Monthly Archives: April 2017

5 Traits of Confident Leaders in Uncertain Times

5 Traits of Confident Leaders in Uncertain Times

Trump is in the White House, the iPhone 8 isn’t far away, and now we hear robots are planning to take our jobs. Uncertain times indeed.

These days change is inevitable and guaranteed. So how do we take back some semblance of control over our lives and our careers?

The key to it, I think, is confidence.

While confidence is often defined by a self-assurance in one’s own abilities, uncertain times often work to diminish a leader’s confidence in their organisation, in their employees, and in themselves. So how does one keep their confidence when faced with uncertainty?

5 Traits of Confident Leaders in Uncertain Times

1. Confident leaders perceive failure as the beginning, not the end.

Paralysed by fear of uncertainty, many leaders find themselves in endless cycles of the decision making process. These leaders tend to view failure as the end – the end of their success, the end of the company, or perhaps even the end of their career. Confident leaders tend to view failure as a learning opportunity, a part of the discovery process. They do not take unnecessary risks, but rather rely on sound decision making processes to take calculated risks that will springboard them into their next success.

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2. Confident leaders rely on the expertise of others.

We all know of one manager who confused confidence with expertise, eschewing the advice of those that surrounded them. Chances are, their leadership tenure met an untimely demise. Truly confident leaders treat their role in organisations the way a conductor of an orchestra treats his musicians. Understanding that they are not a professional musician in every instrument in an orchestra, conductors provide strategic direction based on the knowledge of how the instruments work together to create the best overall sound. Likewise, confident leaders know they are not experts on every tool, mechanism, process, or skill, but provide strategic direction on how each expert can work together for the overall outcome.

3. Confident leaders own their mistakes.

In a day and age where many people try to take ownership for success while sidestep the blame for their mistakes, confident leaders take responsibility for both. Rather than relying on blame for self-preservation, these leaders instead take responsibility when they are wrong, learn from their mistakes, and move on to greater success. Miraculously, this singular characteristic also inspires subordinates to do the same, creating a culture where fear of failure no longer limits productivity and innovation.

4. Confident leaders communicate purpose.

It is easy to get caught up in the chaos of uncertain times. However, those who lead with confidence also understand and effectively communicate their organisation’s purpose. Part of a healthy psychological reward system, the concept of altruism – behaving for the betterment of others – has been shown to increase job satisfaction and increase workplace cooperation. Confident leaders understand, sometimes intuitively, how their employees’ efforts contribute to the strategic vision of the company at large. Taking this knowledge a step further, they are able to clearly and effectively communicate how the company’s overarching vision translates into action plans at a departmental level. Once their people buy into the purpose, altruism takes over, improving productivity and overall job satisfaction throughout the department.

5. Confident leaders are honest and consistent.

It is tempting to sidestep direct questions about the future of an organisation. Yet truly confident leaders understand that honesty breeds trust and a sense of safety at work. Knowing your boss will give you an honest, direct answer to your question without dancing around the issues gives employees confidence in their leaders. However, honesty must be matched with consistency. If a leader is honest with one group, but betrays that honesty with another, the perception of favouritism arises and employees are left with feelings of uncertainty about their status with their boss. Truly confident leaders are not only honest, but are honest in every situation, every time.

Many people equate confidence with arrogance. While arrogance is wrapped up in ego tied with a ribbon of insecurity, true confidence understands and embraces is fallibility. It sees mistakes as inevitable and failures as learning experiences. It acknowledges the expertise of others and revels in consistent honesty. Perhaps most importantly, confidence does not waver in uncertainty. Those who are truly confident leaders see the chaos of competitive economic times as a way to energise a lagging team and rally them to a common purpose. Uncertainty truly separates the average leaders from the great ones who seem to effortlessly turn uncertainty into opportunity.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Hygge in the workplace

Hygge in the workplace

Hygge - Mental Health Recovery InstituteYou may or may not be aware of the ‘Hygge movement’ that is happening globally at the moment. I’ve been asked to speak on this on a number of separate occasions over the last few months, so it seems it is a topic of some interest to many people out there, and it has particular relevant to workplace wellbeing. So here are the top 10 questions people have asked me about Hygge:

Firstly, what is Hygge?

Hygge is a Danish word which most closely translates to ‘cosy’. It has been defined as ‘the appreciation of cosiness and the nice things in life’. The Danish love their cosiness!

In the space of mental health and wellbeing, Hygge offers yet another way in which people can take care of themselves and their wellbeing – whether or not they have been diagnosed with a mental health problem or not. A hygge lifestyle is a lifestyle that is aware of your own wellbeing and how you are relating to life in general.

