This Is How Bureaucracy Dies – rethinking our organisations

 

This post draws together a handful of articles published in the same week between the 16th – 24th April 2014 that all challenge our existing organisation practices, and point the way to an already-here future.

In this post you will find ideas about how we might need to keep ideas, learning and communications in a much more open, free and constant flow into and out from our organisations;

the eleven qualities Google look for in recruiting their employees;

why the smartest organisations and their people are increasingly taking time off and unplugging from being always working;

a better way to think about motivating and energsing employees who appear to be lazy and incompetent;

and five steps for aligning your organizational culture to drive strategic development and change.

And I have taken its title from an article published in CNN Money by Gary Hamel, co-founder of the MIX (Management Innovation eXchange) and author of “The Future of Management” and “What Matters Now.” He’s a visiting professor at London Business School.

This Is How Bureaucracy Dies

By Gary Hamel

Eventually, every firm will discover that it’s quite possible to manage without managers.

The web has delivered a dramatic shift in bargaining power from producers to consumers. What’s coming next is an equally dramatic and irreversible shift in power from institutions to individuals. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is just the beginning. If your organization is going to attract and engage the most creative individuals in the world, then you have to think about how you might help facilitate SYOG—Set Your Own Goals, DYOJ—Design Your Own Job, PYOC—Pick Your Own Colleagues, AYOE—Approve Your Own Expenses, or CYOB—Chose Your Own Boss.

More generally, you should ask yourself, “What sort of value could I create for my organization if I were as committed to reinventing my firm’s management model as I am to further optimizing the operating model or the business model? What would happen if my team fully exploited the revolutionary potential of big data, cloud services, mobile technology, and the social web to dismantle formal hierarchy and empower every associate and team member? And where would I start?”

Inevitably, more and more of the work of managing and leading – the work of setting priorities, devising strategy, reviewing performance, divvying up work and allocating rewards – is going to be distributed to the edges of the organization. Every firm will discover, as some already have, that it’s quite possible to manage without managers

Human beings are resilient, inventive, and passionate, but our organizations mostly aren’t. Our bureaucracy-infused management models have left us with organizations that are less capable than the people who work within them. Therein lies the imperative and the opportunity: creating organizations that are fit for the future, by creating organizations that are fit for human beings.

Link to read Gary Hamel’s article in full

puzzle pieces What if our thinking is wrong?

puzzle pieces
What if our thinking is wrong?

What If We’re Thinking About Organisations All Wrong?

 

11 Qualities Google Looks for in Job Candidates

Drake Baer writes in Business Insider:

Google receives between 2.5 and 3.5 million job applications a year.

It only hires about 4,000 people.

Senior vice president of People Operations, Laszlo Bock presides over the ultra-selective process.

In interviews with The New York Times, the Economist, and students on Google+, the hiring boss sheds light on how the search giant evaluates candidates.

We sifted through those interviews for the most surprising takeaways.

Google doesn’t look for experts. 

“We would rather hire smart, curious people than people who are deep, deep experts in one area or another,” he says, noting that people with strong learning ability can generally find the right answers to unfamiliar questions. “But somebody who’s been doing the same thing forever will typically just replicate what they’ve seen before.”

Google does want people with high “cognitive ability.”  

“If you hire someone who is bright, and curious, and can learn, they’re more likely to come up with a new solution that the world hasn’t seen before,” Bock explained in a Google+ Q&A. “This looking for cognitive ability stems from wanting people who are going to reinvent the way their jobs are going to work rather than somebody who’s going to come in and do what everybody else does.”

Google seeks out people with “grit.”

As breakthrough research in education shows, grit — the ability to keep slogging through difficult work — is more important for success than raw IQ.

Google wants to know whether candidates can tackle difficult projects.

The company used to be famous for asking cranium-crashing brainteasers, like “what is the probability of breaking a stick into three pieces and forming a triangle?” But it found they weren’t that helpful, and have since moved on.

Now, Google’s interviews include questions about the candidate’s concrete experiences, starting with queries like “give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.”

By asking people to speak of their own experiences, Bock says, you get two kinds of information: “You get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable ‘meta’ information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.”

Google wants candidates with analytical skills. 

“Analytical training gives you a skill set that differentiates you from most people in the labor market,” he says.

Google expects people to meet ridiculously high standards. 

“We don’t compromise our hiring bar, ever,” Bock says. Because of this, job listings stay open longer at Google than you’d expect, he says — they have to kiss a lot of frogs before finding The One.

But Google doesn’t care about test scores.

While in school, people are trained to give specific answers. “It’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer,” Bock says. “You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.”

Google wants to know how much candidates have accomplished compared to their peers.

When Bock was explaining how to write resumes to Thomas Friedman at The Times, he said that most people miss that the formula for writing quality resumes is simple: “I accomplished X, relative to Y, by doing Z.”

For example, Bock explained that a lot of people would just write, “I wrote editorials for The New York Times.”

But a stand-out resume would be more specific about their accomplishments and how they compared to others. Bock gives a better example: “Had 50 op-eds published compared to average of 6 by most op-ed [writers] as a result of providing deep insight into the following area for three years.”

Google looks for employees who know when to step up and take a leadership role. 

“What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else? Because what’s critical to be an effective leader in this environment is you have to be willing to relinquish power.”

Google wants to see people who take ownership of projects. 

With that sense of ownership, you’ll feel responsible for the fate of a project, making you ready to solve any problem. But you also need to defer when other people have better ideas: “Your end goal,” explained Bock, “is what can we do together to problem-solve. I’ve contributed my piece, and then I step back.”

Google wants to see humility, too. 

You need “intellectual humility” to succeed at Google, he says. “Without humility, you are unable to learn.”

Success can become an obstacle, Bock says, since successful, Google-bound folks don’t often experience failure. So they don’t know how to learn from failure.

Instead of having an opportunity to learn, they blame others. Bock explains:

“They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved. …

What we’ve seen is that the people who are the most successful here, who we want to hire, will have a fierce position. They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact,’ and they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.’

Link to read this article in full

 

jigsaw2 metaphor for organisations and their people

jigsaw2
metaphor for organisations and their people

Don’t Miss Out On The Well-Being Revolution

by Kim Farbota

The idea that working less could actually advance our careers is gaining traction.

In her recent New York Times No. 1 best-seller, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, The Huffington Post President and Editor-in-Chief, Arianna Huffington, describes a definition of success that goes beyond money and power to include a “Third Metric” that embraces self-nurturing, connectedness and attention to the elements of our lives we most value. The book points out the importance of sleeping more, setting technology limits and taking time to step back and reflect.

These things don’t just make people happier, they are associated with longer, more fulfilling careers and more profitable companies.

But there is a sense of fierce competition in the current market, and an antiquated cultural ethos suggests true success is reserved for those willing to sacrifice the most. Furthermore, there is a fear that young pioneers of a Third Metric approach will be penalized in the workplace. One “Strive Meets Thrive” attendee described it as a prisoner’s dilemma: If we all agree to take Sundays off and not check our email after 8 p.m., the promotion will go to whomever cheats.

This might be true if the only difference between two employees is a willingness to stay plugged in 24/7. But this is flawed logic; regularly unplugging to get a restful night’s sleep is correlated with improved decision-makingbetter focus and higher quality work product. Over time, the employee respecting the limits will likely outshine her always-on-call counterpart.

Being a top performer without sacrificing wellness requires discipline.

After a long day of work, it’s hard to go straight to bed without taking time to unwind. But journaling or meditating for 30 minutes before going to sleep at a reasonable hour will make for a better next day than binge watching House of Cards. Even staying up to work more hampers efficiencyemotional intelligence and constructive thinking skills.

