Productivity, Performance and 21st century work

Here is a clutch of articles from our latest Happiness At Work collection that offer ideas for achieving/improving/maintaining/regaining productivity in our super-driven multi-connected 21st century lives…

The real secret to productivity

Google “productivity” and you’ll be dished up more than 200 million search results. Scroll around and you’ll find blogs, websites, apps, browser plug-ins, essays, subreddits, consulting firms, publishing houses, podcasts, and scientific studies devoted to productivity.

What’s the obsession? Our modern lives are inundated with more information than ever before, with pressure to do more, better, faster. There are productivity hacks (wake up early; develop a routine) abound to help us squeeze more high-quality work out of less high-quality time.

But here’s the thing: the secret to productivity is actually super simple. Ready for it?

Manage your willpower.

How do you do that exactly? Systems and routines. Omer Perchik, founder of Any.do, writes about how reserving your willpower for truly impactful decisions and activity helps safeguard your productivity potential throughout the day:

Willpower is not something that you just create more of. In any given day, willpower is a limited resource, and truly productive people make sure they preserve it for the things that matter…. When you learn how to manage your willpower, you’re not only able to cut out extraneous work and decisions, but also more adept at choosing the decisions that matter. That’s a key understanding that highly productive people live by.

Systems to minimize “ego depletion,” Perchik’s term for willpower, include The 10-Minute Rule (break down all tasks into 10-minute mini-tasks), the Pomodoro Technique (focus on one task for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break),automation of as many tasks as possible, and building smarter to-do lists.

Simply add a system, with an adjustment to your routine, for maximal willpower protection. Easily distracted by your open office environment? Make it a habit to take a laptop into a closed room at a certain time each day. Get sidetracked by email overload in the morning? Don’t check it until the afternoon, and set up rules in your inbox to file away messages by topic or urgency. It’s all about minimizing decision fatigue and knowing your habits and preferences well enough to adjust. Whatever works best for you, adopt it. Your willpower stores will stay fully stocked so you don’t need to dip in for anything that doesn’t move your work forward.

The best part is that the better you get at maintaining your willpower, it’s not only your work that will benefit; so will your personal life. With more willpower not being wasted on things like what to order at Starbucks or how to respond to someone’s cryptic email, you’ll have much more mental energy to tackle personal goals (read 100 books this year), make healthy decisions (make it to the gym after work), and carve out time for side projects. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Get after it.

read the original article here

Three quick wins for workplace productivity

The Productivity Habits author Ben Elijah suggests just three ways to help you boost efficiency and effectiveness in your organisation:

Capture

One of the most effective ways to boost your team’s productivity is getting into the habit of capturing information…

Encourage your staff to capture information whenever it comes to their attention. It’s one of the most powerful habits they’ll ever pick up. They could use a piece of paper, a smartphone or a dedicated task management tool – it doesn’t really matter. Once your team gets into the habit of putting all key actions from email, conversations, meetings and calls into a single task system, it’ll be easy for them to decide which task to do. After all, their brains are for decision-making, not storage.

Situation

Does your working environment help your people to produce their best work, or does it hinder them?

I use a concept called The Context Triangle to answer this question. It’s a mechanism which helps you to decide how a situation – a particular combination of space, time and thought – defines the kind of work. Encourage managers in your business to think about the kind of work their teams do, and select an environment accordingly.

The Context Triangle also links mood to attention. Mood is as much a part of your people’s environment as physical space and resources. It’s fairly intuitive – when feeling tired or low the kind of work someone can produce will be different than the high-attention tasks they can perform when happy and energetic. Of course, it’s important to do what you can to ensure your team is happy. But by acknowledging that people sometimes need to defocus and zone-out, you can train them to use those moments for low-attention work, like quick bits of admin.

Review

Different sources of information, such as social media, phone calls, and emails, can be described as “channels”. Each channel has different levels of relevance, volume, and urgency. If we focus on volume and urgency we can determine how often employees should review a channel. Your staff probably receive a high volume of email so it’s more efficient to batch-process them. Most emails are also low urgency – new messages probably aren’t the most important thing in your universe right now. Therefore, does email need to be checked every five minutes? Do emails even deserve the right to make a sound or a buzz, which notifies you to their presence?

Encourage your people to find a cadence for checking email, which reflects the volume and urgency of the messages they receive.

Conclusions

By encouraging your people to capture information habitually, you will make it easier for them to carry out their commitments. By thinking strategically about the kind of tasks your working environments lend themselves to, you can empower staff to make the most of their working situations. And by educating your people to give emails the attention they deserve (i.e., less attention than they’re probably giving them right now), they can free up time and attention for more important work.

read the full article here

Is it the weekend? Why are you working?

If you are like us, you often find yourself working on weekends and are criticised by somebody (your spouse, a friend, a colleague) who thinks there is something inherently wrong in spending some time over the weekend on work-related activities. Do they have a point? We thought there might be some truth to their criticism. And since we are scientists, we’ve looked for empirical data that would help us understand this phenomenon (and ourselves). What we’ve found is that many of us work on weekends for a very simple reason: We enjoy it. Think of it as a productivity high. But research shows that we often overdo it and that it may be more costly than we realise. Let’s dig a little deeper into the data.

One reason so many of us work on the weekend is that we receive pleasure from feeling productive. In a recent study, one of us (Francesca) asked a group of over 500 employed individuals to think about and describe one of four experiences: a time when they felt productive at work, very busy, unproductive, or not busy at all. When people wrote about a time when they felt productive, they reported feeling at their best and happy with life — more so than in any other condition. It is by feeling productive, these data suggest, that we believe we are making some sort of a difference in the world.

But research also suggests another answer to the question of why we work when we’re supposed to be taking it easy: We tend to forego leisure in favour of working and earning beyond our needs. In a series of laboratory studies, Christopher K. Hsee of the University of Chicago and his collaborators showed this was true even when they eliminated possible reasons participants could use for over-earning, such as uncertainty about the future and a desire to pass on money to others…

Now, you may be thinking that for many people, work isn’t painful. It is certainly true for us (at least on most days). As long as you love what you do, what’s the problem with working on the weekend?

Turning again to research for an answer, we find that our cognitive resources are a scarce resource that gets depleted and has to be refilled over time. Cognitive resources are important, allowing us to control our behaviours, desires, and emotions…

Demanding jobs have the potential to energise and motivate employees, but the pressure employees face may make them focus more on maintaining performance on their primary tasks (e.g., patient assessment, medication distribution) and less on other tasks, particularly when they are fatigued. For hospital caregivers, hand-washing may be viewed as a low-priority task, leading them to diverge from hand-hygiene guidelines as the workday progresses.

In fact, depleting our cognitive resources can make it more difficult for us to follow our moral compass. In a series of studies one of us (Francesca) conducted, when participants’ cognitive resources had been depleted, they were more likely to cheat and behave dishonestly on a variety of tasks as compared to those in a control condition.

Our passion for our work and the pleasure we gain from feeling productive may explain why we so often work on the weekend, but we still need to be sure to make time to recharge. Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project and author of the book The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, offers some good advice on this point: Applying “fierce intentionality” to all that we do can benefit both our work and personal lives. When you’re working, make sure you’re really working; and when you’re renewing, make sure you’re really renewing.

read the full original article here

 Step away from that email and stop stressing: How to practise mindfulness at work

by Michael Bunting, a specialist in executive development, and co-author of Extraordinary Leadership

A new report from the Australian Psychological Society indicates that one in four workers felt moderately to severely distressed in the past year alone.

The things workers stress over include the burden of a heavy workload, a difficult boss, the concept of change that eats up even more of their day, and worries about losing their jobs.

Buddhist monk and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh describes mindfulness as “the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment.”

For an employee, it means being fully present in a moment, thinking only of the task at hand, not what is piled up in the inbox or what might appear there in the future. It is the energy of being aware of what is really happening and of refocusing on your work and its purpose.

Mindfulness involves the intentional and non-judgmental focus of our attention on our emotions, sensations and thoughts in the here and now. According to a Pennsylvania State University Study, it provides emotional regulation, decreased reactivity, increased response flexibility, interpersonal benefits and intrapersonal benefits.

Here are some ways to practise mindfulness in your workplace:

1. Make time for mindfulness

In times of greatest stress remember the Zen proverb that suggests you should meditate quietly for 20 minutes a day. If you are too busy to do that, you should meditate for an hour.

2. Accept your co-workers regardless of their strengths and weaknesses

The people who work with you have their own strengths and weaknesses. No matter where you go, there will be people you naturally warm to and those who upset you. Do not judge the latter. Just like you they have had to undergo an upbringing and you have no idea how it moulded their character. Do your best to recognise people for where they are now in the present, not for who they were yesterday or who they might become in the future.

3. Practice mindful breathing to restore your centre of calm

When you feel stressed, it can be extremely helpful to experience mindful breathing. Simply breath in and out three times, focused on nothing but your breath. Eliminate all other thoughts and just let calm return to the present.

4. Cultivate a habit of abundance

Express gratitude for the good things people around you are doing.

5. Do one routine task mindfully

Return your attention to the current moment. Abandon your concerns about the future or the past. Choose a task you have to do and do it focusing completing on the task. See it in a new way.

6. Email mindfully

Type out your email and then step away from your keyboard. Take three deep breaths and focus only on your breath. Return to the email and re-read it. Do you still feel that way? Imagine how the person reading it will feel. Is that the reaction you want to achieve?

read the full article here

If you would like to learn more about 21st century time management techniques and approaches, here is a workshop I am running in London at the end of April…

21st Century Time Management

Thursday 30 April 10.00am – 5.00pm

This course will help you improve your work habits and manage your time more effectivity. You will learn how to build long-lasting solutions to match the demands and challenges of your current environment.

