with technology are Millennials so why would you not capitalise on this if we are to be smarter aren’t we best to leverage what they know?

Millennials are digital addicts and want to do and share everything online whereas baby boomers in most cases they draw a line between their work and home lives and do not necessarily live out their entire life online, across multiple social media platforms.

This disconnect is real and endangers the passing down of valuable knowledge cultivated by the baby boomers and all their hard work they have poured into organisations, at the risk of this not being passed on, legacy yes but innovation no.  If we could harness the knowledge of the baby boomers, this intelligence could be used to inform the innovation of the future.

In a global economy where we are experiencing climate change and pandemics, the challenges that we are facing together are the responsibility of our leaders to unblock your people.  To leverage the talent of all the people to think tank, unlock potential, work more innovatively, learn to fail fast and move on, adapt, grow and thrive if we are to compete.  The success off the backs of the baby boomers’ hard work has laid the foundation on which to build, so let’s build in collaboration into our workspaces that leverages the talent across the whole organization.

So why not leverage technology to innovate, collaborate and even assign tasks and set priorities? is a connected workspace that facilitates innovation and enables execution of the strategy in real-time, where everyone works on one connected workspace, a focused workspace that eliminates inefficiencies of switching between emails, apps, and static documents and is especially attractive to millennials, who want to use technology as a platform to get work done and share ideas.

This idea of leveraging technology is not only useful for Millennials it is a practical one given the shift toward hybrid work models and work from home becoming the norm, the need for technology to enhance communication, collaboration, and execution has become a necessity.

The five B’s for Baby Boomers are applicable for all leaders in attracting, motivating, and sustaining talent in any workforce.

Especially at a time when there is a war for talent in a candidate short market.  It is also a good idea for leaders to get familiar with spending time away from the desk, especially true of Baby Boomers who prefer to man their post but a step away from their command-and-control leadership style can be refreshing and good for innovation.

Remember the last time you went for a long walk how good it felt, to clear your head and the solutions came up freely, this is what progressive leaders practice, it is expansive and visionary.  This big picture thinking inspires innovative thinking and essential to staying ahead of the curve in coming up with better products and services for your customers.  If we get too stuck in the weeds of operations and forget to step out and come up with new thinking it stifles new ideas and innovation.

It is good to seek new thinking and challenges, but stability also matters too, so it is a blend of the two generations – baby boomers’ steadfastness and the millennials’ enthusiasm – which will inspire the future of work!

Leaders who leverage the talent of all their people will cultivate a culture of innovation … take care of your Millennials and they will solve the problems for you!

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How to map out a strategy to build a culture of respect

How to map out a strategy to build a culture of respect

In this week’s guest post, Sonya Law explains how to map out a strategy to build a culture of respect in your organization. Respect helps us to treat our most valuable resource – our people – in a way that shows they matter within our organisation.

We will explore how respect is fundamental to building a robust and resilient culture from which to thrive and contribute positively to the wellbeing of employees and deliver a positive customer experience…

As a new employee, we learn respect when we first enter an organisation and this experience is shaped by three things:

  1. Top Management
  2. Observed culture
  3. Teammates.

Top Management

Induction and onboarding are designed to give new employees a road map to follow, on how to get things done in the organisation, who to go to, what tools to use, processes to follow, all forms of our early experiences of culture.

As human beings, we are social animals and we want to fit in and will observe behaviours, language, and actions of all employees.

However, we take most of our cues from top management because we think that if they have made it to the top, they must exhibit the behaviours that we must mimic to be successful too.

Observed culture

It is common to find that when you start with a company what you observe is very different from what you read on their website or were told in the interview.  The number one question employees ask themselves in the induction process is:  Have I made the right decision to join this company? New employees then go on a fact-finding mission to seek evidence that supports their decision to join the company or not?

If what they experience is too much of a shift and they don’t feel respected and supported in their efforts, it will be short-lived and they may leave. High turnover in the probation period is often a mismatch with what was promised at the interview and experienced.  Many people leave a poor culture for a promise of a better one and when it does not live up to what they expected it can have dire consequences.


Teammates will project their own experience of the culture having either a positive or negative impact on the newcomer.  An example of a negative onboarding experience would be: when you observe a teammate speaking to a customer disrespectfully and later that day your manager points out that they are a high performer and you should model yourself on them because they are the top salesperson.  This is quite common in organisation where managers will overlook employee’s disrespectful behaviour because they are the top sales performer.

