Weak Company Culture is Behind the Decline in Employee Loyalty

Weak Company Culture is Behind the Decline in Employee Loyalty

A new report released by TINY pulse, The 2019 Employee Engagement Report: The End of Employee Loyalty, shares the results of a poll of 25,000 employees from 20 different industries – there’s been a 20% increase in the number of workers who said they would leave their current job for a small pay increase, and that poor company culture is to blame. From only 23% in 2015 to 43% in 2019, this is a shocking number of people who are unhappy at work, with a marked decline in their loyalty as a result.

The report said that the three biggest factors that influenced the happiness of employees were:

●     Doing work that is engaging.

●     The relationships between employees and managers.

●     Their first impressions of a company.

Taking a look at the first point, it’s when employees are not being challenged regularly that they become bored, and this has a large effect on how happy they feel at work. Giving employees challenging and engaging work also gives them a sense of purpose, as well as the opportunity to feel pride and boost their self-esteem when they conquer these tasks. When you show your employees trust in their abilities by giving them harder work, you’re making them feel valued and, in turn, much happier with their position.

Managers who provide challenging work and foster the positive feelings that come from such work are also more likely to build positive employee-manager relationships, another big factor in whether an employee is happy or not.

As leaders, managers must be open, honest, vulnerable (to a point), approachable and know how to effectively communicate with their staff is they wish to keep them happy and loyal. When a team member feels comfortable talking to their manager about things that are bothering them instead of staying silent, they’re going to feel more comfortable and therefore, happier.

The last point is also very important; company culture has a major influence on the first impression an employee has of their new company, which affects how happy they are in the long-term as well. New employees must have a positive and effective experience during the onboarding process, which comes from strong company culture.

With the right people, culture, and values, you can accomplish great things. Tricia Griffith

A Robert Half survey conducted last year showed that, if a company’s culture was negative and didn’t fit with their own, a third of the employee respondents said they would turn down their ideal job. Company culture changes won’t occur overnight, but by analysing where your culture is currently, and where you want it to be, you will already be making a vast improvement to the culture of your company. Employees who see management working to make the necessary changes to improve the workplace atmosphere and provide them with opportunities to challenge themselves will be happier with their positions and stay with the company for years to come. 

LeadershipHQ is the Leaders in Cultural Transformation. We partner with Businesses and Organisations big or small to create and build high impact and meaningful Cultural Strategies. Reach out to us today at https://leadershiphq.com.au/

WHY CHANGE IS HARD – and how we can make it easier.

WHY CHANGE IS HARD – and how we can make it easier.

By Sonia McDonald LeadershipHQ 

Change is a constant factor in human history. What is distinctive now is the rate and scale of change. 

(Robinson 2001) 

Why do people find it so hard to change, or resist change even when it might be good for them?  

As leaders, we are constantly driving and facilitating change, yet research in this area has demonstrated that 70% of change initiatives fail! Why?  How can we make change easier and more successful?  

The neuroscience of change is an area I am passionate about and in this article I am going to share with you why understanding our brains is vital to managing and coping with change.  

Brains are wired for survival. 

Our brain functions as a survival tool by helping us avoid danger.  A part of the brain called the amygdala helps monitor our responses and tells us when to run from danger or towards safety.  It also tells us when to step towards a benefit or away from a threat. 

When change is happening around us in our society, relationships and workplaces, we can feel threatened and that activates our amygdala. We feel outside our comfort zones, triggering fear and anxiety.  

While this is good for our safety it does come at a cost.  When our brains are in safety mode, protecting us from a perceived threat, they cannot function well as problem solver or creativity generator.  In the workplace, the fear of change causes people to rely on tried and true routines, rather than create new strategies to move forward.  In effect, the brain shuts down the part that is really needed at that time. 

Basically the amygdala of your brain has been hijacked and this is not the best time to make an important decision.   

So whether you are a caveman running away from the threat of hungry dinosaurs or your boss has just informed you that there are going to be major changes to the department, your brains and bodies will continue to react with the same chemicals and hormones that we need to run away from physical danger.  Such is the effect of the threat of change at work. 

Now you see why 70% of change initiatives fail.   

By understanding how the brain works we can manage change resistance and develop strategies to maximise change potential. Additionally it gives us insights into how people learn, engage and remember as well as manage emotions. 

Brains are lazy. 