By the end of training course you will:

  • Be able to recognise and use your unique ‘natural’ strengths & preferred ways of working
  • Understand how to achieve a good balance in your work and life – whatever this means to you personally.
  • Be able to select and utilise the 21st century time management approaches best suited to you, such as managing emails and beating procrastination.
  • Have learned a toolkit of contemporary techniques for increasing your sense of being in control, changing bad habits and being more proactive.
  • Have been given fresh ideas and solutions for managing multiple relationships and staying on top of your priorities.

‘It was an inspiring session – I found it really useful.’ Daisy Dockrill, Apples and Snakes

Target Audience

This course is aimed at anyone who wants to make better use of their time and improve their ability to manage their workload, productivity, work-life balance or the competing demands made on them.

Approach

The course will be based around the latest thinking in performance and work management coupled with practical exercises designed to be adaptable to the practical, everyday needs of individual participants. Course notes and reference material are provided.

Trainer

Mark Trezona is Managing Director of BridgeBuilders STG Ltd and has years of experience delivering leadership, team, communications and strategic training programmes for arts, charity and public sector professionals. He is an expert in happiness and resilience at work. He is an associate and sound designer with Shaky Isles Theatre and has an MA in Performance Making and an MA in Management Leadership & Learning.

Price

£125+VAT (£150) for ITC members and £175+VAT (£210) for non-members.

Location

The Albany, Douglas Way, London, SE8 4AG

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Happiness At Work #121 ~ Freeing Your Voice

This week’s theme gathers recent stories and videos that all speak to the importance of freeing our voices and finding effective ways to be heard, seen and understood, along with some helpful techniques for going about this with courage, credibility and charisma.

Some of the stories and commentary that caught my attention from this year’s World Economic Forum at Davos make our headline stories in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection.  I have highlighted those that carry the new voices that can be heard with increasing resonance and authority amidst the more familiar agendas and rhetoric we might expect to come from a gathering of the great and good from the global business world, still predominantly older men in in suits.

These voices include a call to action to release and harness the still much much greater power and presence that women have to play in our work and leadership, the need to mix things up with a richer diversity of voices from the outside, from the fringes, from the edges, and the need to make conversations that join voices and unify thinking into the complex new solutions for the world we are continually having to reach for.

From outside the happenings of Davos 2015, I have also included some remarkable people who have found their voices – Morgana Bailey’s courageous stepping out of hiding, and Martin Bustamante, one of the prison inmates from Cristina Domenech’s poetry classes performing his own poem for a TED audience – as well as Julian Treasure’s practical masterclass in how to free and fire up your voice so that people will listen.

What it Feels Like to be a Woman at Davos in 2015

As Poppy Harlow reports from the event for The Guardian…

Davos is a gathering of great minds and change-makers from across the globe, and its theme this year was “the new global context”. The focus takes in everything from fighting terror to addressing the growing income divide. But this year just 17% of participants at this invitation-only summit are female; an increase on 15% in 2014, but still far too small a number. Meanwhile, on the Fortune 500 list, just 3.4% of corporations have female CEOs. Clearly, there is work to do.

In 2010 WEF introduced a new policy allowing corporations to bring a fifth senior leader to the summit (as opposed to the general limit of four), as long as both men and women were in the delegation. Progress has been made with initiatives like this, but the event remains dominantly male.

Facebook’s VP of global marketing Carolyn Everson thinks change will come. She told Fortune, “In the coming years, the number of attendees who are women will rise, as the conversations that are taking place all around us today are going to fundamentally impact the path for women in the future.” …

There’s a lot of work – game-changing work – being done by the women here at WEF. This is a place that humbles just about everyone because it’s hard to digest the calibre of many of the attendees and the magnitude of change for the better they are striving for.

WEF’s mission statement says it is “committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation.” And as Ann Cairns tweeted: “men and women make truly productive teams.” Let’s hope in the coming years they will also be equal in number.

Link to read the full article

Why We Need New Allies For Gender Equality

In her address to the conference, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said…

Given the paucity of women currently in positions of political leadership (just 22% of the world’s parliamentarians are women), it is hardly surprising that obstacles – practical and psychological – remain to more women joining them. We know that in too many cases still, girls are leaving school without competitive qualifications, and that even when girls do make it to tertiary education, gender-based violence and intimidation on campus is a daunting prospect.

Yet these young people are the change agents of our future, and this recognition is reflected in initiatives springing up globally, large and small.

Read the full article

Derek Handley: Davos Has A Diversity Problem

In this video clip you can hear maverick world changer and frustrated partygoer, Derek Handley, Adjunct Executive Professor for AUT University, talking about his work, his dreams for a more socially and environmentally proactive business model, and his view disappointment in the lack of diversity at Davos….

“I spent most of the time outside the main event meeting people in all the different environments,” he said. “My main takeaway is it’s a really interesting place and there are amazing people here, but there is a diversity problem, and I think it’s a significant issue.”

He took issue with the fact that most attendees of Davos are men, and also said the annual meeting lacks artists – people who are in the problems themselves.  Because those people can’t afford to be here.

The best ideas always come from the fringe…  Let’s mix up the really interesting and powerful people who are here with some very diverse perspectives and focus hard on that if we really want to create a very productive and flourishing century.

Link to watch this video

3 Forces Shaping the University of the Future

In her address, Drew Gilpin Faust said “Higher education is the strongest, sturdiest ladder to increased socio-ecomonic mobility…

Higher education is essential for a thriving society: it is the strongest, sturdiest ladder to increased socio-economic mobility and the locus, through research universities, of most of the major discoveries of the last two centuries.

At a time when access and affordability are more consequential than ever before, the world’s colleges and universities are facing a changed landscape. Three forces are creating possibilities and challenges that will define the future of one of humanity’s most enduring and most trusted institutions:

The influence of technology…

Residential education—working and living alongside one’s peers and mentors—cannot be replicated online. When I speak with alumni, they often reflect on serendipitous moments that changed the way they thought about themselves and their place in the world. More often than not, those moments happened in a common space or a classroom, a dining hall or a dorm, laboratory or lecture hall. Being together and sharing experiences no matter one’s surroundings.

The changing shape of knowledge…

What matter most in these moments, and in so many others, is recognising the extraordinary scope of expertise that humanity has at its disposal—and bringing the best minds together to work through problems and develop solutions, amplifying the possibilities for discovery inherent in all of their dimensions.

The attempt to define the value of education…

Higher education lifts people up. It gives them a perspective on the meaning and purpose of their lives that they may not have developed otherwise. Is it possible to quantify this experience, to communicate its value through a set of data? No. But it is among the highest and best outcomes of higher education. We must continue to prepare the next generation of thinkers and doers to navigate the world using evidence and reason as their guide, understanding their work in the broadest context possible as they imagine and define their purposes. We must continue to help humanity transcend the immediate and the instrumental to explore where human civilisation has been and where it hopes to go.

So much of what humanity has achieved has been sparked and sustained by the research and teaching that take place every day at colleges and universities, sites of curiosity and creativity that nurture some of the finest aspirations of individuals and, in turn, improve their lives—and their livelihoods.

As the landscape continues to change, we must be careful to protect the ideals at the heart of higher education, ideals that serve us all well as we work together to improve the world.

Link to read this article

And in 3 Ways To Fix Our Broken Training System Alexis Ringwald, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of LearnUp, signals the changing times in her call for training that is more employer-driven, responsive an on demand.  She writes…

In the future, we will move closer to an education model that is truly responsive to the needs of employers, jobseekers and the international labour market. Only then will we solve the skills gap and the information gap and reduce the burden of unemployment.

Let the change begin.

Link to read the full article

From Spreading Happiness to Saving the Planet, the Rise and Rise of Pharrell

Some uncharitably wondered whether Pharrell Williams had entered into a new, messianic phase of his career – one typically signalled by joining a society of billionaires and retired political figures in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Others said the global hitmaker was too cute to go along with anything that smacked only of an ego trip.

“I think you guys know how serious the global warming thing is, and so for us we’re taking it very seriously, and we wanted to do something very different this time,” Pharrell said in Davos. What he means by having “humanity harmonise all at once” might remain slightly mysterious, but organisers say they expect 100 acts performing before a broadcast audience of two billion people across seven continents, including Antarctica.

Pharrell, whose song Happy was the bestselling single of 2014 and who was recently described by US GQ as “a quiet little Egyptian space cat of a dude”, is known for getting things done – at least in music.

As the magazine recently described, besides being a pop star in his own right he has become a kind of a musical consultant for other artists who guides you toward your “twinkling star”…

Pharrell says the trick in producing other people is to drop his ego. “I say to the artist, whether it be Beyoncé or Usher, what do you want to do? And when they tell me, I say, OK, let’s do it like this. It’s real simple.”

Like Prince, Pharrell surrounds himself with women – his assistant, Cynthia Lu; art director Phi Hollinger; and Fatima Robinson, his choreographer.

“Women have a way of expressing themselves that I can relate to more honestly,” he told GQ. “I am a sensitive person, so I want to be with sensitive people.”

Pharrell appears to be settling into his role as a multimedia prophet. He has given himself over to invocations of pseudo-mysticism, recently explaining: “It’s all math. You have a certain number of bones in your body. You have seven holes in your face. There are nine planets, a sun, trillions and trillions of galaxies. Everything quantifies to numbers.” He’s been described as pop’s Bill Clinton – “a masterclass in charm and empathy”.

