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Awakening Excellence presents: Unconscious bias – including diversity 

Unconscious biases become ingrained over time, but through guidance, awareness, and motivation, we can re-write our programming and beliefs toward personal, professional and organisational betterment. The aim of this two-day workshop is to achieve well-developed relations based on respect for differences, awareness of our conditioning and tools and insights to eliminate oppressive (often unconscious) practices. 

Book now 

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Making the business case for diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Nurturing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace is not only an ethical prerequisite, but a key driver of growth and success in every modern organisation. The business case for diversity and inclusion is clear: organisations that welcome a wide range of people from different backgrounds, cultures and circumstances, and that are accepting of people of different age groups, orientations and life choices, are on the right track for success. 

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Diversity and inclusion: it’s time to walk the talk

South Africans are no strangers to the topic in general, but diversity and inclusion remains a challenging task to address in the workplace. Talking about our difference from an ethnic, age, background or cultural perspective can cause tension, which is why we tend to shy away from important conversations.  

At all levels of an organisation, being able to have these difficult conversations in a respectful, sensitive and open-minded manner is crucial. Not only does it allow for people to understand and empathise with one another, but embracing new and different people within an organisation supports the development of a more more cohesive, collaborative and engaged culture. 

It does away with outdates modes of working and thinking, and makes room for fresh, diverse perspectives that, at the end of the day, put businesses in a better position to be able to solve modern-day challenges, remain relevant, and perform at their peak.  

We’ve discussed the topic of Diversity and Inclusion at length over on the Awakening Excellence blog, where we include invaluable commentary from Devashnie Singh, Chief People Officer: South Africa at Grey Advertising Ltd/UK, as well as Marcel Kobilski, Divisional Director Human Resources at the City Lodge Hotel Group.  

I encourage you to engage with this topic in depth, and not simply as a tick-box exercise; for individuals and businesses operating in a country as historically steeped in racial and gender-related tension as South Africa, it’s vital that we start to do the work in our personal and professional capacities to move forward in positive ways, and embrace one another’s differences.  

As ever, I look forward to hearing your take.  

Warmest regards, 

Dr Mariam Sha, 

MD at Awakening Excellence 

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Resolutions vs goals – why understanding the difference helps you achieve success

We’ve all been there – at the start of every new year, you peg your hopes for an improved life on a fresh new set of resolutions and promise yourself and everyone around that “this will be the year” you follow through.
You can resolve to make these changes, but achieving these things requires us to set SMART goals. Find out what this means and how you can implement these in your life in 2023 and beyond for success.

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Starting the year off right – Dr Mariam Sha shares her sentiments on the year that was, and what’s in store for 2023.

Looking back on the year that was, I’m sure many of you would agree that 2022 was physically emotionally and mentally tiring. Finding our feet in the aftermath of Covid-19 – overcoming grief and loss, financial challenges, connecting with family and friends again, and finding our focus in our careers – 2022 was an attempt to getting back to what was. But we were trying to do this without having fully processed what we had gone through, leaving us exhausted by the time December arrived.

In fact, many people in my circle used the words ‘burnout’, ‘mentally drained’, and ‘exhausted’ to describe how 2022 made them feel, and I must admit that my own sentiments weren’t too far off.

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Making 2023 count!

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We’ve all been there – at the start of every new year, you peg your hopes for an improved life on a fresh new set of resolutions and promise yourself and everyone around that “this will be the year” you follow through. For some, these resolutions might include going to the gym, less time spent aimlessly scrolling through social media feeds or binge-watching Netflix shows, or perhaps finally getting that business idea off the ground.

Following through on these things comes down to a number of different factors. Discipline is one of them, but berating yourself for not being able to achieve a resolution because you simply aren’t disciplined enough isn’t going to help matters.

This is because you can resolve to make these changes, but achieving these things requires us to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and anchored within a Time frame). So, if you haven’t managed to stick to your resolutions over the years, setting (SMART) goals for 2023 instead is a much more effective plan.

Start by breaking the year down into smaller segments and setting smaller targets to achieve along the way to attaining the bigger goal, to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you might consider setting a realistic weight loss goal to achieve in the next three months, and work on a plan that includes healthy eating and exercise to help you achieve this goal. You could use this goal-setting approach for each quarter of the year, which would support you in achieving your overall weight loss goal at the end of the year.