Leaving new employees to their own devices to assimilate and adapt to the new culture is fraught with risk when these three factors are negatively at play, top management, observed culture and teammates.

Tips for assimilating to the culture for the new employee, keep it simple:

  • Adapt – take your time to adjust to the new culture, be accommodating, take lots of notes and develop good habits early on. Don’t get drawn into the politics.
  • Time – take the time to get to know people and build good working relationships. Don’t make snap judgments of people.
  • Speak up – seek support and ask questions when you don’t understand something by raising concerns early you will gain some valuable insights into how open they are to feedback and dynamic they are in coming up with solutions. Remember it is a trial for both employee and employer.

The following are some tips for human resources leaders to orientate the organisation towards a more respectful culture:

Culture is pervasive, it must be driven from the top and have the 100% commitment of human resources and top management to reset the culture towards a more respectful one that is robust and resilient.

  • Role modelling at top management what respect looks like.
  • Accountability framework for those who don’t show respect.
  • Empowering employees to have a voice when respect is not shown.
  • Developing an understanding of what respect is and what it looks like through education and training at all levels of the organisation.

The items that can sabotage a culture of respect are:

  • Employees not feeling safe – to give upward feedback to top management.
  • No clear framework or process for giving feedback – handling grievances and reporting incidents.
  • Self-serving behaviors – ambitious employees who want to look good and progress in their careers and lack awareness about their negative behaviors and impact on others.
  • Disengaged employees – wanting to fly under the radar and appear busy even if they aren’t, to avoid bringing attention to themselves and being in the firing line.
  • Good employees who are mistreated – because they point out disrespectful behaviour.

The wellbeing of employees:

We have heard it many times, organisations that thrive are courageous, they respectfully discuss differences and have a framework to value the opinions of others, respond to feedback, grievances, and incidents in the workplace. These organisations have a culture that is respectful, robust, and resilient. When people feel respected and safe to raise concerns organisations can thrive and it contributes positively to the wellbeing of all employees.

How to map out a strategy to build a culture of respect in your organisation:

  1. Phase one: Gather employee feedback from various business contexts that mirror your organisation and culture – in the way people communicate, specifically relating to respect:
  • Culture surveys
  • Conduct in meetings, interviews, customer interactions
  • Qualitative assessment of induction and onboarding process
  • End of Year Performance review meetings
  • Experiences of giving and receiving difficult feedback and dealing with conflict, is it respectful?
  • Grievance process and employees’ experiences
  • Exit interview data
  • Customer insights survey
  • Seek, social media reviews
  • Behaviors observed on offsite conferences, Christmas parties, and trade shows, etc.
  1. Phase two: Analysis of the feedback to determine the themes that emerge on what respect is in the organisation, current and where you want it to be a future state at senior management level.
  2. Phase three:
  • Define what respectful behaviour is in your organisation, what it is, and what it isn’t in various business contexts, relating to your business environment.
  • Incorporate it into your code of conduct and communicate this to new employees and the wider employee groups.
  • Clear messaging in the communications plan that building a respectful culture is everyone’s responsibility and we all play a part.
  • The accountability framework sits with top management for ensuring that it is robust and resilient and not a tick the box exercise.
  • Leaders to draw a line of sight to customer satisfaction – that as individuals we are not bigger than the organisation, that the support and respect we show each other, will flow through to delivering a positive customer experience.
  • Consider strategies incorporating it into systems and practices like performance reviews that form part of merit and evaluation processes for reward and recognition programs.
  • A scorecard approach for evaluating various business contexts where people meet, for example, business meetings – did we communicate respectfully and engage in a discussion about it listening to each other’s point of view. This methodology could be applied to other business contexts.

Look after your people, treat them with respect and they will treat your customers with respect…

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Return to Work after a Workplace Injury – The Power of Words

Return to Work after a Workplace Injury – The Power of Words

In this week’s guest post, Return to Work after a Workplace Injury, Sonya Law highlights the power of words for our readers.

Exploring how the power of words can impact the recovery trajectory for an injured worker.

An employee who injures themselves at work feels immediately vulnerable and for the workplace it is a very serious incident, the priority should be the employee receiving immediate medical care. And for the workplace to contain the area where the incident has occurred where practicable to prevent any further injuries to other workers and subsequent investigation to take place.

If the injury is to the hands in particular, if we talk about manual workers as a group, their hands are used to perform all sorts of functions, when they are injured, it has a huge impact.  Their whole career flashes before them, with questions, like, am I going to be able to do my job, am I going to be able to work again. The hands are an extension of our brain and injuries to the hands can have multiple impacts physical, psychological, cognitive, and emotional overwhelm and trauma from the incident.