Link to read the full article

Morgana Bailey: The Danger of Hiding Who You Are

Inspiring and deeply moving, Morgana Bailey’s presentation shows the vital importance of openness, embracing difference and daring to be heard for our happiness at work – and much much more…

Morgana Bailey has been hiding her true self for 16 years. In a brave talk, she utters four words that might not seem like a big deal to some, but to her have been paralyzing. Why speak up? Because she’s realized that her silence has personal, professional and societal consequences. In front of an audience of her co-workers, she reflects on what it means to fear the judgement of others, and how it makes us judge ourselves.

Cristina Domenech: Poetry that frees the soul

We all have a voice and we all have things of power and beauty to say with it.  But some of us will find it harder than others to find, free and trust our own voices.  Here is a success story of great empowerment where this has been achieved.

“It’s said that to be a poet, you have to go to hell and back.” Cristina Domenech teaches writing at an Argentinian prison, and she tells the moving story of helping incarcerated people express themselves, understand themselves — and glory in the freedom of language. Watch for a powerful reading from one of her students, an inmate, in front of an audience of 10,000. In Spanish with subtitles.

Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen

In this presentation sound and listening expert Julian Treasure provides his guide for releasing your full voice at its best sets, and his vocal warmup for tuning up before an important speaking engagement – see from 4’16”

Before this he sets out his top tips for increasing your impact and influence as a speaker.

Have you ever felt like you’re talking, but nobody is listening?

Here’s Julian Treasure to help you fix that. As the sound expert demonstrates some useful vocal exercises and shares tips on how to speak with empathy, he offers his vision for a sonorous world of listening and understanding.

To Change the World: Steve McCurry’s Photos

Steve McCurry’s collection of photos showing moments of study and learning across the globe…

“Only the educated are free.”  Epictetus

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”  William Wordsworth

Link to see Steve McCurry’s photos

Happiness At Work #121

All of these articles, and many more, are collected together in this week’s new Happiness At Work edition #121 which you can see here

Why Should We Be Thinking About Happiness At Work right now?

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With everything else that we have to deal with at the moment, why should we think about happiness at work?

This is the question I want to try and answer in this week’s post.  It is inspired partly by noticing how often I am told by people that happiness at work is all very nice, but irrelevant, or at best an unaffordable luxury, in an organisation which is having to battle through major change and upheaval, and battling to make the best of decimated staff numbers and budgets or even remits, and battling to try and redefine the organisation’s raison d’être in a world that has shifted its priorities and radically reframed its expectations, and in a world where many people are feeling fundamentally unsure about the purpose and value of the work they are doing.

In this environment, surely there are far more pressing concerns that demand the reduced time, energy and resource that remains to us?

And yet, when I am working with people on creating specific solutions to these problems – with individuals in coaching and webinar sessions, with teams in workshops, and with leaders in strategic thinking and action learning meetings – again and again some of the best tools and techniques that people are choosing to build from come from the new science of happiness and the principles and practices of happiness and resilience at work in particular.

Remember what it was like to be constantly dreaming up bigger and better ideas for what we do and how we do it and what we might achieve by doing it?

Remember being fuelled by an excitement about what might be possible and what we might do together if we dared, as often we did?  When we knew how what we did made the world, not merely more able to carry on, but a better, finer more wonderful place to inhabit somehow?

What follows is a collection of writings that have all been published in the last week or so that are collected in this week’s Happiness At Work edition #98.   I hope something here can provide a way of thinking about and, even more critically, a framework for doing something about the very real and complex problems we are most certainly facing in these times of major cultural, economic, social and personal shift and upheaval.  I hope you will find here ideas and approaches that will point your way to solutions that can significantly progress us out of these hard times of enforced change and adjustment and, little by little, layer by layer, incrementally move us toward a way of working and working together that is sufficiently reimagined and recalibrated and reforged fit enough and strong enough to be grown into a world much closer to our wanting.

Here might be solutions that are sustainable enough and inclusive and flexible and achievable enough and worthwhile enough to bring us out of these siege condition times of having to just survive somehow, to “keep calm and carry on”, and into a more hopeful aspirational and far greater future that we can all feel galvanised and inspired to be an active part of.

The first article, Mindfulness, Purpose and the Quest for Productive Employees, considers the emerging field of happiness at work development, variously known as ‘positive business,’ ’employee happiness,’ workplace happiness,’ ’employee wellbeing,’ and ’employee engagement,’ with particular emphasis on the dual necessities for a sense of real purpose and meaning alongside great relationships at work…

“If you have positive connections between employees, that means it’s also probably easier to cultivate meaning in the work they’re doing,  And similarly if your employees feel they have a purpose, it’s easier for them to cultivate positive connections with each other.”

In Arts & Ideas: Free Thinking – Arianna Huffington & Richard Hytner – 29 Apr 14  Arianna Huffington, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, talks to Anne McElvoy about measuring success using The Third Metric, that puts wellbeing, wonder, wisdom and giving alongside the conventional success criteria of money and power. She is not suggesting that there is anything wrong with these two metrics, but they alone are

like sitting on a two-legged stool: sooner or later your are going to fall over – and we need the Third Metric to have any hope for a life of meaning and purpose,  

This is followed by advertising exec and leadership thinker Richard Hytner and Ashridge Business School leadership learning expert Kerrie Fleming talking about stress in business and the nature of leadership.

Gallup: The 10 Qualities of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs presents new research that highlights, alongside the things we might expect such as Business Focus, these critical happiness at work capabilities…

2. Confidence: They know themselves well and can read others.

3. Creative Thinker: They know how to turn an existing product or idea into something even better.

4. Delegator: They don’t try to do it all.

7. Knowledge-Seeker: They constantly hunt down information that will help them keep the business growing.

8. Promoter: They do the best job as spokesperson for the business.

9. Relationship-Builder: They have high social intelligence and an ability to build relationships that aid their firm’s growth.

The Three Human Capital Management Concerns Keeping U.S. CEOs Up At Night identifies the growing urgency of a skills gap crisis as the next technology tools radically add to the existing changes we are already dealing with, and asks…..

How prepared are you for this challenge? To answer that question, simply ask yourself another question: How invested are you in your people’s skills?

Asian Leaders Value Creativity and Intuition More than Europeans Do looks at the leadership styles in different countries, noticing that the fast growing organisations in Asia and Eastern Europe, put more emphasis on intuition and creativity and also place greater value on coaching than leaders who are “traditionalists.”…

Fixing the ‘I Hate Work’ Blues proposes the need for much flatter organisations with a higher interest and value given to frontline workers and a much more integrated, involved, inquiring, delegated and inspiring style of leadership to counter the severely depressed levels of staff engagement in most organisations…

As a result of these changes, the employees will be more engaged and more productive, overhead costs will drop dramatically, and customers will report a much higher level of responsiveness. The executives will make better informed, more thoughtful decisions about the business because they are so much closer to their markets and the people doing the work.

The Two Transformative Influences on Employee Engagement cites recent research studies that show that while 70% of staff currently feel less than engaged in work, just a 1% increase in employee engagement can yield $100,000 increase in revenue.  In another study less than one third of surveyed employees felt their company would be willing to change practices or directions based on employee feedback.  The author’s study discovered that 43% of employees claimed they knew what their company’s goals were but were unable to name any specifically, and concludes…

It’s time to light the way for your employees, so they’re not fumbling in the dark and missing your goals. Transparency, tracking, and real-time adjustments can help keep your team aligned and engaged, so everyone is heading in the right destination.

Practice Makes Perfect, Especially With Your Organisational Values draws from The 31 Practices technique of actively practicing one of your core values each week to establish, incrementally and over time, an environment of striving to achieve the best and an expectation that this will be achieved, and how people can receive good quality feedback in a relatively “safe” environment so that they can continually learn and improve…

In most organisations, there is not much focus on practice – and a lack of focus on reflection – on learning from that practice, considering what worked, what didn’t work and what to adjust next time. In organisations, practice and reflection are the missing links between the theory and skilled execution.

Four Ways Sadness May Be Good for You, while accepting without question the power and importance of happiness and positivity in our work and lives, points out the benefits and importance that sadness has to play too.  Sadness is not necessarily the opposite of happiness, but a right-brain imaginative part of our thinking that can feed richly into our creativity and our drive to change the world for the better…

Though much has been made of the many benefits of happiness, it’s important to consider that sadness can be beneficial, too. Sad people are less prone to judgmental errors, are more resistant to eye-witness distortions, are sometimes more motivated, and are more sensitive to social norms. They can act with more generosity, too.

And for a glimpse into the already-here future, The High-Tech Headband That Can Make Your Stressed Brain Happy Again is an interview with neuroscientist, artist and practicing psychotherapist Ariel Garten, the 34-year-old co-founder of InteraXon, creators of Muse. This technology, which brings closer together the magic of art, science, learning, technology and mindfulness, aims to help us address the stress that comes from our obsession with conventional ideas of ‘success’, that when compounded by financial woes and health concerns put us in a constant state of fight or flight, causing us to be more reactionary and further perpetuating the cycle of stress….

