What is a Positive Culture? And how do we bring it about?

As we established in a previous article (see http://www.drdarryl.com/announcements/what-is-culture ), organisational or corporate culture is all about the values and practices shared by the group. It’s about “the way we do things around here.”

This is not something to be taken lightly.

As we saw from the Global Human Capital Trends survey in 2015 conducted by Deloitte which taken was across 3,300 business in 106 countries, the number one issue globally for businesses was “Culture and Engagement.”

“Organisations are recognising the need to focus on culture and dramatically improve employee engagement as they face a looming crisis in engagement and retention” (p 3).

Because companies and businesses are now “naked,” meaning that social media and internet access is now exposing exactly what is going on inside all these places, culture is becoming much more exposed and relevant. It always has been relevant, but it’s just that now everyone can see it, not just those who happen to be working inside it.

Of course, this means that the leadership hierarchy are suddenly interested in culture too. It’s not just their products or services that are exposed to public scrutiny, it is now also their culture.

What is a Positive Culture?

We talk about a positive culture, but what is it exactly?

Well, we all certainly know what it’s not simply because we’ve either heard about it or worse still, painfully experienced it. Typically, there are individuals whose egos run rampant (and they are often the leaders) and they are often self-centred or are authoritarian or dictatorial and who engage in sarcasm, put-downs, criticisms and who are demanding, unreasonable, blunt and rude.

If they are not openly abrupt, then perhaps they are more sinister engaging in laying blame, being inconsistent and then taking all the credit for any good work conducted.

Consequently, individuals around them survive by forming clichés, engaging in gossip, innuendo and may, in fact, get on-side with the bully or ego to form an alliance of sorts in order to prevent themselves being knifed. The general atmosphere is tense, negative, oppressive and destructive. Productivity falls and morale is poor indeed and individual staff members are only concerned about watching their back, keeping their heads down and just trying to survive. How on earth the business actually gets done is a mystery.

On the other hand, a positive culture is one where the leadership is generally open, genuine and transparent where the intent is to be supportive and nurturing to allow individuals to feel free to make comment and have discussions where contributions are welcomed and where professional and personal development is encouraged. A positive culture is one that tends to be flexible to change and therefore adapts to meet the needs of its members in a dynamic and constantly changing world. With the combined energy of all its members, a positive culture can actively pursue the challenges of the future as well as make improved profit and increase productivity.

How do you create a positive culture?

Slowly.  As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is culture.

Culture change in my experience is somewhere around a 2 to 5 year program. That is of course, if the CEO or MD or leadership doesn’t change mid-stream and the company has to start all over again. What a waste. But we see it all the time. And does that blow culture out of the water? — you bet it does.

Irrespective, there are some critical steps to bringing about a positive culture.

1. Authentic Leadership

You may well have heard the saying that “The fish rots from the head.” Apparently, this proverb dates back to 1674 when it appeared in a treatise called “An Account of the Voyage to New England.” The proverb is based on the fact that fish do begin to spoil at the head first. Hence, as a figure of speech, any problem or issue in an organisation (including culture), can be traced back to the boss.

Now when it comes to culture, a colleague of mine reports that up to 60% of a company or organisation’s culture is determined by the leadership[1]

So, rotten or positive, the leadership is a critical factor in any organisation. Leaders therefore who are persons of integrity and who are regarded as persons of character are having a significant impact on any business. This means that they walk the talk, they practice what they preach, their actions speak louder than their words, they do what they say they are going to do and they follow up. As Dr Stephen Covey has said, “Credibility is the foundation of leadership. If we don’t believe in the messenger, we won’t believe the message.”

They are also open and honest in their communications. Kouzes and Poser[2] researched over two decades and across six continents and asked the key question “What values (personal traits or characteristics) do you look for and admire in your leader?” Respondents identified 225 different values, traits and characteristics. From 1987 through to 2002, the number one characteristic most admired characteristic was “honest;” consistently, 83% to 88% of people endorsed it as the foremost characteristic. Says something doesn’t it.

2. Clear Set of Values

Values are like lighthouses. They show the way. They guide the path. They provide the boundaries about what is permitted and what isn’t.

So what kind of values do companies adopt as being lighthouses? For example, they might include, “Excellence” (Striving for operational excellence and mastery), “Relentless” (We’re driven, motivated and dynamic), “Passionate” (We work with great people and together we’re playing to win), and “Authentic” (We’re the real deal – honest, genuine and respectful).

These values however, just don’t sit on a wall in the reception area or on a banner in the staff room. Importantly, there are two further steps for values.

Firstly, they must be translated into behaviours that everyone can see and observe. This makes them real and clearly draws the line in the sand as it were. Such behaviours are easily identified by people and not open to individual interpretation. They are clear and concise.  They can be measured. They can be witnessed and observed.

For instance, being authentic in a company could mean the following:

  • Frank and respectful conversations – honest in self-disclosure and owning up
  • Taking responsibility and owning up for behaviour and actions
  • Making decisions that are in the interests of the team and not self
  • Being consistent
  • Not putting off or missing opportunities
  • Having the courage to speak and act and not always taking the easy route
  • Do what you say, be reliable and follow up
  • Support each other and watch each other’s back

On the other hand, being the opposite and inauthentic could mean:

  • Keeping things to themselves
  • Laying blame, criticising, fault-finding, gossiping
  • Delaying or avoiding frank conversations with the right people
  • Acting with bias or with an agenda
  • Not following through
  • Being inconsistent
  • Being self-centred and not collaborative
  • Not taking feedback or ignoring feedback
  • Formation of silos, clichés and favourites

Secondly, these values and their associated behaviours need to be constantly reinforced right from the beginning with recruitment and staff induction processes. They need to be upheld in various meetings as well as in terms of the individual’s KPI’s and their staff appraisals. It is not good enough for a company or business to advertise their values in a blaze of colour and ceremony and then simply forget about the continual implementation and integration of those values.

Failure to effectively implement and embed the values in the organisation means that it blatantly sends a message that it’s all talk and no real action. I’ve certainly heard staff refer to such companies, and the head office in particular, as “bullshit castle.” Doesn’t do much for morale does it?

3. Recruit Well & Induct Well

I remember someone once telling me that it is easier to recruit “nice” people rather than trying to train “niceness.” In fact, I’d go further and assert that “niceness” can’t be taught. Yes, if individuals are keen to improve and grow, it is always probable that they can alter their attitude and behaviour and become “nicer.”

However, if people aren’t nice in the first place, then don’t expect that they are going to take your cue and your advice and suddenly become less “high maintenance,” less difficult and less self-centred.

Of course, individuals are always on their best behaviour at the selection interview, so referee reports are vital in this regard (although I’ve know some previous employers to lie, for various reasons), but there is also the probation period for three or six months to allow you to take a closer look at them and how they interact.

If they happen to slip through this net, then unfortunately, we have to performance their behaviour and have weekly conversations until they either change or leave. However, clear sets of behaviours makes these conversations easier.

