What psychological safety looks like in a hybrid work environment

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

As the world keeps changing due to the pandemic, a lot of focus has been placed on reduced trust and power dynamics within an organisation. This can impact the effectiveness of the hybrid workplace as managers are required to rethink and expand one of the strongest proven predictors of team effectiveness: psychological safety.

Psychological safety is described as the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up when you have ideas, questions, concerns or make mistakes.

There are known to be 4 stages of psychological safety at work:

Stage 1 – Inclusion safety: This refers to safety that satisfies the basic human need to connect and belong. This stage allows you to feel safe, to be yourself and feel accepted for who you are.

Stage 2 – Learner safety: This refers to feeling safe to learn and grow. You feel safe in this stage to exchange in the learning process, asking questions, giving and receiving feedback, experimenting and making mistakes.

Stage 3 – Contributor safety: This stage satisfies your need to make a difference. You feel safe enough to use your skills and abilities to make a meaningful contribution.

Stage 4 – Challenger safety: This stage satisfies your need to make things better. You feel safe enough to speak up and challenge the status quo when you think there’s an opportunity to change and improve.

When employees feel psychologically safe at work, they will feel safe enough to take risks and to speak openly without worry or fear of retribution. This also means that employees will feel respected and valued for what they bring to the team, and they will feel that their well-being genuinely matters to their leaders and managers.

Hybrid work poses a risk to the idea of fairness in organisations as it might impact a certain degree if equity and equality between employees. The hybrid workplace leads to employees possibly working in two very different situations, which can cause varying levels of autonomy, opportunity to socialise, and access to management. This can then lead to a feeling of exclusivity and inequality, which can erode employee trust. This gives a clear indication of how important it is to treat all employees equally, regardless of their working situation. It has been found that during periods of change people often feel under threat, which suggest that psychological safety may not immediately be translated to this new world of work. This leads to the importance of leaders and managers to focus on developing and nurturing their teams to maintain high-performance.

How to create psychological safety in a hybrid work environment:

  1. Provide clarity and stability: Psychological safety is the key component to keep a team’s well-being in balance. If psychological safety is not the key component, then team members risk responding to threats or interferences by going into “protection” mode. The “protection” mode can manifest in two ways: (1) either people will appear submissive, passive, and disconnected, or (2) they will appear dominant, aggressive, and arrogant. Both responses are symptoms of your team lacking psychological safety, and it can negatively impact their well-being and performance in the long run.
  2. Rid failure of its taboo: For teams to be able to have honest conversations, they need to trust one another. If teams have a climate of psychological safety, then they can work with the belief that a team member will not be punished or embarrassed for voicing ideas, questions or mistakes. Hallmarks of these teams are respect and trust. This leads to each individual feeling valued and safe to contribute, take risks and lead when it seems fitting. This in turn leads to building the teams confidence and serves to improve the quality of their work.
  3. Create an environment of exploration: In a psychological safe environment people are entirely accepting of one another. This can be great when working collaboratively on projects as the team feels comfortable challenging each other and equally, they are open to being challenged back. This can result in the best projects being started, developed, and delivered.
  4. Role model ethical behaviour: Research has found that high levels of psychological safety can sometimes lead teams to push the boundaries of ethical behaviour, due to their trust in one another. The contagion of unethical behaviour amongst psychologically safe teams can be controlled if team leaders draw their team’s attention back to desirable behaviour.

Leaders play a very important role in shaping their team’s culture, but it is also up to each team member to contribute to a psychologically safe climate at work and in their teams. When leaders create psychological safety in a hybrid work environment they can expect to see high levels of engagement, increased motivation to tackle difficult problems, more learning and development opportunities, and better performance.  

Hybrid work

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

As organisations begin to return to office spaces, they must consider a new way of work and the best way for them to do so. Most of us have heard people talking about hybrid work and we ask ourselves “what is it and what makes it different from virtual work?”. Hybrid work refers to organisations allowing employees to work both in-office and remotely. Remote work refers to where all the employees of an organisation work remotely, or where some of the employees are either in another country, province, or time-zone. Hybrid work has various models organisations can choose from to decide how best to go forward in this new world of work.

Hybrid work models

  1. Remote-first

Remote-first means that organisations will be functioning fully remotely and still try to mirror their operations as if the employees were in the office. Most organisations will keep their office space for employees who do not have the means to work remotely. Some employees will not be able to have this flexibility, as their jobs require their physical presence.

