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.

Six skills that are vital for the workforce of the future

The world of work has changed considerably in a relatively short timeframe thanks to technology and innovation across industries, propelling the world and its markets ever onward and upward. Covid-19 has of course also played a crucial role in the direction that careers are taking, having changed how, where and when people work, but also dictating the skills that are required from here on out.

While most predictions typically focus on the technical skills needed for workers to thrive in the future – such as digital literacy and data analytics – research bodies, companies and HR departments are increasingly paying attention to the soft skills too.

In fact, in the Soft Skills for Business Success report, Deloitte analysts estimated that by 2030, almost two-thirds of all occupations would be based on soft skills. The automation and digitalisation of work processes has a lot to do with this, pushing employees to develop and deepen their soft skills to stay ahead of competitors and bring value to their organisations.

These are some of the top soft skills that are already growing in demand among employers.

  1. Problem-solving – employees with problem-solving mindsets, no matter what department or field they operate in, are an asset to organisations. These employees see a problem as an opportunity to grow and are motivated to find solutions, thereby focussing on growth and achieving positive results.
  2. Negotiations and reasoning – Being able to deal effectively and sensitively with conflict, as well as understanding the social, political and cultural contexts that organisations operate in, is crucial, particularly among managers.
  3. Critical thinking – this skill allows an individual to make logical and informed decisions without being swayed by personal opinions, emotions or inherent biases.
  4. Time management – Stress, anxiety and burnout are on the rise among workers, particularly as remote working has blurred the boundaries of normal working hours. Having good time management skills ensures workers are using their allotted working hours wisely  and effectively.
  5. Resilience – Resilience is the ability to face and adapt to challenges to overcome them. A person with strong resilience skills can handle disappointments because they don’t let setbacks keep them from progressing.
  6. Leadership and social influence – The ability to influence is an essential skill, especially among managers and leaders. To influence is to have an impact on the behaviours, attitudes, opinions and choices of others, which is not to be confused with power or control – it’s not about manipulating others to get your way.

As a Services SETA accredited training provider, Awakening Excellence has designed and developed material incorporating positive psychology, emotional intelligence, Appreciative Inquiry, Neuroscience and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) embedding a growth mind-set in the way we facilitate and train. We offer both SETA-accredited and non-accredited training; our courses range from short one-day training workshops to 12-month training programmes.

Get in touch with us at for more information.

Business Coaching

Improve business bottom line through coaching at work

“Improve business bottom line through coaching at work.”

One of the fastest growing industries in the world, coaching, is embedding itself as a widespread development tool. It is being used by organisations across the UK and increasingly worldwide. In South Africa, a number of larger organisations encourage and pay for their management teams to receive coaching, whether it is from an internal or external coach. Many leading organisations in South Africa have also empowered and developed managers to become coaches at work. Coaching is being used in numerous areas, both in and outside of the corporate environment, including for personal development, change management, performance management, communications, team development and career development, personal wealth, stress, relationships and, most recently, for work/life balance and lifestyle  change.

Why Coach?

Coaching is unique in that it is based on the belief that every person has all the mental, physical and emotional resources they need to be successful doing whatever they choose to do.

What then, are the impediments to achieving our goals? Often, as individuals we question our journey direction and experience challenges in meeting our life goals as we easily get side tracked. Often we give up because of our own limiting beliefs, irrespective whether these have been acquired through circumstance or self imposed.

A coach can help us to unpack limiting beliefs, embrace supportive beliefs and ensure we are accountable for actions agreed with the coach. Furthermore, a coach assists to unlock any hidden or as-yet-unrealised potential. With the use of effective questioning techniques a coach can help us to clear any limiting beliefs by bringing clarity and purpose to our lives.

What makes coaching appealing?