Remember, that one rotten apple will spoil the barrel. Make no mistake about it.

Once the individual has been recruited, it’s critical to follow-up what has been said in the interview with a strong induction process that elaborates on the culture as well as the values and behaviours being espoused. There needs to be a clear message about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable and how culture is very much the lifeblood of the organisation and that detours will not be tolerated.

4. Reward and Recognition

I remember reading in a doctor’s surgery years ago an article titled “The Power of Praise.”  It doesn’t really matter whether we are talking about child rearing, coaching a sports team, leading a band of volunteers, or running a company, a basic human need according to the psychologist William James is that of recognition; “The deepest human desire is to be appreciated.”

 If we want good behaviour to continue, we need to reward it. Basic, but simple. But it isn’t it interesting how so often we forget the basics?

There are a number of ways that I have seen businesses reward the upholding of the values and behaviours that they espouse to be critical within their culture.

For example, one company I visited has a wall with a large screen mounted in the middle showing various photos of staff dinners, socials and get-togethers, but more importantly, staff place large coloured post-its on the wall and around the screen to highlight any positive behaviours and actions that they have experienced by other staff. At the end of the month, the senior leadership team collect all of these post-its and select the employee of the month who is deemed to have upheld the company culture. They are rewarded with vouchers, movie tickets, dinners and the like. There are other staff who are highly commended and who receive other rewards. Interestingly, probably the most powerful reward is the actual certificate that staff receive that they can proudly display around their desk or work area.

Another company I’m involved with and that I consult to, ask staff to fill out a sheet highlighting the nature of the positive behaviour or good deed that has been done and that is then sent to the HR manager so that similar awards can be given out at the end of the month at a staff social drinks and gathering.

This kind of continuing activity sends a clear and constant message that a positive culture is valued.

By the way, be prepared to ensure that these values and the accompanying behaviours are also part of the Performance Appraisal system for the company. Yes, you might rate staff on their job performance, but you must also rate them on their “cultural performance.”

5. A Training Academy

All of your staff have had training in their respective technical skills and knowledge typically called “hard skills,” whether that be formally at a university, training college or via a combination of in-service, on-the-job or apprenticeship training. They excel at being accountants, engineers, designers, carpenters, maintenance men or women, receptionists, sales persons, human resource officers and so on.

However, these hard skills though, don’t make for a positive culture.

Instead, it’s the so-called “soft skills” that help create a positive culture. Courses on listening skills, the art of communication, emotional intelligence, how to deal with conflict, how to deal with difficult people, how to delegate, and how to be assertive are all courses that help produce a cultural change.

I find it ironical that we spend so much time training people in the hard skills, but we completely disregard the soft skills (which are actually hard!).

Somehow, we’re all supposed to have great listening skills and high emotional intelligence. So where are we supposed to have gotten these skills exactly? If we didn’t get it from our parents and family life, where are we supposed to learn them?

Of course, some companies believe that it is not their responsibility to be training in these areas. Others say that there’s no point in training in soft skills because staff only end up leaving anyway.

What short-sightedness.

If you want a positive culture be prepared to train in it. Then hold people accountable.

Don’t make the mistake too of simply providing training and then somehow “hoping” that the training sticks! Who follows up on the training? Are there refresher courses? Is there a development plan for individuals which holds them accountable? Failure to follow up training is simply wasting the corporate’s dollar.

6. 360 Assessments

Is your leadership and management group prepared to be open to feedback? Remember that “feedback is the breakfast of champions.” There is nothing like feedback to the leadership group to assist them to grow and become more effective leaders who are bringing about a positive culture.

Are the leadership group prepared to be open and vulnerable? It says volumes about any organisation which is prepared to look at itself including it’s top management.

Not only is it about individual 360 assessments (perhaps on a 12 or 24 month rotational basis), but it is about the whole organisation having the courage to undertake climate surveys with all staff. How do staff overall see the company or business? Where are the areas for improvement? What do they need to keep doing? What do they need to stop doing?

In summary, there you have it.

However, one last thing. There needs to be a driver for this cultural change or indeed, if the culture is already present, then who is the watch-keeper who ensures that it all keeps on track?  Without a driver or a champion, the cultural shift will not happen or else will fall away.

[1] Dr John Wood, “Culture and Coaching,” presentation to the Australian Psychological Society, Interest Group on Coaching Psychology, 22 November, 2006

[2] J.M. Kouzes & B.Z. Posner (2002), “Leadership Challenge.” Jossey-Bass


It’s a “sin” most everyone has been guilty of at one time or another. Studying for examinations, project deadlines, losing weight; you name it, we have all put off doing something at some time.

We put doing something off because we don’t want to do it, or maybe we have a lot of things on our plate at the moment. Maybe we’re not interested. Maybe we’re just lazy, too. There are plenty of reasons why people procrastinate, but the most common reason is fear.

People are afraid of making a mistake or not getting it right or somehow failing along the way. If you are afraid that a particular task could possibly not turn out well, it’s easier to avoid working on it in order to avoid feeling the fear. The chances of failure are then eliminated.

There’s also the fear of success. You would think that wanting to succeed would actually propel a person to work, and work hard. On the contrary, to some people, success can be seen as a tradeoff for human relationships or a social life: if they start working on a project, and eventually succeed, this may lead them to doing more projects, which in turn would eventually put a damper on their social lives and relationships.

People also procrastinate because they want everything to be perfect. It’s no surprise that procrastination and perfectionism go hand in hand. Perfectionists are extremely insecure people. More than their expectation that everyone and everything around them be perfect, they expect themselves to be perfect all the time. Hence, they’d rather put off doing a project, than to start it and then see it not meet those high standards they set for themselves. It appears to be a mind thing. Procrastinators sometimes think that it is better to give a half-hearted effort and maintain the belief that they could have done an awesome job, than to give a full effort and risk criticism from other people. Procrastinating guarantees failure, but it helps perfectionists maintain their belief that they could have excelled if they had tried harder.

What these people need to realize is that no one pleases everyone all the time. No one EVER gets it right every single time. At best, we need to aim for 80-90% precision, because we are human, after all, and are bound to make mistakes, even accidentally. Regardless, even if we did get it 100% right in our own eyes, there would always be someone who would certainly see it as less than presentable and be critical about it!

How, then, can procrastination be avoided?

We need to know exactly why we procrastinate. Is it really because we’re lazy? Or is it any of the other reasons mentioned above?

How and when do we procrastinate? Do we do it when we have examinations, when we need to pay the bills, when we need to hit the gym? Do we suddenly feel physical pains that we didn’t feel ten minutes ago? Do we totally ignore the task we’re supposed to be doing, hoping it will go away? Do we do something else that we also deem important, in lieu of the immediate task at hand? Do we take longer breaks than necessary? Figuring out exactly when and how we procrastinate can help us stop the behavior. Too often, we don’t even realize that we are procrastinating—until it’s too late.

