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Creating An Inclusive Culture…


When we consider recent statistical revelations about the status of women and work, and in particular, women’s participation in management, it is easy to become despondent.  In spite of progress made with regard to women’s rights across many areas of personal and political struggle, women continue to be underrepresented in management, particularly the upper echelons in some industries and occupations, while being over-represented in others.

A study of the top 200 Australian Stock Exchange companies revealed that as at 30 June 2014, just 15.4% of board directors were female, while 52 companies do not have a woman on their board at all, according to the Australian Workplace Gender Equality Agency. Despite this, 87.8% of women aged 20-24 have attained year 12 qualifications or above in 2013, in comparison to 84.1% of men in the same age bracket.

At home and abroad, the issues are the same.  Regardless of their greatly improved levels of education, technical competence and their wealth of experience, women continue to encounter “the glass ceiling”, an invisible barrier that limits their access to more senior positions within organisations.  Furthermore, as highlighted by the Governor-General Quentin Bryce at a Women’s Leadership Conference in 2011, many women are hitting the “maternal wall” before reaching the glass ceiling.  Their ambition is tempered by competing priorities and moulded to some extent by the choice for greater life balance.

The issues that emerge on closer examination of these trends are complex and many-faceted.  While it is essential to understand the broader structural and ideological foundations that contribute to a power differential within our institutions and organisations, it is also necessary to examine the day to day practice that creates and recreates cultures, maintaining the status quo or continuing to push the […]

The Cost of Conflict

Unfortunately conflict within the workplace is inevitable. With an increase in diversity within workplaces in terms of  personalities, needs and expectations, there becomes an increase in potential workplace conflict. Consequently, it is important to have a ground understanding of the potential issues that can arise within conflict in the workplace and more importantly the cost this can have on businesses and employees.

Before going into the consequences of conflict, it must be said that a little bit of conflict, as long as it’s not disrupting workplace satisfaction and decreasing productivity, can be a good thing. It can foster healthy workplace attitudes and provide opportunities for creativity, collaboration, and improvement. However, let it be known that this conflict needs to be restricted to a minimum, in order to avoid  potential organisational and interpersonal costs, which are discussed in detail below.

The most obvious consequence of conflict in the workplace is the cost of productivity and morale of employees. When conflict arises at work, the amount of time spent on resolving the issue takes time away from employees designated tasks and thus signifies wasted work opportunities and decreased  productivity. In addition, the morale of employees and surrounding bystanders are also affected negatively by conflict and thus workplace satisfaction is reduced. This can also lead to increased turnover of staff in extreme cases. In a study run by CPP Inc. commissioned on workplace commitment, U.S. employees were found to spend on average 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict in 2008. This amounts to approximately $359 billion in paid hours, or the equivalent of 385 million working days. Meanwhile surveys by The Centre for Creative Leadership and Eckerd College in St. Petersburg Florida, indicate that managers spend between 20-40% […]

The H.E.A.R.T. of the matter

We are sometimes asked about our business slogan, “Developing the H.E.A.R.T. of your business” and the meaning of the acronym.  Literally, it refers to the values of Honesty, Empathy, Acceptance, Respect and Trust – and volumes could be written about each of those values!  Symbolically, it represents that which gives life and maintains rhythm, warmth, circulation, connection and unity.

Bringing the two together, we believe that values are what determine the health of any organisation: whether it has an open flow of communication or hardening arteries and worn valves; whether there is genuine caring, encouragement, support and acceptance or an unfriendly, antagonistic stoniness; and whether all parts of the system flourish with fresh ideas and inspired action or wither and fall off along the wayside.

Traditionally, references to the heart were more commonly associated with romance and perhaps the more frivolous, less cerebral aspects of life.  There was no place for “warm fuzzies” and excitement in the world of handshakes and the stiff upper lip.  We are all familiar with phrases such as “weak-hearted”, “soft-hearted”, “big-hearted”, “faint-hearted”, “heart flutters”, “heartfelt”, “hearty”, “heart rending”, “heart of gold” and so on, and their warm and fuzzy implications.

Words like love and happiness also had a hard time fitting comfortably into business and the workplace.  They implied softness, weakness and a lack of backbone and focus.  “Hard-nosed” and “bloody-minded” on the other hand tended to indicate a no-nonsense, serious determination by someone – generally male – who means business.

More and more, however, the business world is beginning to recognise that in order to innovate, inspire and orchestrate successful business outcomes, the intellect and the heart must work together.  They are no less interdependent than heart and lungs.  Dualities such as […]

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

“All learning has an emotional base” – Plato.

Emotional Intelligence is something that keeps us interacting. Whether it’s dealing with colleagues or socialising with friends, we all use our emotional intelligence daily. However, not all of us have mastered a comprehensive understanding of our emotions. This leads to increased anxiety, passive aggression, and overall unhappiness.

Unfortunately, when we don’t understand and express our emotions effectively, we can’t even tell why we’re feeling so out of sync.

These days, passive aggression is quickly becoming the norm. From post-it notes on a dirty microwave to excessive food labelling in the fridge, passive aggression is bringing us down. In fact, Buzzfeed compiled this list of the most passive aggressive things to ever happen – warning, it is not for those who like effective communication!

The Internet is littered with free how-to guides on mastering your emotional intelligence and improving organisational health, but none of them are concerned with how to do it. Their level of success is the number of people who visit their website. Instead, we measure our success by how effectively our participants learn the course, and their overall satisfaction. We’ve been the people-training people for 25 years, and we don’t plan on slowing down.

Our trainers teach the importance of understanding your emotions and the methods to control and express them effectively. Our course focuses on self-awareness and acceptance, empathy, assertiveness and the power of body language in our daily interactions. 

At VM, it’s our methodology that sets us apart from other EI training providers. Our blended approach of online pre-reading and personal assessments leaves our participants more equipped to excel both personally and professionally. We include on-the-job activities that provide participants with opportunities for reflection and enhanced learning.

We teach […]

Empathy: The fundamental skill for connecting with others

Empathy is often described as the ability to put oneself in the shoes of another person. Some people argue that as much as we try to do this, it can be a challenge if you have never had a similar experience. Certainly this is a valid comment but like any other aspect of effective communication it is possible to learn the skills of empathy if truly committed. We all have imagination and the ability to listen and depending on your intention it is possible to understand another person’s situation – their perspectives, emotions, actions (reactions) – and communicate this to the person.

Empathy is an Emotional Intelligence (EI) competency. In the field of Emotional Intelligence, Goldman’s original framework consisted of five dimensions:

Self- Regulation
Relationship Management

Why bother developing Empathy?
Empathy is critical for leadership
Research has shown that what employees want is to feel like their manager listens to them. When leaders really listen, using empathy to understand what the person is thinking or feeling without trying to offer solutions or strategies to solve their problem this is when people feel valued. Empathy creates safety and when people are free to be themselves, they are much more likely to be motivated and productive.

Empathy enables shared team learning
Without empathy, people tend to go about life focused on what is happening for them. Without empathy, team learning is simply not possible. Each of us has differing perspectives and if we cannot move from our own perspective, we fail to truly learn and to share. Without taking a moment to listen, it is easy to make assumptions and jump to conclusions. This often leads to misunderstandings, bad feelings, conflict, poor morale and even divorce. People do not feel heard and importantly not […]