Whether it is because of personal problems or an uninspiring workplace, employees often turn up at the office without passion, enthusiasm or commitment “just to do their job”. The resulting dispirited work can lead to mistakes, oversights and mediocre results.
“Increasingly, companies are recognising that they want the whole person to come to work, not just part of him,” says Lynda Aurora, partner and executive leadership coach in the UK-based Plus Partnership.
The company tailor-makes programmes for board-level and senior executives as well as supporting teams who need more motivation, efficiency, spirit and drive. The goal is not only to help these individuals and teams to achieve their breakthrough performance but also to ease them through rough patches that prevent them from reaching their full potential.
The company has worked with top global companies from different fields. Its client portfolio includes Pepsi, L’Oreal, BP, Microsoft, Allianz, Cititbank, Jaguar Land Rover, GSK and KPMG, among others.
“I know a major multinational that discussed ‘operating from your core’ – your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being,” she recalls. “The response was very positive, that the company should spend so much time during the training programme to explore this issue. It was the most impactful session for the participants.”
Aurora believes that, over time, companies will be more open to hosting events, meetings and workshops that are aimed at addressing the growth and development of their employees’ inner self.
“I think this will happen more often, so executives are seen to be multidimensional and will make time to develop these practices as they are recognised as mainstream by the organisation.”
A common malady in many companies today is demotivation, which causes people to perform at a sub-par level. This problem can be found virtually anywhere within the organisation and has no respect for rank or pay scale.
“Each person will tend to have their own unique way of showing that they are demotivated, disempowered, not fully in the room,” says Daniel Robin, founder and managing partner of US-based Daniel Robin & Associates, an internationally-recognised management consulting and training firm that specialises in the human elements of quality in the workplace.
He notes that telltale signs of low morale in the workplace include substance abuse – either reliance on drugs or excess alcohol, longer lunches, unexplained absence whether physically or emotionally “leaving the building”, shorter-than-usual hours, missed work, lower productivity, lack of drive, depression, not caring about consequences and agitation.
“Most commonly, we see variations of passive-aggressive behaviour and manic depression where one minute the person has an extreme case of the ‘blahs’ and the next minute he is angry and aggressive.”
Demotivation is quite often at the bottom of the inconsistent and untrustworthy behaviour of an executive or a team member that co-workers find so difficult to deal with.
Robin advises that companies should be on the watch for these patterns and that they should intervene as early as possible and use coaching techniques to help bring out the person’s own answers to the situation.
“One of the best ways to transform this invisible but painful problem that tends to perpetuate itself until interrupted is to ask, ‘What is the conversation that we are NOT having?’, ‘What needs to change around here?’, and then encourage formal leaders – the executive management or third-party group facilitators – to just listen and reflect.”
He stresses: “Don’t argue. Don’t try to solve it. This rebuilds trust and can deliver a ‘new day’ of willingness to discuss the undiscussables.”
“If the company can assume that the other person is the best source of the solutions that will stick, then trust that they will find those answers if given the opportunity to discuss and hold themselves accountable,” Robin adds. “This can still be ‘tough talk’ by the supervisor but threat of consequence or telling them to ‘straighten out’ won’t do much and could make the problems worse.”
“Attentive listening, with clear and unmistakable boundaries about limits and expectations for improvement, tend to be much more effective,” he notes. “When dealing with someone who is demotivated, use more honey than vinegar.”
Making a Break
One form of intervention that companies can use to rekindle team enthusiasm and competitive drive within their ranks is to hold events that reinvigorate both mind and spirit.
“A change [must be made] from just focusing on stretched financial goals which need to be achieved at whatever personal cost,” says Aurora. “Most organisations have programmes in place to encourage staff to maintain a healthy work/life balance. They participate and sponsor sporting events, family fun days, and volunteering. They bring in professionals to give talks on health, stress, etc.”
A place that Aurora recommends for corporate clients to reconnect with themselves is The Farm, located in Batangas, the Philippines.