It’s important that we create an environment that’s conducive to working and completing the task we’re supposed to do. This means a place where there are no distractions (no internet or WiFi connection, for example).

Consider your peak times as well, meaning the time when your body and mind are at their optimum. Schedule your task within that time, when you are most alert and productive.

If the task seems insurmountable, break it down in little, doable parts. This makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. And the feeling of actually having accomplished something can get you pumped up for the next little, doable part.

Never hesitate to ask for help. This is where your family and friends come in, as you will need their support.

Give yourself a break. You can’t expect to kick the habit of procrastination overnight. The habit developed and evolved over time, undoing it would also take time. Congratulate and reward yourself for every little hump you’ve managed to overcome, but don’t beat yourself up too much if you fell off the wagon. Just get up and pick up where you left off.

Near Death or Out-Of-Body Experiences

For decades now, we have heard and read about individuals who have had what we call “near-death” or “out-of-body” experiences. In other words, they have theoretically died.  This has generally been associated with a tragedy or crisis such as a heart attack, a motor accident, events unfolding badly in the operating theatre, and work-related accidents.

Typically, what these individuals report is that they floated up above their bodies and they looked down on the scene below. If it happens to be a motor vehicle accident, they look down on the carnage and wreckage, the paramedics working feverishly on their body, red and blue lights flashing, perhaps individuals nearby crying or hysterical, perhaps a fire engine in attendance as well as certainly the police. If it happens to be an operating theatre, they often report floating to the ceiling of the theatre itself above the bright lights and look down at the doctors and nurses again working feverishly on their body lying on the operating table where there is a sense of urgency, haste and intensity.

Often these individuals report being drawn toward a white light or passing through a tunnel of light, but who, for various reasons decide not to proceed into the light or down the tunnel, and instead, return back into their bodies. Sometimes, these people feel that they cannot leave their loved ones behind especially if there are children or they feel that their work is not yet completed. Irrespective, they return back into their bodies.

Well, science now seems to be catching up with the pile of anecdotal evidence that has been well documented over decades.

In a newspaper report just out of London (4th November 2012), the following was reported:

“A near-death experience occurs when quantum substances that form the soul leave the nervous system and enter the universe at large, according to a theory proposed by two eminent scientists. According to this idea, consciousness is a program for a quantum computer in the brain that can persist in the universe even after death, explaining the perceptions of those who have near-death experiences. Dr Stuart Hameroff, professor emeritus at the Department of Anaesthesiology and Psychology, and the director of the Centre of Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, have advanced the quasi-religious theory” (The Sunday Mail, 4.11.12, Page 27).

Needless to say, those who have had such near-death experiences probably don’t need an academic to provide a framework or theory for what happened to them because their experiences were real. Very real.

In many cases, this kind of near-death experience is life changing to such an extent that the individual’s life is transformed where they set new priorities and goals that are much more altruistic and purpose-driven than self-centered and materialistic. Their lives turn around.

It was about 10 years ago now that I vividly recall a new client coming into my office hobbling on two walking sticks. He was a male in his early 50s. He sat down and began to recite his story. He had largely been a manual worker including a forklift driver and he said that on this particular day, he was walking alongside a factory wall against which were piled high scores of wooden pallets. For reasons that are not clear, the pile high of pallets fell on him and he was crashed underneath. He said that his workmates frantically tried to pull off all the palates and release him and an ambulance rushed him to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. He said that he recalled apparently “dying” several times as the ambulance weaved its way through traffic up North Terrace towards the hospital. He said he recalled looking down on the ambulance as he floated above it and he saw it on the wrong side of the road charging along North Terrace. He said it was weaving in and out of the traffic and often on the wrong side of the road. Once he arrived at the hospital, he said he was placed into an emergency bay where the staff continued to work on him and he said several times he again apparently “died” because he said he floated to the ceiling of the emergency ward and he said he could see into all the other cubicles where patients were receiving emergency help. He stated though, that in one particular cubicle, there was a little boy who was in grave distress. My client of course, lived and went back to the hospital to receive outpatient medical care for well over a 12 month period. He said that on one of his visits he found it necessary to go back into the emergency ward and locate the key nurse who attended to him on that occasion. He asked her what had happened to the little boy that he had seen in the third cubicle down from where he was located. She was utterly surprised he said. “How did you know that?” she enquired. He simply told her that he had floated to the ceiling and he could see the little boy being worked on. She was not quite sure how to respond, but she did assure him that little boy recovered.

I’ve also had other clients who have reported similar, but different experiences.

There is a sense though, that none of this comes as a surprise to those of us who have spiritual beliefs and in this case, being a Christian means that there is a belief of a heavenly afterlife. This life is not just about bricks and mortar, dollars and cents.

As a psychologist, my experiences tell me that we are much more than mind and body and indeed, we have a soul. In the same way that it is important to exercise own mind and definitely to exercise our bodies, it is imperative that we exercise our souls. For some of us that means prayer and meditation, for others it might mean other things.

Yes, science may now have a theory for what happens beyond this life, but various religious groups will tell you that this has been a truism since life began.

The real issue therefore, is if there is something beyond the white light or the bright tunnel, are we prepared for it and are we exercising our spiritual muscles because as far as I’m aware, except for a rare few who have near-death experiences, we don’t get a second chance at this current life.

From The Customer’s Viewpoint?

Note the words below; they are a sobering reminder of the importance of what our customers expect of us and how excellent customer service means greater profits.

“I’m the customer. I have lots of money to spend, and I’m going to spend it with someone.  I’m going to spend it on cars and clothes, services and symphonies, food and fun, books and burgers, groceries and gadgets, baubles, bangles, and beads.”

“Treat me right and make me happy and I’ll gladly spend my money with you.  Yes, I’ll see to it that you are well paid, and that your firm prospers.”

“Take me for granted, or treat me rudely, and I’ll take my money elsewhere.  Show me you don’t care and I’ll quietly seek out someone who does care about me and who makes me feel important.  You may never miss me, but I’ll still be history.”

“I’m discovering that I have lots of choices where I can buy my clothes, get my sunglasses, buy my books, eat lunch or dinner, have my teeth examined, get my car serviced, buy new shoes, and have my health-care needs met.”

“Hey, all I want is for the people where I go or call to:

  • Greet me and make me feel comfortable
  • Value me and let me know that they think I’m important
  • Ask how they can help me
  • Help me get what I want or solve my problem
  • Invite me back and let me know that I’m welcome there anytime.”

“This is all I want. That’s it. Just notice me and make me feel important. Try to understand me and conscientiously attempt to solve my problems.”

“That’s all I want!”

“You take care of me and I’ll take care of you.  I’ll spend my hard-earned money with you. I’ll encourage my friends to come to see you.  I’ll willingly come back when I need more of what you sell or offer.”

“I’ll help you enjoy more money, more success, and greater career satisfaction.”