I wanted to create a tool that would help people exercise their minds in the most positive and productive way — not just with cognitive exercises alone, but also with a focus towards building emotional resilience.
Muse senses your brainwaves much the same way a heart rate monitor senses your heart beat. It’s easy to use and will allow people to learn and train their minds at their own pace with another tool everyone has already in their pockets –their smart phone or tablet.  Muse actually measures the state of your mind. Ultimately, we’ve created a usable, fun system that enables virtually anyone to improve themselves, cut away the static of a busy mind, and feel calmer in only three minutes a day.
And, before all of these from our BridgeBuilders Guide to Happiness At Work here are the principles we believe are most important to understand and learn to adopt to increase our own and each other’s happiness at work:
1st Principle of Happiness At Work:

• Developing our own happiness will bring us greater success than trying to be more successful will ever increase our sense of happiness.  Read More …

2nd Principle of Happiness At Work:
• We all know how happy we are (or are not).  Read More …

3rd Principle of Happiness At Work:
• Happiness can be learned.  Read More …

4th Principle of Happiness At Work:
• Happiness relies upon a good level of self-understanding.  Read More …

5th Principle of Happiness At Work:
• Happy relationships are absolutely critical to our happiness.  Read More …

6th Principle of Happiness At Work:
• Our happiness depends much more upon how we think about our work than it does on how our work actually is.  Read More …

7th Principle of Happiness At Work:
• We can increase our happiness at work by developing expertise in specific skills, especially

~ Appreciative Inquiry (knowing how to play to our strengths) ~
~ Creativity ~
~ Extraversion and Introspection ~
~ Listening ~
~ Self-Mastery ~
~ Leadership Skills ~
~ Team Working ~
~ Resilience ~

8th Principle of Happiness At Work:
• We find what we go looking for.  Read More …

9th Principle of Happiness At Work:
• There is no one right way to happiness. Different things will work for different people at different times. And Happiness At Work, just like learning, is more a continuous ongoing practice of increasing mastery rather than an end or finishing point.  Read More …

 

trapeze artists fully-committed

Mindfulness, purpose and the quest for productive employees

In the first article of a new series on workplace culture, Amy Westervelt writes in the The Guardian about a growing number of businesses are learning that employee satisfaction and employee productivity go hand in hand

Over the last few years, there has been a marked increase in the number of companies touting their happy workplaces – and in the number of consultants promising to make any workplace more palatable. A handful of business schools have begun integrating positive psychology into their curricula, using the discipline to teach students how to create a happy workplace – or a positive business. As interest in the field has grown, so have its names: its strategies are known, variously, as “positive business”, “employee happiness”, “workplace happiness”, “employee wellbeing” and “employee engagement”.

Last month, the first Positive Business Conference took place at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. The gathering featured speakers from Procter & Gamble, Humana, and McKinsey, who discussed their experiences with the rollout of positive business strategies.

One of the first companies to measure – and engineer – the contributors to employee satisfaction was, of course, Google. In its attempts to create the world’s happiest workplace, the company staffed its HR department with sociologists. They experimented with employee interactions, offering workers free lunch to encourage them to stay on-site, and then organizing the cafeteria in such a way that employees stand in line just long enough to have an interaction with each other, but not long enough to get annoyed by the wait.

In addition to Google’s various lauded – and often lampooned – perks, which include everything from on-site massage therapists to a fleet of bikes for employees to use at will, the tech company routinely offers employees workshops in skills to boost their wellbeing and productivity, ranging from yoga to the popular “search inside yourself” class (now also a book), which teaches mindfulness.

A growing – and diverging – discipline

Google may have blazed the trail when it comes to employee satisfaction, but it has been joined by legions of tech companies in the last year, particularly in Silicon Valley and the UK, which currently find themselves in the middle of another dot-com style talent war.

“In tight labor markets like California, you really do have to be good at this to retain talent,” says Jane Dutton, PhD, professor of business administration and psychology at University of Michigan. “It was more trendy before and I think it’s now real economic imperatives, but there are multiple imperatives, it’s not just about retention and the attraction of talent.”

Within the positive organizational universe, the experts tend to divide into two camps: those who feel that employee happiness hinges largely on a sense of purpose, and those who feel that relationships are the secret sauce. Dutton falls into the latter camp. “Having positive relationships at work is seen as a major predictor of employee engagement, and that’s a major driver of customer engagement,” she says.

When it comes to cultivating health and well-being among workers, Dutton says that the most important consideration is community. “Meaning or purpose is part of it, but I would bet on positive relationships,” she explains. “Evidence on the almost instantaneous effect of positive human connections on people’s bodies convinces me that if I had to choose whether my workplace had purpose or positive connections, I’d bet on connections.”

However, Dutton notes, human connections and workplace purpose are interconnected. “If you have positive connections between employees, that means it’s also probably easier to cultivate meaning in the work they’re doing,” she explains. “And similarly if your employees feel they have a purpose, it’s easier for them to cultivate positive connections with each other.”

Leading the charge for Team Purpose is Aaron Hurst, CEO of consulting firmImperative. …Hurst’s company has quickly become the go-to firm for startups wanting to move beyond perks and create happy workplaces where employees will want to stick around for a while. It has worked with Twitter, eLance, and Etsy in the last few year, and Hurst brings to the table his experience consulting with LinkedIn, where he helped to launch the website’s “board” and “pro-bono” functions.

“I’ve seen it over and over, what people want from their careers are things that help them boost purpose in their lives,” Hurst says.

While Imperative provides quantitative surveys and reports of employee happiness as part of its offering to employers, it also makes a point to include more qualitative elements. “Data only matters in context,” says Fullenwider. “The way I see it, the value of data is that it’s a language that can help you speak to the unconvinced to get that initial buy-in on why this stuff matters. After that, it’s a lot of good old-fashioned insight, talking to people, slowly moving the needle – really digging in and working on creating a healthy workplace.”

Imperative bases its quantitative work on the research of Dr. Martin Seligman, head of the positive psychology department at the University of Pennsylvania. Working for the US military, Seligman developed a measurement tool that tests emotional and psychological wellbeing. He and his staff recently simplified it to an 18-question survey called the PERMA scale (Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationship, Meaning, Accomplishment).

The quantified self, qualified

Matt Stinchcomb, vice president of Values and Impact at Etsy, says that the PERMA scores were really useful when he was first starting to work with Imperative. “I’m fortunate enough to work at a company where I don’t have to convince the CEO, but having it science-based makes it much more convincing to the data-driven folks in our company,” he says. “And being able to go into the board meeting and present numbers around this sends a signal that this is something we are taking seriously.”

This data clarified a large number of questions, such as which Etsy offices tended to be happier, and whether employees with male or female managers reported different happiness scores. And many of these lessons impacted the company’s policies. For example, Stinchcomb says, “We saw that people who were more active as volunteers had higher wellbeing scores, so we launched a program to give people 40 hours a year to volunteer, which they could either spread out over the year or take all in one week.”

Ultimately, Stinchcomb says, Etsy learned that one snapshot of how the company’s employees felt in a given week was not going to amount to meaningful change. “I realized we needed more of a continual read on employees, but without constantly pestering them with a survey, so we started to look at all the other signals that would indicate employee wellbeing: participation in things, for example, or something as simple as employee feedback,” he says.

“We needed to find the middle ground between heart and data,” Stinchcomb explains. “Maybe it’s enough that we’re looking into this at all, that we care enough about our employees’ wellbeing to want to improve it. Maybe it’s as simple as ‘hey, be nice and respect each other.’ Rather than worrying about what wellbeing is and how much wellbeing exactly, let’s just do the stuff we already know makes people feel good and then just measure stuff like retention rates that we already have.”

Arts & Ideas: Free Thinking – Arianna Huffington & Richard Hytner – 29 Apr 14

Arianna Huffington talks to Anne McElvoy about measuring success using The Third Metric. Richard Hytner and Kerrie Fleming look at stress in business and the nature of leadership. Zia Haider Rahman on his debut novel In the Light of What We Know which contains elements of his own Bangladeshi background, a scholarship to Oxford and time spent as an investment banker on Wall Street. Plus Anne pays tribute to the late Maya Angelou’s influence and humour.

Link to listen to this BBC Radio 4 podcast

time keeping

Gallup: The 10 Qualities of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs

Wondering if you have what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur? New research from Gallup offers a window into what separates those who launch and grow successful companies from less successful peers.

Gallup studied more than 1,000 entrepreneurs to arrive at a short list of the 10 qualities of highly successful entrepreneurs. They will be discussed in a book by Gallup chairman Jim Clifton and consultant Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal called Entrepreneurial Strengthsfinder, scheduled for release in September 2014.

1. Business Focus: They base decisions on the potential to turn a profit.

2. Confidence: They know themselves well and can read others.

3. Creative Thinker: They know how to turn an existing product or idea into something even better.

4. Delegator: They don’t try to do it all.

5. Determination: They battle their way through difficult obstacles.

6. Independent: They will do whatever it takes to succeed in the business.

7. Knowledge-Seeker: They constantly hunt down information that will help them keep the business growing.

8. Promoter: They do the best job as spokesperson for the business.

9. Relationship-Builder: They have high social intelligence and an ability to build relationships that aid their firm’s growth.

10. Risk-Taker: They have good instincts when it comes to managing high-risk situations.

What if you are weak in some of these areas? Can you still make it as an entrepreneur?

Citing research showing that entrepreneurship is between 37% and 48% genetic, Gallup’s conclusion is that entrepreneurs with a natural gift for things like opportunity spotting will find it easiest to succeed but that others can compensate somewhat for a lack of inborn talent through efforts like working with coaches and getting technical assistance. And, of course, factors like skills and experience also play a role in entrepreneurial success.

Link to read the original Forbes article

stick-figures-working-300

The Three Human Capital Management Concerns Keeping U.S. CEOs Up At Night

by Bhushan Sethi

After surveying 1,344 CEOs in 68 countries, we found that 70% of US CEOs are concerned about the skills gap. And 86% say technology advances are going to transform their businesses within the next five years. So the relationship between talent quality and financial success isn’t just causal. It’s completely consequential.