Coaches do not impose their solutions, opinions or products on the organisation or individual, they: –

• Specialise in and use modern continuous improvement and personal development tools and techniques (e.g. GROW Model, NLP, Inner Game, Self Assessment models, improvement planning)

• Create an ‘outside-in’ viewpoint and awareness, in which solutions and actions are seen very clearly
• Offer a non-directive form of development
• Focus on improving performance and developing an individuals’ skills
• Deploy activities that address organisational and individual goals
• Challenge the ‘normal’ way of doing and thinking about things
• Create an atmosphere of openness, honesty and the desired (but rarely achieved) states of ‘relaxed concentration’ and ‘flow’
• Focus on the specific needs of the person or organisation being coached
• Provide an independent sounding board
• Are able to hold people accountable to actions whilst maintaining rapport
• Do not have to ‘manage’ (e.g. enforce policies, standards and rules)
• Do not carry the baggage of previous relationships or the organisation’s history – in the case of external coaches

The Benefits of Coaching for organisations and individuals

According to a survey by the International Personnel Management Association, training and development has shown that, following training, employee productivity increased by just over 22%, whereas training combined with coaching produces an increase in productivity of 88%.

Many experts and I, in my own experience, have observed marked improvements in the individual’s focus, clarity and purpose, work life balance, confidence in abilities and future, being equipped with tools to effect real change in ones life whenever it becomes necessary, achieving goals they could never reach on their own and being more organised according to ‘first things first’ – after receiving coaching.

Corporate coaching is used in a number of different ways to achieve real value for the organisation and its people, including: –

  • Achievement of performance goals at organisational, team and individual levels
  • Improved effectiveness and efficiency
  • Successful change More effective leadership
  • Improved teamwork and partnerships
  • High impact communication
  • Robust, value-added performance management and continuous improvement systems
  • Maximising the return on investment from formal training

The basic structure of a coaching session is:

  • Looking at where the client is now
  • Setting goals for the session
  • Exploring possible options
  • Agreeing actions to move closer to the goal
  • Summarising what has been agreed
  • Reviewing previous actions

Contact us on to book a coaching session.

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


Coaching: Fad or Fallacy?

Globalisation of business; flatter, leaner organisations; rapid changes, restructuring and cost-cutting strategies; and the inadequacy of training on its own have been some of the driving forces behind the greater need for coaching.

The demands placed on organisational leadership in the new business environment has expanded greatly; talent, skills and leadership have been lost through downsizing. In the mean-time, those left in charge often do not have the years of experience needed to inform their decision-making.

According to Valerio and Lee (2005), coaching emerged as the preferred “just-in-time” learning to help leverage the areas that would have the greatest impact on results.

There is much confusion as to what coaching really is and how it differs from counselling and mentoring. The general definitions of coaching suggest that a coach works with an individual to unlock their potential with a focus on taking an individual from their current state, to a positive desired future state.

Counselling, from a psychological perspective, addresses historical issues of the past and focuses on understanding and working on how past experiences impact on an individual’s current behaviour.
Mentoring is the transfer of skills from an experienced and skilled individual on a specific subject to another requiring this skill. A coach does not need to be a subject-matter expert to coach an individual.
It is the technique of questioning, listening and motivating as well as being goal-oriented that is key to the coaching relationship.

In South Africa coaching has been introduced in organisations for a number of reasons. Retaining talent, refining leadership style, enhancing and supplementing training, and addressing under-performance are among the many outcomes an organisation anticipates from coaching. And what transpires as coaching is often a combination of teaching, mentoring, counselling and coaching.

In organisations where it has been introduced as an under-performance improvement measure, coaching as a positive tool is often tainted by negative perceptions, where people shy away from the experience. When clear and measurable objectives are not set by coach and coachees for the coaching intervention, imprecise outcomes are formed that call the value of coaching into question. In this way and for this reason, some organisations are reluctant in creating a coaching culture.

However, research confirms that coaching taps into the natural way the brain functions, improving and enhancing individual performance. Because of this, coaching is certainly valuable for underperformers, talented individuals or anyone wanting to change behaviour or achieve a goal. Creating a coaching culture empowers every individual in the organisation to take on a leadership role by applying the coaching methodology in their leadership style.

In addition, the move away from instructions and authoritarian styles of management means that individuals are respected for their contribution through an ingrained belief that they have the answers to their problems. As such, coaching is powerful and effective, because individuals reach their own conclusions, deciding on actions that they willingly commit to. This culture creates a climate that empowers individuals and teams to generate results.

Furthermore, research shows that training supported by coaching is significantly more effective than coaching alone. According to a survey by the International Personnel Management Association, the impact of training on productivity is 22.4%, whereas, training plus coaching achieves a dramatic 88% increase in productivity. Hence, coaching in the workplace has a positive impact on the bottom line.