“All you’ve got to do is satisfy me!”

Taken from “Hey, I’m the Customer” by Ron Willingham, 1992

Provided below are some very compelling words from a very famous person – sure the language might be out-dated, but the message is clear.

“A customer is the most important person on our premises.

He is not dependent on us,

We are dependent on him.

He is not an interruption to our work,

He is the purpose of it.

He is not an outsider on our business,

He is part of it.

We are not doing him a favour by serving him,

 He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

quote from Mahatma Gandhi

What would happen to our business, our community, our nation, our world if these sentiments were actually acted upon and implemented?  How would our business be different? 

How would it impact on our customers? 

How would our world be different? 

Family Charter

What is a Family Charter?

A Family Charter (sometimes referred to as a family constitution) is a document that is a key element in setting out the relationship between the business and the family.   A Charter therefore sets up the parameters and boundaries so that it’s clear how to operate and move.  Otherwise, it can become personal with the potential for conflict.  A Charter is implemented therefore to head off any potential conflict and to ensure harmonious relations.

In a nutshell, it is the rules and policies of the family or a kind of written contract between family members. It is based initially on the family values and what the family stands for.

As is generally the case though, the whole process behind its development is often more important than the actual document itself and this certainly seems to apply to the Family Charter.

When to use

A Family Charter is often not required until a business reaches the 2nd or 3rd generation. However, experience shows that it can be very important to introduce the concept when transition from 1st to 2nd generation is being contemplated.

General Hint

Developing this charter is a lengthy process that is often initiated at a family retreat and then updated at regular intervals. The family need to set aside time (eg., a full day) and be prepared to do so at regular intervals (eg., quarterly or every six months) until the Charter is finalized. Of course, it is not a static document and needs to be updated as necessary.

Why have a Family Charter?

The Charter provides a process that is important for the family to go through. In other words, the family has to communicate with each other, listen to each other and then finally agree.

It provides clarity and certainty where the family is clear on what the rules and policies are in the same way that the business ought to be clear about its procedures and policies.

It is a powerful tool in managing people’s expectations and because it provides some certainty, it also provides for proper planning.

As hinted at above too, it is a very effective means of resolving disputes and any conflicts.

The cost-benefit ratio is also clear in that the cost involved in meeting and setting up a Family Charter is miniscule in comparison to a legal dispute with the associated emotional turmoil, stress and damage.

What are the Steps in Building a Family Charter?

  1. The Foundation – A family business is a complex structure as the values important to a family (eg., love, caring) are not the same as those that apply in the business world (eg., profit, growth).  This often leads to confusion, tension and disruption when sensitive issues arise.  Are these issues to be dealt with under the family’s value system or those of the business world?
  2. Family Values – Each family has a set of values that are important to it. These will include concepts such as love, support for family members, respect, honesty, integrity.
  1. Business values – Though there will be some overlap, these will also include values such as a commitment to growth, continuous improvement, excellence, customer focus.
  2. Family Business – Values and Vision – These two often conflicting value sets need to be reconciled into a set of values applicable to the family business as an entity in its own right.  These values help the family to identify a uniting common vision for the family business.  It is also useful to distil these into a mission statement for the family in business.
  1. Structures – These are then developed to govern the Business System and the Family System and to control the interaction between them both.  There needs to be an effective functioning Board for the business and a Family Council which manages family issues that impact on the business.  The Charter becomes the governing document for the Family Council.

What is in The Family Charter?

Typically the Family Charter will contain a number of key elements including the following:

  • Statement of family values, mission and objectives
  • History, background, overview of the family business
  • Policies and codes of practice on issues such as –
    • Ownership (Who are the business owners?)
    • Governance (How does the family interact with the business? How is the Family Council run and who chairs it?)
    • Employment (Who works in the business? Is it based on competency or just being a family member? Do the children need to have outside experience first and if so, for how long?  Do the children need a Trade or University qualification?)
    • Compensation
    • Career Opportunities
    • Leadership
    • Succession
    • Communication and Conflict Management
  • Rules for updating and reviewing the Family Charter

How does the Family Charter Continue Over Time?

 Having developed the Charter, there are two protective mechanisms that are required to ensure that it lasts.

  • Integrate – The document itself will have little impact unless its message and the principles that underlie it are imbued into the hearts and minds of all family members.  How will you ensure this happens?  How will children and in-laws be introduced to the family’s values, principles and codes of practice?
  • Review – Invariably, not all issues will be covered in the first draft. More importantly, constant change within the family, the business environment, and society mean that constant regular update is required.  What process will you establish to ensure that the Charter remains current?

With these support structures in place the content contained in the Charter will be secured and it will become a living document that adapts to the needs of the family in business over time.

What are the Barriers to having a Family Charter?

Some families (and individuals) push against the notion of having a Family Charter. What would be some of the reasons for such, given that the Charter makes for sound business sense?

Take for example some of the following reasons:

  • Lack of Knowledge: Not being aware that there is such a thing as a Family Charter. Some business people are certainly aware of the need for clear procedures, operations and policies and clear governance, but it has never occurred to them that such could also be done within the family context.
  • Feeling insecure or inadequate: If the business owner doubts their ability to manage something like a Charter or indeed, if there is a fear of somehow losing control, then this may be a barrier to implementing a Charter.
  • Feeling of Opening Pandora’s box: Again, not being in control of what might be discussed or brought up and that individuals in the family might also talk about their feelings or emotions is enough to put some business owners off trying to undertake a Charter.

Irrespective, the real question to ask oneself is this: What might be the implications of NOT putting together a Family Charter?  What could be the possible consequences of not having a Charter with clear family rules and policies?  In essence, what could you lose by not having one?

The UK Rocks, but will we Heed the Wake-up Call?

As I indicated in a previous blog post, the riots and looting in London and beyond are a wake-up call for us all (see “The UK Rocks, but for all the Wrong Reasons”).

Who says that it could not happen here in Australia? Yes, it can be argued that the UK is in a different place politically than is Australia (or other countries for that matter). For example, there was the social brutality of the Margaret Thatcher era, followed by the growth of the welfare state under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and more recently, the impact of the Global Financial Crisis seems to have hit heavily in that country.

But that’s where the similarity ends.

Australia, it is argued here, is looking down the barrel of similar riots and unrest. The other cocktail of factors are simmering, and could well explode.

So, what do we need to do to take control of a “sick society?”

It needs to be said quite clearly though, that the time is past for band-aid solutions and patch up remedies.  With the society as troubled as it is, this is no time for cosmetic surgery. There is no option now, except radical surgery.  If we really wish to save our community, then we need to act, act boldly, and act now.

Of course, it will hurt and it will not be popular. It never is when radical procedures are necessary.

