Dear leader, use positive assertiveness at all times. When necessary, use ‘no’.

When I was 13 years old, I went on a retreat. At the start of the retreat, we were put into the same group and had to remain in that same group throughout. In our final group exercise, we had to come together with our group leaders. One person would be asked to leave the room so that the rest of the group could pick an animal that he or she could be compared with, and to explain why. Believe it or not, I still use this as a team-building exercise for already existing teams if I deem the individuals in the team to be mature enough to see the analogousness of it, because I appreciated what it did for my confidence and for my trust in my little group. It’s surprisingly effective! When it came time for me to be compared with an animal, I was not expecting the comparison I received! I was compared to a nightingale. The group listed many reasons for the comparison, but the one word that really stood out for me was ‘optimistic’. In some mystical way, that word has shaped my life; my beliefs, my attitudes, my behaviour. Until I first entered the corporate world, I was as liberated in my ‘yes-ness’ and optimism as I was in my creativity. And then… I learned all about risk.

About positive assertive communication and the ‘NO’

What has this story got to do with positive assertiveness or saying ‘no’? Let us first establish what they are. Assertive Communication is a style of communication in which a person stands up for and respects their own needs and wants, whilst also taking into consideration the needs and wants of others, without behaving passively or aggressively. Positive Assertive Communication is about framing your thinking in a way that inspires a movement of love in your heart – so that your ‘no’ doesn’t close you off, but opens and frees you up to something (or someone) else! When you look at all the definitions on the web for the word NO, you’ll find the key word that stands out is negative (e.g. a negative vote or decision; an act or instance of refusing or denying… etc). These acts essentially block and close up – not just the other person, but yourself as well. As a natural ‘yes’ person, I have had to learn how and more importantly when to say ‘no’. We find ‘no’ more so in the corporate sector than in the charity sector, where there is naturally more generosity and spirit to serve within the organisational culture, and desire to make a difference.

Positive assertiveness is now something that more and more people are looking to assimilate into their personal and working lives. That’s why I am launching my first positive assertiveness & boundary setting workshop on Saturday 27th June 2020 at 3pm on Zoom. It will be an interactive opportunity to explore practical ways of positive assertiveness, as well as the ‘why’ for it all. The purpose of this blog is to speak a little more about the ‘no’ in relation to leadership, and when it is necessary to use it. This is where I say: Dear leader, use positive assertiveness at all times. When necessary, use ‘no’.

When is it appropriate to use ‘no’, then?

The leadership styles (I won’t go into leadership or management styles in this blog post) in which we would most frequently see ‘no’ is in the authoritative and bureaucratic styles of leadership. The best leaders in the world know how to use all 5 styles of leadership to suit the situation and the people, and have nailed their communication styles in order to implement the best courses of action in their team. Of course, this isn’t a step-by-step formula that leaders learn. They learned this through experience and decent self-knowledge! In management training, managers identify the two most common ‘no’ styles of management in the ‘tell’ or ‘sell’ management styles. Again, the best managers in the world master all 5 styles of management to suit the situation and the stakeholders involved. So when ought the ‘no’ come into ones leadership or management? Here are 3 key moments when the invitation of positive assertiveness needs to be put aside and a ‘no’ steps up:

  1. When there is a high risk of danger or severe hurt to yourself or to others. So many people knock health and safety. But guys, it’s a no-brainer. This shouldn’t be classed as a ‘duty of care’ exercise at all. It should be built into our intrinsic nature to care for and protect each other from danger or hurt for the due reason that we are human beings. When I’m driving on the road, I seriously appreciate ‘no’ signage – because it’s a prevention and deterrent to me putting myself in danger. This ‘no’ is a crisis prevention or crisis management measure. If a leader/manager sees a catastrophe or a crisis impending (i.e. it will happen, and it’s not speculative), they will rightly start putting on the breaks. What’s important here is that the good leader/manager will brief their team, ensuring that the team are fully communicated with and feel a part of the crisis prevention.
  2. When positive assertiveness has been exhausted. I get it. Sometimes, there is only so much positive assertiveness that can be applied until a ‘no’ must kick in. Someone who has set a boundary and now needs to make sure the other person understands and respects that boundary must do so by communicating that with them. My workshop explores how to do that positively in more detail. But what happens if the recipient isn’t responding as you would like to the positive assertiveness? There are two further courses of action. The first course could be to use a slightly more aggressive assertiveness. At no stage should the assertiveness be passive. One ought always to be aware of and sensitised to their impact on the other person. To be passive assertive is to allow oneself to be indifferent to their impact on the other. This is neither caring nor emotionally intelligent! Slightly aggressive assertiveness pushes on the firmest edge of ‘firm’ and the most uncomfortable end of ‘comfort’. The second course could be to put in the strict ‘no’. Just remember two main things if this option is the last recourse to action: a) The ‘no’ must come from a place of goodwill for others and the main people involved, not from an abuse of manipulation, control and/or power, and; b) it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. It’s worth thinking how the other person would best respond before jumping into this last resort.
  3. Compliance. We touched on this briefly with health and safety in point 1. When it comes to compliance, there is no airy-fairy way of ensuring legislation is complied with, unless there is clarity on the boundary. These sets of rules are not optional. Most people will see the benefit of the rules quite naturally, but some people do like to consider themselves as ‘rule-breakers’, and get a kick out of pushing their limits. At some point, the ‘no’ kicks in here. If you are a parent, this balance is one you will already be familiar with. The only difference is that you’re not parenting a toddler, but managing/leading grown ups. Having said that, some of the best leaders and managers in the world are looked up to as ‘father-figures’ and ‘mother-figures’, and there is something very beautiful and life-giving about that.

Risk management plays a big part in the ‘no’ word or action. Good leaders and managers have superhero risk mitigation and management skills – either learned through study, experience or naturally developed whilst growing up. It is for this reason that ‘no’ can and should be used, when necessary.

What if I’m the person used to being told ‘no’, and it really gets to me?

Flip the other side of the coin… if you are the recipient of the ‘no’, then the method I use to give the other person the benefit of the doubt as to whether his/her ‘no’ was personal (on either side) or not, is to think about all the risks that the ‘no’ was preventing. Undertaking this small analysis tells you much more about the priorities of the leader and any underlying issues than most outward communication from the leader would. That is, unless your leader or manager is very open and very honest (I appreciate these leaders very much!). The reason why I brought up the ‘no’ as a personal affront or defence, is because in some cases, a manager might feel threatened in some way by their direct report, and so they develop a habit of saying ‘no’ to their direct report; even if the direct report’s suggestion or action is actually good for the team and the organisational mission. This is personal. On the other extreme, the direct report is constantly being told ‘no’ without any clear business justification. This is likely to be personal. A key example of this latter one would be racism or any other form of discrimination in a team. If any of these are you, then I recommend coaching to address those issues and to help you make the right decisions for yourself moving forward.

 


I’m Claz, a Professional Career Coach based in West London, accredited in the UK. I am also a Life & Wellbeing Coach, working with individuals as well as organisations. You can contact me through my website www.touchofclarity.com. Sign up to my first positive assertiveness & boundary-setting workshop on Saturday 27th June 2020 at 15:00 on Zoom to learn more about the fundamentals alluded to in this post.

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On Envy (& Jealousy) – Part I

Over the past two weeks, two people have approached me about experiences they are having concerning jealousy. One person has told me that she is jealous of a friend. The other has told me that her friend is jealous of her. There are 3 points that I want to pick up on this:

The difference between envy and jealousy

Envy refers to a sadness at the sight of another’s perceived advantage. From the Latin invidia, meaning “to look against the affairs of others hostilely”, envy breeds resentment and turmoil eventually leading to begrudging the other, to selfishness and to implicit covetousness if it is not remedied.

Jealousy wants to vigilantly guard what one possesses (or wants to possess) and to keep others from having it. The etymology for this word brings up “zealous (which means a fiery kind of fervent), enthusiasm, and longing”.

