How Bad Leaders Kill Team Problem-Solving Skills (& How To Fix It)


When it comes to cultivating team problem-solving skills, there are two deadly habits that ineffective leaders practice which have the direct opposite effect.

Like a proverbial boa constrictor, these counter-productive habits initially slow down skill development before suffocating it to death.




As a leader, if you hope to have a team with razor-sharp problem-solving competencies, the first step you need to make is to address how you might intentionally or unintentionally be standing in the way.

(When it comes to building your professional development, cutting corners doesn’t pay off. Sign up now for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on solving problems at supervisory level!)


What you’re doing wrong: Spoon-feeding


An open-door policy might contribute to creating a culture of open communication, but it does have its downsides.

You might, for instance, think that the best way to lead your team is to allow them as much free rein as possible. They’re free to come in any time to consult you on any problem at all. 




You then show them how to solve it and explain why your solution works. They leave. You’re happy. They’re happy.

But if you’re being asked to solve every little problem that might crop up during the workday, it stunts their problem-solving skills in the long term and hurts their professional growth.


How to fix it: Start guiding


The solution is straightforward: start guiding their process of inquiry to arrive independently at the solutions they seek.




Some questions to guide them along:

  • Get to the root of it: “What exactly is causing this problem?”
  • Think of solutions: “How can you deal with the problem at its root?”


Encouraging them to find the solutions independently as much as possible before presenting the problem to you. It’s not just going to save your time or give you more privacy. Doing this improves individual morale and self-efficacy and sets a precedent for taking greater initiative at work.


What you’re doing wrong: Micromanaging


Let’s be honest. Maybe your people aren’t the problem; you are. You can’t stop micromanaging.

The biggest push factor that determines why leaders micromanage is one that’s familiar to us all: fear. They fear being irrelevant and being replaced by the new talents. 




The reality is that micromanaging only succeeds in suffocating your employees and alienating you. Crucially, it sucks the enthusiasm right out of the office by removing ownership from a particular task.

If people are always being told exactly how to do their jobs to the T, with little room for variation or flexibility, it really won’t feel like their job anymore as it will a job they just need to hold down until a better one comes along.




So when problems occur, they just wait for the boss to show up to tell them what to do.


How to fix it: Cultivate a sense of ownership


First of all, stop trying to just show that you’re relevant: make yourself relevant and indispensable by value-adding to your organisation in ways unique to you.

Additionally, ensure that your people know that they’re in charge of executing their particular responsibilities from start to finish, including dealing with and solving any problems encountered along the way.




Look at this way: “managing” carries a sense of forcefully exerting one’s will against some kind of resistance. In this case, your employees’ resistance at being bossed around all day long. “Owning”, on the other hand, implies a much more comprehensive and intrinsic source of motivation. 

When people truly feel like they can leave a mark by putting out an end product with their name on it, they’re naturally motivated to perform to the best of their abilities and face any problems along the way with resilience and resourcefulness.




3 Key Talent Development Strategies That Breed High Performance


People are at the core of any company’s long-term success. This is the belief that has fuelled the creation of office spaces that merge work, sleep and play in the name of promoting employee satisfaction, creating a positive work culture and encouraging better performance.




Fundamentally, though, the task of maximising employee performance is simultaneously much simpler yet much harder. It requires a deep familiarity with talent development strategies and the mechanics of intrinsic motivation.

In that regard, here’s 3 crucial things managers need to know to unlock their employees’ full potential in the workplace. For the whole nine yards, though, sign yourself up for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on developing a work team.


1. Get the right perspective: management vs. development


The epicentre of any effective talent development strategy is having the right perspective on what it means to develop talent to begin with.


“People Management”

If you’re just seeing it as “people management”, you’ll tend to to view investment in human capital as just another cog in the machine of profit growth, equal in importance with other aspects like supply chain management.

Obviously, human capital and the supply chain are two different entities that require two entirely different approaches. 

The more you view human capital investment as “people management”, the more that translates into taking a more controlling, cost-benefit approach which monopolises authority, holds back on training, and takes an arm’s-length approach to maintaining personal relationships with your employees.



That, in turn, normalises stagnation and emotional distance, inhibiting personal growth and  feeding your employees’ desire to seek greater professional development elsewhere.


“Talent Development”

Alternatively, if you see human capital development as the unquestionable foundation of corporate success, you’re coming into the game with a growth mindset focused on coaching, intrinsic motivation and giving each employee the resources they need to unleash the full extent of their talents.




In other words, you’ll see talent development as “parenting” (as serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk does), and your first and utmost priority will always be the well-being of your employees, especially their growth trajectory over time.

When this is the belief that underpins your efforts at developing your employees to the fullest, investing heavily in them and taking risks for the sake of cultivating your employees’ personal growth is a no-brainer.