Further, we can no longer rely on the “conscience” of society to remedy itself, or rely on the good graces of people generally to seek to remedy this societal situation. The time for that has passed. Besides the situation is now bigger that any of us and requires a community intervention to seek to turn it around. We need external intervention and generally speaking, when that occurs, people do not like it and tend to push back. Hence, it will behove government to step up and show some leadership irrespective of the “pushback” that they will no doubt receive. The sad reality though, is that governments rarely show leadership. They follow and they follow the opinion polls.

Irrespective, what can we do?  Consider the following options.

  1. Provide mandatory parenting classes for partners who wish to bring children into the world. As I have argued elsewhere (see “Growing Up Children” http://www.growingupchildren.com/children/index.htm or purchase a hard copy from amazon.com), being able to biologically reproduce does not also mean that you are a good parent.

Parenting is hard work and is a skill that needs to be learned. In this country, if it is mandatory to take lessons and get a license before one is allowed to drive a car, then it certainly ought to be good enough to have lessons in order to raise a family who are our citizens of tomorrow.

Alexander Downer, the former foreign minister in the Liberal Government asserted recently in a newspaper article (“The Advertiser, August 15, 2011, Page 21) that expectant parents could be told their child benefits will be dependent on them being able to demonstrate that they have attended parenting classes before the birth of a baby.

  1. Downer also asserts that we need to change the mindset in relation to welfare. Welfare, he argues, should be a trampoline, not a safety net. He states, “There shouldn’t be handouts for nothing. They should be used as a vehicle to rebuild people’s lives. And welfare should be linked to responsibility; it shouldn’t just be an entitlement. With welfare should come certain obligations. We also need to define the obligations we demand for the payment of welfare. If there is a family of young dependents under 18, then those young dependents need to go to school and prove they’ve been to school or TAFE. No school, no welfare.” Furthermore, he argues that although we already require a work test for people on unemployment benefits, the work for the dole schemes should be expanded substantially.
  1. Provide mandatory baby and child support classes for parents (and mothers in particular) who struggle with parenting and the endless issues that child rearing seems to present especially for parents with a firstborn. It could well be for example, that parents are required to attend that least 6 sessions every year before school age in order to receive their ongoing child welfare benefits.
  1. Provide effective early intervention in schools with increased early childhood educators resourcing every school. Research that I conducted back in the late 1980s with Dr Phillip Slee (Cross, D.G., Slee, P.T. (1990). A comparative study of Mother and Child Characteristics in Families of Normal and Behaviour Problem Children.  Australian Journal of Early Childhood, Vol. 15, (4), 36-40) showed that kindergarten and primary school teachers were clearly able to identify children at risk and children in need of intervention and help. Early intervention is a key. What’s the point of allowing the horse to bolt and society paying dearly for the rest of that individual’s life?
  1. Incorporate effective early intervention assessment for students in Years 1-4 as a way of determining their learning style and particularly being alert for common disorders such as dyslexia. The research shows quite clearly that around 10% students have a learning disability of some kind. Failure to pick up this kind of problem means that the student goes through school continually failing which inevitably destroys their self-esteem and severely limits their opportunities in life. Sadly, in our enlightened day and age, there are far too many students, who remain undetected and who end up being personal casualties of an archaic education system. I used to see them in the last years of secondary school, depressed and hopeless where they would say that they’ll “never amount to anything.” Psychometric testing would typically reveal a learning disorder where the child was at least average or above average in intelligence, but had a specific learning block. The identification of the dyslexia at times brought relief (“finally there is a word for what I’ve got”), but sometimes rage and anger especially on the part of parents who felt let down by an education system who either failed to recognise the symptoms or who pushed such symptoms aside as a “phase the child was going through.”
  1. Provide withdrawal centres for disruptive students in all schools. The major issue for teachers and schools alike on a daily basis is dealing with behaviour problems which generally speaking, are related to the one or two problem students in every classroom. How can teachers be expected to teach when they are grappling constantly with behavioural issues. These disruptive students who are often violent and aggressive need particular care and intensive supervision. Withdrawal centres away from the main classroom blocks and perhaps built on the edge of the school or nearby, would incorporate a higher staff student ratio as well as be staffed by trained social workers, psychologists, family counsellors and special educators. Intervention would involve not only the child, but the parents, and the classroom teacher. The child may remain in the withdrawal centre as long as it took for their behaviour to become more appropriate. This model was used in South Australia in the 1970-1980s in a joint project between the Departments of Health and Education and it was highly successful. Politics closed it down. Shame.
  1. Provide direct education for students and parents in primary school in relation to cyber bullying. Children need to understand how they can feel safe and also need to understand the repercussions of bullying via the mobile phone or the computer and the repercussions for example, of uploading photos of any kind. Parents who have typically been afraid of such technology need to be educated quickly to come up to speed with what their children are doing. Cyber bullying and sexting is a problem out of control in our community (see the Federal Government report released in June 2011 titled “High Wire Act: Cybersafety and the Young”). I have also devoted a website solely to educating parents and teachers (see cybersafetydoctor.com.au ) on this matter.
  1. Scrap Year 9 and devote the year to life skills and survival skills. Year 9 is one of those unfortunate years when the hormones seem to kick in, and educationally it’s really a kind of nothing year and a lull before the storm in Years 10-12. Ask any teacher or parent and they will tell you so. Dr Tim Hawkes, the headmaster of The Kings School in Paramatta, New South Wales has written an expose on the kinds of skills necessary for any individual to be successful in life (see the article by Dr Hawkes under DrDarryl.com/Resources/Articles and click on “Education Gets an “F” Grade”).
  1. Provide in Year 10, follow up personal leadership courses such as the ones offered by Youth Opportunities (see youthopportunties.com.au) where students over a 10-week program learn the skills associated for example, with effective communication, goal-setting and decision-making. Testimonials from students who have undertaken this kind of course are overwhelming in the ability to turn around young peoples’ lives.
  1. Provide an experience for teens to serve others especially those less fortunate than themselves. There is no doubt that volunteering in some sort of capacity gives one a better sense of who they are as well as an appreciation of what they have already.  It also allows students to understand that it’s not all about them. Some schools are already arranging this kind of experience, but sadly, it is typically only for a selected few. Whether it is working nearby in a soup kitchen, or travelling overseas to work in an orphanage, such experiences are powerful and enriching.
  1. Provide direct intervention and action in proven cases of cyber bullying. This is a problem out of control. There are so many policies particularly in schools that are toothless tigers. While some of our youth haemorrhage through the onslaught of bullying, the adults in their lives mouth platitudes and niceties. The Commonwealth Communications Act already allows for people to be charged if there are death threats or threats to injure. It is appalling that the police for example are loath to intervene in these cases. The time for policies is over. The time fraction is here. Our youth need protection.
  1. Get rid of an archaic education system that was designed for the industrial era and move more with technology and into this century. A wonderful example of how to reinvent education is provided by Salman Khan on TED.com (see http://blog.ted.com/2011/03/09/lets-use-video-to-reinvent-education-salman-khan-on-ted-com).
  1. Provide an effective secondary education that is really engaging and not a system that is simply dictated by the university system intent on getting students with a high grade point average in Year 12. Not everyone needs to do Year 12. Not everyone learns out of a book. Some people are very good “see and do” learners and are highly skilled in the technical areas.  Not everyone needs to do maths one and two, physics and chemistry.  It is laughable that the only way that we are able to get students to remain at school is to legislate that they have to remain there until 17 years. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to ask what we need to do to actually engage students?
  1. Provide effective career guidance to students with full-time career counsellors in school because life is about more about than just getting Year 12 or a high score. Yes, the school might have Student Counsellors, but we are talking here about Career Counsellors. There is a difference. A big difference. We spend so much time educating our children, and getting them through school, but we do little to prepare them for life after school.  It is tragic that many schools do not have a career counsellor at all, while others have only part-time career counsellors who are trying to juggle other subjects and duties. We are supposed to be a clever country, but there is a huge emotional, psychological and financial waste with so many students entering courses for which they are not suited and getting into careers which do not fit for them. The lack of adequate career guidance in schools is a blight on this country. I know, I see the casualties in my office for career guidance on a weekly basis.
  1. Provide effective counselling services in schools that are really confidential and professional. Unfortunately, such services are not always confidential with school staff talking freely amongst themselves. The students know it, and steer well clear of the counsellor. Furthermore, some school counsellors are not well trained, and although they may be well-intentioned and have the care of the student at heart, they lack the expertise and experience to effectively intervene.
  1. Provide Community Centres with one-stop shop care for teenagers. Adolescents are currently struggling in this country and these community centres need to be staffed by doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and pharmacists as well as other professionals in the allied healthcare.
  1. Provide acute mental health centres and hospitals where individuals with severe mental health problems can be accommodated and cared for. The push by governments to close mental health hospitals and provide services in the community is simply cost-cutting and short-sighted. This so-called new advancement in mental health care has been a dismal failure. Mental health patients have been left to largely fend for themselves without adequate backup and support with the lack of case managers to assist.  Moreover, the general public has felt unsafe with these people in their midst and more particularly, family and friends of the patients have been at their wits end trying to cope. Mental health specialists have termed this push back into the community, the “Recovery Model,” but anecdotally, there is ambiguity about what it actually involves and more importantly, there is a lack of evidence that it has been at all successful. Mental health patients deserve somewhere to go where they can be looked after and adequately cared for.
  1. Provide for school chaplaincy services in our schools. It has already been argued that originally our society was based on sound Christian principles which were the hallmark of what a community stood for (See the article “The UK Rocks – But for all the Wrong Reasons”). Strong values. Strong ethics. Love one another as though you are the other. At least we knew what we stood for. Now, as a community we’re all at sea. As I’ve said before, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. And we have fallen for anything. Over the decades, the political correctness and the subtle social engineering has eroded our values, slowly but surely. Has it been by design? Who knows. But the erosion still continues as we see the Sydney Morning Herald on August 10, 2011 lead with the heading “It’s Time to Dispel the Myths about School Chaplains” (see http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/its-time-to-dispel-the-myths-about-school-chaplains-20110810-1imdl.html) where there is now a High Court challenge to having school chaplains in schools. If we do not as a society adhere to a set of values that define how we act and behave, then yes, we are headed for anarchy.