1.     Transformation requires trust – Departmental changes are nothing new, and most employees will go along to get along when the degree of change is small and the rate is slow. Bigger changes require more. Employees need to trust their leaders when the leaders ask them to take a leap of faith. This is going to be harder to do than it used to be. Five years after the financial crisis, just 32% of US CEOs say the level of trust with employees has improved. Being transparent about where the company is going and what it takes to be successful is an approach managers will have to embrace to regain that trust.

2.     The people you have now are the people you’ll have later – In the past, large-scale change could be achieved by replacing people.

But the skills gap that comes with the level of changes now happening is just too big for managers to fire and rehire their way out of the problem. To cope with this degree of change, training for tomorrow must become as important as revenue today.

The leader’s role here is to point towards a common goal, motivating people to learn from each other so that they can achieve this new opportunity. The skills gap, in other words, is very much a leadership gap.

3.     The meaning of a diploma – As much as we bemoan the paucity of skills training in higher education, it’s not possible for schools to be close enough to industry to have a perfect match between training and needs. The good news is that industry can do more. A number of companies are offering MBA programs at night inside their own buildings. Others are working hand-in-glove with community colleges to train operators for their plants. There are even instances where companies have approached high schools to encourage shop classes so that people will develop welding and pipefitting skills. There are no limits to the practical, if inventive, ways companies can develop the talent they need.

Looking at these problems and their solutions, it becomes clear that the secret to closing the skills gap isn’t closing the skills gap – it’s seizing the leader’s mantle.  That’s not a title or a position, but a role of pointing to the valley, telling the people about the danger ahead and then inspiring the changes necessary to survive and prosper.

How prepared are you for this challenge? To answer that question, simply ask yourself another question: How invested are you in your people’s skills?

Link to read the original article

working together

Asian Leaders Value Creativity and Intuition More than Europeans Do

Do leadership styles differ around the world? This is one of the questions explored by our recent International Business Report. We asked 3,400 business leaders working in 45 economies to tell us how important they believe certain attributes are to good leadership.

Patterns in their responses point to some intriguing cultural differences. While the top traits – integrity, communication, and a positive attitude – are almost universally agreed upon by respondents (and confidence and the ability to inspire also rank high globally) not everyone is aligned on the importance of two other traits: creativity and intuition.

Nine in ten ASEAN leaders believe creativity is important, compared with just 57% in the EU; while 85% of ASEAN leaders think intuition is important, compared to only 54% in the EU. More generally, we find greater proportions of respondents in emerging markets falling into the leadership camp we would call “modernist.” They put more emphasis on intuition and creativity and also place greater value on coaching than leaders who are “traditionalists.”

This is an intriguing discovery, but it immediately raises a follow-on question. It’s conceivable that our survey captured a gap that still exists for now but is shrinking, as globalization brings a certain sameness to businesses around the world. Will we see a steady convergence in leadership – and toward the Western style – as developing economies mature?

Many believe so…

I’m not so sure. Given the superior growth rates of their economies, it might be that leaders in emerging markets are gaining the confidence to stick with the management approaches that have apparently been working for them – or that they have the agility to adapt to whatever techniques and tone prove best suited to their fast-evolving local markets.

And here is the really big factor in play as leadership styles continue to evolve: Women still have far to come as business leaders. Today, just 24% of senior business roles around the world are held by women, but the proportion of female CEOs is on the rise. Awareness is growing that diversity, of all sorts and in any walk of life, leads to better decisions and outcomes. There is now a wealth of empirical evidence proving that greater gender diversity correlates with higher sales, growth, return on invested capital, and return on equity. One recent study from China even finds that having more women on company boards reduces the incidence of fraud. Meanwhile, uniformity of background often yields uniformity of opinion and worse decisions. The pressure is on to make boardrooms and management ranks less “male and pale.”

It has often been claimed that a key way in which business women differ from business men is in their leadership styles. For example, research shows that women leaders, on average, are more democratic and participative than their male counterparts. Studies have also shown that, as investors, women are more risk-averse and, at the household level, tend to invest a higher proportion of their earnings in their families and communities than men.

Looking across the global landscape today, we find women more prevalent in the upper echelons of companies in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.

Perhaps it is not just coincidence that where we see more women leading, our survey finds more openness to using creativity and intuition – and also a higher value placed on the ability to delegate. In any case, these parts of the world, with their higher proportions of women in leadership, have a fair claim to be arriving sooner at the well-blended leadership style of the future.

Decision-making based on analytics is all the rage now, and certainly represents progress in many areas where managerial decisions have been made in the past on “gut feel.” But there are still many decisions in business that, either because they relate to future possibilities or because they involve trade-offs of competing values, can’t be reduced to data and calculations. One could argue that those are the very decisions – the ones requiring creativity and intuition – where leadership is most called for and tested.

In a fast-moving, digitally-powered world, creativity and intuition could be the difference between gaining ground as an innovator and getting left behind.

rat racing across the wheels of work

Fixing the ‘I Hate Work’ Blues

by Bill George, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School

The New York Times ran a troubling story, “Why You Hate Work,” in last week’s “Sunday Review.” The article indicated that employees work too hard and find little meaning from their work. The anecdotes we all hear about this topic are reinforced by the Gallup Poll, which shows that only 30 percent of employees are engaged in their work.

The issues raised are ones I have worked on for many years. With the drive for higher productivity in the workplace, there is little doubt that people are putting in longer hours than they did two or three decades ago. In part, this drive comes from never-ending, short-term pressures of the stock market. An even greater factor is the global nature of competition today, which pits American organizations directly against counterparts in Asia, where work days are long and onerous.

The much greater issue raised, however, is that many workers do not find meaning in their work. A shockingly low 25 percent of employees feel connection to their company’s mission. (Contrast that to the 84 percent of Medtronic employees who feel aligned with the company’s mission.) In my experience, if employees don’t feel a genuine passion for their work and believe that it makes a difference, engagement drops off dramatically. When engagement falls, so does productivity.

Message not being heard

Many senior executives have been focused on building mission-driven organizations for the last decade. The CEOs I know are fully committed to getting everyone focused on mission through regular engagement with employees—much more so than CEOs in my generation. So if CEOs are focused on the mission, why aren’t these messages getting through to employees?

“Instead of managers who control, we need leaders who inspire”I believe the answer lies in the highly bureaucratic, multilayered organizations that companies are using to execute their plans. There is so much pressure to realize short-term results that middle managers are consumed by making this month’s numbers rather than building teams that focus on achieving their company’s mission. Innovating under intense operational pressure is nearly impossible.

In addition, the heavy burden of compliance with government regulations and internal corporate requirements is taking a toll on people, limiting their creativity, and causing them to be risk-averse. In this environment, desired qualities like empowerment, engagement, and innovation are subordinated to control aspects. No wonder people aren’t engaged and having fun!

Finally, we have lost sight of the importance of first-line employees—the people actually doing the work—and have given all the power to middle management. We have driven down compensation for first-line employees, increased their hours, and taken away their freedom to act with myriad control mechanisms. When it comes to layoffs, it is the first-line people who get laid off, not the middle managers, as senior leaders protect the people closest to themselves.

What’s the solution to this dilemma? I believe we need to restructure large organizations by giving much more responsibility and authority to first-line workers and paying them accordingly—with appropriate performance incentives. We need to trust employees, not control them, by empowering them to carry out the company’s mission on behalf of customers. They should be given full responsibility for performance, quality, achievement of goals, and compliance with company standards.

To realize this change, organizational structures need to change. Dramatically. For starters, companies have far too many layers of managers. The best way to address this is to widen the span of control for everyone between the CEO and first-line employees. Instead of six to 12 direct reports, all managers should have 15 to 20 people reporting to them. For many managers, this violates traditional management principles, but it also dramatically reduces the number of layers between the CEO and first-line staff. I know many extremely effective executives, including Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy and Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak, who have more than 18 direct reports and handle the load extremely well. It just requires ensuring that all your direct reports are competent to do their roles and that you use a superb system of delegation, so that you’re not over-managing subordinates.

Required: leaders who inspire

Next, the role of middle management requires fundamental changes. Instead of managers who control, we need leaders who inspire in these roles. They should work alongside their employees, doing more than their fair share of the most challenging aspects of the work. Their leadership role is to champion the company’s mission and values, and to challenge others to meet higher standards on behalf of their customers. It is the job of these leaders to facilitate the work of the people they lead by making their jobs easier, and removing bureaucratic impediments and other obstacles. Middle managers who cannot make this shift may have to move on to new roles elsewhere. All of these actions make these leaders more like partners and coaches than bosses and controllers in the traditional sense.

Finally, the most senior executives in the organization should be engaged every day with the first-line: working with them in the marketplace and in customer meetings; roaming around the labs, quizzing innovators, scientists and engineers about their latest ideas; visiting production facilities and service centers to check on quality and customer support. That means far less time holding lengthy business reviews in their conference rooms or having 1:1 meetings in their offices. Executives who are fully engaged with first-line employees every day will have a much better sense of how their businesses are running, and their presence will be highly motivating and even inspiring.

As a result of these changes, the employees will be more engaged and more productive, overhead costs will drop dramatically, and customers will report a much higher level of responsiveness. The executives will make better informed, more thoughtful decisions about the business because they are so much closer to their markets and the people doing the work.