There is a lingering and mistaken acceptance that tough choices must be made between success and happiness. Yet the science is here, and the revolution of well-being is already underway. Leaders across the world in the public and private sector alike are implementing email limitsreducing hours and promoting employee health.

We as individuals can invest in our careers by investing in ourselves. By identifying and prioritizing the things that keep us healthy, grounded and fulfilled we ensure consistent, long-term achievement and a life of success.

Link to read this article in full

 

A Better Way To Think About Lazy and Incompetent Employees

by Sam McNerney

In Switch, Dan and Chip Health discuss the research of James March, a professor of political science at Stanford University. According to March, we rely on one of two models when we decide: the consequences model and the identity model. The consequences model is what you use at the grocery story. It’s analytical. As we stroll down the aisle we weigh the costs and benefits of each item. The identity model is more existential. It revolves around three questions: Who am I? What kind of situation is this? What would someone like me do in this situation?

Generally, the identity model runs the show, which explains why we gravitate towards certain brands even when they are not cost-effective.

March’s distinction could be a helpful tool in terms of motivating employees…

Motivation is usually an identity problem.

We underperform not necessarily because we’re lazy or incompetent but because we don’t feel a tight connection between work and identity.

If turnover (or performance) is a problem, try showing people that their work matters and that it affects other people. Threats and pressure might be ineffective because they don’t connect the dots.

We’re at our best when we’re shown that what we do aligns with who we are…

Link to read this article in full

Jigsaw 4 metaphor for organisations and people fitting in

Jigsaw 4
metaphor for organisations and people fitting in

5 Steps to Align Culture to Get Your Employee’s Strategic Buy-In

by 

Culture eats strategy… strategy trumps culture… on which side of the culture/strategy divide do you fall?

I tend to side with culture – primarily because culture drives the behaviors of individuals who are the one that achieve your strategy (or not). But culture is the driving force.

Regardless of where you stand, it’s undeniable culture and strategy are deeply intertwined in organizations large and small, global or local, public or private, for-profit or non-profit.

Towers Watson defines culture as “the shared beliefs (either explicit or implicit) that exist within a company and drive behaviors. They write, ”The real question we should be asking is: “How do we understand, manipulate, redirect or recreate the shared beliefs in such a way to drive the real behaviors we need to succeed?”

5 steps to a strategy/culture connection

I recommend a five-step process (using the “Customer Service” strategy as an example):

  1. Redefine the culture attributes into actionable core values. (Information Sharing, Teamwork, Customer Focus, Leadership, Decision Making, Taking Action)
  2. Define behaviors associated with each of those core values. (Teamwork behaviors: Committed to common goals, active participation and leadership, open communication up and down the chain, willing sharing of resources)
  3. Frequently and very specifically recognize any and all employees who demonstrate those behaviors by calling out clearly the core value demonstrated and explaining how those behaviors impacted you, the team, the customer or the company for the better. (Sam, you really lived our value of Teamwork when you went out of your way to locate the necessary research materials needed to move the Juno project forward. You didn’t have the information yourself, but you knew who did and how to get that information in the right hands. By doing so quickly and without prompting or direction, you helped us beat project deadlines, thrilling our client and making them a partner for years to come.)
  4. Share that recognition across the organization so it can serve as training for otherson what desirable “Teamwork” behaviors look like in the daily work, encouraging others to demonstrate similar actions.
  5. Closely monitor, measure and report on areas where values are being more or less recognized to intervene where necessary with additional training or resources to ensure all employees both understand and are committed to achieving the company’s strategy – in their own work, every day.

What is the primary strategic goal for your organization?

How are you aligning your culture (and the associated daily behaviors of employees) to achieve your strategy?

Link to read this article in full

jigsaw3 metaphor for organisations and people working together

jigsaw3
metaphor for organisations and people working together

Happiness At Work edition #93

You will find all of these stories in this weeks new Happiness At Work edition £93 collection, along with several more that explore ideas from whether procrastination is genetically inherited, to a report that single parented children and just as happy as their two parented peers, to the new science that explains why chocolate and being by the the ocean is very good for us.

I hope you find things here to use and enjoy…

n

What does ‘keeping it real’ mean these days?

Blue Trees ? -Sue Ridge

Blue Trees ? -photo by Sue Ridge

This week’s theme considers what it means these days to be real – and/or to be seen to be real.
I’ve collected here some stories about the blurred relationship we have between what we think of as authentic and what we think of as manufactured and whether one is better than the other.
And stories that question some of the assumptions we might be making about what is good – or bad – for us, at least attempting to interrogate a little more brightly one or two of the maxims we hold to be true in our early 21st century age.
There is a wonderful rambunctious rant by the always deliberately outrageous provocateur Tom Peters, who here is listing some the Blindingly Obvious Things we continue to ignore.
Perhaps some of things that some of us have long believed to be true and looking more sure:  one of this week’s top research news stories reports the London School of Economics findings that participating in arts activity brings us more happiness than a £1,000+ pay rise.  So too does sport, which I suspect more of us thought we knew already.  The bigger news is that arts participation and spending time in libraries turn out to really be up there in the high happiness returns too.
The best happiness provider is swimming, so if you want to combine pool time with arts participation and get the extra bonus of being part of a international community event, you might want to check out the Brockwell Lido Fun Palace 2014.  (And if you’re not a Londoner this may inspire you to make your own Fun Palace – there is still time.  Just.)

And before you take the plunge into all the words that make this post, you might like to first give yourself a 5minute dip into artist Sue Ridge’s meditative, languorous, hyper-realised video: The Swimmer, which you will find in the video section of her website.   (And my big thanks to Sue Ridge again for her inspirational photos that headline and end this post.)

The Blue Trees in London - photo by Sue Ridge

The Blue Trees in London photo by Sue Ridge

Trees for Cities – The Blue Trees In London

The colour and the Tree come together to transform and affect each other; the colour changing the Tree into something surreal, something out of this world, speaking of the importance of trees in our urban environment. 

“By colouring the trees blue, we want people to stop and notice these beautiful trees, which are so often taken for granted”, says Sharon Johnson, Chief Executive of Trees for Cities. “It is well reported in the UK that there has been a decline in urban trees over the last decade, and the threat from disease is on the increase.  Over 80% of the population will live in cities by 2050.  We urgently need to protect and plant more trees to help foster a sense of well being and happiness in our cities”.

With the Blue Trees, the colour and the Tree become a sculptural work referencing people’s lives, their daily existence and how individually and collectively we shape the world we inhabit.

Konstantin Dimpoulos, Australian artist and creator of the Blue Trees said: “I have always known that art is and always has been an extended part of nature and that art can effect social change.  For that to happen one has to move out of the art institutions and galleries and move outside among nature and human beings in their living spaces”

Link to the Blue Trees  in London website

Konstantin Dimpoulos’ Blue Trees

“What do you think of when you think of trees…?”

Dancing makes people as happy as a £1,600 pay rise

Official figures reveal for the first time how culture and sport make people as happy as being given pay rises worth thousands of pounds

Visiting the library, dancing and going swimming makes people as happy as a £5,000 pay rise, official figures have shown for the first time.

Researchers from the London School of Economics found that sports, culture and the arts can have a significant impact on people’s happiness.

They then assessed how much money it would take to give people a similar boost in their level of well being.

They concluded that playing sport on a weekly basis is worth the equivalent of being given £1,127 a year, while regular involvement in the arts such as music, dance and plays is worth £1,084 a year.