Maybe we can add to this list. Certainly this list is not exhaustive, but it is a start.

I often remind people in my workshops of the definition of stupidity, namely, doing the same thing day after day and expecting a different result.

The London riots are a wake-up call to us all.  We need to start to do something different.

Gossipers – How Do You Deal With Them?

Why do people indulge or participate in gossip?  What do they get out of it?  How do you stop it?  How do you discourage it?

Why Do People Generally Engage in Gossip?

Basically, because it makes them feel good.  OK, so we’ve established that people gossip because it makes them feel good and that’s what they get out of it, but how come it gives them a buzz?

In a nutshell, it gives them a sense of POWER.  It puts them one up.  It gives them a sense of CONTROL.

And why do they need power or control?  Because they generally feel inadequate or inferior in some way.  Yes, contrary to popular belief they feel insecure!!  In other words, if you don’t feel good about yourself, you can try to bring others down to your level so you feel better about you.

On the other hand, if you feel good about who you are as a person, you feel generally secure and confident and you’ve got your act together, then, there is no need to have to try to bring others down or undermine them with gossip, innuendo or rumour.

When Did They Learn to be Gossipers?

 From a young age.  The truth is that they have generally always been like this.  They probably started in primary school, but then really started to get into stride in secondary school with adolescence.  Here they typically find their power using little clicks and pitting students against each other and ostracising others.

Sometimes they use harassment, or subtle teasing and sometimes they just use gossip itself to get at another student.  The term “bitch” often describes their activities and manner.

How Do Gossipers Act?  What Do They Do?

You’ll often find that they also use sarcasm, stab you with put-downs and digs as well as spread rumours or gossip.  They are subtle in what they do.

In other words, they tend not to be overbearing or loud or obnoxious, but instead, tend to sow quiet seeds of discontent pulling others down, putting in a quiet word here or there, innocently saying “Oh, have you heard about……” as if they are very concerned and compassionate.

They play at being friendly and concerned, but as the Red Indian says “they speak with a forked tongue”.

What are They Like to Work with or be Around?

Terrible.  They affect staff morale because as we all know, gossip and rumours affect people.  Where there is an expert gossiper, people tend to watch their backs, be defensive, and don’t trust others around them.  It means work (or wherever) is not a nice place to be.

How Do You Stop It?

  1. You can choose to either play or not play the game.  It’s your choice.  If you choose not to go along with the gossip then, do the following:
  2. Don’t add to the conversation by adding your own “tit-bit” or embellishing it in any way
  3. Don’t agree with the gossiper because that only encourages them and makes them think that you’re endorsing what they have said
  4. If you’re aware that a piece of gossip is coming your way in the conversation, either
    1. subtly change the topic, or
    2. say outright that you’re not interested in hearsay, or
    3. with a passing comment that you have other things to do, just walk away

What if the Gossip is About You?

You have 3 choices here.

  1. If you know where the gossip is coming from, then, quietly but firmly confront the source (the person from whom it originated) and ask them if what they said is true.  They will either deny it or say “yes”.  Either way you’re in front because you’ve exposed the game.
  2. Try to ignore it (which is easier said that done), but a catchy little phrase to say to yourself is “What others think of me is none of my business”.  The reality is that you can do nothing about what others think about you — you can’t control it, you can’t change it — so ignore it.  Anyway, if anyone chooses to believe the stuff that they are saying about you, then they are not worth knowing anyhow. 
  3.  Try a standard formula which is designed to flush them out or smoke them out such as saying, I thought I heard a dig ( or a shot, or having a go) in what you just said, and I want to know, were you?”  They will typically answer with:
    1. What’s the matter, can’t you take a joke?
    2. Oh, you’re just being too sensitive
    3. Oh you’re just being too intense (or serious)

At which case, you simply repeat what you said before using your same formula:

“I thought I heard you having another dig in what you just said, as well as having a dig the time before, and I want to know, were you?”