Considering that our brains weigh around 1.5 kilograms and absorb around 20% of our body’s energy, our brains are energy efficient and actually pretty lazy. Our brains prefer comfy habits as they require a lot less energy. They don’t really like to learn new habits or ways of doing things as this takes effort!  

The design of the brain is not always helpful.  The part of the brain which is responsible for thinking and high order processing (the pre-frontal cortex) requires a lot more energy to function than does the part of the brain which deals with emotion (limbic system).   That means it’s a lot harder for us to cope with change than to return to our tried and true habits. 

How can we break habits and form new ones? In his book “The Brain That Changes Itself” Dr. Norman Doidge tells us that the brain can be changed by our thoughts and actions.  They physically alter the structure of the brain itself, which in turn changes the way it functions.  This is the most important breakthrough in neuroscience in four centuries. 

This ability of our brain to change and make new connections, re-wire itself and even grow new brain cells as a result of experience is called “neuroplasticity”. Change is about forming new wiring, habits and behaviours. Yes, we can teach an old dog new tricks! 

How can we harness neuroplasticity of change? By tapping into the emotions…  

Brains are affected by emotion. 

We know that often our behaviour is controlled by emotion rather than common sense.  What that tells us is that the limbic system in the brain has some control over the information that is passed onto the cortex, which controls our decision making system. 

In other words, our thoughts and actions are coloured or skewed by the emotion that we are feeling.  You’ve heard of rose-coloured glasses, the phenomenon that makes certain things look better than they really are.  That’s an example of the limbic system influencing our beliefs and perceptions. 

When people are afraid, as they usually are at the thought of change, our limbic systems colour our perceptions with threat and fear.  People only see the negative side of change because that is all their brain permits.   If the change is brought about for positive reasons then people will accept it and be ready to involve themselves in making change happen.   

Making the brain work for you. 

So, we know that our brains are wired for survival, that they are lazy and will take the easiest thought out of there, and that every thought is coloured by emotion. We also know that actions and thoughts can change the physical structure of the brain. 

How can we use that knowledge to make the brain lead us towards supporting change rather than running away from it? 

There are two key solutions.   

First you can use neuroplasticity to your advantage and provide opportunities for people to develop new thoughts, and practice new actions and behaviours, thereby rewiring the brain.   

Second, you can make the limbic system work for you by creating positives around change especially to reinforce behaviour and thought changes. 

We need to build organisational change systems that capture the important role of emotions in determining behaviour, particularly in the contexts of engagement, resistance, cooperation, and commitment.  What that means in the workplace is that every small step forward needs to be acknowledged.   

Change leaders are essentially helping people to develop new connections within their brains.  Our role should involve creating opportunities and interventions which give people the chance to trial new behaviours in a safe environment.  We should allow them to take the ‘risk’ of doing something uncomfortably new and succeed at it. The more fun we can build into the experience, the more people will become involved in it. 

Positive reinforcement is essential to help embed the new thoughts and behaviours and to show the limbic system that this change is nothing to fear.  The more often we can encourage people to repeat the new actions, the more comfortable their brains will allow them to feel.  When people are comfortable, their high order thought processes resume functioning and their creativity and decision making skills start firing again.   

If you are leading change in your organisation you can create the right atmosphere for change by building a safe and positive environment for your team and identifying ways to acknowledge and reward new actions or behaviours. 

What is your organisation doing to support its people through change? 

Email me your thoughts and insights – or you would like to know more about creating these environments to sonia@leadershiphq.com.au 

10 Ways to Build Your Resilience in Business

10 Ways to Build Your Resilience in Business

The greatest learnings for me in business has been the importance of leadership and resilience. Don’t you agree? The world of small business presents many challenges to the owners of these businesses, that they wouldn’t necessarily encounter as part of a larger company – such as isolation, high amounts of stress, and trying to keep up with the ‘big boys’ while on a much smaller budget. Owning a business isn’t for the faint of heart, but the good news is that there are steps business owners can take to improve their resilience so that they can better handle the many ups and downs that are part and parcel of running a small to medium-sized business. Here are 10 ways to build your resilience as a business owner.

Find a space to reflect, away from work

Whether it’s at your kitchen table in the morning with a cup of coffee, or while you’re at the gym, it’s easier to reflect on challenges and issues you’re facing and find solutions when you’re in a different environment.