Link to read the original Harvard Business School article

change curve

The Two Transformative Influences on Employee Engagement

by Andre Lavoie, CEO of ClearCompany

It’s time to light the way for your employees, so they’re not fumbling in the dark and missing your goals. Transparency, tracking, and real-time adjustments can help keep your team aligned and engaged, so everyone is heading in the right destination.

While you want to believe your team is working towards your company goals, the truth is they might just be working in the dark. A recent Gallup poll has discovered 70 percent of workers are feeling a little less than engaged on the job.

Why are employees checking out? Likely because they can’t see how their daily efforts contribute to your company’s strategic goals. While you may think your company is crystal clear and extremely transparent, the cold reality is your people look at your organization as a maze of disjointed hierarchies.

While you may think your company is crystal clear and extremely transparent, the cold reality is your people look at your organisation as a maze of disjointed hierarchies.

In fact, most of them can’t even name your company goals. In the “How Leaders Grow Today” survey by ClearCompany and Dale Carnegie, 43 percent of employees claimed to be familiar with company goals, yet couldn’t list any specifically. Your team needs more than the Cliff Notes version of how their contributions add value to the organization if you want a happy, engaged, and productive workforce.

Your company needs to turn on some lights, so employees can see how their efforts make a difference. Here are a couple tips to light the way towards alignment:

Improve Transparency

Transparency is the lightswitch you need to get your team moving together in the right direction. A survey by Fierce, Inc. asked 800 responders what practices were currently holding their company back. Nearly half of all respondents identified a lack of company-wide transparency and too little involvement in company decisions as problem areas keeping their organizations from thriving.

Helping employees “see” company-wide goals with easy visualization can ensure your best people are clued in and engaged, without constantly barraging employees with company messaging. With high levels of transparency, your team never has to wonder how their work contributes to overall company goals or how they add individual value. So it should come as little surprise the most effective communicators use more metricswhile explaining goals, the same way talent alignment systems provide real-time tracking so employees can see their value.

Organizations which share information and encourage participation also have greater levels of employee trust. Employee trust is an important component when it comes to engagement and morale, which in turn both have huge impact on a company’s bottom line.

Just how much can employee engagement affect a company’s profits? Best Buy wanted to find the answer, so they tracked the influence of employee engagement at a specific store. What they found was an increase of only .1 percent had a substantial impact. At the store in question, this tiny uptick in engagement equaled more than $100,000 additional funds in the store’s annual operating budget.

Make Real-Time Adjustments

Sometimes in business you need to make a big pivot to be successful. This is why the ability to make real-time adjustments is so important. Unfortunately, less than one third of surveyed employees felt their company would be willing to change practices or directions based on employee feedback.

The ability to pivot has been instrumental in the successes of multiple businesses, including Twitter. The 140 character microblogging service started life as Odeo, a podcasting platform. In 2005, Odeo got some bad news when Apple officially moved into the podcasting arena. Without a clear backup plan, the 14 member team at Odeo began working full-time on a pivot, including hosting “hackathons” where members worked on concepts. One such concept was a status update platform, which eventually became the massively popular Twitter.

Without real-time tracking, it’s tough to see what your best people are working on and working towards. Employees feel like they can’t provide feedback and executives don’t understand how to motivate teams to do their best work. By tracking progress in real-time, you can make adjustments and stop small problems from snowballing into huge challenges.

You can also better play to the strengths of your best employees if you can see where they excel in their workflow and where they’re falling short. After all, an article in Human Capital Review by Robert Biswas-Diener and Nicky Garcea explains how highly engaged employees report using their strengths 70 percent of the time in their day-to-day work. According to this report, by taking a strengths-based approach to managing your employees you can expect at least a 36 percent increase in performance.

Playing to the strengths of your team means higher engagement and productivity. Real-time adjustments also mean you can stop goal deterioration and work cascading in the wrong direction. Since you can see your team’s work, you can keep everyone focused on your company goals. From the employee perspective, tracking their own progress means they can take ownership of work while still being able to see how their contributions align with overall corporate strategy.

by leadership coach Alan Williams

The more I practice, the luckier I get.” — golf legend Gary Player

Practice is about applying an idea, belief or method rather than the theories related to it. Practice is also about repeatedly performing an activity to become skilled in it.

The value and benefit of practice is taken for granted for performers at the highest level in fields such as sport, music, and art.

Can you imagine teams like the New York Yankees in baseball, Toronto Maple Leafs in ice hockey, Dallas Cowboys in American Football, Manchester United in soccer just turning up on match day? In the arts, would the cast of Cirque du Soleil or the dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet just turn up on the day of the performance? Even the Rolling Stones practice!

Practice and reflection: The missing links

From the sporting world we see that anyone who wants to learn and improve needs to commit time and effort to practise, to notice what works and doesn’t, to keep training until a routine is improved, perfected.

How does this translate to organizations?

Training exists of course – focused on new recruits or “teaching” new skills and technical knowledge that may be required. Skilled execution is highly valued.

But, in most organizations, there is not much focus on practice – and a lack of focus on reflection – on learning from that practice, considering what worked, what didn’t work and what to adjust next time. In organizations, practice and reflection are the missing links between the theory and skilled execution.

What does practice do for you? 

Practice enables you to broaden your repertoire, to deepen your knowledge, insight and capability. The brain, once thought to be a “fixed” entity, is malleable. Purposeful practice builds new neural pathways and constant repetition deepens those connections, making that new option a readily available choice.

The result of all this practice?

The seemingly super-sharp reaction time of various ball sports is an illusion. In standard reaction time tests, there is no difference between, say, a leading tennis player compared to other players. BUT, the player is able to detect minute signals which, from years of practice, has led them to read the direction of the serve before the ball has even been played.

It’s this practice that has created unconscious patterns and distinctions that the player responds to equally unconsciously – resulting in the seemingly super-sharp responses.

The power of purposeful practice

Wayne Gretzky, a Canadian ice hockey player, has been described as the greatest ice hockey player ever. His talent captures this attention to the context of a game rather than focusing on distinct actions alone.

Gretzky’s gift…is for seeing…amid the mayhem, Gretzky can discern the game’s underlying pattern and flow, and anticipate what’s going to happen faster and in more detail than anyone else.”

Purposeful practice is the primary contributing factor (above natural talent) to excellence in sport and life. To be a truly practised at a skill or habit, hours of sustained practice are required – estimated at 10,000 hours. The focus and attention to the practice and learning from that practice is fundamental.

At this level of competence, you have developed what is described as reflection-in-action, where you are critically aware of what you are doing – judging each moment for its suitability against an inner set of criteria – at the same time that you are actually doing the activity. One of the reasons Brazil is so successful at soccer is because most of the footballers played futsal. The smaller, heavier ball demands greater precision and encourages more frequent passing.

Failure comes with the territory

Paradoxically, failure is a key part of success because it is an opportunity to learn. Shizuka Arakawa, one of Japan’s greatest ice skaters, reports falling over more than 20,000 times in her progression to become the 2006 Olympic champion.

Practicing any skill is a full mind, heart and body event. As you build new physical skills, you’re laying down and deepening neural pathways. As you develop competence and strength in a particular skill, you’re building up the positive emotions associated with execution.

Practice in something can lead to belief in your ability to do it. This principle is one that informs coaches and practitioners working in the area of somatics and embodiment.

How can organizations create the culture and space for practice in order to grow and learn? Individual practice at work is a systemic question – it’s about the prevailing culture, skills and process – as well as individual focus and motivation.

Specifically, how can you establish an environment of striving to achieve the best and an expectation that this will be achieved? To what extent do people receive good quality feedback in a relatively “safe” environment so that they can learn and improve?

Everybody then benefits from the virtuous circle of being with others who are excellent at what they do. This “multiplier” effect impacts across groups and communities.

The 31 Practices approach

31Practices is an approach to putting values into practice every day. To become part of the fabric and the way of being (rather than just words in a glossy document), the values have to be practiced each day, by everybody in the organization.

For example, an organization may have the core value “relationships,” and a Practice to bring this value to life, “We invest time with stakeholders to build long-lasting relationships.” On the day of this particular Practice, all employees are therefore very mindful and consciously looking for opportunities to build strong relationships with colleagues, customers, suppliers, communities. The impact?  Let’s consider this:

Today, instead of sending an email update, I took the time to call the project sponsor and ask her what she was noticing. I learned that a key team member was in the process of resigning and this information enabled me to prepare a shift in resource. The call took five minutes; it would have taken me longer to compose the email. I felt great.”

Over the course of one month, you live each of the organization’s values through a number of different Practices. Initially, like anything new, you may feel uncertain, but over time, the Practices are repeated, becoming habitual. You will find that you start adopting the Practices more generally, not just the one that day.

This works across small and large groups. Marriott’s Daily Basics program was based on the same principle and operated across 3,000 hotels globally.

The key point is that, just as with sport or other activities, hours of purposeful practice of behaviours and attitudes that are explicitly linked to living core values will result in a strong values-based culture.

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Though much has been made of the many benefits of happiness, it’s important to consider that sadness can be beneficial, too. Sad people are less prone to judgmental errors, are more resistant to eye-witness distortions, are sometimes more motivated, and are more sensitive to social norms. They can act with more generosity, too.

Being sad from time to time serves some kind of purpose in helping our species to survive. Yet, while other so-called “negative emotions,” like fear, anger, and disgust, seem clearly adaptive—preparing our species for flight, fight, or avoidance, respectively—the evolutionary benefits of sadness have been harder to understand…until recently, that is.

With the advent of fMRI imaging and the proliferation of brain research, scientists have begun to find out more about how sadness works in the brain and influences our thoughts and behavior. Though happiness is still desirable in many situations, there are others in which a mild sad mood confers important advantages.