At this time, their game is up, their old catch phrases haven’t worked and you have quietly stood your ground.  Does it really ork?  Try it out for yourself and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

What Does It Take To Be a Good Manager?

Basically, when it all boils down to it, there are only 3 main characteristics that go to make up an effective manager or team leader.  These 3 traits keep coming up time and time again in our conversations with employees.  What are they?  Look below and take them in. 

Don’t believe that you automatically know how to do the things listed.  Our experience tells us that very few managers or leaders really know what it takes to be a “good leader”.  Sure we all seem to pay lip service to such notions, but it is another to actually put them into practice.

Be Honest

Based on surveys of more than 15,000 people (“Credibility: How leaders gain and lose it, Why people demand it” by James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner), which trait did people select as the most effective key for leadership?   Being honest – 87% considered this as the most important characteristic!

Honest people have credibility – and that’s what gives managers or leaders the trust and confidence of their staff.  What therefore, do credible leaders actually do?

  • They do what they say they will do. They keep their promises and follow through on their commitments.
  • Their actions are consistent with the wishes of the people they manage. They have a clear idea of what others value and what they can do.
  • They believe in the inherent self-worth of others and they learn how to discover and communicate the shared values and visions that can form a common ground of which all can stand.
  • They are capable of making a difference in the lives of others.
  • They admit their mistakes. They realise that attempting to hide mistakes is much more damaging and erodes credibility.  Also, when they admit to a mistake, they do something about it.
  • They create a climate for learning characterised by trust and openness.

Be Positive

Another important characteristic that sets managers and team leaders apart is the notion of being positive (“The Manager’s Advisor”, by Peter Stark).  For example, try the following:

  • Develop a positive vision. See success before it arrives.  For instance, successful managers when visualising themselves walking across a high wire, see themselves getting to the other side.  Managers who struggle usually have their focus on not falling off the rope or worse still, never see themselves making it to the other side.
  • Think big. Look for ideas that will be contagious and excite people.
  • Encourage others to do their best. Successful leaders believe that people do want to make a significant contribution to their work place.  Coach, counsel and develop people to live up to their potential.
  • Set and maintain high expectations for all who work with you. Mediocrity does not generate a highly motivated work force.
  • Overuse polite phrases. Unsuccessful leaders don’t seem to find the time to say “please” or “thank you”.
  • Be friendly to staff, but don’t treat them like close personal friends. You are the boss and they are the employees.  It works better that way.
  • Never be too busy to laugh. Nothing gets people through a crisis like a good laugh — and a manager who’s willing to enjoy it with them.

Be Communicative

Staff invariably bring up issues to do with the quality and quantity of communication at work.  Many complain that management give lip service to open communication, but do little to really communicate with them.

Without exception, ineffective communication results in gossip and rumours, poor morale, and under-currents of tension resulting in poor cooperation, lower productivity, and absenteeism.

Experience shows that there are a number of ways that managers and leaders can improve internal communication.  Note the following listed below:

  • Communication is a two-way street. It involves giving information and getting feedback from staff.  It isn’t finished when information is simply given.
  • Use face-to-face communication. Don’t rely on pin boards, memos and other written communication.
  • Communicate clearly. Ask yourself each time an instruction is given as to whether the message is clear.  Don’t be vague.  For example, don’t simply tell a staff member to “show more interest in their work” if they are spending too much time chatting with others – be specific about what you want to say.
  • Listen. Show staff respect when they speak.  They will feel part of the team and will tend to be more productive and dedicated.  For example, ask questions to show interest and paraphrase and clarify points.
  • Open-door policy – do it, just don’t talk it. Walk around and talk to staff.  Allow staff to disagree with you and to come up with new ideas.
  • One-on-one meetings. Sit down with each staff member to determine what the employee considers important to get the job done.  Equally important is the opportunity for the employee to see what’s important to the boss to get the job done.

Leadership – What Is It Really?

It’s easy to recognize the need for real leadership in today’s world.  Just glance the headlines in any newspaper and you will notice that the quality of leadership is the first thing questioned whenever something goes awry in society, the world of business or government.

Even in the world of sports, it’s often not the play of the athletes; but instead, the leadership that falls under the heaviest scrutiny if a team doesn’t play well.  In most cases, the coaching staff will be dismantled as a sign that change is being implemented, before roster changes are made.

Change the leadership and perhaps players will play to their expectations because the culture and environment have changed.

An explorer is only as good as the map that navigates them.  A child has a better chance of succeeding in life with good teachers and role models providing them solid direction.  A building doesn’t get built without an architect drawing up specs to relay vision and direction to the builders.

And many people, regardless of individual skills or intelligence, can only come together as a team or perform to their highest ability when quality leadership is present.

So, what exactly makes a good leader?

Hallmarks of Leadership

 Leadership is an adventure that carries a great deal of responsibility.  In one day, sometimes within the same hour, a leader may be called upon to act as an instructor, counsellor, motivator, friend or disciplinarian, depending on the situation.

The best approach for a leader is to be aware that they are nurturing and cultivating a work relationship.  Leadership is the process of ensuring that things get done through people that we may not know very well or have very much control over.  Once a leader is familiarized with whom they are working with, recognizing their strengths and weaknesses, there is great potential to influence their work or performance.

It’s possible to have the best training in the world, years of experience, remarkable expertise, an unbelievable IQ, great management and analytical skills but still fail as a leader.

It is emotional intelligence, an ability to perceive, assess and manage the emotions of people, which will make an average leader a great leader!  Emotional intelligence is necessary to deal with other people, stay calm in high-pressure situations, multitask and look at things from multiple perspectives.

A football coach can’t control everything that happens on the field, but, as the leader, the coach is expected to have answers if bad play and team losses become routine.  The coach is expected to notice developing patterns and address them with the players involved.  This requires astute observation along with interpersonal and communication skills to talk the player through whatever the issue might be.

The era of a leader having to be a disciplinarian is passé.  These days leadership is more about keeping your emotions in check.

There may be moments when it’s necessary to be strict or forthright but leadership today is more about empathy, recognizing the feelings of others, resolving conflict, maintaining relationships and being a motivator.  Needlessly yelling, barking out orders and being condescending will just lead to low morale or high turnover.

Survey Says…

Kouzes and Posner (Leadership Challenge, 2002) have conducted research on effective leadership for over two decades.  Respondents from six continents identified at least 225 different values, traits and characteristics that they both looked for and admired in their leaders.

The four most desired traits were honesty, forward-looking vision, competency and inspiration.

You don’t necessarily have to be a boss or supervisor to be a leader.  There are plenty of situations, particularly when working as a team or group, where one member quietly assumes a leadership role just based on their knowledge, experience, work ethic, attitude and willingness to help and guide others.