2. Invest time, effort, and money in cultivating personal relationships


Being committed to facilitating the personal growth of your employees necessitates a sufficiently good grasp of each employee’s differing career goals and motivations.


One-size-fits-all doesn’t work.


People come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes. What goes a long way in motivating one person may not do much to motivate another.

For some, positions and titles are their greatest motivators. For others, it’s the ability to provide a comfortable life for their family and loved ones. Others value having a strong sense of meaning and contribution to society through their work.




Understanding what makes every employee tick is crucial to knowing what works best to drive them to consistently perform beyond your expectations, and beyond their own expectations as well.

That’s impossible to do unless you start getting to know your employees more intimately and on a deeper personal level.




Honesty is a two-way street.


“Open communication” is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot in corporate circles. “Honesty”: less so.

Honesty is the building block of effective open communication. You and your employees need to be able to be honest with each other about everything that goes on within the organisation.




Employees should feel comfortable enough talking to you about toxic office politics, negative environments, and other less visible impediments to personal productivity that tend to be managerial blind spots.

In turn, you, as a manager, should respect your employees enough to be honest with them about everything from underperformance to negative attitudes to your own mistakes and oversights at work.




All of this is harder to do when you haven’t spent enough resources in building strong personal relationships between yourself and your employees. Once you’ve established this, though, that emotional investment you’ve made in the relationship intrinsically deepens the desire for all-around honesty.


3. Delegate authority: trust is given, not earned


Individual talent development does not happen in a vacuum; it requires a challenge.

If your priority is to develop people, then you need to give them a challenge to overcome–and you can’t give someone a challenge without entrusting them with the responsibility of facing and overcoming it.

People need space to grow and room to manoeuvre in order to truly flourish. As a manager, you task is to give them this opportunity to thrive. You have to give your employees this space in the form of delegating authority and entrusting them with incrementally bigger and bigger responsibilities.



The problem with this is that most managers fear the repercussions of failure should the entrusted employee be unable to rise to the challenge. Again, that comes down to having the right perspective on human capital development.

False starts, mistakes, failures, and disappointments: all of these are necessary and inevitable in the path of long-term personal and corporate growth.

That said, employees newly entrusted with greater authority will still require your guidance in the form of clearly defined  and articulated responsibilities and measurements for success.



5 Best Practices Of Highly Adaptable People At Work


There’s not a workplace in existence today which disregards adaptability. The best ones consistently promote dynamic, creative working cultures designed to catalyse positive change.

Hiring managers, too, prize adaptability as one of the most desirable traits a prospective candidate could possess.




Simply put, stagnation is anathema to 21st century working cultures. Those who are complacent simply set themselves up to fall behind fast by failing to adapt.

Count yourself out of that group: take up SSA Academy’s WSQ course on adapting to change, and check yourself against the 6 best practices of the highly adaptable. Are you doing enough to ride the flow of change?


1. Having a growth mindset


The single most important asset a highly adaptable person owns is a forward-thinking mentality.

They aren’t just looking at what’s ahead of them; they’re always making sure they have what it takes to get there. That means having a mind that’s habituated to searching for opportunities for growth.




Failures aren’t failures; they’re successes in finding out what’s counterproductive to growth. There’s no time to ruminate or obsess about what could have been.

Constructive criticism is more than welcome; without it, it’s impossible to fine-tune yourself and keep raising your standards.




Learning new skills isn’t a task reserved for those at the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder; it’s an avenue towards higher competencies and performances.

The point is that the growth mindset comes down to the power of habit. It’s a matter of actively rewiring yourself to seek growth instead of stagnation.


2. Willingness to experiment


Black Panther’s Shuri said it best: “Just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.”




Settling for what’s always worked best isn’t what’s going to put you ahead of the curve: innovation and experimentation will.

The trial-and-error process that that entails might seem costly in the beginning, but it’s nowhere near as costly as staying put with the hope that doing the same things in the same ways will somehow churn out better results faster.




And since change starts from the self, experimenting with personal productivity techniques is a good way to start. Here’s some that’ll help you out.


2. Disregarding the fear of failure


Expecting to experiment once or twice before coming upon the magic solution is just as unrealistic as it sounds, yet that’s what most people do when they fear failure.

Because of how paralysing the fear of failure is, it’s much easier to convince yourself you tried your best after a few attempts and throw in the towel instead of keeping at it. It even helps to preserve your self-perception as a relatively competent person.




Experimentation, though, isn’t about preserving the ego. It’s about having the resilience to keep trying and keep adapting until you find what you’re looking for.

The most adaptable among us don’t have a unique gene that renders them immune to fearing failure. They’ve just attuned themselves to disregard it in the interest of progress.