Why do you think hygge has become popular now?

As a society we’ve never had it so good financially and materially, so we are looking more at the existential questions of happiness, fulfillment and wellbeing, as opposed to mere survival.

Our world is going through very exciting times. It also means that the rate of change we are seeing is, in many ways, unprecedented. As people, we have a desire for both excitement and security/safety. We want enough change to make things interesting, but too much change will make us feel unsafe. If we add to change the constant flood of information we are subjected to, it’s no wonder people are looking for some reprieve. I think Hygge is one method of many that can provide people with the comfort of slowing things down a little.

Read more on workplace wellness…

So how does Hygge help mental health and wellbeing? What’s the research?

Anything that helps busy, stressed, overworked or overwhelmed people slow down and take note of what’s nice & cosy in their lives can have a powerfully healthy and positive effect in people’s lives. While I’m not aware of any direct studies on Hygge it’s important to remember that Hygge has elements of well researched benefits like ‘slowing down and take note’. Or in other words it’s very similar, if not the same, as some of the core processes of mindfulness, and that has been shown in research to be extremely beneficial and have antidepressant effects. And ‘appreciating the nice things in life’, or gratitude, has also been studied extensively within Positive Psychology, elements we cover in our Resilience course and found to have not just anti anxiety and antidepressant effects, but also to build the neural pathways that make it harder to experience negativity and easier to experience positivity.

What innate human needs are people trying to address through the concept of hygge?

We have an innate need for comfort and protection. In the old experiments on baby monkeys (we wouldn’t do it nowadays), they took them away from their mothers and gave them two options – a metal, mechanical device that gave them food, or a metal mechanical device covered in soft cloth that gave them comfort but not food. The monkeys opted for comfort over food every time.

I believe Hygge helps people address their needs for closeness and love, and also for safety and certainty. But, it’s important to understand that Hygge is not the only tool that helps people do this.

In your experience how do people feel when they adopt a hygge approach to life?

All in all, the return to simplicity & connecting that Hygge encourages helps people get a greater enjoyment of life. It can have the effect of reconnecting people with life, connecting them with others, and making time for their relationships. It can help bring more joy to people’s lives and protect them from turning everyday pressures into stress. After all, we are social creatures. We need that connection in order to thrive.

These simple activities, like lighting candles, sitting by a fire, are things which can, and often do, slow down time for the person. It brings them into this time and space. That’s very useful for caring for your psychological health. If you do this exercise with a loved one, it can help reconnect with that person on a regular basis, thus creating a sense of closeness and love – very important and basic needs for us too!

What’s the most important thing to do/be aware of in making Hygge work for you?

Hygge is more an attitude, an approach to life that leads to appreciation of the little things and respecting your own way of doing things. In that sense, your Hygge will be very different to my Hygge, but that’s ok, as long as it’s leading me to really connect with the inner appreciation of the little things. So even though Hygge is an approach, a philosophy as such, the little practices you do every day are what is going to bring a deep inner shift and joy.

What are the barriers that people may face in adopting Hygge practices? How would these be overcome?

One of the challenges for people in our societies today is simplification. It’s a common pitfall for people to try to apply something as simple and natural as Hygge and make a To Do list out of it. The moment that you put Hygge as a to-do for your life, then it has the danger of becoming a source of tension instead of one of release and connection. Make sure you practice, but don’t turn Hygge into a ‘new belief system’ of sorts. Enjoy it. Have fun with it. But don’t become obsessed with it. That would not be Hygge.

In a workplace setting, how Hygge can be adopted?

Some ways workplaces can adopt Hygge are by paying attention to the physical environments they create, making them ‘human friendly’. Managers can be really useful here and take the lead. But, remember a ‘human friendly’ office will be determined by the people that are going to use it, not by the boss.

For example, I like nice clean, minimalist office spaces, with no distractions, but I have colleagues who love to decorate their working space, with pictures, poems, etc to really make it their own cosy space. So Hygge is partly finding what really works for each staff member to get that sense of peace and safety, and doing that.

Have desks for people that love desks but have relaxing couches or chairs for people that love working in a more ‘relaxed’ way. Make sure this is encouraged. Have natural light. Make sure people take breaks and move. Encourage small chit chat.

Another way is for managers to encourage their teams to recognise the small things they are grateful for each day in their workplace – whether it was that the coffee machine got fixed, or what a lovely walk they had into the office that day, or a smile and a pleasant conversation with a colleague. Too often our focus is always on ‘what’s next’, instead of appreciating the good at work, and enjoying the time spent there. After all, we do spend a lot of our lives at work. And the research is overwhelmingly clear that when we are comfortable and enjoying it we will produce more.