Set achievable goals

Goals have to be realistic; you’re never going to achieve all your goals in one day, so make sure you’re setting tasks that are actually achievable within the timeframes you’ve given.

Practice mindfulness

This is fantastic for anyone, but small business owners really benefit from daily mindfulness exercises as they help you change your reactions to things and make more appropriate choices. Something as simple as a daily breathing exercise can make a big difference.

Find your tribe

When you have a great support group to fall back on, it becomes a lot easier to deal with difficult situations. There are many great groups on Facebook, for example, for small business owners, where you can get support from other owners. Finding your ‘tribe’ means you have a group of people who you trust, admire, respect and can be open with – you know you’ll get the feedback you need, as well as incredible support too. Being able to bounce ideas off people is also another huge benefit of becoming part of a community of small business owners like you.

Take responsibility

When something goes wrong, as a small business owner you have to get on with it and fix the situation – you can’t just sit in the corner and wait for somebody else to solve the problem. The more you do this, the stronger you’ll feel.


Whether you prefer after every project, or at the end of the day or week, reflecting on what you’ve accomplished and what lessons you’ve learned gives you perspective and helps you find what you can take away to apply to a future project. Feeling prepared is key to being more resilient.

Acknowledge when you’ve done a good job

It’s easier to reduce stress and silence the doubting voice in your head that says “you can’t do this” when you’ve taken the time to appreciate your successes and find the good in each day.

“Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.” — Charles F Kettering

Look after your health

When you make the time to nourish your body with good food and move it with exercise, you’re giving yourself the best chance at remaining positive, even in the face of tough situations. It’s hard to feel like you can tackle a problem when you’ve slept poorly, haven’t exercised and have been eating too much junk – so improve your resilience simply by looking after your health.

Be realistic, not negative

Negativity breeds failure, which is the last thing a small business owner wants. Being realistic about things doesn’t mean being negative – acknowledge what’s happening, no matter how bad it may be, then start making a realistic plan on how to overcome the issue. If you’re negative about a situation, you’ll miss solutions and not try hard enough – or at all – because you’ve already decided it’s hopeless. It’s important to practice looking at things realistically to help you realise that while you may have limitations, there’s almost always a way to overcome things.

Do what needs to be done

If you never try, you’ll never fail – sounds nice in theory, but in practice, your business will never be successful, and you will fold under pressure that an owner with resilience would be able to handle. Do what’s necessary, even if it’s uncomfortable; back yourself and take risks, and be ready to get back up and try again when things go wrong. Mistakes and failures are learning opportunities – don’t be scared of them, learn to embrace them! You’ll feel more courageous as you conquer more fears and negative situations.

Small business owners don’t have the same resources as their larger counterparts, and at times it can be overwhelming navigating the world of small business, but if you work hard on building up your resilience as a small business owner, you’ll find yourself rising to the top of the heap. It’s all about taking responsibility and being accountable, looking after your body and mind, being realistic, reflecting, acknowledging your efforts, setting achievable goals and being prepared to do what it takes. Practice these and you’ll quickly find your resilience growing – you’ll be ready to handle whatever comes your way.

Contact the team at LeadershipHQ to find out about our Leadership Coaching and Programs for SME’s and Family Businesses at info@leadershiphq.com.au

7 Laws of Courageous Leadership

7 Laws of Courageous Leadership

Following on from my popular 7 Laws of Leadership blog, we’ve put together these 7 Laws of Courageous Leadership to help you become the brave leader you dream of being! After all, it’s the bravest who make the most change! 

Hold yourself (and others) accountable

When you hold yourself responsible, you’re demonstrating and modeling what you expect from your team as well. Be prepared to say something when a team member doesn’t perform to standard, because accountability is vital to success and improvement.

Practice Courageous Conversations

To avoid miscommunication and wasting time and effort, you need to be able to say what needs to be said – no matter how uncomfortable or awkward. This doesn’t mean being rude; it means being brave and cutting through to the heart of the matter. 

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. Mark Twain

Ask for detailed feedback

It’s hard to hear when we’re not doing something as well as we should be, but you’ll never really improve unless you get honest and unfiltered feedback from those you interact with, and then act on that feedback.

Be open with your communication

You’ll gain more trust and respect from your team if you’re communicating with them often, and not hiding information or using jargon to avoid telling them anything of real value. Be brave enough to admit when you don’t know something, too!