2. Office-Occasional

Office-occasional refers to organisations who want their employees to go into the office a few times a week. This will allow employees who want to spend more time at the office to be able to do so, and for those who function better at working remotely, to only go to the office when indicated. This will allow teams to collaborate more effectively and help to sustain the personal connection between employees.

3. Office-first, remote allowed

This refers to organisations who designate the office space as the primary work environment and still allow for remote work. This model was very common during the height of Covid-19 as organisations had to only allow a small percentage of employees in the office who were necessary to be there. This model is very common when the entire leadership choses to work from the office. Employees are then likely to choose to work from the office to have the in-person experience and conversations with leaders, and to collaborate with others.

There are however a few challenges organisations and employees face with hybrid work. The following are a few major road bumps of hybrid work.

  1. Feeling isolated

Employees may experience a lack of social interaction and the connections and camaraderie established through day-to-day office collaborations might start to crumble.

Ways to overcome feeling isolated:

  • Establish transparent communication among employees
  • Regular communication reinforces a feeling of connectivity and fortifies shared experiences.
  • Outside of work, check in with colleagues on a regular basis.

2. Building trust

Trust is seen as the heart of a successful hybrid model. When leaders give their teams work to do, they must trust that those team members will do their work and that they will not constantly need to be checked on to make sure that they are doing their work. Leaders should communicate their availability and feedback they require to make sure that the team members understand what is expected from them and if they require any assistance from the leader.

Ways to overcome the struggles of trusting employees:

  • Trust can be established by providing connections via regular or frequent information exchange.
  • Team leaders should craft their communication style and express their gratitude for accomplished tasks as well as faith towards the success of employees in their responsibilities.

3. Empathising with your staff

Time and empathy are important characteristics of effective leadership. Leaders should allow themselves to be vulnerable and acknowledge that there are numerous chances to improve. You cannot fake empathy in a hybrid working model. Organisations and especially its leaders must take a broad array of solutions.

How to overcome struggles with empathy at work:

  • Employees should go out of their comfort zones and start forging links through shared experiences.
  • Constant communication is integral for the hybrid work arrangement to be successful.
  • A leader should set the tone for an empathetic workplace landscape and guarantee everyone on the pipeline acts with empathy too.
  • Communication lines should be kept open to address similar issues and other mental health concerns that might arise when incorporating a hybrid work model.
  • This all can be done with frequent virtual forums focusing on problem-solving.

4. Unbiased leadership

Managing hybrid teams calls for leaders to adopt a sensible approach when collaborating with their teams. This means taking into consideration all the limitations each employee faces, such as having no access to reliable internet.

How to overcome these challenges:

  • Leaders should address unconscious biases and outcomes in their organisation’s processes.
  • Leaders should challenge their own notions and incorporate a learning orientation by attempting to understand other people’s experiences and how these influence the way in which they execute tasks in a hybrid work model.
  • Leaders should create a safe space in the hybrid work environment that is open to diverse viewpoints and foster participation.
  • In online meetings, leaders should encourage attendees to voice their opinions and credit employees who have shared effective ideas.
  • Leaders should celebrate diversity and be more sensitive to others’ needs by tailoring initiatives that meet those demands.

5. Upskilling and reskilling employees

Organisations should focus on improving their current skillset to match their office structure and the rapidly evolving needs of consumers.

How to upskill and reskill employees:

  • Identify the skills that are required by employees in the hybrid work model.
  • Existing training models should be reviewed and updated to cement the hybrid working arrangement for the future.
  • Leading hybrid teams are agile and flexible, so organisations should target skills that can help teams embody those traits.
  • Train employees to be well-equipped in areas such as data and analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

These are but a few of the challenges organisations and leaders will face due to hybrid work. Organisations should also focus on the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid work and find ways to convert the disadvantages into advantages.

Advantages of a hybrid workplace

Disadvantages of a hybrid workplace

With all of this in mind, we have come to realise that the hybrid workplace is here to stay and that we are able to adapt to its new requirements and challenges. It is important for organisations to take to heart all the challenges that come with a hybrid workplace, but to also know that there are many advantages that come with it.

Virtual teams

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Due to the global pandemic we all have encountered some form of virtual teamwork. To define virtual teams will help us to understand more of what a virtual team does. A virtual team is seen as a group of people who participate in common projects by making collaborative efforts to achieve shared goals and objectives. These people perform tasks and jobs in a virtual work environment created and maintained through IT and software technologies.

There are two types of virtual teams:

There are various functions virtual teams fulfil and each team is determined by their objective, goals, roles of the members and the lifespan of the team.  