“Many say the stay was transformational as they regain their true selves.”
The 48ha resort, situated south of the main Philippine island of Luzon, has earned a reputation as a retreat and wellness destination, offering healthy detox and other programmes that include plenty of meditation, yoga and Qi Gong exercises.
“Our sunrise meditation and yoga is a gentle way to enhance concentration and release creative thoughts and ideas to start the day,” says Michael Di Lonardo, general manager of The Farm.
“Some participants have to overcome the feeling of shyness during the meditative sessions. Each person takes away something different from these sessions. But no doubt, these exercises and the pure vegetarian diet are a step in the right direction for many of them.”
The Farm offers two- to three-day retreats. For the programme to be effective, the resort caps the number of participants at a maximum of 60 participants.
The resort is by no means the only one of its kind in Asia-Pacific. Other specialised resorts, in Thailand and Kerala, India in particular, can also tailor-make programmes aimed to synergise physical, mental and spiritual wellness.
Robin notes that renewal strategies, including vacations, retreats and meditation, or even healthy habits such as exercise and being with supportive friends or family can make a huge difference.
However, some corporations have a negative view of putting together an event seeking to promote mental health and inner awareness.
“I have some clients that used to think company-sponsored or supported yoga was a legal liability,” Robin recalls. “Now, the same human resources manager will meditate in his office before leading a group, because he has come to appreciate its benefits for stress management. Others who work with him are endlessly thankful … he’s much easier to work with.”
Aurora believes that more companies, in time, will see the wisdom of supporting programmes that help develop their employees as a total person.
“People reach a time in their life – and it is different for everyone – when they want to incorporate the energy of spirit into their lives. Not long ago, a talented, seasoned executive in his coaching programme did not want to work on his behaviour. Instead he wanted to focus on spirituality.”
Working on this oft-overlooked aspect of one’s development can bring positive benefits to the workplace.
“Another top brass knowing it was time to bring back spirituality into his life started going daily to the local Hindu temple on his way to the office.
“It has made a huge difference, as he was able to centre himself mentally and physically and be at his best as he began his demanding work day,” says Aurora.
Meanwhile, Robin gives this piece of advice to companies planning to institute renewal strategies in their organisation.
“The people – the would-be participants in those programmes – must be asked to design them. This cannot come from management, but rather must include those who would be invited to participate. This is particularly important when working in multi-cultural environments, as there are great variations from one company or geographic location to another. There is no ‘one size fits all’.”
For programmes that seek connection with the transcendent, the temples, convents and monasteries of Asia offer the perfect milieu for renewal.
Hwagyesa Temple, Seoul, South Korea
Located deep in the foothills of Samgaksan Mountain, the 400-year old Buddhist temple is not far from Seoul. It was founded in 1522 during the Joseon Dynasty, when it was known as the “Palace temple” for the huge support it received from the imperial family. The temple also has a cultural significance as the site where nine Korean literature scholars finalised the unified orthography of the Hangul alphabet in 1933. The temple has a two-day temple-stay programme where participants join Buddhist monks and nuns in their daily routine of meditation and other activities. The highlight is the Dharma talk on the second day.
Calereuga Philippines, Batangas, The Philippines
Approximately two hours south of Manila is the province of Batangas. Its lush rural landscape and cool climate were irresistible magnets for religious orders, which established convents, monasteries and retreat houses in the area. One of the most notable of these places of solitude is Calereuga, run by the Dominican order. It is open to activities such as retreats, recollections and renewal workshops, among others. The compound’s houses consist of a chapel and several venues that can hold up to 200 people. Groups can lease the space for a multi-day programme, as Calereuga also provides accommodation facilities.
• Lack of sufficient challenge and growth path. High performers need to be fully engaged or they get bored.
• Unreasonable demands like being asked to produce more with less.
• No respect for or from the boss.
• Co-workers are difficult to work with.
• Too much change, too little effective communication about the change.
• Disempowerment, fear, uncertainty and doubt.
Source: Daniel Robin & Associates