Findings from my own research suggest that sadness can help people improve attention to external details, reduce judgmental bias, increase perseverance, and promote generosity. All of these findings build a case that sadness has some adaptive functions, and so should be accepted as an important component of our emotional repertoire.

Here are some of the ways sadness can be a beneficial emotion.

1. Sadness can improve your memory.

Our research finds that happiness can produce less focused and attentive processing and so increases the chances of misleading information being incorporated into memory, while a negative mood improves attention to detail and results in better memory.

2. Sadness can improve judgment.

Sad moods reduce common judgmental biases, such as “the fundamental attribution error,” in which people attribute intentionality to others’ behavior while ignoring situational factors, and the “halo effect,” where judges tend to assume a person having some positive feature—such as a handsome face—is likely to have others, such as kindness or intelligence. Negative moods can also reduce another judgmental bias, primacy effects—when people place too much emphasis on early information and ignore later details.

So negative mood can improve the accuracy of impression formation judgments, by promoting a more detailed and attentive thinking style.

3. Sadness can increase your motivation.

When we feel happy, we naturally want to maintain that happy feeling. Happiness signals to us that we are in a safe, familiar situation, and that little effort is needed to change anything. Sadness, on the other hand, operates like a mild alarm signal, triggering more effort and motivation to deal with a challenge in our environment.

Thus, people who are happier will sometimes be less motivated to push themselves toward action compared to someone in a negative mood, who will be more motivated to exert effort to change their unpleasant state.

A sad mood can increase and happy mood can reduce perseverance with difficult tasks, possibly because people are less motivated to exert effort when they already experience a positive mood. Sad mood in turn may increase perseverance as people see greater potential benefits of making an effort.

4. Sadness can improve interactions, in some cases.

In general, happiness increases positive interactions between people. Happy people are more poised, assertive, and skillful communicators; they smile more, and they are generally perceived as more likable than sad people.

However, in situations where a more cautious, less assertive and more attentive communication style may be called for, a sad mood may help.

Why would this be? In uncertain and unpredictable interpersonal situations, people need to pay greater attention to the requirements of the situation to formulate the most appropriate communication strategy. They must be able to read the cues of the situation and respond accordingly. Sad people are more focused on external cues and will not rely solely on their first impressions, which happy people are more inclined to trust.

Sadness is not depression

The benefits of sadness have their limits, of course. Depression—a mood disorder defined, at least in part, by prolonged and intense periods of sadness—can be debilitating. And no one is suggesting that we should try to induce sadness as a way of combating memory decline, for example. Research does not bear out the benefits of doing this.

But my research does suggest that mild, temporary states of sadness may actually be beneficial in handling various aspects of our lives. Perhaps that is why, even though feeling sad can be hard, many of the greatest achievements of Western art, music, and literature explore the landscape of sadness. In everyday life, too, people often seek ways to experience sadness, at least from time to time—by listening to sad songs, watching sad movies, or reading sad books.

Evolutionary theory suggests that we should embrace all of our emotions, as each has an important role to play under the right circumstances. So, though you may seek ways to increase happiness, don’t haphazardly push away your sadness. No doubt, it’s there for good reason.

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Muse is wearable technology, but it doesn’t create mind-blowing experiences. Just the opposite. Muse is a brain sensing headband that measures how overwhelmed your brain is from everything life throws at it — and it helps calm your mind and rid yourself of unproductive and unhealthy stress. This is just the beginning of what Muse can do. In the future, using this technology, you’ll be able to customize and control your home environment based on your brain state, turning sci-fi into reality.

Ariel Garten is the 34-year-old co-founder of InteraXon, creators of Muse. She’s a neuroscientist, artist and practicing psychotherapist. She’s closing the gap between science, art, technology and business.

I started working with brain sensing tech in labs over a decade ago and was immediately fascinated by the potential to help people peer into the workings and behaviors of their own minds. It didn’t seem right that these incredible tools weren’t available to the general public, and I really wanted to use my background in neuroscience and psychotherapy to help others. Together with my business partners, we decided to make it happen.

Muse is going to be part of every day life as an indispensable tool helping people overcome mental, physical and emotional barriers. It’s going to allow us to free ourselves in ways we never thought possible.

How does it work? Muse has sensors to detect and measure the activity of your brain, similar to the way a heart monitor measures your pulse. The sensory input is translated into real-time feedback on your tablet or smart phone via Bluetooth. You can see if your brain is stressed or calm, and with scientifically proven exercises, you can bring your brain back to that healthy state of calm, training your brain. I think one of the best parts is that this exercise only takes three minutes a day (if only this could happen at the gym).

What will Muse fix in the world? My interview with Ariel, one of the brains behind the headband:

What do you think is one of the most important things in the world that needs to be fixed?

Unproductive stress! Between 70-90% of doctor’s visits are stress related illnesses (source: The American Institute of Stress). With rising costs of health care and the number of people with limited access to it, if we could help people reduce their stress imagine the impact on their wellbeing — financial, physical, mental or emotional.

Arianna Huffington speaks very candidly about this. After collapsing from overworked exhaustion a few years ago, she has since become a dedicated advocate of moving away from the popular two-track focus on money and power. She talks about prioritizing life: wellbeing, wonder, wisdom and giving. Ultimately it all points towards a more balanced and less stress-controlled life.

Obsession with conventional ideas of ‘success’ can be harmful enough, but compound that stress with relationships, family, financial woes and health concerns and you find yourself in a constant state of fight or flight. This causes people to be more reactionary which further perpetuates the cycle of stress.

I want to help give people the ability to stop and take just a few minutes a day to regroup and refocus; to give them a chance to get perspective on the things that matter and the things that don’t. Being able to train your mind to do this isn’t as hard or time consuming as people think. It’s about committing to it just like an exercise routine or healthier eating habits. A healthy mind is just as important.

A statistic from Harvard states that we spend 46.9% of our time thinking about something other than what we are doing. This absence from the present moment also causes unproductive stress.

What will the world look like when it’s fixed?

The world will look a lot healthier when this is fixed. People will discover ways to be more productive and creative, and thus feel a greater degree of satisfaction.  Their professional and personal relationships will improve because stress will be less of a barrier to listening, communicating and cooperating with others. Personal motivation will be higher because the negativity of stress will be less of a factor in their daily lives. All of this adds up to a greater sense of wellbeing; dare I say “happiness.”

What are you doing to help fix it?

I’m tackling the fix in a couple ways. The first is developing and launching this new product, Muse: the brain sensing headband, that combines my passion for neuroscience with my desire to help as many people as possible. I wanted to create a tool that would help people exercise their minds in the most positive and productive way—not just with cognitive exercises alone, but also with a focus towards building emotional resilience.

Muse senses your brainwaves much the same way a heart rate monitor senses your heart beat. It’s easy to use and will allow people to learn and train their minds at their own pace with another tool everyone has already in their pockets –their smart phone or tablet.  Muse actually measures the state of your mind. Ultimately, we’ve created a usable, fun system that enables virtually anyone to improve themselves, cut away the static of a busy mind, and feel calmer in only three minutes a day.

The second way I’m helping fix it is as a therapist.  From as far back as I can recall I’ve always felt compelled to make people feel better. Being a therapist gives me the opportunity to do that one-on-one. There are so many people suffering from stress and negative thoughts, and I’ve seen it lead to harmful actions and feelings. I’ve had the opportunity to help people identify root causes of stress and destructive thinking to help them heal.  With Muse, I’m able to share that on a much larger scale.

What can others do to help fix it?

In the work environment, people can look to encouraging healthier working habits and environments. So much productivity is lost due to employee stress that manifests itself in various ways. The healthiest work environments are transparent and open, and where communication and collaboration foster creativity. Leaders need to be open to change and geared towards fostering more happiness in the workplace. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is a good example. I’d say InteraXon is another, and we model ourselves on the other good examples out there. And we all Muse.

As individuals, seek small adjustments to lifestyle habits. If we can be open minded to new suggestions and tools and new ways to approach problems, we can become less fixed. This opens us up to new ideas and possibilities.

What is a mistake you’ve made that you learned from and others can also learn from it?

When we began creating this technology, I was a little naive and somewhat idealistic. I didn’t realize how many barriers we’d come to face. We’re essentially cutting the path in a field that is still unfamiliar to many people and we’re building a technology that will change the world – not a short order. I’ve been a lifelong optimist and so I have a hard time imagining blocks to success – but there were a few, namely in manufacturing and finance. A lot of ups and downs I never even considered. But the manifestation of InteraXon’s vision is now a tangible product now and that makes the challenges worthwhile.

While a good degree of optimism is absolutely necessary to keep a team inspired, grounded optimism is an even greater asset when working to bring a vision to life.

Beyond looking into our brains today, what will Muse mean for the future?

Muse will continue to further self-understanding, whether it be through helping people be happier by reducing their stress or helping them up their golf game as they become more able to concentrate on what is important to them. In the future, Muse will enable people to do things like customization and control of their home environment based on their brain state – for instance, adjusting the lighting and music to match your mood. Really, the possibilities are vast and we’re just at the beginning of exploring the potential of this technology.