4. Adept at switching perspectives


Having the emotional intelligence to switch from one viewpoint to another is just as crucial to adaptability as developing the mental resilience for it.




Whether you’re working as a team on a comprehensive marketing plan to reach your target audiences or individually to write copy that speaks to people regardless of gender, race, or age, you need to be able to take yourself out of the equation in order to fully inhabit the shoes of the other person.

That requires the cultivation of empathy, an open mind, and the willingness and ability to listen without judgment.


5. Having a Plan B & Plan C


You’re ready to try something new. You’ve done all your research, covered all the bases and narrowed it down to one particular option that keeps standing out to you no matter how many times you survey the possibilities.

It’s tempting to jump in with all your eggs in one basket, but it isn’t viable either, considering how the first try isn’t normally fruitful.




Adaptability is the science of trying new things, and like any science, it requires efficiency in execution and the minimisation of risk.

Adaptable people make sure they have a few alternatives in mind each time they try something new, to save themselves the trouble of going back and forth between the drawing board and the field, and to spread out their risks.




5 Ways To Cure Job Burnout And Be Your Best Self Again


You’ve tried to prevent yourself from burning out. You tried to watch out for the warning signs of burnout.

Still, somehow, here you are, exhausted from overwork, and exasperated at yourself.




It’s time for a major intervention: here we go.

Break the cycle of overwork and burnout and start taking better care of yourself with SSA Academy’s WSQ course on developing personal effectiveness. 


1. Step back and re-group


Research shows that people who experience burnout aren’t too likely to attribute it to their jobs.

Time to face the facts: it’s work that’s causing you to burn out, and as with any psychological problem, the first and most important step is to come to terms with your burnout in the first place.



Ask yourself why you’re feeling burnt out.

Is it from being overworked or under-worked (feeling under-appreciated and under-stimulated at work), or is it from your own expectations that you’ve set for yourself?

How long have you been enduring it? How long more do you think you can can go on feeling so tired all the time?

What or who in particular is causing it? 


2. Reach out for support


Once you’ve figured out the roots of your burnout, reach out to the right people and ask for some support.

This can be particularly hard if you feel like you’re not the kind of person who needs help to do their job.

Remember: this isn’t about how competent you are. It’s about your mental, emotional and physical health. Asking for support on the job doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human.



If overwork or underwork is the problem, approach your supervisor or your team and share your concerns.

State your commitment to putting out excellent work and pushing yourself to outdo your past achievements, and that being over/underworked is starting to betray that commitment of yours.

Doing this could help to smoothen out the workflow so that it gets more balanced in the team, or to arrive at new understandings and solutions that could take the heat off of you.


3. Stop expecting yourself to be perfect all the time


If being perfectionist at work is causing to you burn out, it’s a sign that you probably need to reevaluate your goals to make them more realistic.

A relentless pursuit for perfection in everything you do might sound impressive and desirable, especially if you’re hoping to score a promotion at work.



But the reality is that it can also put you on the fast track to burnout. Not only will you tire yourself out more easily, you’ll also constantly engage in negative self-talk and be overly critical of yourself.

In other words, it can feel like nothing you do will ever be good enough.

It’s also worth looking at how your perfectionism is impacting those around you; having high standards for yourself often also means having high standards for those around you.




You might be unwittingly stressing those around you out and overburdening them too.

Letting go of perfectionism does not mean that you’ve reneged on your personal commitment to excellence.

It only means that you’ll still push yourself, but you will no longer engage in counter-productive, relentless self-criticism, rumination, or take your failures as an indication of your worth as a person.


4. Practice mindfulness


One of the best things you can do for yourself when you’re feeling as depleted as you are in burnout is to start a regular mindfulness practice like meditation.

Think of it as an energy bar for the mind; quick and packed with nutrients.



When you start incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine, you’re giving yourself a solid source of stress-relief, sharpened mental focus, and increased resilience, all of which are powerful tools in recovering from burnout.

So much of the stress and pressure we feel on a daily basis tends to come from feeling overwhelmed. We burn out because we’ve spent too long feeling overwhelmed without feeling like we can do anything about it.



Mindfulness turns that around and puts the ball right back in your court. A simple 10-minute meditation in the morning and at night can do wonders in helping you to slow everything down, unplug, focus on the present, and take things one step a time.


5. Learn to turn off your work mode when you’re not working


Sometimes, burnout occurs because we’ve allowed our work to take up a bigger portion of our lives than what’s healthy.

There’s a time and place for everything; having a “no rest for the weary” mindset all the time is just as exhausting as it sounds.



When you’re in work mode all the time, you’re basically bringing all the stresses of work with you everywhere you go, whether you’re out for dinner with friends, spending time with family or loved ones, or even trying to sleep at night.