The most successful leaders are always sure to lead by example.  This is why it’s extremely crucial on their part to be honest and establish trust.  The behavior of a leader is closely monitored by anyone looking to him or her as a role model or guide.

Here’s an example of good leadership.  A sales team is failing to meet their quota for the month and bonuses are in jeopardy.  With one sale needed, the leader of the sales team, after business hours, drives 90 minutes one-way to meet with a client who is out of the way for the rest of the team.  The deal is closed and every team member receives his or her monthly bonus.

Someone might question why the leader didn’t delegate the task to someone else on the team.  But, the next time that same sales team is faced with a similar challenge, in all probability, they will remember the efforts of their leader and how he or she handled this obstacle.  It’s safe to assume that someone on that team, if not the entire team, will be more likely to literally go the extra mile to step up for themselves, their team and their leader.

People expect their leadership to be competent with a forward-looking vision.  A leader must have a clear fixed vision and mission statement that is communicated clearly to those working under them.  It’s his or her job to ensure that everyone is on the same page and pursuing the same goal.  This adds immensely to the team/partnership element and serves as inspiration and motivation for the workers.

Daniel Goleman, in his book Primal Leadership, makes many excellent points about effective leadership.  To paraphrase, Goldman states that great leaders move us, ignite our passion and inspire the best in us.  Great leaders have the ability to move people by channeling emotions in the right direction.  Good moods in many cases equate good work.  Take note of this and you’ll realize that one doesn’t have to be born a great leader, however, we each have the ability inside us to become one!

Some Questions

 What is the one thing that you need to do to increase your skills and ability as a leader?

What would be the first step that you’d need to take to follow up on this notion of being a leader, not necessarily a team leader, but a personal leader?

What would it take to make that step?  Is it to read a book?  Is it to interview someone about leadership?  Is it to show courage and put your hand up for a leadership role?  Is it to seek our some coaching?  Is it to show personal discipline to get out of bed that bit earlier and go to the gym?  Is it that strength of character that says “no” to certain situations?  What is it exactly?

Are you up for this? Are you prepared to give it a go and step up for this?  Jot down what you intend to do – commit it to paper – and then go and do it!

The Six Basic Human Needs

“Most people live in survival, not in fulfilment.”
(Tony Robbins)

Much of your happiness and life fulfilment lies in the satisfaction of your basic needs. You have six, in case you didn’t know. Let me tell you about your six basic needs, and let me reiterate that these needs to be satisfied in order for you to find some kind of happiness and some success in life.

This is the best framework that I have discovered for understanding why people do things and also gives us a good framework for understanding
happiness, quality of life, and well-being.

  • These needs can be satisfied either in a positive way or in a negative way
  • These needs an be satisfied in 1 of 4 ways;
    • Internally within ourselves
    • Through our family
    • Through our work
    • Through our community
  • The first four needs are for survival
  • The last two needs are for fulfilment

Hence, it’s important to know about these needs for happiness and fulfillment. So, what are these 6 basic needs?

1. Control / Security / Sameness / Certainty

The first need is for control, security and sameness. You need to have some routine and control. You need things to be fairly consistent and keep a
sense of sameness. You need certainty and security. This is where we like things to be the same in order to avoid stress and to gain pleasure. In a
sense, it’s survival. This is where you like to be in control to be certain.

Think about the time when you were uncertain, when you felt insecure.Perhaps you were uncertain about your health. Perhaps you were not certain about your finances. Perhaps you were not certain about your children. Those were the times that you would have felt insecure and uncertain and therefore unhappy. So it’s true we need security, we need sameness and control.

  • To satisfy this need in a positive way is to have a diary or PDA and be effective in time management.
  • To satisfy this need in a negative way is to be what is called a “control freak” (and we probably all know someone who might fit
    this label).

Sometimes gaining variety in your life might mean leaving the “comfort zone” and moving into the “courage zone”. What’s the point in tip-toeing
carefully through life only to make it safely to the grave? Life is not a ‘dress rehearsal’ as the saying goes. (As someone once said, if somehow or other, you did manage to come back, you’re not going to enjoy it because being dead really takes it out of you!!)

Believe it or not, the real “juice” of life is lived in the courage zone. This is where live is really lived. Conquering the courage zone makes people proud of themselves and gives them a sense of joy and achievement. Remember: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”.

3. Significance and Importance

The third need is to have significance and importance in your life. There are a number of ways that we get a sense of significance and importance.

  • It might be by achieving (e.g., gaining qualifications, getting a
    promotion, forging a career, conquering that mountain).
  • In a negative way, people can get significance by tearing others
    down, by being abusive, or by playing “sick” or being “ill.” They can
    also pursue this need negatively by living for their goods and
    material possessions by having only designer label clothes, driving
    only the latest BMW or Lexus, extrapolating about their latest trip to
    Europe or some exotic place.

Interestingly though, the more that people become important and significant (e.g., going up the corporate ladder and gaining responsibility and power), the more isolated that they tend to become…and that bring us to the fourth need (which is the flip-side of the third need).

4. Love and Connection

This need is about having love and connection. We have a need to be connected to someone else or something else. It’s all about relationships,
connecting to others, bonding and communicating.

  • This might be through caring, or providing a service, or it might be through having a romantic relationship or having a pet or a number of pets; it could be an affinity with nature or your garden.
  • On the negative side, we might satisfy this need through gaining sympathy through sickness or injury and perhaps playing “poor me” or even through abuse or violence.

Overall, those four needs are virtually going to give you a sense of happiness if satisfied in a positive way.

They each need to be satisfied for people to feel satisfied and happy. However, there are two more needs and they are designed to give fulfillment.

5. Personal Growth

Personal growth and development is the fifth need. Life is about growth and learning. It’s all about extending yourself, developing oneself, learning new things, and stepping out. As a general rule, whatever on the planet does not grow…dies.

  • Maybe it’s about learning a new skill such as public speaking or wood turning or learning to dance.
  • Maybe it could involve attending a vocational course or educational course.
  • My mother-in-law for instance, who is in her 80’s, recently attended the “Third Age University” for seniors to do a history course which she thoroughly enjoyed.
  • Fulfilling this need means trying new things, going to new places, and meeting new people. Whatever it is you need to extend yourself to learn to grow.

6. Leaving a Legacy

The final basic need which gives fulfilment is leaving a legacy and making a contribution. This is going beyond yourself; making a contribution
to society and giving of yourself.

  • That might mean that you join or volunteer to assist a charity or group.
  • Perhaps it could mean giving money.
  • Perhaps it is giving of your time &/or knowledge.
  • Perhaps it’s the passing over of skills or information.
  • Maybe it means being a mentor to someone younger than yourself.


So we need to make sure that we have satisfied all of those needs in our lives because that will certainly give us a good deal of happiness and then give us fulfilment in those last two needs.

Now we need to find places where we can satisfy those needs, not only within ourselves, but in our family, and in our work, and in the general community.