The most beneficial activity is taking part in dancing, which is worth £1,671 a year, closely followed by swimming which is worth £1,630 a year. Visiting libraries on a regular basis is worth £1,359 a year…

The report suggested that swimming had a more significant impact on people’s well-being than almost any other sport, almost than twice as much as football and cycling.

The research suggests that taking part in cultural activities, as opposed to being in the audience, makes people significantly happier.

As well as the benefits of dancing, taking part in craft activities is equivalent to a £1,000 pay rise.

By contrast listening to music is worth £742 a year, although going to plays is a significantly more valuable experience worth £999 a year.

The analysis also found that people who regularly enjoyed the arts were 5.4 per cent more likely to report good health, while those involved in sport were 14.1 per cent more likely to be healthy.

People who take part in sports save the NHS almost £100 a year, while those who enjoy cultural activities such as films, exhibitions and plays save the NHS £37 a year.

People who attended arts events and played sports were also significantly more likely to give to charity, while the research also suggested that culture and sport could motivate unemployed people to find work.

Link to read the original Telegraph article

Think authenticity is about being honest and open? Think again

by Dr Nina Burrowes is a psychologist and author of The Little Book on Authenticity

Authenticity is a concept often discussed in the workplace, especially when it comes to leadership. Today when people use the term “authenticity” they usually mean that they are being honest and open. To be an authentic leader is to be genuine.

Whilst being genuine in the workplace is both challenging and valuable, to use the term “authenticity” in this way is to misunderstand its original meaning, not to mention missing out on the true value that authenticity has to offer.

If you want to understand the true meaning of authenticity you need to go back to its root. The Latin root of the word “authenticity” is “author”, so being “authentic” doesn’t mean being honest about who you are, it’s about being your own “author”. Authenticity is an active and creative process. It’s not about revealing something, it’s about building something; and that something is “you”…

If you want to be authentic in the workplace, don’t focus on revealing who you are, instead focus on creating and truly becoming yourself.  Read the article

Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play when no one has the time – book review

In her Guardian review of Schulte’s book  writes:

Fighting “the overwhelm” means identifying the problem, and there are three villains in this book: our jobs, our expectations and ourselves. Give a small cheer here if you live in Europe, because it turns out that America really, really hates its citizens and wants them to be unhappy. “The US is the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee workers paid time off,” Schulte writes. “Nearly one-quarter of all American workers get no paid vacation, most of them low-wage and part-time workers.” Oh, and don’t expect any paid maternity leave either; there is no legal requirement to offer it. All this is a legacy of the religious right’s dominance in the 1970s, when firebrands such as Pat Buchanan decided that nurseries were probably a plot to indoctrinate children and make them into tiny commies. Schulte gazes longingly towards Scandinavia, with its family-friendly policies, but the US situation sounds so bad I even felt a twang of pride for Blighty.

The next cause of the overwhelm is a construct Schulte calls the “ideal worker”. The ideal worker is the perfect capitalist machine-part, never seizing up or breaking down, always ready for overtime or foreign travel, never missing a day to look after a sick child or parent. Many businesses are in the grip of “presenteeism”, imagining that there is a perfect correlation between time spent with bum on office chair and productivity. There isn’t: research shows most people can only do eight hours of quality work a day. After that, they are just desk meat, surreptitiously playing Solitaire in a browser window or daydreaming about dinner. A macho long-hours culture hurts men just as much as women: when new dads ask for flexible working, they get burned both by the assumption they are not dedicated to the job and the assumption they are big old Girlie Men.

 We can’t blame everything on heartless employers, though. The relatively affluent have to take some responsibility for worshipping at the Altar of Overwork, an attitude Schulte calls “busier than thou”. Just as having a tan became a status symbol once it denoted that you could afford foreign holidays, so being overwhelmed is a badge of honour for middle-class professionals. Oh, between Jonny’s clarinet lessons and my Mandarin classes and Steve getting promoted to partner, I don’t have a minute to myself, they trill. Having no free time makes the point you don’t just have a job. You have a career. You are Going Somewhere.

Schulte’s prescription is simple: decide whether you love the bragging rights of being busy enough to live in a debilitating whirlwind of activity. If you don’t, perhaps leave the clarinet unmolested and the boxercise class undone. As for housework, one researcher’s message to women is refreshingly simple: be a slattern. “Do you have to be able to do open-heart surgery on the kitchen floor?” he asks. Also, make sure Himself pulls his weight.

This book’s strength is mixing research and anecdote in a lively, accessible way, with a reporter’s eye for detail.  The obvious criticism is that Schulte’s message speaks largely to uptight overachievers in creative fields, and being told to lobby for a four-day week or a 4pm hometime won’t cut much ice if you are on the minimum wage or a zero-hours contract. (The author does acknowledge that the figure for average working hours is misleading because it obscures the gulf between the crazy-busy top of the labour market and the underemployed bottom, yet is otherwise prone to breezy generalisations.) But, of course, a book like this can’t hope to tackle every aspect of such a complex subject, and even if it did, no one would have time to read the result. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Link to read the full Guardian review of Schulte’s book

Cultivating happiness often misunderstood, says Stanford researcher

Stanford research explores the concept of maximizing happiness, and finds that pursuing concrete “giving” goals rather than abstract ones leads to greater satisfaction.

by Clifton B. Parker

The paradox of happiness is that chasing it may actually make us less happy, a Stanford researcher says.

So how does one find happiness? Effective ways exist, according to new research.

One path to happiness is through concrete, specific goals of benevolence – like making someone smile or increasing recycling – instead of following similar but more abstract goals – like making someone happy or saving the environment.

The reason is that when you pursue concretely framed goals, your expectations of success are more likely to be met in reality. On the other hand, broad and abstract goals may bring about happiness’ dark side – unrealistic expectations…  Read this article

Why Chasing Happiness May Leave You Feeling Unhappier Than Ever

Reporting this research in Forbes magazine, Amy Morin writes:

Sometimes people incorrectly assume that having children, getting a new job, or becoming self-employed will automatically equate to increased happiness. But often, these changes don’t result in the increased happiness that people expect. When attempts to increase happiness fail, it can leave people feeling unhappier than ever.

Here are some examples of concrete and attainable prosocial goals:

  • Instead of saying you want to make someone happy, set out to make someone smile.
  • Rather than deciding that you will help the less fortunate, decide to donate two bags of groceries to a food pantry every week.
  • Substitute changing the world for working at a soup kitchen one day a month.

Creating attainable goals helps establish reasonable expectations for how much happiness you’ll experience when the goal is accomplished. Following through with your action steps to help other people can increase your overall life satisfaction and sense of happiness. Set out to make the world a better place one small step at a time and your happiness meter is also likely to climb.

Link to read the full Forbes article

“Mr. Peters is an enthusiast, a storyteller and a lover of capitalism. He says that effective management is management that delivers more value to customers and more opportunity for service, creativity and growth to workers. He is saying that the decent thing to do is also the smart thing. It’s a wonderful message.”
paul weaver, hoover institute, in the wall street journal

Tom Peters:  Excellence.  No Excuses

Here are some of the headings from Tom Peters’ 603-page superdoc rant: “Excellence. NO EXCUSES” which you can also access in PDF and PowerPoint formats.

What started when Tom copied a few Twitter conversations and made them into a PDF has turned into a magnum opus, now 57 parts,

As he points out (p.21), “Most of our conscious life will be at work. Like it or not. Waste your work life and you have effectively wasted your life.”

a ‘BLINDING FLASH OF THE OBVIOUS.’ – something we KNOW but relentlessly time and again fail to practice.” (Peters’ own capitals throughout; my bold emphases)

Blinding Flash of the Obvious:

We know putting people REALLY first translates into mid- to long-term growth and maximized profitability. SO WHY DON’T WE DO IT?