Taking care of yourself and striving for work-life balance is a crucial life skill for any working adult.

Outside of work, learn to turn off the work switch in your mind.



Find ways to engage and focus your mind and body in pursuits outside of work, whether that means picking up a hobby, attending arts performances, or trekking in a nature park depends largely on your preferences.

The point is, applying yourself to a pleasurable endeavour of your choice outside of your job keeps you aware that there is a world outside of the office and can help to release happiness hormones like dopamine in your brain.

And who doesn’t want to be happy?



5 Warning Signs You’re Burning Out At Work


As of 2019, Singapore has one of the most stressed workforces in the world, according to reports from TodayOnline.

So it isn’t inconceivable that job burnout actually happens more often here in Singapore than most of us realise.




And while top-down initiatives to curb job burnout may have increased in the last few years, the best way to tackle it probably boils down to the plain and simple fact: we each need to know how to take care of ourselves.

Start with taking SSA Academy’s WSQ course on developing personal effectiveness and learn indispensable skills on stress management and maintaining work-life balance.


What job burnout is & isn’t


Like any good fight, the first step to winning the battle is to know what you’re up against.

Job burnout typically refers to a prolonged state of near total depletion (mentally, physically, and emotionally.)



It might happen for 3 different reasons:

  • You’ve got way too much on your plate at work
  • You’re not feeling challenged enough at work
  • You feel like you’re not good enough to do your job


It’s not just about feeling tired from work; job burnout can make entire months feel torturous because it impairs your ability to function normally.


Warning signs


1. You’re just tired. All the time.


The alarm on your phone goes off: you’re tired. Sitting down for breakfast: you’re tired. Reaching the office: you’re tired. Time for lunch: too tired. Time to go home: tired, tired, tired.

Rinse & repeat for the next few days, then weeks, then months.



The most tell-tale sign of burnout is feeling exhausted all day long, regardless of whether you’re engaging in demanding tasks at work or not, and regardless of whether you went to bed at 10PM or 3AM the previous day.

If it carries on for long enough, you’ll even start hating coming to work every single day.


2. It’s difficult to care about doing your job well.

It’s not that you don’t know how to be great at what you do.

It’s that you just don’t really care anymore, probably because you’re too tired to think.


To you, the only thing that matters now is scraping by with the bare minimum of what’s expected of you.


3. The things you used to love about work don’t spark joy anymore.

Not everything sparks joy–your job certainly doesn’t anymore, not to you, anyways.

You might have loved the challenges that your job presented to you when you first came in, and even if you didn’t love every part of it, you genuinely looked forward to certain aspects of it more than others.




Now, you’re dragging your feet everywhere and dreading everything, including the things you used to treasure so much about your work.

It can be especially dismaying when you realise this because it paints such a vivid picture of how much things have changed since you first came in, and how tired you are of everything now.


4. You feel jaded about everything.

Forget aligning yourself with the company vision or its core values, forget feeling fulfilled at work, forget constantly trying to outdo yourself.




There’s such a jarring disparity between the current state of your job and what you initially thought it would look like, that it’s difficult to feel anything other than disillusioned.

It’s just not all it’s cracked up to be.


5. Taking care of yourself feels like a chore

Because it feels like you’re suffering from fatigue round the clock, even getting some good old self-care going feels hard.



How about hanging out with some friends after work? Nah, too tired.

Try sleeping earlier? Can’t, have to finish up on work.

Eating healthier? Who cares, I’ve got too much work to think about that!

4 Worst Leadership Mindsets That Breed The Most Resentment


To quote a well-known axiom: “People don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad bosses.” It may be a huge generalisation, but it still holds a lot of truth.

Bad bosses make for bad business: they drive up turnover rates, kill innovation, and make the office an incredibly toxic space.




Ironically, bad bosses generally tend not to think of themselves as bad bosses — they’re likelier to think they’re doing a great job.

Don’t be one of those bosses: starting conducting honest self-appraisals of your leadership, starting with your leadership mindsets.

If your mindset isn’t right, your behaviour won’t be either, so here are 4 leadership mindsets you NEED to steer clear of at all times.

(Or better yet, just don’t take any chances and just sign yourself up now for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on developing personal effectiveness.)


1. “Just do as you’re told”: Bossiness


Maybe you’re really busy and you don’t have the time to explain everything to everyone all the time. Fair enough.

But when it comes to giving instructions, barking orders like a broken tape recorder is the easiest way to drive a wedge between yourself and your employees.




They aren’t your minions. Sending them off on personal favours, disregarding protests and micro-managing them is only going to erode their respect support of you as a leader.