5 key elements of successful virtual teams:

Advantages and of virtual teams:

Disadvantages of virtual teams:

The follow are ways in which leaders can manage their virtual teams in an easy way.

Virtual teams form part of the workforce of the future. This makes it extremely important for each leader to understand the advantages and disadvantages of virtual teams and how best to manage these virtual teams.

The next blog will discuss hybrid teams and how virtual teams are intertwined in the new world of work.

How to be an effective communicator in the workplace

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Communication is seen as one of the major concerns in the workplace. Being able to create and maintain a positive work environment you need to focus on communicating effectively.

Effective communication consists of:

Communication is seen as a core leadership function and a key characteristic of a good leader. Leaders need to master the skill of communication as it helps to build stronger relationships in organisations, communities and groups. Leaders who have good communication skills are able to clarify their thinking, express their ideas and share information with multitude of audiences. A leader must learn to handle the rapid flows of information within the organisation, and how best to communicate this information to customers, partners, and other stakeholders and influencers.

Here are essential communication practices of an effective leader:

Effective leaders must be able to inspire, motivate and persuade their team members to achieve organisational goals and effectiveness. If a leader cannot communicate effectively with his/her team, it leads to costly failures to the organisation, causing wasted time and effort, low morale, reduced productivity and can cause loss of trust and credibility.

Important communication skills all leaders should have:

There are 5 communication styles that every leader should have in their ‘toolbox’:

The right communication style can help you to make a big impact on your team members. You need to remember to adapt and change your style as needed to match each situation.

The importance of communication in the workplace

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Communication plays an integral part in the success of an organisation. Employees receive, send and process large amounts of news and information on a daily basis. Communication in the workplace ensures that operations run smoothly, and the quality of communication can significantly affect the results of the work being done. Good communication is an essential tool in achieving productivity and maintaining strong working relationships at all levels of an organisation. Employees who take the time and who are willing to put in the energy to deliver clear lines of communication will rapidly build trust among employees, which can lead to increased productivity, output and morale in general.

Quality communication in the workplace can eliminate unnecessary problems and promote better performance. To be able to increase overall productivity in an organisation, employees need to have the ability to communicate effectively. Good communication is also integral to sales, client relationships, team development, company culture, employee engagement and buy-in, and innovative thoughts.

According to Patrick Bosworth there are 4 powerful benefits of workplace communication:

  1. Good communication mitigates conflict. Conflict is typically caused by:

Misunderstanding/feeling misunderstood – Understanding each other’s communication patterns will help to avoid misunderstandings when communicating. Various communication tools can be used, such as identifying communication patterns and making small communication adjustments. When these communication tools are used, new information can be dispensed in a way that is easy and clear to understand, and the listener can better communicate their understanding.

Not understanding how others communicate – The speaker defaults to his/her own communication patterns instead of considering the communication pattern of the receiver.

Someone feeling that their emotional needs are not being met or being disregarded – This happens when an employee feels disrespected, taken advantage of, or disregarded, and it leads to tension or conflict.

  • Good communication increases employee engagement

Communication is about connecting with other people. Engaged employees is one of the most powerful benefits of better communication. When a culture of good communication is established in the workplace, employees are then more engaged in their work and can align with company objectives and goals.

Good communication can improve employee engagement in the following ways:

  • Good communication creates better client relationships

Client interactions are usually the difference between a satisfied customer and a disgruntled customer. When employees learn how to communicate more effectively and to connect with others they can better:

  • Good communication results in a more productive and talented workforce

Besides contributing to increased employee engagement, communication skills can also help foster a more productive and talented workforce in many other ways:

  • Understanding team talents and skills: When a leader masters the identification of communication patterns it empowers them to better understand the talents and skills of their team members.
  • Achieving more buy-in: A leader can influence buy-in from their team members with the right communication tools.
  • It allows for innovation: Employees who have the opportunity to express their ideas openly, are more likely to present their ideas without fear of ridicule or retaliation.
  • It allows for growth: Each growth project is based on solid communication and the fact that all internal and external stakeholders are on the same page.
  • It builds teams: Communication and mutual cooperation helps to build effective teams. Leaders will be effective in building effective teams when they implement effective strategies.
  • Giving a voice to everyone: Employees appear to be more satisfied at work when they feel that they have a voice and are listened to. Consolidated communication lines should enable everyone to communicate freely with their colleagues, peers and superiors at all levels. 

Poor communication in the work can inevitably lead to unmotivated employees that may begin to question their own confidence in their abilities an inevitably in the organisation.