So, when we think about employees who have injured themselves at work, it is important to use language that shows genuine care and compassion towards them as people.

Five important tips, think of the injured employee:

  1. Are injured until proven otherwise
  2. Needs a medical diagnosis
  3. Doesn’t want to be injured
  4. Needs assistance and support
  5. And time to be made comfortable physically and emotionally, before you commence questioning them or complete a safety investigation.

When people are returning to work, the words we choose to use can change the way they feel, they need to feel cared for as a human being first.  Safe in the knowledge that they are supported and are a valued member of the team.  The emphasis needs to be on empowering them to take control of their injury, by providing them with medical attention which will give them knowledge about their injury and prognosis. Which will help them to heal and recover and be back to work with their friends and colleagues as soon as they are medically able, we are talking post-injury management.

The words we use can change the recovery trajectory from being a smooth and positive experience to being negative and difficult.  As a return-to-work coordinator or manager in charge of an employee’s return to work, it is important that you keep the lines of communication open.  It is already difficult for the employee who has experienced the trauma not only of the workplace incident and resulting injury but also being cut off from their fellow workers and workplace.

It helps when we listen and ask open questions like, how do you feel? This signals to the employee care, that you are taking the time to check in on them and their recovery.  Talking allows the employee to process what has happened to them and take ownership and responsibility for their recovery and healing which has positive impacts to the timeline for returning to work.  Talking about the injury and experience allows them to open up and verbalise how they are coping and come up with strategies that assist them in their recovery. When an employee feels genuinely cared for, they are more willing to take responsibility for attending medical appointments and follow up on rehabilitation and physio exercises that aid their return to work.  Physio is not an easy option, physio is difficult and sometimes painful, so acknowledge their effort and energy required to persevere.

A return-to-work coordinator who is disinterested and continually hard to get hold of sends a negative message to the employee that you are too busy to care.  Layer upon that the use of negative language and closed questioning, can put the employee on the defense and have a negative impact on the trajectory of their recovery and return to work timeline.  What could be a positive and progressive return to work experience then becomes a complex case.

An example of some open conversations could be: I am calling about your hand, how are you feeling? Are you feeling ready to come back to work? Sounds like it is healing up nicely and you are feeling more comfortable than last week? You are making great progress; what physio are you doing this week?  Are you getting around okay with not being able to drive, are you sleeping and eating, okay? Do you have someone to care for you at home or family or neighbors who are helping you?

Let them know the positive improvements to safety in the workplace as a result of their input into the safety investigation: We are going to make the modifications you suggested and some improvements that came out of the workplace investigation, that are going to make a real difference to your colleagues and make your job easier and safer for you when you return to work.

The biggest risk to the injured workers is not only the lack of support from managers but negative interactions with work colleagues when they return to work.  An example of this is a conversation, where their colleague says: We had to pick up the slack while you were away, because of you we were so busy and stressed.  The injured worker feels on the outer and starts to feel socially isolated at a time when their resilience is already low.  Their mental health starts to suffer they feel pain and it may impact their recovery, productivity, leading to absenteeism and an interrupted return to work plan.

If they are feeling a bit anxious or sensitive about returning to work, let them know that’s normal and that you are there to support them.  Talk with their work colleagues and ask them to be patient and supportive in the days and weeks that they return to work.  Encourage colleagues to use positive language, that it’s good to see them back, they were missed and to take care and if they feel any discomfort to speak up.  So that they don’t feel alone, this support and comradery will help the injured worker to feel happier and good about being back at work and possibly prevent re-injury.

The injury is not only a physical one sometimes it can take the injured worker time to build up confidence again to do a task that they routinely did before without a problem, reassure them it takes time and its normal.  Try to avoid putting tight deadlines on them, where there is time pressure to complete tasks until they feel more confident with the work.

Regularly ask them if they are experiencing any discomfort are they managing, okay?  Being thoughtful and using positive language supports their recovery rather than using negative and inflammatory language, which will make a difference to their return-to-work experience.  Questions like: How are you feeling, how comfortable are you, are you feeling more comfortable this week than last week, do you feel better?

The power of words can improve the recovery trajectory for the injured worker, by being supportive and using positive language the chance of recovery is better.

Look after your people, the way you talk with them will affect their recovery.

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Goal Setting

Goal Setting

Tonight, our returning guest blogger Sonya Law talks to readers about goal setting. 