Solution:  Give directives, not orders


  • Mind your toneDO: “I need to you to help get this report done by Friday.”
    DON’T: “I want this report on my desk by Friday, understood?”
  • Encourage your employees to think of solutionsGet them to chime in on what they think is the best way to go about doing a particular task. This way, you’ll also be indirectly coaching them and cultivating their problem-solving skills.


2. “My way or the highway”: Rigidity


Constantly insisting that everything has to be done exactly how you said you want it done without allowing for alternative viewpoints or strategies from your employees is a good way to kill enthusiasm.




By making them feel like any input they try and make will be invalidated and overrun, you’re sending the (very self-absorbed) message that you think you’re the only one who knows how to get things done.

Worse, by establishing so much resistance to alternative pathways, you’re crippling their innovation and adaptability in the long-term.


Solution: Collaborate, don’t alienate


  • Open up the channels of communication and welcome alternative ways of doing things
  • Set clear goals for your team to achieve so they can be more focused in collaborating
  • Respect their insights: they probably have better insights about how things work on the ground than you since they’re the ones on the ground most of the time


3. “It’s your fault”: Playing the blame game


Things are bound to go wrong, whether it’s a failed experimental initiative or a genuine mistake one of your employees made.

How you react when it occurs determines whether or not your leadership will be respected.

If someone on your team has caused a blunder or failed at something they set out to do, chances are they’re already feeling pretty horrible about it. Berating them in front of the entire team will only make things worse.




Research shows that while humiliating someone in public might improve their work performance in the short term, it’s incredibly damaging in the long term.

Not only does it destroy morale; if it happens often enough, it only encourages them to shrink inward and eventually leave for greener pastures.


Solution: Focus on problem-solving and growth


  • Keep it private as much as possible if you need to reprimand an employee
  • Encourage them to take responsibility for the blunder: invite them to reflect on what went wrong, why it went wrong, what could have been done better and get back to you the next day about it
  • Don’t default to making threats unless absolutely necessary; using fear-based tactics in the workplace only creates a negative working environment and does nothing for productivity




4. “I’m never wrong”


Remember: leadership is a privilege and a responsibility, not a right. Growth is borne from a cycle of continuous improvement and constructive criticism, which doesn’t only apply to your employees.

The best leaders know that creating a culture where everyone feels comfortable giving feedback to one another (including the boss) is crucial to learning.




If you persistently resist negative feedback, fail to make a conscious effort to improve even when you’re criticised, and can’t seem to ever admit that you were wrong or made a mistake, you’re only feeding more and more resentment.


Solution: Leave your ego at the door


  • Ask for feedback.Giving negative feedback to an employer can be nerve-wracking and intimidating, so you need to bridge the gap first.
  • Lead by exampleShowing your team that you welcome honest feedback lets them know that you’re committed to constant growth, which can earn you their respect and motivate them to do the same



5 Ways To Stop Miscommunicating So Much At Work


It happens way too often in the office: A thinks B understood what he meant, B thinks A meant the other thing…

Neither of them realise it until a few days (or weeks!) later when it’s too late.




It’s common knowledge that prevention is better than the cure, but somehow, miscommunications still tend to be dealt with only after the fact.

Stop wasting time, money, and a little bit of sanity (because you know resolving miscommunications can make you tear your own hair out) — sign yourself up for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on communicating effectively at work.

Meanwhile, here’s a couple of communication strategies you can think about.


Personal Habits


1. Clarify, don’t assume


Too many miscommunications occur because everyone just assumes they’ve gotten themselves across clearly.

The reality is that assumptions are like breeding grounds for misunderstandings; when you assume you’ve been understood, you expect a certain course of action from the other person.




When your expectations aren’t met, you get upset at the other person, who thinks you’re just acting up for no reason, and gets upset with you in return.

It snowballs pretty quickly into a full-blown conflict from there.

All of this can be easily avoided from the get-go by simply asking if you’re on the same page instead of leaving things ambiguous, fuzzy, and ripe for misunderstanding.




Pro tip: if you sense your relationship with a co-worker souring because of a miscommunication, address it directly and respectfully to clear up any hard feelings that would make working together unnecessarily complicated.


2. Listen up


Distraction is now a hallmark of modern lifestyles.

The office communicator pings every 2 seconds, you get 30 new emails before lunchtime, your phone is perpetually vibrating, your co-workers keep talking over your head… it’s a lot.




Being constantly distracted eats at your ability to focus, even when you need to give someone your undivided attention. That’s when you tend to miss things out.

Even if you were paying attention throughout most of a meeting and only looked at your phone to send a quick email reply, you could miss important details, like a deadline that was pushed forward.




Quit being such a bad listener, and start learning to listen.

If you need pointers, communication expert Julian Treasure came up with a simple acronym (RASA) to help you listen better:

  • Receive
  • Appreciate
  • Summarise
  • Ask


3. Watch your non-verbal cues


Sometimes it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.