There are various affects that poor communication has on the workplace. The following are examples of what poor communication can cause in the workplace:

  1. Stress in the workplace: High-stress levels in the workplace can be a sign that there are communication problems. Poor communication can contribute to the feeling that everything on your to-do list is urgent, causing you and your colleagues to rush, feel tense, feel overworked and have little-to-no sense of humour. Employees who are stressed take their stress home and feel worn out, and it has various impacts on their families. These employees might begin to feel guilty or even experience conflict at home because of their stress levels being too high. These stress levels don’t disappear overnight and will go to work with them making it hard, if not impossible, to get ahead of their workload.
  2. Unmet needs and expectations: If leaders communicate poorly what they expect from their team members, it then leads to unmet needs and expectations. Teams will then miss deadlines, miss appointments with their clients, and they might not know what their roles are when working on a project. When employees do not know what their true priorities are, they often choose the wrong thing and end up disappointing their leaders.
  3. Arguments and other relational breakdowns: When leaders send emails or communicate in a demanding and accusatory tone with their team members, the team members might experience a sense of frustration, anger, hurt, fear and helplessness. The previously positive relationship the leader had with their team members, might become strained due to the tone of the communication used. Team members might feel a sense of uncertainty about resolving the conflict and might feel that their job security is at stake. This can lead employees to feel a sense of insecurity and a lack of fulfilment in completing their daily tasks, and these emotions slow down productivity in the workplace.
  4. Low morale and high turnover: Emotional management becomes something employees spend most of their time on when they are dealing with intense emotions because of work situations. Their productivity goes down, and their morale is replaced by a sense of relief of making it through the day. Workplace survival mode should be viewed as a real problem amongst employees. When workplace relationships are wounded and cannot be repaired, trust goes out the window, making it difficult to work together.
  5. Physical and mental health issues: When you experience stress, face problems at home and at work, it is not unusual to experience consequences to mental and physical health. Chronic health problems and mental health concerns are more likely to develop during stressful times, especially when an employee has no outlet for their stress, does not have the energy for self-care, or lacks emotional management skills. When these problems occur, leaders should encourage proper professional care and use it as an opportunity to turn around the situation.
  6. Dissatisfied clients: If a client is dissatisfied, it can be a sign of poor communication. Clients also get frustrated when deadlines or appointments are not met. If you do not keep to your arrangements with your clients, then your client might lose money and disappoint their clients. Creating a written list of priorities to manage time, will allow you to directly address workplace concerns and allow you to brainstorm solutions and keep your clients satisfied.

The above indicates what poor communication can cause in the workplace, then just think about what good communication can cause in the workplace.

Emotional Intelligence as a core leadership skill – Part 4

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Building your emotional intelligence: Four key skills to increase your EQ

The skills that make up emotional intelligence can be learned at any time. There is however a difference in simply learning about emotional intelligence and applying that knowledge to one’s life. In order for one to be able to permanently change one’s behaviour in ways that stand up under pressure, one needs to learn how to overcome stress in the moment, and in one’s relationships, in order to remain emotionally aware.  

Key skills (domains) to building your emotional intelligence

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship management


The emotion wheel is a tool that enables people to describe and verbalise their emotions, as well as understand the relationship between and the intensity of their feelings. The ability to articulate and identify emotions is an important component of emotional intelligence.

The emotion wheel can help you identify your feelings and emotions and become more aware them.

Being able to manage your stress is only the first step to building emotional intelligence. Your current emotional experience is likely a reflection of your early life experiences. The ability you have to manage core feelings such as anger, sadness, fear and joy often depend on the quality and consistency of your early life emotional experiences. If your primary attachment figures in childhood understood and valued your emotions, then it’s likely your emotions have become valuable assets in your adult life. If your emotional experiences as an infant were confusing, threatening or painful, it’s likely you’ve tried to distance yourself from your emotions.

If this is the case, then you have to start learning to connect to your emotions – having a moment-to-moment connection with your changing emotional experience – to be able to understand how your emotions influence your thoughts and actions.


In order for you to engage your emotional intelligence, you must be able to use your emotions to make constructive decisions about your behaviour. When you become overly stressed, you can lose control of your emotions and the ability to act thoughtfully and appropriately. Your ability to think clearly and accurately assess your and other people’s emotions, become compromised. When you have the ability to manage your stress and stay emotionally present, you will be able to learn to receive upsetting information without letting it override your thoughts, feelings and self-control. You will then be able to make choices that will allow you to control your impulsive feelings and behaviours, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.