The International Coaching Federation (2009) reported that executives who were coached for a minimum of six months experienced a 77% improvement in their working relationships with direct reports; 71% with supervisors; and 63% with peers. Additionally, job satisfaction rose by 61% and organizational commitment went up 44%.

Coaching is not a fad, nor the latest trend in management, neither is it seen as a ‘feel-good’ exercise unrelated to business objectives. Coaching is increasingly recognised as a methodology for creating effective conversations, assessing and reformulating values and goals, and reaching solutions (Zeus and Skiffington, 2002).


Re-programme your thinking: Live the life you choose

During Sunday lunch on a beautiful summer’s day a group of friends talk about their life.

“Tomorrow is Monday and work again, I wish I could do whatever I wanted, I dislike my work and my boss is so annoying” Justine complains.

“So what’s stopping you” asks Sally.

“I need the money, and where would I find another job in these difficult times and at my age,” says Justine. 

“I think we are all in the same boat, stuck in our jobs until retirement, I suppose we should make the most of our weekend.” sighs Thuli.

Having worked in the space of coaching and people development for many years, I am saddened by how easily we give up on living a better life. We are quick to place blame and responsibility on something or someone.

From my research and experience on how we function and are programmed, I believe that every action creates a reality for tomorrow. Decisions on eating healthy, exercising and keeping fit, relationships, the work we do, our activities are daily choices. We prioritise and decide which is important and which isn’t. We create a mental picture of where and on what we will be spending time, energy and resources. Often, when questioned, we come up with excuses that we do it for others or that we have no options or choice. Yet that very statement is an act of choice.

BE ACTIVE NOT PASSIVE IN YOUR LIFE’S JOURNEY. Decide on how you spend this precious time on earth, and what value you bring to yourself and others.

Our brain is programmed similarly to a computer, the neural pathways for our current programme have been created over years. We formed habits that we keep repeating and so deepening the pathways. When we continue doing what we have always done we will get the results we have always gotten. It is like story of the man who walks down the road and falls into a hole. The next day he takes the same route. We may be aware that we have created our own thinking and behaviour patterns up until now. But now we have the ability to make decisions and change our thinking and behaviour patterns to design the life we wish to live. WE HAVE CHOICE.

Reflect on your life, your relationships, the work you do and all aspects that make up your life, in each of these areas. Did you choose or allow it to happen? Was it circumstances and influences that shaped it, or was it your decision and choice? At times situations maybe out of our control, however the majority of times we make the decision and choice.

As a start to living your chosen life

Get to know yourself better:  – What are you good at? What are your strengths? Are you using these strengths and where? This is particularly important when you find yourself questioning the work you are doing or in times of retrenchments and retirement. Once you are aware of your strengths you are then confident and aware of all the opportunities and possibilities of using these strengths. If you are unaware of what you are good at, life becomes scary, and the thought of losing a job is daunting.

What brings out your passion and energy? Think of times when you were so involved in a piece of work or activity that time flew by. Recapture these moments and repeat them as they motivate and energise you. When you decide on a career, think of these moments and choose to do what you enjoy. Do not be a victim of circumstances. Often people say I needed the money therefore I took the job. At times this may be true, but continuously seeking work that brings you happiness and engagement means you can move or share this with your employer to move positions in the company. Organisations benefit more from people who are engaged than those who are merely doing a job for a salary.

Think of how you can contribute to, not only yourself and immediate family, but the community at large. When we contribute to something bigger than ourselves we ignite the energy inside of us.

Continuously reflect on your day and the decisions you have made, was it a choice or were you a victim of circumstances? Change the programme in your brain to take ownership of your life, to make decisions because you have thought it through and chosen to make it and then take responsibility for the results. Learn from your decisions, if the results were not as you had anticipated, what would you do differently the next time?

Learn about yourself through people – request feedback on your behaviour and decide how and why you will change your behaviour.

A well-known Author and speaker tells a great story about a taxi driver who decided to soar like an eagle. If we take the lessons provided in this story and apply them to our lives, we too, can soar like eagles.

His story is about a taxi driver who heard about the POWER OF CHOICE one day.”