We know … GREAT TRAINING … pays for itself 100 times over—in business just much as in sports and the arts. SO WHY DON’T WE DO IT?

We know a simple “THANK YOU” is the greatest of all motivators. SO WHY DON’T WE DO IT?

And on—and on—it goes.

Frankly, I am in a rotten mood. If I was preaching rocket science, and people didn’t “get it,” that’d be one thing. But each of the 27 points in this brief introductory section do amount to, beyond doubt, a … BFO/BLINDING FLASH OF THE OBVIOUS:

BFO #1: If you (RELIGIOUSLY) help people — EVERY SINGLE PERSON, JUNIOR OR SENIOR, LIFER OR TEMP — grow and reach/exceed their perceived potential, then they in turn will bust their individual and collective butts to create great experiences for Clients — and the “bottom line” will get fatter and fatter and fatter. (ANYBODY LISTENING?) (PEOPLE FIRST = MAXIMIZED PROFITABILITY. PERIOD.) (ANYBODY LISTENING?) (FYI: “People FIRST” message 10X more urgent than ever in the high-engagement “AGE OF SOCIAL BUSINESS.”)

BFO 2: ENABLING “ALL HANDS” GROWTH IS LEADER DUTY #1. (And ALL good things flow from there.)

BFO 3: The “CTO”/Chief Training Officer should (MUST!) be on a par with the CFO/CMO. (In a 45-minute “tour d’horizon” of the enterprise: I GUARANTEE 9 out of 10 CEOs* [*10 of 10?] wouldn’t once mention training. THAT = DISGRACE.)

BFO 4: OUT-READ ‘EM. AGE 17. AGE 77.
2014: READ & GROW … or wilt.
(One financial services superstar pegs CEO prob #1: “They don’t read enough.”) STUDENTHOOD (OBSESSION THEREWITH) (for ALL of us) FOR LIFE!

BFO 5: Organizations exist for ONE reason … TO BE OF SERVICE. PERIOD. (And effective leaders in turn are … SERVANT LEADERS. PERIOD.)

BFO 6: The … HEART OF THE MATTER (productivity, quality, service, you name it) … is the typically under-attended … FIRST-LINE BOSS. (Your FULL CADRE of first-line bosses is arguably … ASSET #1.)

BFO 7: WTTMSW. (Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins.)
WTTMSASTMSUTFW. (Whoever Tries The Most Stuff And Screws The Most Stuff Up The Fastest Wins.)
“A Bias For Action”: #1 Success Requisite in 1982.
“A Bias For Action”: #1 Success Requisite in 2014.

BFO 8: “Fail faster. Succeed sooner.”
“Fail. Forward. Fast.”
“Fail. Fail again. Fail better.”
“REWARD excellent failures. PUNISH mediocre successes.”
Book/Farson: Whoever Makes The Most Mistakes Wins.

BFO 9: Enabling change: It’s NOT NOT NOT about “vanquishing (ignorant) foes.” It’s ALL ALL ALL about recruiting and nurturing … ALLIES.

BFO 10: Year = 220 lunches. WASTE NOT ONE. Cross-functional SNAFUs (Situation Normal, All F****d Up) #1 problem for most orgs. Software … WILL NOT … fix it. ONLY … “Social Stuff” works—e.g., makin’ pals in other functions; lunch = Strategy #1.
Goal: XFX/Cross-Functional Excellence … or die trying.

BFO 11: Excellence is NOT an “aspiration.” Excellence IS the next 5 minutes. (Or not.)

BFO 12: In Search of Excellence theme song: “Hard is soft. Soft is Hard.” (e.g., Numbers are the “soft stuff”—witness the crash. Solid relationships/ integrity/trust/teamwork = True “hard stuff.”)
Strategy is important.
Systems are important.
CULTURE is … MORE IMPORTANT.
(Serious change = Tackling the culture. PERIOD.)
(Even “Mr. Analysis,” in his autobiography, Lou Gerstner, IBM turnaround CEO, reluctantly acknowledged culture’s unequivocal primacy in the big-change-game.)

BFO 13: Apple’s market cap surpasses ExxonMobil’s.
Why?
D-E-S-I-G-N.
Are YOU obsessed by … DESIGN? (In EVERY nook and EVERY cranny of EVERY tiny or humongous enterprise—and in your own professional affairs.)

BFO 14: WOMEN BUY EVERYTHING. WOMEN ARE THE MOST EFFECTIVE LEADERS. WOMEN ARE THE MOST SUCCESSFUL INVESTORS. (Does your organization … UNMISTAKABLY … reflect that from stem to stern?)

BFO 15: Forget B-I-G. (100% of biggies UNDER-perform long-term.) Instead build national wealth around … “MITTELSTAND” companies—MIDSIZE SUPERSTAR NICHE DOMINATORS—in ANY category you can name. (C.f., Germany.) (Battle cry: “Be the best. It’s the only market that’s not crowded.” WHY ELSE BOTHER?)

BFO 16: The problem is RARELY the problem. The lackluster RESPONSE to the problem is invariably the real problem. Answer? Slavishly adhere to these two response commandments: OVERKILL. UNEQUIVOCAL APOLOGY.

BFO 17: What do people (most) desire—including thee and me?
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT.
So: Show your appreciation … BIG TIME/ALL THE TIME. (Track it … RELIGIOUSLY!) (“Acknowledgement” is … THE MOST POWERFUL WORD IN THE LEADER’S VOCABULARY.)

BFO 18: The two most powerful words in the English language are?
No contest: “THANK YOU.”
(ACT ACCORDINGLY—e.g., OBSESSIVELY.)

BFO 19: Have you done your MBWA/Managing By Wandering Around … TODAY? If not, why not? (Hint: There are … ZERO ACCEPTABLE EXCUSES.)

BFO 20: Your CALENDAR knows your TRUE priorities.
Do YOU?
You … ARE … your calendar.
Your calendar … NEVER LIES.

BFO 21: What is the individual’s/organization’s #1 enduring strategic asset? Easy:
ASSET #1 = INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE EXCELLENCE AT …
L-I-S-T-E-N-I-N-G.
(Listening can be … TAUGHT. Listening PER SE is a … PROFESSION. Are YOU a “stellar professional listener”? THINK ABOUT IT. PLEASE.)

BFO 22: Aim to make EVERY internal and external experience (PRODUCT/ SERVICE/SYSTEM/EMPLOYEE INTERACTION/CUSTOMER INTERACTION/ COMMUNITY INTERACTION) a … WOW!
WOW = WOW. USE THE “W-WORD” PER SE!
E.g., Do 4 out of your Top 5 projects score 8 or above on a 10-point “WOW Scale”? If not, get on it:
NOW.
TODAY.
(WITHIN THE HOUR.)

BFO 23: While on the topic of … WOW:
White collar work is by and large ticketed to fall prey to artificial intelligence/eye-popping algorithms as well as globalization. Stand there and take it on the chin?
NO.
My answer (1999 book, The Professional Service Firm 50):
CONVERT EVERY “DEPARTMENT”/”UNIT” (AND YOURSELF) INTO A FULL-FLEDGED … “PSF”/PROFESSIONAL SERVICE FIRM … WHOLLY DEDICATED TO EXCELLENCE & WOW & ADDING SKYSCRAPING VALUE TO THEIR CUSTOMERS’ (USUALLY INTERNAL CUSTOMERS) ACTIVITIES.
Why not?
There is no good reason not to proceed in this direction within the fortnight!