Even if you’re thanking your co-worker for doing you a favour, it can easily be misinterpreted if your body language is sending a completely different message.



Using the wrong tone, not turning your whole body to face the person who’s speaking to you, bouncing your leg while they’re talking, slouching…

All of it adds up to paint quite a negative picture of you and what you’re trying to say in the eyes of the other person.


Team Habits


4. Democratise communication


On an organisational level, a lot of miscommunication occurs when there are too many closed-off channels.

Rigid organisational hierarchies, for instance, can restrict communication to a one-way street from top to bottom and reduce employee engagement.




Consequently, leaders may assume that they’re doing a pretty good job at the helm when the rest of the team begs to differ.

Under-communication could happen too, since lower-level executives feel less valued at work without proper avenues to put forward new ideas for improving efficiency and performance.




Conversely, when there’s a culture of open communication within an organisation, there’s two-way communication, which creates a lot of transparency.

That builds trust and strengthens rapport, which could greatly reduce the frequency of miscommunication and neuter its potential to devolve into full-fledge communication breakdown.

Think about it.

The closer you feel to your teammates, the likelier you are to understand each other’s communication styles.

You’d also likely be more committed to making sure that misunderstandings don’t get out of hand.


Constructive Criticism


5. Sugarcoat less


Even when a culture of open communication has been established within a team, the art of giving constructive criticism can still be tricky.




It’s easy to take things personally or overreact in the moment, which is why some of us may try to cushion the blow by sugarcoating it way too much.

Truthfully? It’s confusing, takes away from the urgency of the negative feedback, and often doesn’t really solve the problem when all is said and done.

That doesn’t mean you need to be harsh about it: you just need to be a little bit more firm.



It’s possible to be supportive and provide direct, concise criticism at the same time. Here are some tips:

  • Preface yourself by re-establishing rapport
  • Start with a positive before you get into the negative
  • Be precise: say exactly what the problem is, why it’s a problem, and what changes have to be made
  • Don’t play the blame game: focus on what needs to happen moving forward

Today’s most successful companies tend to have one thing in common: positive work cultures.

It’s simple. Positive work cultures cultivate resilience, provide constant sources of motivation, and foster collaboration and innovation.

All of that translates into higher levels of job performance and job satisfaction, which in turn draws top talent.



If you haven’t gotten on the bandwagon yet, though, here’s a few techniques you might want to start introducing at your own workplace.

(Or just take SSA Academy’s WSQ course on applying emotional competence to manage yourself and others at work!)


1. Facilitate “flow”


What flow is


When you’re working on something you’re good at, you’ll enjoy it and perform better at it compared to if you were working on something you’re bad at.

That’s one of the ideas behind the psychological state of “flow”. 

Flow = an optimal inner experience that comes from being engaged in a task which:

  • suits your talents
  • but is slightly more challenging than your current skill level.



Research has shown that employees who regularly experience flow states at work weren’t just happier.

They could concentrate better, were more creative, and performed better.


How to facilitate flow

As a manager and a leader, your task is to help your employees achieve flow at work.

When assigning tasks, for example, you can optimise talent-project fit and encourage flow by being more deliberate about your delegating decisions, instead of assigning it purely based on who’s available.

That entails having a deeper familiarity with your individual team members’ strengths and their differing skill levels.



Alternatively, opening up the choice to your employees directly presents a more organic way of ensuring a good talent-project fit.

One good real-life example of this is Facebook’s famous hackathons: all-nighters where employees can put forward any idea that might improve systems or end products, and get together with other employees in a team to get it up and running.


2. Highlight praiseworthy actions regularly


Underappreciated = undermotivated


Even if you’re consistently churning out excellent work at a higher and faster rate than you were in your previous job, feeling undervalued and under-appreciated can be a major detriment to job satisfaction.

If it gets bad enough, it might even spiral into toxic environments fuelled by rampant gossiping behind closed doors, and generate feelings of enmity that reduce intrinsic motivation.



Insincere praise backfires

Recognising your employees’ hard work doesn’t necessitate a huge amount of fanfare or coming up with a ton of new awards and participation medals to give out.

In fact, it might have the opposite effect of coming across insincere and inattentive if you seem to only ever wait for opportune moments to give praise and recognise successes.




Similarly, creating incentive systems to encourage better performance is a popular practice today, but it can just as easily backfire and encourage employees to achieve tangible KPIs while paradoxically forgoing less tangible aspects of job performance.


Sincere praise validates

The easiest and most inexpensive solution here is also the one with the highest returns and the highest chances of being overlooked: practicing honest gratitude on a daily basis. 