Reach out for support

Setting goals are often easier said than done, which is why only 19% of people end up following through with them. Part of making our goals achievable is ensuring we have the right support and guidance in place to keep us accountable and committed.

Participating in one-on-one coaching is one of the most effective ways to identify, stick to and achieve your goals, while making sure they are realistic and outcomes-based. A coach can also help you to create a plan to achieve them and stay on track along the way, guiding and supporting you along the way. Being kind to yourself to avoid the nasty effects of stress and remembering that it’s okay to ask for help are important first steps in achieving the life you want to live. Awakening Excellence would be happy to offer you the coaching support in achieving your goals this year. Get in touch with us at info@awakeningexcellence.co.za.

A note from the MD, Dr Mariam Sha

Looking back on the year that was, I’m sure many of you would agree that 2022 was physically emotionally and mentally tiring. Finding our feet in the aftermath of Covid-19 – overcoming grief and loss, financial challenges, connecting with family and friends again, and finding our focus in our careers – 2022 was an attempt to getting back to what was. But we were trying to do this without having fully processed what we had gone through, leaving us exhausted by the time December arrived.

In fact, many people in my circle used the words ‘burnout’, ‘mentally drained’, and ‘exhausted’ to describe how 2022 made them feel, and I must admit that my own sentiments weren’t too far off.

It had been many years since I had taken time off work, (because I really enjoy the work I do – I see it more as living my passion and purpose than a job), but last November I had decided to take a break before year-end, needing to re-group, rest and rejuvenate.

I decided to set off to India. The clichéd Eat, Pray, Love experience was exactly what this trip offered. In Kāraikkudi Chettinad, I enjoyed the most delicious food served on banana leaves. I paid my respects in Ajmer, the religious home of Sufi saint Khwaja Mohiuddin Chishti RA. I was a guest in Odisha, Cuttack, Karaikudi, Thanjavur, Puducherry, all so unique and steeped in natural beauty.

My visits to India always leave me feeling hopeful and inspired, not least because the people who call it home, being so happy despite having little of worldly luxuries, remind me to live in gratitude and humility.

It also motivates me to keep doing the work that I love, as do platforms of recognition like the Woman of Stature Awards, which has awarded me a nomination alongside some incredible female leaders in its Women in Coaching and Mentoring awards category.

It was in light of this nomination and in the afterglow of my travels that I was moved to contemplate 2023. For me, this will be the year to be grateful for the memorable moments and meaningful lessons of the past few years. This is the time to re-group within ourselves in mind and body, to re-group as a community and country to support each other, and to encourage one another to be kind to ourselves and fellow human beings.

Moreover, I am hopeful for the year 2023. It’s time to take action, to be present and take responsibility in making this year one to remember. It’s time to move away from being passive passengers on this journey, relying on inefficiencies, tolerating or blaming. Now is the time to take ownership and believe that each positive act has a ripple effect in changing our world for the better.

I wish you a year of success, healing, and strength, and if you’d like to touch base with me for support on making 2023 count for you as on a personal or professional level, I encourage you to reach out to me – my inbox, mariam@awakeningexcellence.co.za, is always open.

Best wishes,

Dr Mariam Sha

Managing millennials: key facts to keep in mind

There has been much debate, frustration and many challenges surrounding cross-generational managing in the workplace, especially when it comes to millennials. Millennials have typically been seen as a ‘special breed’ of employees that require a different approach to manage. Labelling and compartmentalising them further adds to the mystery that we have created.

“Any new generation, when viewed by the previous generations, are seen through the perspective of being different,” says Dr Mariam Sha, founder and director of Awakening Excellence. “The truth of the matter is that those previous generations play a major role in contributing to many of the behaviour patterns of the new generation. We raised them through our value system. Each generation is also influenced by the broader environment of the time – media, social norms, new technology and new perspectives that guide their own needs and how to achieve them.”

Millennials at work: what does research really say?

You don’t have to search too far and wide through the internet to find claims being made about millennials, who they are and what makes them tick.

Some claims are negative: they’re lacking in work ethic (Marston, 2009) or overly self-confident and self-absorbed (Pew Research Center, 2007). Some commentators go further, labelling millennials the ‘Look at Me’ generation.

Other claims are positive: they are more accepting of diversity, more comfortable working in teams, better communicators and better with technology (Myers & Sadaghiani 2010).

As organisations look to improve the employee experience to drive wellbeing and productivity, these types of claims will likely influence the process, particularly as the concentration of millennials in the workplace rises.