Jealousy in its rightful and balanced form, isn’t a bad thing. A prime example of this is a marriage. It is right that a husband or wife vigilantly guard the marriage (the person possesses the grace & mission of marriage, but does NOT possess the person who is the spouse **very important**). What often goes wrong in jealousy is when that husband or wife forces the action of guarding beyond the point of vigilance into an extremity of paranoia, and knowingly or unknowingly interchanges guardianship of the sacrament of their marriage into a possession of their spouse. A human being is not the possession of another human being, and should never become one. This will lead to enslavement, objectification and imprisonment in both parties. The human being rightfully belongs only to God, but they have to want to choose that for themselves.

As mentioned, jealousy in its rightful and balanced form can be considered quite a healthy thing. However, envy, in any form is not a healthy thing. At all. Nothing about envy can be good for you, or for the other. Unfortunately, what many people don’t really realise, is that envy is beyond the human dimension. Envy is of a spiritual nature. So if someone is envious of another, there is no cure for this except by spiritual means. Envy employs your emotional, psychological and social (psychosocial) faculties, but the issue of the envy one experiences is not emotional or psychological or social at its very root. In other words, your thoughts, feelings and relational capacities are not the fundamental cause of the envy. We can then deduce that envy is not of human nature. However, the nature of envy can become manifest in anything human. This leads to the thoughts, feelings and relational circumstances where we would experience envy, which then of course fuel our decisions, choices and consequently our actions.

This highlights how the spiritual becomes manifest in the human being. There is a journey there, that envy takes, to infiltrate a person’s spiritual faculties, which they will feel the breadcrumbs of in their soul. And it’s here in the soul that envy will do most damage, depending on the person’s response to it. However, unless you are an extremely spiritual person, do some sort of reflection and recollection on yourself at the end of everyday through prayer and are conscious about where your moral compass is pointing at any one time, then it is very difficult to spot your own envy in yourself. It’s often either pointed out to you, or you notice the effects of the envy, by your own feelings, thoughts, choices, actions, and consequences of those actions.

So whilst jealousy may be taken out of its correct context and would still need addressing, the priority for me, would be to address envy. You’ve probably heard of something called the seven deadly sins? Well… envy kills you. And if you’re a spiritual person, it will kill your relationship with God. My primary concern for souls would be to address this – but it can’t be done on a purely human level. It requires spiritual work that combines your efforts, with that of divine help. There are 3 steps I would recommend to take:

  1. Identify if you are envious, or jealous, or none of the above! Be honest, try to be objective when thinking about it and put your pride to the side during this task. I’ve put some questions below to help you discover if you are or not.
  2. Increase your spiritual capacities. You will need them to remedy your envy.
  3. Remedy the envy. This will take a lot of time, often a lot of painfulness, past hurts may come to the surface. The key to this is perseverance, and keep up your spiritual practice. I will write a blogpost on the remedy at a later date, but for your information, the 3 things necessary to remedying envy are:
    1. Detachment
    2. Deep generosity
    3. Humility

So to help anyone who is perhaps experiencing envy, or knows somebody else who is, here is step 1 of my recommendation:

 

How do I know if I’m being envious?

Here are questions I would ask myself to determine if I’m being envious. Remember, be honest, try to be objective when thinking about it and put your pride to the side during this task. Answer these questions with a candle lit safely by your side, in a quiet place and time that is today’s ‘me-time’.

  1. Is there something someone else has/doesn’t have/is/isn’t, that I have/don’t have/that I am/am not, which hurts me or which I can’t bear?
  2. What is it that hurts/upsets me?
  3. Where could that hurt/upset be coming from? (Reflect on your past, and do a lot of digging)
  4. How is it taking me away from my true self and living out my values?
  5. How is it affecting my productivity?
  6. Where has it affected my (personal/professional) relationships? What have those outcomes been? What have the impacts of the outcomes been?
  7. Which choices have I been making in my heart as a result of this?
  8. Where have those choices stopped me from growing, overcoming and practising virtue or character strengths?
  9. Where has this situation driven me to act irresponsibly, unfairly or irrationally?
  10. Which concrete actions that have I taken were influenced by this hurt/upset, if any?
  11. Could I survive without/with (without if your envy is because of a lack of; with if your envy is because there is too much of)? Could I excel without/with it?
  12. What would the situation look like if I were not envious?