Power of choice is that you can be a duck or an eagle. The taxi driver exceeded customer expectations by being presentable, offering services such as beverages, reading material and facilities that very few other drivers offered. When his customers responded well, he did more and began to reap the benefits. In his first year as an eagle, he doubled his income from the previous year. The following year he quadrupled it. By changing his attitude from being a complainer to taking responsibility for his choices he attracted opportunities “making him an eagle soaring above the rest of the drivers”.

The brain is programmed to filter what you focus on. “If you expect a difficult life, you’ll rarely disappoint yourself”. It’s up to each of us to decide if we want to be a duck or an eagle.

It’s easy to cluster around similar thinking people, complaining about work and life. But being an eagle presents us with an opportunity to step out of the flock of ducks, look at the world from a higher vantage point, and rise above our self-imposed limitations.



Mistakes organisations make when implementing a coaching programme

The need for coaching and training interventions within organisations is now widely accepted and acknowledged, with 75% of organisations currently offering coaching and mentoring, according to a 2014 survey report by CIPD*.

The impact of implementing a coaching programme is certainly significant and measurable, however there are a few common mistakes that organisations tend to make when applying a coaching programme. To ensure practices are embedded in the culture of the organisation and there is long term sustainability, consider the points below when implementing a coaching programme.

What follows is an extract from Dr Mariam Sha’s book, The Engaged Workforce: 6 practical steps to creating a coaching culture): – 

Ignoring the bigger picture, the larger map
Employees do not work in isolation, behaviour is impacted by groups and peers. In an organisation, cultural norms prevail that can either enable or prevent an employee from implementing change in a positive way. When offering coaching to an employee, an organisation should adopt a holistic approach. Employees being coached cannot change their behaviour if the system does not allow and welcome the change.

Set clear measurable objectives/goals – measure return on investment
Neglecting to set individual, team and organisational goals prior to commencing with a coaching programme leaves little room for measuring improvements and achieving outcomes. Track progress on the achievement of individual, team and organisational objectives. Encourage feedback on the programme and make the necessary changes to ensure that the strategic goals are met.

Participation is voluntary
Not every manager has the competencies or perhaps even the desire to be a coach. When deciding to implement coaching, an organisation needs to account for those managers who may lack the will or ability to coach their employees. Start with those managers that are committed to changing their style of management to a coaching style. Their success will encourage other managers to do so.

Skills and competencies
Workplace coaches should be carefully selected. The sponsor or HR need to be clear and in agreement on the specific competencies and behaviours of a coach, taking into consideration how these will be acquired and applied to ensure success.

Continuation of coaching after training
Training may be a step towards accreditation for a workplace coach. It’s vital that organisations provide ongoing supervision and monitoring for sustainability.

Coaches don’t have the answers
The explanations and expectations of coaching should be discussed upfront with all stakeholders. Everyone needs to understand that the coach should not be providing answers and solutions. The coach has the techniques and skills to listen, probe and question. If or when a coach responds to pressure from the coachee or the organisation to achieve ‘quick’ results, the outcome is likely to be superficial rather than a sustained behavioural change.

Coach and psychologist
Whether or not a coach is qualified in the discipline, psycho-therapy should not be brought into a coaching session. A coach can state and acknowledge the need for a psychologist where necessary, stepping away from the relationship. Note that people being coached may have major interpersonal difficulties, and, as such, it is essential that a coach determines at the outset why such a relationship would not reap the expected results.

Make time for coaching
Often managers raise time constraints as obstacles coaching their staff. Coaching is a style of management, it’s not an add-on requiring additional time. Create coachable moments: apply the coaching methodology during one-on-one meetings, performance appraisals or discussions on key issues. This serves to encourage individuals to think of solutions rather than the manager always providing solutions. Individuals are more likely to implement solutions they had thought of than those they have been instructed to carry out.

Order your copy of “An Engaged Workforce: 6 practical steps to creating a coaching culture”. Contact

Limiting Beliefs

Limiting Beliefs

The idea of achieving our goals can often be daunting; with so many of the people I’ve coached, it was commonplace to turn negative thoughts into reality, allowing destructive beliefs about ones’ self to place limitations on one’s abilities. These “limiting beliefs” are assumptions about reality that are not true, and are what stand in the way of us realising our full potential.