Social awareness

Social awareness enables you to recognise and interpret the mainly non-verbal cues others are constantly using to communicate with you. These cues help you to understand how others are feeling, how their emotional state is changing from moment-to-moment, and what’s truly important to them. When groups of people send out similar non-verbal cues, then you are able to read and understand the power dynamics and shared emotional experiences of the group.

To be able to build social awareness, you will need to be able to recognise the importance of mindfulness and social process. Social awareness requires your presence in the moment. Do not multitask when you are communicating with someone else, as you will miss the subtle emotional shifts taking place in other people that help you fully understand them.

Relationship management

Being able to work well with other people is a process that begins with emotional awareness and your ability to recognise and understand what other people are experiencing. Once your emotional awareness is in play, you can effectively develop additional social/emotional skills that will make your relationships more effective, fruitful and fulfilling. To me able to manage relationships you should focus on the following:

  • Become aware of how effectively you use your non-verbal communication
  • Use humour and play to relieve stress
  • Learn to see conflict as an opportunity to grow closer to others

According to Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, nested in each key domain are twelve emotional intelligent competencies. These twelve emotionally intelligent competencies are learnable capabilities that allow outstanding performance at work or as a leader.

Emotional intelligence domains and competencies

How can you tell where your EI needs improvement?

You can simply review the 12 competencies in your mind which can give you a sense of where you might need some development. There are a number of formal models of EI, and many of them come with their own assessment tools. When choosing a tool to use, consider how well it predicts leadership outcomes. Some assess how you see yourself; these correlate highly with personality tests. Other assessments define EI as an ability.

Goleman recommends a comprehensive 360-degree assessment, which collects both self-rating and the view of others who know you well. This external feedback is particularly helpful for evaluation all areas of emotional intelligence, including your self-awareness. You can get a rough gauge of where your strengths and weaknesses lie by asking those who work with you to give you feedback. The more people you ask, the better a picture you get.

To be able to excel as a leader, one needs to develop a balance of strengths across suites of EI competencies. When this is done, excellent business results should follow.

Emotional Intelligence as a core leadership skill – Part 3

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

According to Daniel Goleman, there are 5 key elements of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Self-Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social skills


Self-awareness is about being aware of different aspects of the self, including traits, behaviours and feelings. It is the process in which you become the focus of your attention. Being self-aware means that you always know how you feel, and you know how your emotions and actions can impact those around you. When you are a leader, self-awareness means that you have a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses, and you behave with humility. To be able to improve your self-awareness, you need to reflect on your behaviours, actions and feelings.

According to Tasha Eurich there are two broad categories of self-awareness:

  1. Internal self-awareness: This represents how clearly you see your values, passions, aspirations, fit with the environment, reactions (thoughts, feelings, behaviours, strengths, and weaknesses), and the impact you have on others. Internal self-awareness can be associated with higher job and relationships satisfaction, personal and social control, and happiness.
  2. External self-awareness: This means understanding how other people view you. If you understand how other people view you, then you will be able to show empathy better and understand their perspectives. As a leader, if you see yourself as your team members see you, then your team members will tend to have a better relationship with you as their leader, they will feel more satisfied with you and view you as more effective in general.

Eurich then went further to identify four leadership archetypes of self-awareness:

This indicates that leaders should focus on improving both internal and external self-awareness to be able to be the best leader they can possibly be.


Self-regulation is the ability to control or redirect impulses and moods. It is the ability that you have to monitor and manage your energy, emotions, thoughts and behaviours. This is important as it will help you to create positive and loving relationships, improve your overall well-being and it helps you to deal with stressors in your life.

The ability you have to self-regulate as an adult has roots in your development during childhood. It is an important skill to learn how to self-regulate, and children learn it for emotional maturity and later social connections. Emotional maturity reflects the ability you have to face emotional, social and cognitive threats in the environment you are in with patience and thoughtfulness. Mindfulness relates to the ability to self-regulate.

Practicing self-regulation involves taking a pause between a feeling and an action. You need to take the time to think things through, make a plan, and wait patiently before you act. If you have poor self-regulation skills then you might lack self-confidence, self-esteem and struggle to deal with stress and frustrations. Self-regulation helps you to act in accordance with your deeply held values and express yourself appropriately.

Leaders who exhibit good self-regulation are able to control their emotions and responses to situations and other people. These leaders do not have angry outbursts or make snap judgements. They are honest, and their actions are in line with their values. They are adaptable, and capable of working with different people in different situations. Leaders who can self-regulate are able to look at the whole picture reasonably and put the situation in perspective.