Don’t sugar-coat anything

Nothing and no one can change and improve without knowing how things truly are, so be factual and realistic when talking about how your business is doing.

Be prepared to lead the way for change

You have to be your own champion; believe in yourself and the change you want to bring about, and be sure to involve your team in the process so that they engage in a meaningful way. Even though things could (and probably will) go wrong, and you might have to go in a whole new direction, nothing will change unless you’re brave enough to try.

Follow your instincts

Doing what you believe is right, even in the face of overwhelming opposition or other negative circumstances is an example of true bravery. When you stick to your convictions, even if you’re not always right, you’ll still be respected by those around you. Over time you’ll find your instincts will sharpen, making it easier to trust them.

It’s time to truly be brave, and you can start by following these 7 Laws of Courageous Leadership. If you want to leave your mark, make a difference and inspire your team, take the first step on your journey to courageous leadership today – pick a law and get practising!

About the Author

Sonia McDonald believes we should lead with kindness, from the heart, doing rather than telling and is known for her mantra ‘Just lead’. She leads by example in all these areas and through her one on one practical coaching, leadership training for teams and organisations encourages others to do the same. Sonia has helped hundreds of people on their leadership journey to become the best version of themselves and in turn, inspire and bring out the best in others.

For more than 25 years, Sonia has been on the front lines of HR. She has held leadership positions worldwide and through experience, research and study come to realise what it takes to be a truly great leader.

Sonia has an ability to speak bravely and authentically about her own development as a leader, personal and career challenges in a way which resonates with her audience. She is recognised as a LinkedIn influencer and has become an in-demand keynote speaker, starts important conversations.

She is an award-winning published author and writes regularly for publications such as The Australian, HRD Magazine, Smart Healthy Women and Women’s Business Media. Sonia has become recognised for her commentary around the topic of leadership, developing work-life balance, championing the up and coming leaders of tomorrow and advocating for women in business and male-dominated industries.

⭐️ Keynote Topics for 2019

Sonia will give you peace of mind when booking a speaker. She is a proven world-class professional speaker with the skills to “rock an audience”.

Her energy, empathy, kindness, sensitivity and humour will enhance any event she appears.

1. Leadership Attitude

2. Just Rock It

3. Leadership for Small Business

4. Leading the Next Generations

5. Courageous Leadership

6. Future Leaders of Leadership

Sonia is accredited in Prism Brain Mapping, Strengths Finder, SEI Assessment and Zenger Folkman 360.

Phone 1300 719 665


Find out more about my Courageous Leadership Programs, Keynote and Coaching today by emailing me at sonia@soniamcdonald.com.au

We’re All in This Together

We’re All in This Together

Yesterday I was the Keynote Speaker for one of my favorite keynotes and workshops around Leadership Attitude. Even though the theme was Balance for Better, I focused for Balance is Better for all of us; together regardless on race, gender, age and so forth and to appreciate the uniqueness and talents of us all. Leadership is about being brave and kind – and ultimately if you can inspire someone to do more, learn more and be more; you are a leader. What I loved about the keynote was the number of men and women in the room and the number of men and women in the room who approached me afterward to share how much they got out of my keynote and some had tears (me too by the way…).

However, I was reading that SurveyMonkey and LeanIn released some startling findings recently: men are much more reluctant to participate in workplace activities that have them closely interacting with women since #MeToo and the anti-sexual harassment movement have gained traction. While #MeToo is fantastic for women, the ferocity of support has left many men worried about their actions being misconstrued – and this is causing women to miss out on valuable career opportunities, such as having male mentors and sponsors that can help them advance. In this era of #MeToo, we need to understand that it doesn’t mean we have to be against each other; it’s not men versus women, it’s all of us against inappropriate actions and behaviours that are damaging in the workplace (and all other areas of life).

If men continue to avoid solo interactions with women at work, we’ll only see the gender gap keep widening and the imbalance of power will be even more difficult to address. Men, especially managers, are doing a further disservice to women (even if they aren’t intending to) by hindering their career growth and progression. Great sponsors and mentors can make all the difference to a woman’s success in the workplace, so we must become allies, not enemies. 

Sign up to our Award Winning Blogs and receive a FREE Leadership Plan worth $97

So, just how can we demonstrate that we’re all in this together, especially if we’re men who are concerned about being unfairly labelled? The answer is simple: act respectfully to your female colleagues and be sure to support them wherever possible, to help them grow and advance. Sponsorship is one of the best ways to do this.