Simply thanking your team, celebrating collective and individual successes, and being specific about the praise you give them goes a long way in helping your employees feel validated, successful, involved and appreciated at work.

For example, don’t just say “Good work on the presentation yesterday.” Give specifics about what was good about it: the delivery, the content, the way he or she engaged with the audience, and so on.



Don’t stop there: augment these positive sentiments by making it a habit for your entire team to express gratitude to one another regularly.

Consider, for instance, setting aside 5 minutes during your regular team meetings for anyone to bring up someone’s else successes or thank someone for helping out on a difficult task.

Not only will it help everyone feel more appreciated, it also builds rapport and rewards collaboration over counter-productive office-politicking.


3. Remind your team what the work is all about


Finding purpose


You aren’t here to sell a product or a service; you’re selling an emotion, a lifestyle, a benefit, a perspective, that accrues to your customer when they buy in.

Being cognisant of that can completely change the way you go about your work, because it re-frames your purpose in coming to work every day.




Disconnected = Disengaged


Amidst the daily hullabaloo of routines and workloads in the office, it’s easy to find yourself adopting a “just get the job done” mindset.

Similarly, the further down the pipeline your work is in the organisation and the more distant the direct relation between what you do and the end product or service your company sells, the more detached you can get from the company’s raison d’etre.



Conversely, if you can sit down to your desk every day knowing that the work you do really makes a difference in adding value and catalysing some kind of positive change to your end user’s life, you’d be much more resilient in facing new challenges and being committed to constantly outdoing yourself.

The challenge is doing this is in a way that doesn’t feel forced.


Reconnected = Reenergised

Constantly repeating your company vision, mission statement and core values to your team is great, but it can get too repetitive to have the desired effect on intrinsic motivation.

Worse, do it often enough and it starts to sound fluffy, like a utopian reality that’s only a vision and nothing more.



Make it a point to allow your team to actually witness or interact with the end user. 

When your employees can actually see tangible evidence of the positive effect their work has on someone or something out there in the real world, it can be a huge morale-booster and provide an excellent incentive to keep performing at work.



If bringing in someone who’s greatly benefitted from the work done at your company isn’t an option, sharing a glowing testimonial from a happy customer with your team is a simpler way of achieving the same ends.


You’re Sabotaging Your Own Career If You Do These 4 Things


You could be the best sprinter in the world, but if you box yourself in, refuse to move past your personal boundaries and insist that you’re fine just jogging on the spot, all the training in the world isn’t going to help you cross that finish line.

It’s the same thing with your career.




Without taking a long, honest look at yourself in the mirror and being honest about your limiting beliefs and your counterproductive habits, you’re likely to get stuck in career inertia no matter how many times you switch paths or change jobs.

Time to stop the cycle of self-sabotage: take SSA Academy’s WSQ course on developing personal effectiveness, or get started on your self-reflection with this list.


1. Pretending office politics aren’t a thing

Minding your own business might be a surefire way to stay safe in the workplace, but at what cost?

Like it or not, office politics are an inevitable part of working life.

While navigating it can feel like deliberately putting yourself through torture, it’s a necessary evil. In fact, attempting to completely ignore office politics will penalise you more than you realise.



That’s not a call to start brown-nosing or playing dirty. Rather, the key is to choose your battles wisely.

  • Know when to put yourself forward and when to let others shine.
  • Know when to stand up for yourself and when to let things slide.
  • Know how to build relationships and network, and know when to say no to people.  


2. Being a perfectionist

You probably said it during the job interview: “My biggest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist.”

While it might make you look good as a prospective hire, when you’re in the thick of things and drowning under your own work, it’s not such a good thing.

Let’s be clear: always, always, shoot for the stars.



But don’t overburden yourself with colossal expectations: you might waste valuable time trying to get everything perfect and end up still hating the end result because it obviously isn’t (and will never be) perfect, then become too harsh on yourself because you couldn’t live up to your own expectations.

All of this adds up to low self-efficacy: not believing you have what it takes to get the job done.

And if you don’t have confidence in yourself, you’re not going to get ahead.


3. Fear of success & failure

We’re all afraid of not being enough, just in different degrees. Some people know how to hide it better than others. Some of us–the best of us–still fear, but they don’t let it stop them.

Fear of failure often has its roots in low self-esteem. When you think very little of yourself, you respond either by overcompensating and chasing success at all costs–including compromising integrity and sabotaging others—to “prove” you’re worth something, or by holding yourself back.



Fear of success is a little trickier to identify, but it works in much the same way. If you’re afraid of finding out that your dream job won’t be all it’s cracked up to be, you’re likely to pass over opportunities to move forward and get noticed at work, convincing yourself that you’re okay where you are (when you’d actually rather be somewhere else.)




The antidote for both is as simple as it is difficult: just do it.