Motivation is the action that pushes you to want to achieve your goals, feel more fulfilled and want to improve your overall quality of life. Motivation is the “why” behind everything you do, and the reason you might take up a cause, commit to an action, or work toward a goal. Everything you do is motivated by some combination of conscious and unconscious need or desire. Self-motivation requires you to believe in yourself, stay inspired, and keep going despite setbacks.

Self-motivation for leaders is vital as leaders should be self-motivated before they can try to motivate their team members. Self-motivated leaders work consistently towards their goals, and they have extremely high standards for the quality of their work. Self-motivation is one trait that virtually all effective leaders have. They are driven to achieve beyond expectations, their own and everyone else’s. Plenty of people are motivated by external factors, such as a big salary or the status that comes from having an impressive title or being part of a prestigious company. By contrast, those with leadership potential are motivated by a deeply embedded desire to achieve for the sake of achievement.


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, emotionally understand what other people are feeling, see things from their perspective, and imagine yourself in their place.

It is critical for leaders to have empathy as this will help them to manage a successful team or organisation. Leaders who have empathy are able to put themselves in someone else’s situation. They help to develop their team members, challenge those who are acting unfairly, give constructive feedback and listen to those who need it.

For more information on how to be an empathetic leader, please read our previous blogs:

How to be an empathetic leader – part 1

How to be an empathetic leader – part 2

Social skills

Social skills are the skills people use to communicate and interact with other people. This includes both verbal and non-verbal communication, gestures, body language and their personal appearance. Social skills are important to have as they help to build personal and professional relationships. Demonstrating strong interpersonal skills can help you to accomplish your career goals, contribute to the organisation’s achievements, perform well during the hiring process and expand your professional network. Social skills can help you to communicate more effectively and efficiently with others, and as a result, help you build, maintain and grow relationships with colleagues, clients and new contacts alike. It is important that you improve and maintain these skills no matter what your position is, industry you are working in or your experience level.

Social skill is the outcome of the other dimensions of emotional intelligence, and is recognisable on the job in many different ways. Socially skilled people, for instance, are skilled at managing teams—that’s their empathy at work. Likewise, they are expert persuaders—a manifestation of self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy combined. Given those skills, good persuaders know when to make an emotional plea, for instance, and when an appeal to reason will work better. And motivation, when publicly visible, makes such people excellent collaborators; their passion for the work spreads to others, and they are driven to find solutions.

Leaders who do well in the social skills element of emotional intelligence are great communicators. Socially skilled leaders are just as open to hearing bad news as good news, and they are experts at getting their team to support them and be excited about a new mission or project. Socially skilled leaders are also good at managing change and resolving conflicts diplomatically. These leaders are rarely satisfied with leaving things as they are and they don’t sit back and make everyone else do the work: they set an example with their behaviour. Social skill is considered a key leadership capability. People seem to know intuitively that leaders need to manage relationships effectively; no leader is an island. After all, the leader’s task is to get work done through other people, and social skill makes that possible. A leader who cannot express their empathy may as well not have it at all. And a leader’s motivation will be useless if he cannot communicate his passion to the organisation. Social skill allows leaders to put their emotional intelligence to work.

Can emotional intelligence (EQ) be learnt?

Yes, it can be learnt. Some people appear to have EQ as a natural talent, and for others it does not come naturally, but they can learn EQ skills. People can learn how to interact more effectively at work and increase their emotional intelligence. To be able to make this happen, you have to be personally motivated to want to improve your emotional intelligence. You first need to have a handle of where you are starting from by completing an emotional intelligence assessment, and then understand which of the five key elements as described by Daniel Goleman need the greatest attention.

Part 4 will look at four skills a leader can focus on to increase his/her emotional intelligence and the twelve emotional intelligence competencies that are embedded in the 4 skills.

Emotional Intelligence as a core leadership skill – Part 2

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Leadership skills are in many contexts fairly recognisable. People who take initiative, who have a vision and who accomplish goals are considered to be good leaders. These leaders display their various skills when they are working with their team members. To be a great leader, you have to also focus on improving your skills that contribute to your ability to work well with others and to lead your team to success. This is where emotional intelligence comes in. Emotional intelligence is undoubtedly the core skill you should continuously work on to be a great leader.

