Men encouraged to converse about emotions

SIPA staff during training
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Chris Elphick of Breadfruit Consulting

HAVING conversations about emotions is not one thing Solomon Islanders, particularly males talk about on a daily basis.

“I bet they’ve never sat down and have a conversation about their emotions”. This sentiment is shared by a trainer on behavioural skills, Mr Chris Elphick.

Mr Elphick from Breadfruit Consulting is based in Port Villa, Vanuatu and he and his partner, Hazel Kirkham look after the business focusing mainly on Melanesia. What they do is to support the development of businesses and organisations in Melanesia and other parts of the Pacific through training, coaching and mentoring in businesses.

Breadfruit Consulting apart from other topics also does what they call ‘soft skills’ training which focusses on human behaviour and attitude in the workplace.

When Island Sun last caught up with Elphick, he was in Honiara to carry out a weeklong workshop for senior staff and team leaders of the Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA) at the Heritage Park Hotel (HPH).

“As you can see for yourself, the room is full of men and yesterday we spent a lot of time focusing on our emotions. We started the day before and yesterday, two of the men came up to me and said, you know, last night I had a conversation with my wife, telling her about what I was learning. I had never done that before.”

Men in Solomon Islands tend to be quiet whilst women on the other hand will generally talk about anything even to a person they don’t know. In the workplace women often are the ones to raise issues, whilst men on the other hand will tend to be quiet and continue to do the task at hand with less protest. However, being quiet does also have its downside. Like a sleeping volcano.

SIPA staff during training

For leaders in the organisation, from strategy to hiring, no matter what they set out to do, their success depends on how they do it. When they thrive on positive emotions, they create a sparkling atmosphere and ensure success in staff’s performances. When they drive negative emotions, they also drive the organisation down and undermine group collaboration.

Dealing with change has always been difficult for any organisation. Some people feel okay and don’t believe any change is necessary whilst some are aware that a change is imminent but reject the change and its consequences whilst some might feel overwhelmed and confused because of the scope and pace of change. Then we have those people that embraced change and began working wholeheartedly in the changed environment.

In the country, Government state owned enterprises (SOEs) have been undergoing reforms to identify and address core issues within the SOE sectors.

Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA) is an SOE established under the Ports Act 1956 (amended in 1996) to operate the ports of Noro and Honiara.

With strong support from the Board and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) they had engaged Breadfruit Consulting to carry out training for its staff with the aim to unify the whole Ports organisation as ‘one team’.

“With its troubled history, what staff must realise is that despite working in different departments, they are all one and they represent the one organisation. We see staff from different departments within the organisation working distinctly from each other. This has to be changed if we want our organisation to move forward together.

“The world is changing. We need to do something and we need the team to move forward together if we want to see a difference in how we do things.”

At the same time, SIPA Training Manager, James Gerea said the training which they had undergone had definitely changed the participants’ mindset.

“It is more self-analysis of ourselves, our values and how we can manage our emotions. This training is the way forward and a direction which SIPA has to take with strong support from our CEO. If people remain the same, culture not changed, SIPA will remain the same. Let us not think that we will remain as it is, as we need to change too because we are no longer a monopoly,” Gerea says.

Behaviour change doesn’t come overnight but it is important for an organisation to have employees who deliver high-quality goods and services, Elphick says.

“A robust human resource with emotional intelligence will be able to boost the company in the right direction once they understand the different roles each one has to play in order to fulfill the company’s objectives.”

This training is said to make participants more aware of their surroundings, how they interact with their fellow colleagues in the workplace and mostly make them more aware of themselves as a person and how they fit in the company and the society as a whole.

“We need managers who are well equipped to deal with issues in the business. From what I’ve learnt over the years, a lot of managers come into the office and close the door. We must know how to deal with our human resources. We call it unlocking potential in the pacific. I think a lot of our potential is locked up by our behaviours. If you can find a way in expressing yourself, you are going to start unlock something within you,” Elphick says.

The training for SIPA was carried out mainly for team leaders and senior staff with leadership roles who will be able to practise and pass what they have learnt to the junior staff.

Breadfruit Consulting is carrying out ongoing training for SIPA and will be heading down to the west soon to facilitate the same training for its staff in Noro.

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