Have you built walls to block success in your life? Ask yourself: –

Do you find it difficult to realise and fulfil your goals?
Are you clear on what needs to be done, but unsure of how to go about it all?
Does it sometimes feel as though someone is blocking you from achieving more?
Are there inner “voices” telling you that you are never good enough, leading you to believe you will never be a success?

Do these sound like the type of statements you might be telling yourself?

  • I’m a failure
  • I will never be good enough
  • I don’t have any skills or talent
  • Life is a challenge
  • It’s easier for some people

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above, you’re one of many who think in this way. But there are ways to change this habitual thinking.

There are times when most of us experience a sense of helplessness and despair – when we have tried every option to reach our goals and none seem to work. More often than not, we stand in the way of our own success, and we sabotage ourselves, by indulging in beliefs that do not serve us.

What are you saying to yourself that is working against your efforts to improve your life?

I frequently encounter people who struggle with limiting beliefs, especially when it comes to finances and finding a fulfilling career. Business owners, managers and individuals alike will have put time, effort and valuable resources into achieving their goals, and sometimes to no avail. What separates them from people who are successful, when we are all born with the innate ability and talent to reach what we set out to achieve?

Limiting beliefs

Our thoughts are powerful, if we think we can’t, we won’t; if we think we can, we will. Here are 6 tips to improving your life by changing limiting beliefs: – 

  • Become aware of what you say to yourself when you want to achieve or do something positive. For example if a manager asks me to coach her in managing her team, I might share with her best practice in people management. However, if her underlying belief is that people are useless, or only work for a salary, her management approach will be significantly different to that of one believing that people make an organisation. Coaching and support is essential to developing effective management approaches.
  • Focus on what is working instead of what isn’t. By focusing on the negative in our lives we invariably see more of it. Focusing on your fear paralyses you to a point where you take no action at all. How often do we focus on what we have yet to achieve, obsessing over a perceived lack of accomplishments and not taking pride in what we do. When you become stuck in noticing all that you lack as a person, you are self-sabotaging. A simple acknowledgement and gratitude for everything that’s going right does wonders to achieving success.
  • Be specific – visualise the future you want. When we are vague and unsure of what we want from life, we can’t achieve anything. To paraphrase an apt quote from Alice in wonderland “if we don’t have the end in mind the road will lead to anywhere”. Positive affirmations and visualisation bring us closer to achieving our goals.
  • Fear of the unknown – think back to the fears you had as a child… As you grew and experienced more, you discovered that those fears – what you knew to be true – were mostly irrational. In business and our daily lives we tend to avoid taking action because of our fear of the unknown. A good question to yourself would be, “What would be the worst and best possible outcomes of this situation?” Having answers to those questions would allow you to put actions in place to work through those fears and be prepared for what may come.
  • Unhealthy relationships – Do your friends and family support your dreams and decisions? Wouldn’t it be great if we had the support we needed to be successful? The reality of life is that we cannot change people and what they say to us; what we can change is how we react to what is said to us. Have you experienced sharing an idea with a friend and getting a negative response? A solution would be to share your ideas and success with people that support you and only want the best for you.
  • Take action. Learn the skills to become the best at what you set out to do. Behaviour is learned and can be unlearned.

You and only you have the power to achieve success, tap into your inner strength and stop self sabotaging!


Robots with a pulse or Engaged employees?

There is a Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times. Chaplin is portrayed as a factory worker employed on an assembly line. There, he is subjected to such indignities as being force-fed by a malfunctioning “feeding machine” and an accelerating assembly line where he screws nuts at an ever-increasing rate onto pieces of machinery. He finally suffers a nervous breakdown and runs amok, throwing the factory into chaos.

From early history prior to the industrial revolution, it seems that humans took responsibility for their lives, made decisions favourable or not, but took ownership for those decisions.

The industrial age through to the manufacturing age introduced the division of labour and specialisation. It was a time when one or a few individuals made decisions, the often-heard phrase “you were hired to work not to think” stripped workers of their most valuable and liberating asset  – the human brain. Most workers were destined to become mere “a robots with a pulse”. The  Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times, provides a glimpse of the role of the employee through those ages.

Now, in the information age and moving into the digital age, we expect people to keep up, to make decisions, to think for themselves, to innovate and lead; but the pattern of behaviour created over time will not allow for this.