BFO 24: EVERY DAY PROVIDES A DOZEN (LITERALLY) LEADERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES FOR EVERY ONE OF US. (Every = EVERY. From the most junior—and even the 3-day temp—to the Big Dudes.)
GRAB AT LEAST ONE.

BFO 25: CIVILITY WORKS. CIVILITY PAYS.
E.g.: K = R = P.
Kindness = Repeat business = Profit.
(ONE MORE TIME: “Kindness” is N-O-T “Soft.”)

BFO 26: Most of us/most organizations discount … INTROVERTS. THAT IS A … FIRST-ORDER STRATEGIC BLUNDER. (Please read Susan Cain’s book QUIET. It was a no-bull lifechanger for me.)

BFO 27: Listen (HARD) to my old D.C. boss, Fred Malek:
“EXECUTION IS STRATEGY.”
(Execution: That all-important … “LAST 99 PERCENT.”)

Read the original article

small changes in the work space can go a long way

small changes in the work space can go a long way     photo credit

10 Unusual Ways to Improve Employee Productivity

by 

The University of Warwick in the UK recently published research highlighting that happiness can increase employee productivity by up to 12%. Separate research by the New Economics Foundation in 2013 suggested that in some creative industries, happiness can improve productivity by up to 50%. Furthermore, academic research in the US found that when employees were in a good mood they performed their least favorite tasks better than when they didn’t feel as happy.

With employee productivity so crucial to business growth, it should be encouraging to companies to learn that employee happiness is so closely connected to their performance, because employee happiness is not a myth; it can and does exist.

What was interesting about the original Warwick University research was how quickly and easily employees’ moods were boosted by eating chocolate and watching comedy for ten minutes. While this is an affordable and active way to boost somebody’s mood in the short-term, it is perhaps not the most cost- or time-efficient approach to ensuring employee happiness, and thus productivity, in the long-term.

For many years academics have been conducting surveys and research to establish proven ways that improve happiness in the workplace. The findings – many of which are summarised below – include a number of quick, easy and low-cost ways companies can start boosting employee happiness and productivity.

Get Some Plants…

…working in an environment with plants was very effective at improving staff health by reducing coughs, headaches and skin ailments.

Better Use of Space and Better Furniture…

small changes to the working environment can go a long way. Research in New Zealand has shown that investment in ergonomic furniture and effective use of space could increase productivity by up to 64%.

Organised Exercise Breaks…

…The same research in New Zealand showed that when exercise breaks were encouraged there was a 25% increase in staff productivity and separate research shows that taking four short walks a day can boost a person’s mood for as long as 11 hours.

Keep Your Promises…

…many employees consider a good manager to be someone who keeps their promises and puts employees first.

Make Managers Happy…

Professor Cary Cooper of Lancaster University explains that the main cause of unhappiness in employees is line managers. Investing in line manager happiness as a priority and encouraging this to “drip down” is a very logical and effective way to improve staff happiness. When studies have shown that over two thirds of employees feel their manager has an impact on their career it’s important to ensure that it’s a positive one.

LOL…

…Research also shows that regular laughter reduces stress, helps us sleep better and can even boost the body’s immune system. If laughing in the workplace isn’t appropriate, then organise a work trip to a comedy club or share recommendations for funny movies that employees can watch at home.

Let Employees Go On Facebook…

…In a recent interview with Entrepreneur, Richard Branson stated that one of the key reasons Virgin introduced flexible working was to show employees they were trusted and this in turn improved their productivity. This article also argues that some of the world’s most successful CEOs are very active on social media, and they use it to promote their company.

Start a Book Club…

Neurological research has shown that brain functions are significantly boosted after people finish reading a novel and the additional benefits of reading include greater social perception and empathy.

Encourage Sharing…

When we introduced the Noticeboard feature for our customers on Findmyshift we expected it to be used to share work-related memos. In reality it’s used by our customers to share a variety of information about social events, personal announcements and yes, even book club updates! In a recent survey we conducted it was listed as one of our most popular features by staff and managers alike.

Let People Get On With It…

Arguably the most welcome and cost-effective way proven to make your staff happy and more productive is to simply let them get on with their work. This is supported by Harvard Business Review research which showed that what motivated them most was not financial reward or public recognition, but progress.

There is some comfort in knowing that employees are motivated by the same thing managers are and in many ways it confirms the strong link between happiness and productivity; we all like to feel useful. Of course, you don’t need to be an expert to understand why happier employees are more productive employees, but perhaps we all need to take a bit of extra time to do what we can to make our employees happy when they come to work and not just when they leave.

Link to read the original Switch & Shift article

 

Why Chocolate Is Good for Us

Temptation -Sue Ridge ©

Temptation –Sue Ridge ©

 Happiness At Work edition #94

You will find many more stories about what happiness and productivity and success and leadership mean in our ever-changing work and lives in this week’s new Happiness At Work edition #94 collection.

I hope you find things here to use and enjoy.

Happiness 2014 – from Aristotle to mindfulness & neuroscience

In this excellent retrospective Carolyn Gregoire considers the pros and cons of our contemporary preoccupation with our own expectations to be happy and asks: 

How Has Happiness Become A Modern Cultural Obsession?

In this edited version I highlight some of the key ideas from some of our favourite happiness experts…

With her simple questions – Can we make ourselves happier, and what would that require? – Gretcehn Rubin joined a conversation that has long dominated the booming self-help industry and the expanding field of positive psychology. Today, happiness is ever-present in our cultural conversation and often at the forefront of our minds. Advice on how to be happy is everywhere: A Google search for “happiness” yields 75 million results, and nearly 40,000 books on or related to the topic are available for purchase on Amazon.com.

While the depth and zeal of our current obsession with being happy may be unprecedented, happiness is an ancient, time-honored pursuit. Aristotle – one of Rubin’s Happiness Project inspirations – may have been the original (if accidental) self-help guru, interrogating the causes and definitions of happiness at length in his Nicomachean Ethics.

But whereas Aristotle believed that happiness was the by-product of a life of virtue, we’ve come to associate happiness with a more vague metric of “feeling good.” Rather than thinking in terms of living virtuously, we’ve come to associate happiness more with the avoidance of pain and pursuit of pleasure, with personal gratification or sensory pleasures.

This shift from being good to feeling good began in the 18th century. Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence – which identifies the pursuit of happiness as an unalienable right, along with life and liberty – and the French Revolution both reflected an increasingly popular idea: that happiness is necessary for the health of the individual and society. The rising popularity of utilitarianism also led to a new way of conceptualizing happiness in terms of a pleasure vs. pain.

Happiness has become a core question of our lives. Some psychologists argue that this preoccupation with happiness may actually be making us less happy. Critics have also pointed out that the obsession with happiness may lead some to discount both the presence and the value of the challenging and painful events that are inevitable in our lives – not to mention making us feel inadequate when we fall short of an ideal happiness.

“A culture that talks about happiness as much as we do is giving the sign that we’re concerned about happiness, and I mean concerned in a slightly negative way,” said Darrin McMahon, a historian at Florida State University and author of Happiness: A History. “We obsess about happiness, and that may be an indication that we’re not actually all that happy.”

memories of spring by mylifethroughthelens-d6hxz7g

spring

Happiness Through The Ages

Aristotle defined happiness as a life lived in accordance with virtue, and outlined a philosophy of becoming happy through acting virtuously.

“People generally agree that the highest good attainable by action is happiness, and identify living well and doing well with happiness,” Aristotle wrote.

“For Aristotle, happiness isn’t a feeling, but an evaluation of a life lived well,” said McMahon. “That begins to shift in a profound way in the 18th century … people start defining happiness as a feeling, an emotion, as what puts a smile on your face.”