Answering these questions should give some clarity as to whether there is envy going on in any particular situation – whether that’s in personal or professional life. Envy is extremely detrimental in the workplace. It breeds:

  • Deterioration in trust
  • Irrational conflicts
  • Lack of commitment & focus / Increase in distraction & fault-picking
  • Avoidance of accountability
  • Diversion from achieving end goals and results

Managers can observe attitudes and behaviours stemming from envy, and should pull staff up on it gently and in the right way, should it be causing dysfunctionality within teams or inhibiting progress and team excellence. When a personal matter affects an organisation’s productivity, then managers have a duty of care to their staff, and can offer support or help. Nobody deserves to work in a negatively charged environment – whether that’s implicit of explicit.

 

Keep an eye out on my next blogpost for part II, containing the remedies to envy.

 


Life Coach, Change Agent Management, Holistic Massage Therapy, Wellbeing, London, West,

I’m Claz, a Professional Career Coach based in West London, accredited in the UK. I am also a Life & Wellbeing Coach, working with individuals as well as organisations.  You can contact me through my website www.touchofclarity.com.

Wellbeing tips for employees working in desk-based office jobs – Pt I

Today, I was at the Hounslow Chamber of Commerce’s Health & Wellbeing event, which was great. I left feeling really inspired by the speakers and the products/services on offer; but most of all it occurred to me that I’ve got so many tips to share about employee wellbeing in an office environment.

 

TOC - 8 Wellbeing Keys - White BackgroundAs a holistic massage therapist, healthy eating & wellbeing adviser, and a professional accredited life coach, I’ll unleash a multitude of tips to improve your wellbeing if you sit at a desk 5 days a week to keep a roof over your head and food on your table. My philosophy on wellbeing is very much centred on the 8 principles, or ‘keys’, featured in this picture: spiritual, social, emotional, intellectual/psychological, occupational, financial, environmental & physical. These make the sense of wellbeing holistic. But what is wellbeing?

 

I’ll be very honest and say that not much of what I’d learned in secondary school stuck. However, since I had the funniest Geography teacher, I happened to retain his teaching more than other subjects. I remember he taught us the difference between quality of life and standard of living. The definition of ‘quality of life’, which is complex when attempting to measure it in a scientific context, circumscribes a measure of the good-ness of multiple aspects of one’s life like (but not limited to) social, emotional, psychological state. Standard of living looks at the economic (financial) circumstances that may influence those aspects. The definition of ‘Wellbeing’ is very similar to that of ‘quality of life’ and could be considered as interchangeable in this day. When someone makes a personal assessment of their own life or of particular aspects of their life using measures of satisfaction, happiness, or other self-assessment scales, then solutions following the assessment are more often classed as ‘wellbeing’ than ‘quality of life’. So whilst wellbeing is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.”, I would argue that wellbeing is simply, “the state of one’s being”, which can be self-measured using the 8 wellbeing keys/principles above.

Your wellbeing is part of you, and you bring that everywhere you go… including your workplace. So, here’s some tips to help improve your wellbeing in the office environment!!

 

SPIRITUAL

Spiritual wellbeing is the ability to experience and integrate meaning and purpose in life through a person’s connectedness with self, with God or other higher power, others, elements of creation or creativity.

Prayer / Meditation

Sadly, our workplaces are more often not very supportive of talking about ‘spirit’ or ‘spirituality’. I’m a big believer in prayer. By law, employees in the UK are entitled to work breaks, and I encourage you to read your contract if you don’t know your entitlement. There is no reason why part of that break can’t be allocated personally to prayer or meditation. Meditation, coming from the Latin meditatus means ““to think or reflect upon, consider, design, purpose, intend”.