Emotional intelligence as a core leadership skill allows your team members to feel comfortable enough with you to come to you with questions, concerns, and their needs. To be able to keep a positive dynamic between you as a leader and your team you need to have a positive perspective, validate each other’s positions despite disagreement, and always be intentionally respectful towards each other. This is a dynamic that works, and it helps everyone involved to feel supported and valued. A leader who lacks emotional intelligence is not able to effectively gauge the needs, wants and expectations of their team members. Leaders who react from their emotions without filtering them can create mistrust amongst their team members and can seriously jeopardize their working relationships. A leader who reacts with erratic emotions can be detrimental to the overall culture, attitudes and positive feelings of the team members and the overall mission of the organisation. Good leaders must be self-aware and understand how their verbal and non-verbal communication can affect the team.

To be a truly effective leader, you need to know and understand how emotional intelligence affects your work, your physical health, your mental health, your relationships, and your social intelligence.

Emotional intelligence affects:

When it comes to the workplace, the bottom line of the organisation is crucial. Leaders, managers and executives are often held responsible for the organisation’s successes or failures. There are 6 key traits that most successful leaders possess that help them to succeed:

Based on a study done by Sunnie Giles she found the top 10 leadership competencies each effective leader should have. She then grouped the top 10 into five major themes that suggest a set of priorities that leaders should focus on to develop themselves.

  1. Strong ethics and safety: These attributes are about creating a safe and trusting environment. A leader who possesses high ethical standards conveys a commitment of fairness, instilling confidence that both they and their employees will honour the rules of the game. When a leader clearly communicates their expectations, they avoid blindsiding people and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  2. Self-organising: These are leaders who provide clear direction while allowing employees to organise their own time and work. It is critical for a leader to distribute power throughout the organisation and to rely on decision-making from those who are closest to the action.
  3. Efficient learning: To encourage learning among employees, leaders must first ensure that they are open to learning and changing course themselves. Leaders should try to approach problem-solving discussions without a specific agenda or outcome. A leader should withhold judgement until everyone has spoken, and let people know that all ideas will be considered.
  4. Nurtures growth: When a leader shows commitment to the growth of their employees, then employees are motivated to respond, expressing their gratitude and loyalty by going the extra mile. If leaders want to inspire the best from their teams,  they should advocate for them, support their training and promotion, and go to bat to sponsor their important projects.
  5. Connection and belonging: Leaders who communicate often and openly, and who create a feeling of succeeding and failing together as a pack, build a strong foundation for connection. A sense of connection could also impact productivity and emotional well-being in the team. Creating connections with team members is a leader’s second most important job. Once team members feel safe and cared for, they experience a sense of belonging. A leader can promote a sense of belonging amongst his/her team members, by smiling at them, calling them by name, remembering their interests and paying attention when speaking to them.

The above five areas as well as the 6 key traits of effective leaders are all linked to emotional intelligence. If leaders improve their emotional intelligence, they can create deeper levels of self-reflection and a shift in their perspective. If your team members are not satisfied with your performance as a leader then they will experience low levels of engagement, poor job satisfaction and won’t feel psychologically safe in the workplace.

Part 3 will look at the 5 key elements of emotional intelligence as identified by Daniel Goleman. Part 4 will look at four skills a leader can focus on to increase his/her emotional intelligence and the twelve emotional intelligence competencies that are embedded in the 4 skills.

How to be an empathetic leader: Part 2

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

Some leaders are naturally more empathetic than others and will have an advantage over leaders who have difficulty expressing empathy. Most leaders fall in the middle and are seen to be sometimes or somewhat empathetic.

Here are a few strategies to practice becoming more empathetic:

  1. Become more personable and accessible

It is important for the leaders to first understand and get in touch with their own feelings and how to express them, before they can attune themselves to the feelings of team members. Leaders should take time to recognise and learn how to express their own emotions to be able to recognise the fears and emotions of their team members.

  • Listen and respond honestly and optimistically

Leaders should always listen without judgement; this will allow team members to be vulnerable during difficult times. When a leader leads with empathy it often involves saying nothing at all and sometimes agreeing that you are sad, confused or angry, as well. Leaders have to make sure that they and their team members do not wallow to long in negative emotions, and instead focus on honest discussions and then pivot the conversations toward positive solutions.

  • Become an emotion-seeking detective

Leaders should ask their team members “What keeps you up at night?”. This will help team members to realise the leader’s true interest in their lives and what they are going through. This will allow a leader to get to know team members on a deeper level and helps the leader notice when they are not on their A-game. A leader should always be willing to help a team member out who is struggling. A leader should provide emotional guidance and encouragement that will help team members develop personally and professionally.

Why is empathy often difficult for you as a leader?