With the rise of utilitarian principles in the 1700s, the idea that the individual should maximize pleasure and minimize pain became prevalent in the cultural conversation. The 18th century British economist and founding father of utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham – who believed that societies and individuals should act in such a way as to promote the “greatest happiness for the greatest number” – defined happiness in this way, as a pleasure/pain calculus.

As a result of this cultural shift, people were presented with a novel prospect: “They can be happy, and they should be happy,” said McMahon.

The legacy of those Enlightenment principles still informs our conception of happiness, even as happiness itself has taken on functions more often associated with religion.

“[Happiness] is really the last great organizing principle of a life,” McMahon said. “We no longer live our lives according to beauty or honor or virtue. We want to live in order to be happy.”

Like Rubin, McMahon associates the rising concern and preoccupation with happiness with two main factors: declining religious belief and economic prosperity.

“The key question then becomes why,” McMahon explained. “To really be concerned about your happiness is a total luxury: It only happens when everything else is taken care of. To care about happiness in a really sustained, neurotic way … is on one level a sign of our prosperity.”

This shift in priorities is even reflected in how we’ve started to quantify national success, as gross national happiness has the attention of leaders alongside gross national product. According to the largest global happiness survey, the United Nations World Happiness Report, the world is becoming a happier place. World well-being is on the rise, according to the UN, with countries where happiness is up outnumbering those where it’s down.

The Modern Science Of Happiness

Research in positive psychology has legitimized the study of happiness and brought it to the forefront of the cultural dialogue, simultaneously boosting the prominence of happiness studies and complicating how the term is defined.

Psychologists and neuroscientists have arrived at insights into humanity’s inherent capacity for happiness – what’s known as the “happiness set point” – as well as one’s potential to be more or less happy.

“As a rough generalization, about a third of the factors that determine outcomes of well-being are genetic or biological,” says cognitive psychologist Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness. “That leaves abut two-thirds that are based on the environment around us and what we do inside ourselves.”

The problem is that the brain is attracted more to negative experiences than positive ones. In Hanson’s analogy, the brain is like Teflon for positive experiences and Velcro for negative ones. His research has found that the simple secret to boosting our happiness levels is to maximize life’s everyday simple pleasures and small joys, which we can do by lingering on positive moments and finding small ways to build more joy into our lives.

“If we train ourselves increasingly to look for the positive, we have trained our brain in terms of what it’s primed to see and what it’s scanning for,” said Hanson.

Having positive experiences more often tends to increase flows of dopamine, the chemical that tracks rewards, in the brain, which builds out more receptors for dopamine, and over time makes us more sensitive to reward, says Hanson.

And a number of studies have shown – including the Harvard-Grant Study, a 75-year longitudinal investigation into what accounts for a fulfilling life – strong relationships are consistently the strongest predictor of happiness.

The Harvard-Grant study’s director, George Vaillant, concluded that there are two pillars of happiness. “One is love,” he said. “The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

Running On The Hedonic Treadmill

In the pursuit of pleasure and joy, people tend to fall into the trap of running on the so-called hedonic treadmill – chasing after pleasures and external recognition that they believe will bring happiness, rather than finding more pleasure in the experiences they’re already having.

According to the treadmill theory, outlined in a 2006 paper by Ed Diener, Richard E. Lucas and Christie Napa Scollon, good or bad things temporarily affect our happiness levels, but when those experiences come to an end, we quickly return to neutral. In a consumer culture, it’s easy to see how an obsession with happiness can amplify a hedonic treadmill scenario, in which one is constantly looking outside the self for the next quick fix to boost happiness.

“We keep ratcheting up what is luxury and what is pleasure, and yet we also fall back to a kind of baseline,” said McMahon. “A market economy operates on that, but it’s not necessarily designed to make us happier… In some ways this will always be a losing proposition.”

McMahon also questions the motives driving the corporate positive psychology movement.

“It’s good and bad – they want you to flourish, but they also want to get more out of you,” he said. “These psychological techniques are being used to increase productivity, and that’s not a bad thing, but sometimes you wonder what the ultimate goal is. Is it profit maximization, or having flourishing people?”

The trouble lies not in the field of positive psychology or in the research coming out of it – but in the proposition that happiness is something that can be easily bought or crafted.

“There’s a certain tendency in our culture to want to graft some kind of happiness onto an existing structure,” Hanson said. “If you just fill in the blank – get this car, find the right shade of lipstick, go on vacation in Mexico, lose those five pounds – suddenly you’ll be happier and have the fulfillment you want in life … Let’s be clear: The main happiness industry in America is the advertising industry.”

A New Disease Of Western Societies

One risk inherent in our obsession with the pursuit of happiness is that we will begin to fear or devalue painful, negative emotions and challenging experiences.

For Australian social researcher Hugh Mackay, the notion that individuals should do everything for the sake of happiness is a dangerous one. In his book The Good Life, Mackay argues that this philosophy has led to a new disease among Western societies: “fear of sadness.”

But positive psychology itself isn’t about the denial of negative experiences – what Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, calls “happyology” – but also encompasses qualities like resilience and persistence, which help us to grow and thrive through negative experiences.

“[Positive psychologists] are actually interested in what makes a full, flourishing life,” McMahon explained.

Hanson agreed, adding that taking a negative stance towards negative experiences just creates even more negativity. “Sorrow tenderizes the heart,” Hanson said. “Attending to the suffering of one’s self and others has dignity to it – a nobility even – and it’s important to do, particularly in our culture that always wants to ‘fix it fast.'”

The Mindful Happiness Revolution

The search for quick fixes is likely to leave one stuck on the treadmill – but mindfulness may be the remedy to a tendency to look for easy solutions.

“If a person skillfully does inner practices and gradually becomes more mindful and more caring … they’re not going to fall into the pitfalls of chasing after every little pleasure they can find,” Hanson said.

This inner practice is key – and it’s something to which some are starting to pay more attention. The so-called mindful revolution — “a meeting of minds between positive psychology and Buddhism,” as McMahon describes it — may very well be a turning point in how the culture looks at happiness.

Mindfulness is not a panacea, but the practice does have science on its side when it comes to boosting well-being. Mindfulness practice has been linked with emotional stability, reduced stressdepression and anxiety, and improved mental clarity. It also could aid individuals in seeing themselves more clearly – free from positive or negative biases – according to a 2013 University of Utah study.

“People who reported higher levels of mindfulness described better control over their emotions and behaviors during the day,” University of Utah researcher Holly Rau said in a statement. “In addition, higher mindfulness was associated with lower activation at bedtime, which could have benefits for sleep quality and future ability to manage stress.”

The research supports something that Rubin has found in her own exploration of happiness: That self-knowledge is the bedrock of joy and fulfillment.

“Part of it is thinking, ‘Well, what do you want?'” Rubin said, “and not just accepting some ready-made definition. It’s easy to assume that you want something, and then you lose track of what’s true for you … So much of it is being aware of what you’re doing … and once you know, you can direct it.”

Mindfulness, which has been shown to boost compassion and may even improve relationship quality, may also bring us back to a more Aristotelian notion of happiness as a life in which we are good to others.

“Modern neuroscience is showing us that we’re really wired to be extremely social creatures,” Joe Loizzo, psychiatrist and author of Sustainable Happinesstold The Huffington Post in February. “We’re happier and healthier when we do that in a committed way … We need to learn to connect with others with mindful openness and positivity, and to deal with the daily slings and arrows, and work through those and maintain a sense of connection that’s positive.”

Link to read the original article in full

Happiness At Work edition #92

See more stories about happiness and practical ways to practice it in the new collection, available from Friday 18th April.