We will explore here how fostering a dynamic workplace incorporates the macro environment in setting goals where People are at the center of creating your competitive advantage…

As an employee, our manager will set goals for us which flow down from the strategic goals of the organization, and these goals are communicated clearly so that we understand how our performance is measured.  Traditionally this usually takes place as part of a mid-year and end-of-year performance review cycle.  The review is also an opportunity for two-way feedback, for the employee to receive performance feedback that will guide their growth and performance and for the manager to receive feedback on where the employee needs support to remove roadblocks that are limiting their potential, efficiency, and effectiveness in achieving the goals of the organisation.

Human Resources play a dual role, firstly to support employees in setting their GPS and aligning them with the strategic goals of the organisation.  Secondly, to support managers and employees when performance diverges away from the expected behaviors that lead to the achievement of these goals.

Quite often, overlayed are external factors for example the current Global Pandemic, which forces organisation to reorientate towards goals that respond to a changing macro environment.  The Pandemic continues to require us to have a workforce that is adaptable, agile, resilient, and able to respond to new problems and anticipate future ones.  And work creatively to come up with solutions to customer, supply, service, and delivery issues.

Three scenarios that put the achievement of employees’ goals at risk are:

  1. New Manager
  2. New Team
  3. Changes in process and technology.

These scenarios can be navigated safely, with minimal impact to employees when a dynamic work environment is fostered that supports employees to solve problems as they arise.  This grassroots level problem solving, therefore enabling managers to invest more time on the strategic side of the business.

This is a common problem in organisations where management gets stuck in the weeds fixing problems in their day-to-day and not enough time creating value for shareholders.  Human Resources’ role is to work together with the senior leadership team to create flow and foster a dynamic workplace where time is equated across the operational, tactical, and strategic needs of the business.

dynamic workplace is a space that can easily be reconfigured to meet the company’s needs, accomplished by using resources, collaborative spaces and technology. It is meant to follow an employee’s needs, as reflected in the state of the world.

Organisations that become too linear and micro instead of a macro view, lose sight of the big picture, this narrow focus leads to inefficiencies in utilisation of your human resources and non-productive time that does not generate income to the business and cannot be recovered.  Further cracks start to appear in a reluctance to explore new markets or business opportunities, they leak resources, people, profit, and stifle innovation.  You will see a decline in quality and an increase in rework, warranty issues, product failures, and a damaged reputation, which is value eroding rather than value maximising.

Organisations gain a competitive advantage as compared with their rivals by empowering and enabling their people, they innovate, fail fast, and recover quickly, creating value for the business.

When employees are empowered to make the changes necessary in order to respond to customer’s needs, they can fix customer problems right then and there boosting trust and confidence in the product, aftercare, leading to repeat business.  When managers see their role as removing obstacles and roadblocks and empowering their team and involving them in setting their goals, this ultimately will lead to improved employee and customer satisfaction.

Managers can support the business operation by:

  1. TIME – blocking out some uninterrupted time regularly to ask employees what are their roadblocks and where do they need support
  2. REINFORCING – what we do and why we do it, connecting them with the vision of the company
  3. POSITIVE FEEDBACK – provide employees with positive feedback about their unique and valuable contribution
  4. ALIGNMENT – help employees where there is misalignment with the goals and support them to self-correct
  5. STRENGTHS – play to the employee’s strengths
  6. STRATEGIC GOALS – link employee goals with the strategic goals of the organisation
  7. VALUE CREATION – when you involve employees in goal setting, they will be more driven and committed to achieving them

A few human resources tools that foster a dynamic workplace are:

  1. Career Anchors – supports employees’ re-engagement with their work
  2. VIA strengths – identifies employee’s strengths and how to leverage them
  3. What makes me tick – helps employees to resolve conflict by understanding different communication styles within their team.

The benefits to the organisation and culture in fostering a dynamic workplace are:

  1. Higher levels of innovation
  2. Increased engagement
  3. Greater productivity
  4. Increased customer satisfaction
  5. Improved quality
  6. Lower staff turnover
  7. Stronger financial returns
  8. Agility and adaptability in responding to a changing macro environment.

Ultimately, a dynamic workplace constantly is striving to create a competitive advantage through its People that is unrivalled when it comes to your competitors, that is so unique that it cannot be replicated.  Many products can be replicated but not people, they really are your greatest asset and competitive advantage if you take care of them.  Demonstrate to them with your words, actions, and behaviors that reinforce their valuable and unique contribution to the organisation.

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