To be an empathetic leader, you need to understand your own pain and that in knowing your own pain, you are able to connect with the pain of others. Some leaders might have a biased understanding of the requisite traits for leaders and view being empathetic as a weakness. Leaders should allow themselves to experience the full range of healthy human emotions which includes being sad, which is viewed as the doorway to empathy.

Empathy is also difficult for many leaders because they have not developed empathy themselves when they were young. Most of us learn empathy first and foremost by experiencing it with our primary attachment figures in childhood. A lack of secure attachments in early childhood can stunt the development of empathy. Empathy is a more caught than taught trait and can be hard to improve on later in life.

Empathy is not a fixed trait; it is something that can be learned even though it may be difficult for some to learn. A leader should allow enough time and find the right support, such as a coach, to get help to develop and enhance their empathy skills. Organisations can contribute to this by encouraging a more empathetic workplace and help leaders improve their empathy skills.

Below are ways in which organisations can encourage empathy in the workplace

How to be an empathetic leader: Part 1

By Carli Uys

Head of Marketing, Research and Development (MCom Industrial Psychology and MCom Communication studies)

During these ever-changing times we are in, team members deserve to be led by an empathetic leader who deeply understands what they are going through. It is challenging during this time for a leader to make the right managerial and executive decisions and even more challenging to understand what his/her team members are going through. Working from home or struggling to have human connections at work due to social distancing, is making it even more important for a leader to have empathy. Teams led by leaders who possess high emotional intelligence tend to work harder and persevere through rough patches. These types of teams develop deeper bonds of trust, which are essential when job security seems all too fragile.

Teams, and especially virtual teams, who are guided by an empathetic leader will likely have a less difficult time working through their stresses, while others who are not led by an empathetic leader are likely to become disengaged and even resentful.

When a leader cultivates empathy as one of his/her leadership skills it allows him/her to create bonds of trust between them and their team members. It helps the leader to gain insight into what other people are feeling and thinking, and it helps the leader to understand the reactions of others. At its foundation, empathy informs a person’s decision-making ability by sharpening a person’s perception and intuition.

The core of leadership consists of ‘the skill of others’. This means that the leader should inspire other people to take action beyond their capabilities, lead them in a direction that is compelling and inspiring. Empathy is seen as the foundation of these actions.

Empathy enables the leader to know if the person they are trying to reach was actually reached. It allows the leader to predict the effect his/her decision and actions will have on team members. Without empathy, a leader cannot build a team or nurture new generations of leaders.

Leaders who take the time to understand the needs of their team members are able to provide them with the support they require to press ahead; to deal with the challenges or issues that might hold them back from achieving their goals.

 Instilling a sense of empathy in how you lead your team members offers a number of advantages:

According to Lolly Daskal there are six simple ways that empathy can help a leader become the best leader possible:

  1. Empathy creates bonds: Creating bonds with your team members through one-on-one conversations or socialising, provides ways for you to better connect and understand their interests and perspectives.
  2. Empathy gives insight: When you as the leader listen intently to your team members you then truly begin to understand them as people, and you are then able to learn from them. This helps you to gain insight into who they truly are. Having empathy allows you to think before you judge and make assumptions of others.
  3. Empathy teaches presence: When you have empathy, you learn to listen attentively to what the other person is saying and placing your complete focus on the person talking without becoming distracted. As a leader you should focus on listening, understanding, assisting and supporting your team members. You should not just focus on giving advice or try to fix a problem but focus on simply just being. Simply being means allowing the other person to have their moment, and it helps you as a leader to learn to be patience. Put your team members ahead of yourself.
  4. Empathy guides understanding: With empathy in your leadership toolkit, it helps you to not only focus on trying to understand why some people feel or think the way they do. It also helps you to focus on listening and not responding, and not to just reply, but to understand. Empathy allows you to understand others without passing judgement or making assumptions.
  5. Empathy sharpens people skills: Empathy is a skill that takes time and effort to learn to be able to show awareness and understanding. A leader has to take interest in people to be able to build a strong and trusting team. A leader must ask questions about a team member’s challenges, their achievements, their families and what they aspire towards. This helps to build empathy in a leader.
  6. Empathy cultivates better communicators: When you have empathy, you listen in a way that makes other people want to speak to you and communicate in a way that makes people feel safe to talk to you. For a leader to effectively communicate with team members, the leader has to realise and acknowledge the differences in the choices team members make and in the way they perceive the world. The leader must then use this understanding to guide communication with others.

Lead From Within: What’s empathy have to do with leadership? Everything! Because leadership is about having the ability to relate, connect, listen and bond with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.