Playing To Your Strengths ~ the new science of character building

SPRING 2 Sue Ridge ©

SPRING 2 Sue Ridge ©

If you can be a better version of yourself, how do you want to be?

When you think about yourself, what are your strengths?

And how can you use them more in your life, work and learning?

Scientists now know that character strengths can be learned, practiced and cultivated.

In 2004 Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson developed the 24 Character Strengths.  This work is based on their game changing idea to, instead of only looking at the things that can go wrong in us, to also recognise and celebrate all the things that can go right.  They looked throughout history to identify core virtues that human beings through history and across cultures have agreed lead to a meaningful life:

  • Courage
  • Humanity
  • Justice
  • Temperance
  • Transcendence
  • Wisdom

From these they identified 24 Character Strengths that, when practiced and developed, could lead to these virtues. Their groundbreaking studies show that every person is a unique combination of these strengths.

6 Virtues and their 24 Character Strengths

6 Virtues and their 24 Character Strengths

They found that if we focus on building the strengths we have it has a lasting effect on our happiness and wellbeing.  And they have found that the key to successful relationships is appreciating the character strengths of the people we connect with.

Criteria of Signature Strengths: what makes a Signature Strength a Signature Strength?

Here is what Martin Seligman tells us defines the hallmarks of a Signature Strength:

  • A sense of ownership and authenticity – This is the real me!
  • A feeling of excitement while actively using it
  • A feeling of inevitability when using it – Try and stop me being this, doing this…
  • A rapid learning curve as the strength is first practiced
  • A yearning to find new ways to actively use it again
  • Invigoration rather than exhaustion using it
  • The creation and pursuit of personal projects revolving around it
  • Joy, zest, enthusiasm, happiness, even ecstasy while using it

Unleashing the power of our Character Strengths requires us to adopt what is called a growth mindset: the belief that we can change, rather than the the fixed mindset of believing that we ate stuck with the characteristics we are born with and the circumstances of what happens to us.  We can all develop a growth mindset.  It takes practice and it is helped when we get encouragement from the people around us.  But it can be learned.

This can be started by learning to take a moment to stop and ask myself: “is what i am about to do a reflection of who I am and who I want to be?”  Taking this moment to pause and think is especially important in this age of constant distraction and multiple inputs.

One of the newest conversations about the importance and benefits of Character Strengths us that are seven that can be real success factors in academic achievement, professional success and happiness, no matter what your circumstances.  These are:

  1. Hope, Optimism (Transcendence)
  2. Gratitude (Transcendence)
  3. Social Intelligence (Humanity)
  4. Curiosity (Wisdom)
  5. Self Control (Temperance)
  6. Zest, Enthusiasm (Courage)
  7. Perseverance (Courage)

The Science of Character

 Tiffany Shlain & The Moxie Institute Films

This short film celebrates and imaginatively explains the thinking that is growing from the growing work using Character Strengths:

“watch your thoughts: they become words

watch your words: they become actions

watch your actions: they become habits

watch your habits: they become your character

watch your character: it becomes your destiny”

~ Frank Outlaw

“It’s like you have these superpowers, and focusing on them makes you stronger.  And if you focus on the people around you and their strengths, it makes them stronger too.” 

~ filmmaker Tiffany Schlain

 Link to letitripple.org for more about this film

VIA Institute Character Strengths Self Assessment

You can find out what your own top 5 Signature Strengths through this free online survey, which will give you your personal rankings of the 24 Character Strengths.

VIA Institute are a brilliant resource and amazingly still able to offer the benefits of their research for free.  What follows is a taster from their site, and I recommend it unreservedly to you if you would like to add a little more to your intelligence about yourself, both in terms of what innate strengths lie within your ‘natural character’ as well as getting a really helpful list of possibilities to work on developing for greater self-mastery and success.

Character strengths are the psychological ingredients for displaying human goodness and they serve as pathways for developing a life of greater virtue. While personality is the summary of our entire psychological makeup, character strengths are the positive components— what’s best in you.

The 24 VIA Character Strengths are universal across all aspects of life: work, school, family, friends, and community. The 24 strengths … encompass our capacities for helping ourselves and others.

Whereas most personality assessments focus on negative and neutral traits, the VIA Survey focuses on what is best in you and is at the center of the science of well-being. Completing the free VIA Survey will result in your Character Strengths Profile, detailing a strengths palette of the real “you.”

Link to the VIA Institute Character Strengths Survey

Here is what the VIA Institute offer in greater detail about the magic seven that Tiffany Schlain identifies…

Hope As A Top Strength:

If Hope is your Signature Strength you expect the best in the future, and you work to achieve it. You believe that the future is something that you can control.

   Virtue Category:

Hope falls under the virtue category of Transcendence. Transcendence describes strengths that provide a broad sense of connection to something higher in meaning and purpose than ourselves.

Key Concepts:

Optimism is closely linked with having a particular explanatory style (how we explain the causes of bad events). People using an optimistic explanatory style interpret events as external, unstable and specific. Those using a pessimistic explanatory style interpret events as internal, stable and global.

Exercises For Boosting Hope:

  • Write an internal movie that features one of your goals. Picture yourself overcoming the obstacles, developing pathways around and through problems, to reach your goal.
  • Write about a good event and why it will last and spread. How is this event linked to your actions?
  • Write about a bad event and how it will pass quickly. Detail how the effect of the event will be limited and who you are not completely to blame.

“What is your best possible hoped-for future…?

If your dreams are all realised how would that feel?”

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky and Dr. Anthony M. Grant share science-based approaches for boosting the character strength of hope

Link to VIA Institute  for more about Character Strengths 

see also:

How Optimism Can Help You Be Happier

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill

 Optimism is a form of Positive Thinking that is focused on the future and how the future will unfold.  It helps improve our lives and make us happier.  Optimism changes the way we look at and remember our interactions in life because we put a more positive spin on our events and activities. Numerous research studies have confirmed the benefits of optimism which include better health, longer lives, faster recovery from illness, and even healthier babies…

Gratitude As A Top Strength

If Gratitude is your Signature Strength you are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. Your friends and family members know that you are a grateful person because you always take the time to express your thanks.

    Virtue Category:

Gratitude falls under the virtue category of Transcendence. Transcendence describes strengths that provide a broad sense of connection to something higher in meaning and purpose than ourselves.

Key Concepts:

There are two types of gratitude:

  • Benefit-triggered gratitude= the state that follows when a desired benefit is received from a benefactor.
  • Generalized gratitude= the state resulting from awareness and appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to yourself.

There are two stages of gratitude:

  • Acknowledging the goodness in your life.
  • Recognizing the source of this goodness is outside yourself.

Exercises For Boosting Gratitude:

  • Write down three good thing that you are grateful for each day.
  • Over dinner, talk with your loved ones about two good things that happened to them during the day.
  • Set aside at least ten minutes every day to savor a pleasant experience.

“Gratitude is probably the most widely researched positive activity…it’s very tangible and we find very strong affects for gratitude…”

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky shares science-based strategies for boosting gratitude

Link to VIA Institute  for more about Character Strengths

Social Intelligence As A Top Strength:

If Social Intelligence is your Signature Strength you are aware of the motives and feelings of other people. You know what to do to fit in to different social situations, and you know what to do to put others at ease.  You are kind and generous to others, and you are never too busy to do a favor. You enjoy doing good deeds for others, even if you do not know them well.

   Virtue Category:

Social Intelligence falls under the virtue category of Humanity. Humanity describes strengths that manifest in caring relationships with others. These strengths are interpersonal and are mostly relevant in one-on-one relationships.

