JANUARY 9, 2017


For many of us W.O.R.K is just another four-letter word – a sad reality – but not one that is beyond our sphere of influence.  I would love to see dramatic changes in the South African workplace where leaders evoke more P.L.A.Y., trust, love, purpose, strength, progress, and practice. Yes, at work!

That’s my dream. Not because it sounds good…but because it actually delivers more aligned, passionate and loyal organisations. The latest research from neuro- and behavioural science proves that there’s a giant disconnect between what science shows and what business does. In fact many of the practices that are de rigeur for business (incentives, performance management, increased focus on compliance) are scientifically proven to demotivate, demoralise and break down the human spirit.

It should come as no surprise that 87% of employees globally are disengaged. Hate their jobs. See work as a life sentence, something to escape from.…one day (which is no doubt, their dream, sadly)…

Recently, I was chatting to someone who had resigned from her big, important, corporate job (and her big, fat, corporate paycheck), and all she could talk about was what a joy it was to wake up every morning and not have to think: “I wonder who is going to try and destroy me today?”

Fear and insecurity are running riot, leaving little room for creativity, imagination and innovation. And it’s on our watch – we as leaders create the environment and it’s up to us as leaders to change it.

Imagine if…

  • Sunday nights –  rather than being a swamp of post Carte Blanche blues – had us soaring with excitement and anticipation about the difference we could make come Monday morning.
  • Traditional “moanfests” around the water cooler, the coffee machine and for some the requisite nicotine stompies, were instead energetic, heated debates about how to take the enterprise forward.
  • People felt valued and openly acknowledged for their strengths, instead of desperately hustling to disguise their weaknesses  – making petty rivalry and one up-manship redundant.
  • The dreaded performance management and incentive systems were finally seen for what they are: inhumane and destructive surrogates for control – cheap charlatans of so-called “leadership.”
  • Numbers were used to celebrate overall progress rather than as “big sticks” constrained to narrow performance parameters.
  • And leaders….(all of us who are in a position to influence another person) – instead of “Sending Out Stuff” ( and hiding out behind a PowerPoint deck, a board pack or a CEO memo – could show up, bravely share our stories and let ourselves be seen. Could say: “I don’t know”, “What do you think?”…and really, really listen to the answers.

Just imagine!

  • Tracey Swanepoel is the founder of Thinkspiration.

Suddenly, shockingly, the world is different. Economic, political and social tsunami's have ripped through our lives and made sure that post 2008, things, on a lot of levels, will never be quite the same again.

Vibes. We all know what they are – when we walk into the kitchen at home and someone has had a ‘frot’ day, or when a work project has gone pear-shaped – and the team is mired in disappointment. The moods and attitudes of people in any environment are infectious and can go viral faster than a group whatsapp message. Think of the way you feel when you walk into home affairs or Telkom, compared to the energy and enthusiasm you experience in an iStore.

Job cuts. Restructuring. Retrenchment. Overnight these words have entered the corporate vocabulary. The big question keeping leaders awake at night is how to keep their people "with" them on this rollercoaster ride of uncertainty?

Often called alignment; engagement or buy in, this is not necessarily easy at the best of times. In the worst of times, when the people who "remain" post restructuring need to do the job of two or three; forsake their bonus; may even earn less, "alignment" is a big ask. Ironically it is in this very moment that employees' morale can make a business sink or swim.

I read something today that struck a chord. Peter Scazzero, in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, says, “Most of us never examine the scripts handed to us by our past.”

A script is a written text for a production or performance, or a plan of action. The quote in the book got me thinking: what script am I living by? Where am I filling a role without thinking about the character I am playing?

Did you leave your last performance review/discussion walking on air, feeling like you could change the world? If so, you may be one of the lucky few...

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