Affirmation cards

Affirmation cards are a great thing to have in your drawer. You don’t even have to buy them… you can make them yourself! Picking up a card that says “I believe in me” or “I am grateful for…” or “You are enough” or “I won’t let fear hold me back today” when you’re going through a tough moment may uplift your spirits. As well as having them in your drawer, you can opt to make yourself a little vulnerable by handing some to the colleagues in your team so that when they notice that you are someone else is feeling downhearted, they can give you (or the other person) a card of their choice.

Retreat

Schedule a retreat into your diary at least once a year for at least 4 days. Make sure it has a spiritual element to it. I personally love the effects of 7 day silent retreats!

 

SOCIAL

If you’ve ever heard of Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs, the 3rd and 4th segments, which span psychological & self-fulfillment needs cover social wellbeing, which is the extent you feel a sense of belonging and social inclusion. A connected person is a supported person in the workplace. Lifestyles, ways of working together, value systems, traditions and beliefs are all important to our social well being and quality of life. We want to know that we are accepted for who we are within our daily workplace relationships.

Team volunteering at a local charity or community

Often, employers believe that it is essential for team-building to spend lots of money on the next team-building fad. I would like to let you know that whilst they may be fun, the context is usually lacking in authenticity and reality. If you want your team to bond, do it over something real, where other people can benefit from that time. There is no better way to bond than over voluntary work at your local charity or community. It may be a foodbank, it may be a tiny charity that need their garden cleared out (or a new one planted and maintained), it may be clearing rubbish or even establishing and promoting an environment-friendly campaign.

Opportunities to chat

I’m sure we’ve all experienced this… endless emails between co-workers who work just a few desks away through to a floor or two up! Would it be such a bad idea if the team ate one lunch-a-month together at a local cafe? After-work drinks are also an idea… but when I mean ‘after work’, I mean: if your normal working day finishes at 5pm, then stop working at 3:30, head to the pub, and pay them until 5pm.

 Employee Assistance Programmes

Whilst I do believe that all employees would benefit from an employee assistance programme, the public and third sector organisations would most benefit from such a programme. The fact that these programmes offer trained counsellors and legal experts on the other end of the phone means that an employee doesn’t have to go through personal or work-related problems alone. Having an employee assistance programme ensures that employees will always have someone independent to talk to confidentially.

 

EMOTIONAL

Not only does our working lives contribute a great deal to our emotional wellbeing, but that’s also the truth the other way round. Our emotional wellbeing contribute a great deal to our working lives – from how we handle pressure (resilience), to how well we perform. When we are not emotionally well, we may lack a sense of purpose and achievement. This then has a knock-on effect on self-esteem and confidence. A negative loop could then result from this. Although related to emotional wellbeing, stress will be covered under psychological/intellectual tips.

Praise & motivation

Anyone who has been through solid management training will know that praise and motivation is essential for the emotional wellbeing of their team. If you are a manager, please find creative ways of giving due recognition to your team and use the myriad of sites available on the internet to build creative motivation into your daily weekly work plan.

Bring the ocean to you

Very few people in the world would say that when they went to the beach, they had such a bad experience that just the thought of the sea provokes negative feelings and/or emotions. It may be too many miles away, but today’s technology can bring the sea to you! Stick your headphones on, open up youTube (if you can), type in ‘ocean sounds’, and pick from hundreds of videos of the ocean, listening to it whilst you close your eyes and imagine you are at the beach. LoungeV Films have a huge range of different nature sounds that you are bound to like one of! Our sense of hearing is extremely powerful… so give your ears a treat.

Find peace… through your nose

I absolutely love the private collection of home fragrances by the ethical Rituals company. I was in their flagship Covent Garden store the other day when a delightful young French sales assistant told me about their wonderful philosophy, which I absolutely connected with. Although it’s a home fragrance, as long as it doesn’t irritate neighbouring co-workers, you could spray one or two shots over your seat/desk. Choose a fragrance that you feel makes you feel positive and peaceful. It’ll be like bringing the spa to your workplace!


So here are the first set of tips for improved wellbeing for employees in a workplace, if the employees sit at a desk for the majority of their work day. There’s loads more tips to come!