A workplace sponsor is someone in the workplace who has power, who can influence decisions made about your career progression, advocate for your advancement and success and allows you to make mistakes (sometimes) and take risks, without harming your career. Sponsors go to bat for you, at the expense of risking their credibility and is a truly important part of your growth in the workplace. They are more hands-on than mentors, but that isn’t to say that mentors don’t have their place in helping a woman’s career.

Fast Company released data that shows that sponsorship is one of the most crucial parts of career advancement. Women with sponsors:

●     Are 27% more likely to ask for a raise than female peers who aren’t sponsored

●     Are 22% more likely to request ‘stretch assignments’ that contribute to their leadership reputation

●     Report that 68% are satisfied with how their career is advancing

Men are much more likely to have a sponsor than women – 56% more likely, in fact (according to Harvard Business Review). This culture needs to be changed, so that more men start stepping up and sponsoring their female colleagues, and that those women are prepared to accept the offer.

Contact the team at LeadershipHQ about how our cutting edge and transformational leadership programs and coaching can change and transform your team and business.

As I said before, we’re all in this together. This means women should accept the help men are offering, and men should be offering more often. When men in the workplace make a real commitment to boosting their female coworkers, by advocating for them and promoting them (when deserved), we’ll start to see unity in the workplace and equality in opportunities and power for women. Respect goes both ways, and if you aren’t behaving inappropriately towards the women in your workplace, then you have nothing to fear.
The 7 Laws of Leadership

The 7 Laws of Leadership

I have put together these laws (when I say ‘laws’, I mean more like guidelines) for any leader who is looking for some direction – however, these are also great for making the most of life in general. I will expand on each one to explain why I believe they’re so important, and what they mean to me.

Without further ado, here are my 7 Laws of Leadership:

  1. Be brave. Be kind.

You’ll hear me speak (and write!) about this a lot, and with good reason; the best leaders are those who blaze trails and are willing to do the things nobody else will. You’ll surprise yourself with what you can accomplish when you take that leap! Always practice kindness and bravery.

  1. Follow your instincts, but don’t discount others’ opinions

If you can’t trust your gut feelings, why should anyone else trust in you and your actions? This doesn’t mean that you should ignore what everyone else thinks; it’s important to seriously consider all options and outcomes before making a decision, but great leaders become known for their instincts when they steer people and companies in the right direction and out of trouble. Trusting yourself can be hard, but it’s what you need to do to become a better leader.

  1. Be respectful, always

A leader who doesn’t treat others with respect will never be respected – and won’t be getting the best from their team. Relationships are built on respect, and you’ll need to forge relationships often in the workplace to be truly successful.

  1. Be empowering

When you give those around you the encouragement and tools to succeed, you’re instilling a sense of pride in their work and improving their self-esteem, while pushing them to get the best results possible. Making people feel good will make you feel good too, and will bring a great atmosphere to the workplace. You’ll also improve the culture of the business, which will have positive ripple effects throughout the whole company.

Contact the team at LeadershipHQ for a FREE Leadership or Business Culture Coaching Session 

  1. Be the model of what you expect from others

“Do as I say, not as I do” leaders are not respected, and will quickly sink a positive atmosphere in the workplace. If you want your team to be hard-working, honest, passionate – you need to model this for them and live it yourself. Enthusiasm is contagious; spread it to your team and see the great results.

  1. Be willing to do what is right, even when others don’t agree

Having integrity and doing what you believe is the right thing to do is an important characteristic of any great leader. No real change was ever made without someone taking that risk, standing up and saying “No more. This is what is right!” While others may not like it, you will more often than not gain their respect for sticking to your guns and doing the right thing, no matter how hard it is.

  1. Never stop learning

You’ll never know everything – that’s just a fact of life. But things are always changing; new research comes out, or new technology, and to continue staying on top of the competition, you need to be constantly learning and seeking out new information. Improving your skills and knowledge is never a bad thing

I go by these guidelines every day, and I hope they help inspire you to take the next step and ramp up your leadership. These laws also apply to life in general – who doesn’t want to be the best they can be, whether they’re a leader or not?

I’d love to hear what you think of my 7 Laws of Leadership! Let me know what you think of them, and if you think I should include any other laws.