How do we create work environments that encourage thinking, where people take ownership and responsibility for their deliverables and decisions, where people solution focused  and there are opportunities and leadership possibilities? A more relevant question would be: Why do we need to have these changes in the work environment?

From an organisational point of view, it is vital that we have solution focused thinkers in the workspace. Many individuals’ collective actions and behaviour create the culture of the organisation and ultimately impact on the all-important bottom line. Gone are the days when a few senior leaders could make a decision and see the results of that decision as planned. Firstly, a few people may not have all the answers, nor have the capacity to do so and secondly, the workforce makes these decisions a reality or not through the collective behaviour and actions of people. Do you often wonder as a manager or leader why plans and decisions do not transpire into results?

From an individual perspective, we have always made decisions. It’s part of our make-up. If we don’t re-programme our brain we will be left behind amongst those that allow others to drive us in our personal and professional lives while remaining in the passenger seat with little or no say. When we reach our destination we, wonder how we had arrived and how life has passed us by without an active role and choice in designing it.

What you could consider as an individual: – 

Have awareness of your patterns of thinking and behaviour. What do you do and say? What reaction and result do you get from this. If the behaviour or programme is not working, consider an alternative and observe the results.

You spend over 70% of your life at work – choose the work you do that puts you in flow. Where your passion and energy is ignited. Motivated people are healthier, happier and more engaged. We don’t have all the answers, seek information and collaborate with people around you. Be with people who support and empower, not those that pull you down. Take responsibility and make decisions, be a leader in your space. Seek feedback from friends, family and colleagues – continuously learn, grow and improve in all that you do. Build relations don’t break them.

What do high performing organisation do?

  • Encourage thinking – give people permission to innovate and be creative.
  • Learn from mistakes – continuously improve
  • Coach people – ask questions from people – peers, subordinates and managers to discover solutions to problems and challenges
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities and decision making authority – support people in decision making
  • Recognise and appreciate people for their contribution
  • Create trust in the work environment by being human

Bring back the human being into the workplace – a thinking person is healthy, happy, engaged and high performing.


Thabiso Baloyi: Addressing the digital divide in coaching

Thabiso Baloyi works with Awakening Excellence and specialises in coaching for business,
career and personal empowerment and growth.

Prior to the pandemic, coaches and their clients would engage predominately on a face-to-face basis. Much like any other skills development session or even therapy, being physically present in a room together is thought to be the most efficient way to ensure skills transfer and for the client to
feel heard, seen and understood.

The pandemic turned this notion on its head, driving coaches – like the rest of the world’s professionals – to quickly adapt to doing coaching sessions over video conferencing platforms.

However, says Thabiso Baloyi, this shift created another challenge for the industry’s small businesses and private coaching professionals in the process.

“Yes, there was an increase in interest around coaching interventions, but we found that big
corporates would approach other big institutions for coaching instead of small businesses and
private coaches,” says Thabiso Baloyi. “There was a perception that the bigger coaching institutions
offered more state-of-the-art facilities in terms of video conferencing for remote coaching sessions,
which boosted their credibility.”

It’s true that platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom are an extra cost – particularly if a small
business isn’t already signed up for certain software packages that grant them access to Teams, and
Zoom charges a fee for unlimited live video chatting. A small business or private coach may not be in
the position to afford the added expense, especially during the pandemic when business was already

On the other hand, WhatsApp calls and video chats for example allowed many coaches to engage with clients
for free. The problem then was that clients were faced with the high cost of data in order to attend
these sessions, which was not always feasible.

“Our industry depends on communication, and these factors caused a great deal of disruption
especially for the smaller players in the industry, many of which will have gone out of business as a
result,” says Baloyi.

There are, however, many other merits to working with small coaching businesses that South
Africa’s large corporate would do well to remember. These include:

  • Flexibility – small businesses can vary coaching hours to suit their clients, while large businesses often adhere to stricter working hours.
  • Innovation – Small businesses can quickly adapt to new technology and digital platforms, where corporates might need to recover the costs of their legacy systems before considering new technology.
  • Lower coaching fees as overheads are kept to a minimum
  • Supporting the growth of the SMME sector
  • Better at managing client relationships and affording the client focused attention
  • Meeting B-BBEE scorecard points
  • Small coaching businesses and private coaches have the same qualifications, experience and ability as any other business