The only way to overcome your fears is to build self-efficacy, and the only way to build self-efficacy is take the plunge. When you succeed, you learn that you can actually do it. When you fail, you learn how to get better so that you’ll succeed one day. 



4. Working yourself to burnout

You won’t be of any use to anyone if you’re overextending yourself. Worse, coming to work miserable every day because you’re burnt out might rub off on your teammates, which is especially demotivating if you’re in a leadership position.



We might be mired in a culture that glorifies overwork as a sign of commitment and dedication, but the truth is that when you’re burnt out, sooner or later, your productivity takes a tumble, your ability to focus nosedives, and your work will get more and more slipshod.

Did that hit a raw nerve?



Do yourself a favour, and take care of yourself:

  • Don’t spread yourself too thin and guarantee over-promising and under-delivering
  • Learn how to say no
  • Pick up a regular mindfulness practice

Need more suggestions on preventing burnout? Here you go.

Alternatively, save yourself the added stress of working overtime: use these strategies to re-examine your personal productivity.

5 Strategies To Supercharge Your Team’s Creative Thinking


Between high-octane working days and streamlining workflows to maximise productivity, squeezing your creative juices when it’s crunch time can start to feel a little like trying to squeeze a dried prune. It’s just not working.

Part of the problem is that creativity tends to be conceptualised as a process that exists on the opposite end of the spectrum from productivity, which heightens resistance when you’re trying to switch gears between the two.



The key is to hit that sweet spot between the two extremes, otherwise known as “controlled chaos”– here’s how.

Solidify your team’s commitment to innovation in the workplace: take SSA Academy’s WSQ course in fostering initiative and enterprise in teams today.


1. Build cognitively diverse teams

When it comes to boosting creativity, one of the biggest pitfalls of group processes is having a homogenous team that thinks and sees things identically.

That alone can make it exponentially difficult to practice the mental agility and flexibility that’s required for creative thinking.




  • Put together a team which has different modes of thinking when it comes to problem-solving and information processing
  • If you already have a team, look at how you can improve their thought processes by encouraging their mental agility in different ways, like
    • perspective switching, or
    • pattern vs. detail thinking. 

2. Have clarity of purpose

Creativity can actually be facilitated–not impeded–by direction.

Each time you sit down for a brainstorming session or some such creative process with your team, preface the meeting by establishing the exact purpose of coming together to think creatively.

Having a defined problem statement, for example “We need a better way to ___ because ___” goes a long way in structuring your team’s thinking.



When formulating your problem statement: 

  • Ask what you’re trying to achieve? What is the problem you’re trying to solve with creativity? 
  • Ensure that it’s specific enough without being too niche to the point where it obstructs creativity.  

3. Cultivate a growth mindset to failure

Harbouring a risk-averse mindset greatly discourages creativity and innovation; you’re more likely to stick to the status quo instead of thinking of fresh, new, and unprecedented solutions to the problem at hand.

Singapore, in particular, is still a relatively risk-averse culture, which doesn’t create a very conducive atmosphere for innovation.



Since failures are an inevitable and necessary part of the creative process, discourage being afraid of failing by:

  • Creating a work culture that doesn’t stigmatise failure
  • Reframing the way failures are seen 

“I have not failed. I’ve simply found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” – Thomas Edison


4. Encourage horizontal & vertical thinking at different times

Different ways of thinking are more useful in different stages of the creative process.


Idea Generation stage

When you’re still brainstorming ideas and generating prospective solutions without too much consideration for their implications, horizontal thinking, which emphasises breadth in output, is more effective in the early stages of the creative process.




To facilitate horizontal thinking:

  • Create a non-judgmental, open setting where everyone is free to question established processes
  • Do away with organisational hierarchies during the session–it can make team members hesitate before sharing ideas


Idea Evaluation stage

When you start to narrow things down and evaluating the ideas based on their practicality, efficiency, and other criteria, vertical thinking will serve you better since it emphasises depth.



To facilitate vertical thinking, encourage your team to think critically, e.g.:

  • How each creative solution would work at every stage of the user experience
  • Looking at hard facts and evidence to support the execution of said solution. 

5. Create room for test runs

Idea generation will amount to nothing if there isn’t enough time or space to properly test out the viable ideas.

An organisational commitment to experimentation aids creativity by leaps and bounds, as exemplified in various policies at top companies like Google.

How this works in your organisation will depend on your specific situation, but there are several ways to ensure that your team has what they need to tinker around or conduct trial runs for their creative projects.



Some ways to do this:

  • Eliminating unnecessary red tape
  • Having a physical space dedicated to innovation e.g. Microsoft’s The Garage
  • Scheduling dedicated time for creative projects e.g. Google’s 20% policy or 3M’s 15% policy


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