Job-hopping is likely a marker of age rather than generation

Millennial loyalty is often called out and they are said to be more likely to job hop between positions at different organisations. There is some truth in the idea that millennials are likely to move between jobs.

However, it’s not unique to the millennial generation. In fact, figures on job tenure are the same for people in their 20s now as they were in the 1980s.

In other words, it seems a tendency to move jobs in your 20s reflects age-appropriate behaviour, rather than being linked to the generation you were born in. Job-hopping is most likely a strategic move by younger people designed to advance their careers and earn more money.

Working culture and hours are determined by life stage

Working hours typically correlate with seniority (Deal, 2007). So when people say that millennials work less than previous generations, it may simply be that they are less senior and therefore their roles do not demand such long hours.

In fact, the Family and Work Institute in 2005 found no difference between the hours worked by millennials between the ages of 18 and 22 and Generation X between the same ages.

Work may be less important to millennials, but this is societally driven.

A desire for work-life balance – i.e. how central work is to your life compared with personal domains – is more likely driven by life-stage factors, such as having a young family at home, rather than generational differences, and right now the millennial generation are marrying and having young families.

Millennials are more comfortable with technology, but this is a trend, not a generational quality. People often say millennials have grown up with technology and so are more comfortable using it, and expect good technology to be present inside organisations.

Millennial health is definitely a cause for concern

Deal, Altman & Rogelberg (2010) highlight that if health behaviours do not improve, millennials will be less healthy due to obesity than other cohorts at the same age. This is bad for society as a whole, but also for productivity as the cost of health-related absence is so high.

Of course, with the dominance of the knowledge economy, the cohort following the millennials – Generation Z – will face the same problems.

That’s why it’s important we focus on wellbeing in the workplace to enable better physical and mental health, both for public health and for productivity.

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#Innerview: Unconscious Bias?

We’re looking at unconscious bias in the workplace especially in the times of diversity and inclusion.

Unconscious bias, as the name suggests, is when the bias is not so obvious or oblivious to the person dishing it or even the one it is dished against or to in the work pace. 

We are joined by our resident doc, Dr Mariam Sha, author and international leadership coach and organizational culture change consultant.

Executive Coaching

Executive Coaching

The shift over the last century from agriculture to manufacturing with specialisation of labour being the predominant business operating model, an authoritarian style of management was prevalent. In the current knowledge economy, there is greater globalisation and talent mobility, quicker decision making, shorter time to upskill people, necessitating a different management style.

This is further confirmed by Valerio & Lee (2005) – Since the mid-1990s, the pace of change in the business world has accelerated. Greater demands are now placed on leadership. Corporations have grown lean and lost a great deal of talent in their downsizing. Those left in charge have often lacked the years of experience needed to inform their decision making. This means there has been precious little time for consensus building or intelligence gathering, and so the risk of errors by a leader or a leadership
team has increased. Coaching has emerged as the preferred just-in-time lesson to help leverage the areas that would have the greatest impact on results.

Coaching taps into the potential of individuals, the belief being the individual with the challenge often has the solution. Coaching has a holistic approach – shifting behaviour patterns, creating awareness of the management of emotions impacting self and others to changing thinking patterns with clear focus on end goals.
Organisations wanting to change the style of managing people often call in coaches to create a coaching culture. In this instance managers are trained to be coaches and are themselves coached to bring about the swell of culture change over a short period. These organisations see coaching as a strategic business imperative.

One of the frequent requests for Executive Coaching is working with the dilemma faced by executives to achieve business targets and results at the expense of supporting people. Thus, both Executives and people are fatigued, this impacting productivity, employee engagement and wellness. Targets may be achieved but levels of illness, absenteeism and staff turnover are on the rise. This begs the question of actual business results verse perceived results. What is it costing the organisation in absenteeism, and to recruit, re-train, and manage a disengaged workforce.

Each executive coaching intervention is unique to their situation. The benefits measured and observed has been tremendous; more self-awareness, improved communications at all levels, reduced stress levels, better relationships in the personal and business space, improved team engagement and clear focus and achievement of objectives.
Coaching in general and executive coaching works because the ownership rests with the individual being coached, through self-awareness changes are made by the individual. The coach is the facilitator of the change but the client is the one driving the process.

“The people, led by wise leadership, will come to the realisation, “we did it ourselves.” Lao-Tsu