Key Concepts:

Social intelligence involves two general components:

  • Social awareness: what we sense about others
  • Social facility: what we do with our awareness

Exercises For Boosting Social Intelligence:

  • Practice noticing, labeling and expressing emotions. After you become aware of an emotion, label it, and if appropriate, express it to another.
  • Write five personal feelings daily for four weeks and monitor patterns.
  • Watch a favorite TV program or film muted and write feelings observed.

The Tuohy Family Matriarch Makes A Connection:

This video show interviews of the original Tuohy family and Michael Oher who came to live with them, as well as clips from the actual movie starring Sandra Bullock…

Link to VIA Institute for more about Character Strengths

Curiosity As A Top Strength:

If Curiosity is your Signature Strength you are interested in learning more about anything and everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery.

   Virtue Category:

Curiosity falls in the virtue category of Wisdom. Wisdom deals with strengths that involve the way we acquire and use knowledge.

Key Concepts:

There are two key components to curious individuals: They are interested in exploring new ideas, activities and experiences, and they also have a strong desire to increase their own personal knowledge.

Exercises To Boost Curiosity:

  • Consider an activity that you dislike. Pay attention to 3 novel features of this activity while you do it.
  • Practice active curiosity and explore your current environment, paying attention to anything that you may often ignore or take for granted.
  • Pick a favorite topic and do extensive research on it. Discover at least one new thing that you didn’t know before.

Building Curiosity:

“It’s not just being curious, it’s acting on your curiosity…”  Dr. Todd Kashdan

Link to VIA Institute for more about your Character Strengths

Self-Regulation As A Top Strength:

If Self-Regulation is your Signature Strength you self-consciously regulate what you feel and what you do. You are a disciplined person. You are in control of your appetites and your emotions, not vice versa.

   Virtue Category:

Self-Regulation falls under the virtue category of Temperance. Temperance deals with strengths that protect us from excess. It is the practiced ability to monitor and manage one’s emotions, motivation and behavior in the absence of outside help.

Key Concepts:

Self-regulation can be viewed as a resource that can be depleted and fatigued. A useful metaphor can be that self-regulation acts like a muscle, which can be exahausted through over-exertion or strengthened through regular practice. 

Exercises For Boosting Self-Regulation:

  • Next time you get upset, make a conscious effort to control your emotions and focus on positive attributes.
  • Set goals to improve your everyday living (e.g., room cleaning, laundry, doing dishes, cleaning your desk) and make sure you complete the tasks.
  • Pay close attentions to your biological clock.  Do your most important tasks when you are most alert.

Self-Regulation/Self-Control Is A Key To Success:

“Self-control is one of the most important traits in predicting success in life, good relationships, earning more money, being successful in your field, staying out of jail, even living longer.”  Roy F. Baumeister explains how Dartmouth students, staff and faculty can strengthen will power to improve self-control.

Link to VIA Institute for more about Character Strengths

Zest As A Top Strength:

If Zest is your Signature Strength you approach all experiences with excitement and energy. You never do anything halfway or halfheartedly. For you, life is an adventure.

   Virtue Category: 

Zest falls under the virtue category of Courage. Courage describes strengths that deal with overcoming fear. These strengths can manifest themselves inwardly or outwardly as they are composed of cognitions, emotions, motivations and decisions.

Key Concepts:

Zest is a dynamic strength that is directly related to physical and psychological wellness. This strength has the strongest ties to overall life satisfaction and a life of engagement. 

Exercises For Boosting Zest:

  • Improve your sleep hygiene by establishing regular sleep time, eating 3-4 hours before sleeping, avoiding doing any work in the bed, not taking caffeine late in the evening, etc. Notice changes in your energy level.
  • Do a physically rigorous activity (bike riding, running, sports singing, playing) that you always wanted to do but have not done yet.
  • Call an old friend and reminisce good old times.

Smile And Dance With Matt:

14 months in the making, 42 countries, and a cast of thousands.

“Thanks to everyone who danced with me…”

Link to VIA Institute for more about Character Strengths

Perseverance As A Top Strength:

If Perseverance is your Signature Strength you work hard to finish what you start. No matter the project, you “get it out the door” in timely fashion. You do not get distracted when you work, and you take satisfaction in completing tasks.

   Virtue Category: 

Perseverance falls under the virtue category of Courage. Courage describes strengths that deal with overcoming fear. These strengths can manifest themselves inwardly or outwardly as they are composed of cognitions, emotions, motivations and decisions.

Key Concepts:

Perseverance involves the voluntary continuation of a goal-directed action despite the presence of challenges, difficulties, and discouragement. There are two vectors of perseverance. It requires both effort for a task and duration to keep the task up.  

Exercises For Boosting Perseverance:

  • Set five small goals weekly. Break them into practical steps, accomplish them on time, and monitor your progress from week to week.
  • Keep a checklist of things to do and regularly update it.
  • Select a role-model who exemplifies perseverance and determine how you can follow her/his footsteps.

A Story Of Perseverance:

This short visual story focuses on the life of Nick Vujicic, a man born with no arms or legs, but who is touching hearts like hands never could.

Link to VIA Institute for more about Character Strengths

How To Build Your Own Character Strengths

Here is an exercise from Martin Seligman if you want to try and develop how you use your own Character Strength capabilities…

Take the VIA Institute free online survey to get your ranked order for your top to lowest (24th) strength.

Your top 5 are considered to be your Signature Strengths, but you decide what from your top rankings feel most ‘right’ to you.

Once you have identified your top Signature Strengths… 

Part A)

Over the next week or two create a designated time in your schedule when you will exercise one or more of your Signature Strengths in a new way at work. or some other aspect of your life.  (You will find 3 suggestions for each strength in the pull down menu is the VIA Institute site.)

 Part B)

THEN – Write about your experience…

How did it feel before, during and after engaging in the activity you chose to do?

What was challenging about this activity? And what felt easy?

What were you doing at any moments when you felt time pass quickly?

What were you doing at any times when you lost all sense of self-consciousness?

What plans can you make to help you repeat, develop or build on this experience?

Link to the VIA Institute free online Character Strengths  survey

see also

Five Strengths for Greater Happiness

By 

Over and over again studies show these five strengths might be considered “the happiness strengths”:

  • Zest
  • Hope
  • Gratitude
  • Curiosity
  • Love

Link to read this article

Strengths + Passion = Happiness

By 

I enjoy bringing my strengths to my work. I express my curiosity as I open up each new e-mail message, I express hope as I help clients work through struggles, and I express love (warmth and genuineness) with my colleagues as we discuss new ideas and process daily work happenings. This fills me with a greater passion and commitment to my work.

How about you? Do you express your highest character strengths each day at your job?

The research has been clear: Find ways to use your signature strengths and you will reap the benefits. One such benefit is greater happiness. And when you bring forth your best strengths at work, you have more positive work experiences, work satisfaction increases, and your engagement gets a boost too…

Link to read the full article

What if Performance Management Focused on Strengths?

I hope you enjoy this and find much in it to help you to grow into realising your finest potential.

SPRING 1 Sue Ridge ©

SPRING 1 Sue Ridge ©

Happiness At Work edition #91

You can find many more stories and practical techniques in this week’s new Happiness At Work Edition #91 collection which publishes online on Friday 11th April 2014.

Link to this Happiness At Work collection of articles 

Memorial: Martin Seligman remembers Dr Christopher Peterson

You might also like to watch this erudite, raw and funny tribute by Martin Seligman for his friend and collaborator Chris Peterson not long after his death in 2012 at the age of 62, which finishes a a poem of the story of Thor and tells us some more about the worth of our Signature Strengths.