Are there any cons to the concept of hygge?

There are cons to everything. For example, if you use Hygge to escape from deep problems that need your attention, then that’s not a good use of Hygge. Hygge doesn’t fix things, it just helps you create some needed rest for you psyche so you can deal with the more important things after. If you don’t take your refreshed mental state and use it to come up with better ways to live life, then Hygge has been wasted.
Another thing to be cautious of is that sometimes in order to achieve something big, we need to stretch outside of our comfort zone. Living in all comfort is neither natural nor good for you. We need to stretch beyond our comfort. Think about this, possibly everything great you have in your life it is because you did something that was a little outside the comfort zone – whether it was going to the job interview for that great role, or asking your now wife out on a date. If we are not balanced in our approach we don’t achieve anything. But right now, I think we’re out of balance the other way. People are feeling over-stretched and a little hyggee brings it back into balance.

What is your response to critics who believe it’s a superficial concept that represses and ignores the dark stuff of life?

I think it’s a little harsh. Where good mental health is concerned, we need to have a time for everything. A time for focusing and addressing the dark stuff in life and a time to have a welcome break to recharge our batteries, as it were. I think Hygge, if it’s your thing, can help you do that. Of course, I’d invite you to look into more tools than just Hygge. In our Building Resilience At Work course, a course for workplaces, we teach workers and managers over 12 different powerful tools to help your psyche have a break and for people to get mastery over their emotional selves. A real smorgasbord of choice. Why so many? so you can chose what you want, according to your own liking and personality.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn


Does Your Boss Have Your Back?

trust-fallLet’s start with a couple of hypothetical scenarios.

  1. You have just been given a large project at work. You are excited at the level of responsibility you have been given and the opportunity to show your manager and colleagues what you can really do. As you begin to dig into the work, you discover just how much you are taking on. Overwhelmed at the possibility of failure, you begin to wonder – did your manager give you this project because they trust you to get the job done, or are they setting you up to fail?
  2. You’ve been asked to lead a change in your department. Try as you might, you can’t seem to get traction. You begin to feel trapped between direct reports who are resistant to your efforts and managers who expect change to come swiftly and seamlessly. What do you do?

Whether you feel like you are being sabotaged in the workplace or you are questioning the authenticity of your managers’ requests, it is important to realize that everyone experiences a certain amount of workplace paranoia from time to time. Today’s competitive economy seems to breed workplaces where managers and employees alike are feeling more pressure than ever to perform at a maximum level, 100 percent of the time.

In reality, our feelings of uncertainty are driving our perceptions of our workplace relationships rather than reality. As a result, the way we handle the situation is likely based on our perception rather than reality as well.

Read more on workplace strategies and leadership…

Let’s take these two scenarios and examine what might really be going on.


Perception: Your manager has placed you in charge of a large project. Overwhelmed by the vastness of what you are being asked to do, you wonder if they are setting you up to fail. Feeling defeated and abandoned, you likely react in one of two ways. Either you attempt to buckle down and do your job, but find yourself on edge or miserable. Or you admit defeat, update your resume, and chalk your experience up to your terrible manager.

Reality: Your manager is terrible at reading your mind. Chances are, they have no idea that you are feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about your ability to complete the project or lead the team or do the task. Fortunately, most managers do not want to set their teams up for failure but instead are happy to mentor their employees during particularly difficult projects or transitions. Rather than trying to go it alone or giving up, bring your concerns to them and ask for help regarding next steps.


Perception: As a change agent in your organization, you are caught between employees who are resistant to your ideas and bosses who expect huge changes in a short amount of time. You begin to wonder if you will be able to keep your job or if you will become the latest casualty of the organization.

Reality: If you are undergoing organizational change, chances are your manager is too. It is entirely likely that they’re feeling unsupported by their managers while experiencing resistance from their subordinates. Without realizing it, managers can pass on their own feelings of corporate paranoia, especially during large scale change. Rather than assuming your manager is asking you to do the impossible while leaving you to manage your department’s change on your own, discuss how you can strategically support one another.

If you are still uncertain as to whether your boss has your back, schedule an opportunity to informally discuss your specific situation with them. Go for coffee, ask if they are happy with how your team is functioning. Ask for feedback on whether you should be doing things differently over a casual lunch. Regardless of the setting, be sure you own your perceptions for what they are – your interpretation of the situation. Begin the discussion by asking for clarification, rather than confronting your manager with what you perceive as reality. Not only does this open the lines of communication, it helps you both understand how your personal bias has affected your situation.

You may be surprised to find out that they had your back all along.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Google Plus Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn

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