Happiness At Work edition #98

All of these articles are included in this week’s new collection.
I hope you find much here to enjoy, use and prosper from.
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Happiness At Work #97 ~ why our learning matters more than ever

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Happiness At Work edition #97

Here are some of our favourite stories collected in this edition, beginning with this story that eloquently makes the case for learning inside our organisations and provides this week’s headline theme…

Organisational Learning in the Network Era

by Harold Jarche

W. Edwards Deming, American management visionary, understood that systemic factors account for most organizational problems, and changing these has more potential for improvement than changing any individual’s performance. Therefore the role of executives should be to manage the system, not individuals. But the real barrier to systemic change is hierarchical management, as it constrains the sharing of power, a necessary enabler of organizational learning. People have to trust each other to share knowledge, and power relationships can block these exchanges. Just listen to any boardroom meeting and see how power can kill a conversation. If learning is what organizations need to do well in order to survive and thrive, then structural barriers to learning must be removed.

A key factor in sustaining any enterprise is organizational learning. Knowledge gives us the ability to take effective action (know how) and this is the type of knowledge that really matters in both business and life. Value from this knowledge is created by groups and spreads through social networks.

First of all, learning is not something to get. In too many cases we view learning as something that is done to people. It’s almost as if we are goin’ to get some learnin’! We think we can get an education or get people trained. This is absurd.

The only knowledge that can be managed is our own, so organizational knowledge management should first support personal knowledge mastery. PKM is an individual discipline of seeking, sense-making, and sharing that helps each of us understand our world and work more effectively. In addition to PKM, groups should promote working out loud to ensure common understanding and to address exceptions to the norm, as this is where group learning happens. The organization can then ensure that important decisions are recorded, codified, and easily available for retrieval.  Each of us is responsible for our own learning but our responsibility to our peers is to share this learning. If nobody shared what they have learned, there would be nothing like Wikipedia or other free learning resources on the web. The same pertains to sharing inside organizations.

In an open environment, learning will flourish, as it has on the Web. When we remove artificial boundaries to working and learning, we enable innovation. Andrew McAfee, at the MIT Center for Digital Business, wrote

“The central change with Enterprise 2.0 and ideas of managing knowledge [is] not managing knowledge anymore — get out of the way, let people do what they want to do, and harvest the stuff that emerges from it because good stuff will emerge. So, it’s been a fairly deep shift in thinking about how to capture and organize and manage knowledge in an organization.”

As Frederic Laloux notes in Reinventing Organizations, the key role of a CEO is in holding the space so that teams can self-manage (and learn for themselves).

If you are in a position of authority and you are not removing barriers to learning, then you are not serving your organization in the network era.

Link to read the full unedited article

Julia Middleton: Cultural Intelligence (CQ)

CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE:

The ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures.

Organisations often appoint leaders for their IQ. Then, years later, sack them for their lack of EQ (Emotional Intelligence). Common Purpose argues that in the future they will promote for CQ – Cultural Intelligence.

Participants on Common Purpose programmes, as they learn to lead beyond their authority, need to be able to cross boundaries: between east and west, and north and south; between faiths and beliefs; between public, private and voluntary sectors; and between generations.

Founder and CEO of Common Purpose, Julia Middleton, speaks about Cultural Intelligence – the ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures.

Check out her book Cultural Intelligence here

Strategy Is No Longer a Game of Chess

by Greg Satell

Legendary strategists have long been compared to master chess players, who know the positions and capabilities of each piece on the board and are capable of thinking several moves ahead.

It’s time to retire this metaphor. Strategy is no longer a game of chess because the board is no longer set out in orderly lines. Industries have become boundless.  Competitive threats and transformative opportunities can come from anywhere.  Strategy, therefore, is no longer a punctuated series of moves, but a process of deepening and widening connections.

So we find ourselves in an age of disruption, where agility trumps scale and strategy needs to take on a new meaning and a new role.  We can no longer plan; we can only prepare. This requires what Columbia’s Rita Gunther McGrath calls a shift from “learning to plan” to “planning to learn”.

Continue reading this article

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5 neglected behaviors that make dreams happen

  1. Identify and gain customers. “Build it and they will come,” only works in the movies. Dreams without customers are a waste of time.

  2. Think like a dreamer. Talk like a doer. Dreamy-talk doesn’t inspire confidence in others.

  3. Learn from detractors, rather than brushing them aside.

  4. Develop people and grow teams. Dreams that don’t require others are too small.

  5. Listen more. Everyone isn’t a complete idiot.

Dreamers set reasonable people on edge. But, every team needs at least one irritating dreamer.

Continue reading this article

The Price of Happiness? £478 per employee

Research shows that SME bosses could spend £476 per employee on social outings and training courses and see happiness increase by 35 per cent.

Spending less than £500 per employee each year on social outings and training courses could increase workforce happiness by over a third (35 per cent) in UK small business, new research has revealed.

The survey by Viking reveals that employees in small businesses believe training and development, benefits such as flexible working and social events and regular company updates from bosses are as important as a pay rise.

By investing £286 on training courses and £190 on staff outings per employee, levels of happiness at work would increase by 35 per cent, according to analysis of the key drivers of happiness.

Continue reading this article

These include one or two that are dear to our heart and central to our teaching…

1. Truly listen to people.  Pay attention to their body language, and mirror it with your own. Listen graciously rather than waiting to talk. —Adam Goldman

4. Learn basic mindfulness meditation. It doesn’t have to be a major commitment, just 10 minutes in a day. All you need to do is pay attention to your breath as it goes out and comes back in. Remember, it’s not about clearing your head of thoughts. “Real Happiness at Work” author Sharon Salzberg says mindfulness means having a “balanced awareness” of what’s happening around you, so that you can understand your experience rather than just react to it. —James H. Kelly

11. At the end of the work day, reflect on what you did well. Research out of Harvard Business School shows that keeping a journal of your daily successes improves your performance and wellbeing.

Read the full list

Happiness Researcher Shawn Achor On The REAL Reason Success Can’t Make You Happy (VIDEO)

Work hard, achieve your goals, become happy — that’s the happiness formula many believe to be universally true. But happiness researcher Shawn Achor says that this success-leads-to-happiness model is fundamentally flawed. In a sit-down with Oprah for “Super Soul Sunday,” Achor explains why.

“It’s scientifically broken for two reasons. The first reason is that because success is a moving target, even if you hit success, you immediately change what ‘success’ looks like for you,” Achor says…

“When we study it, we find that your happiness levels don’t really move very much as your success rates rise. But flip around the formula,” Achor says. “The research says that being successful doesn’t automatically make you happier, but being happier — being more positive — makes you more successful.”

Continue reading and watch the video clip

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Closing the Gender Divide: Why Confidence and Leaning In Alone Won’t Cut It

by Lydia Dishman

It’s a leadership catch 22. While we can all agree that confidence is an essential tool for career success, a raft of research indicates that women are less likely to speak up in meetings, negotiate for raises or promotions, and generally underestimate their ability to perform.

When women are selected less often to lead than their male peers, even though they outperform the guys, it’s no wonder the gender gap persists.

A recent survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Strategy& found that in eight out of the last 10 years, there have been more women heading into the corner office than stepping out. Despite that encouraging trend, female CEOs comprised only 3% of leaders of public companies in 2013, a 1.3 percentage point drop from 2012. And they’re more likely to be forced out.

But why?

Books such as The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman,Find Your Courage by Margie Warrell, and even The Next Generation of Women Leaders by Selena Rezvani all suggest that the chasm is caused by the gap between competence and confidence.

There’s plenty of science to lend credence to their theory.

Support, even in the face of failure is one way to foster the female leader. As Susan Glasser writes at Politico:

“The leaders who succeed are the ones who are allowed to make mistakes, who have the time and space and breathing room and support from their bosses to push and prod, experiment and improvise until they get it right. Because all of journalism is in the midst of upheaval right now, and that Silicon Valley cliché about failing in order to succeed really does apply. It turned out I did not really have the support of my boss, and I believe that to be the actual—and much more prosaic—story of many of these contretemps over controversial editors and executives who happen to be women.”

Continue reading the full article

Over communication: 7 reasons to learn “Mench”

by Dorothy Dalton

…is over communication strictly a gender issue?

I don’t think so. I know any number of men who could talk for their countries.  Women often make comments about the monosyllabic “report” style communication patterns of the men in their lives, thinking that the rapport we create via our own delivery is much better.

But Lynette Allen, Co-Founder Her Invitation suggests that over sharing (over communication) can indeed be a female characteristic which we use to our detriment seeing it as an  “unconsciously displayed behaviour which actively holds women back. They have to learn to be more succinct in the workplace and not tell the whole story and even more.”  

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review  suggested what happened to a senior woman in a meeting ” was like a snowball going down a hill and picking up stuff in its path”  and was a real barrier to being taken seriously.

What is your style? “mini- series” or  “book cover blurb.”

So why does over communication cause mis-communication, isn’t it important that everyone has all the details?

  1. Your thinking appears cloudy and muddled if you are unable to be succinct and your message becomes blurred in verbiage. If you forget the point of why you’re telling something, you have gone seriously adrift. People stop listening and you fail to get your message across.  You have become a snowball and snowballs melt. Ding!
  2. It seems that you don’t respect other people’s time if you over communicate in any situation, you run the risk of your listener shutting down and retreating, either physically or psychologically. At the far end of the spectrum they will avoid you totally. In all cases your message is not going through. Ding!
  3. It seems that you don’t respect your own time if every time a simple social question of “How are you?” produces a twenty-minute discourse on your health or what is going on for you,  you give the impression of being a poor time manager.  Ding!
  4. It suggests that you are not in touch with your audience as you don’t recognise social cues.  So just as if you were going to France you would try to speak a bit of French, If you are delivering to a male audience then try to speak in a language they will understand. Mench?Ding
  5. It indicates a lack of empathy especially when you fail to pick up disconnected body language signs (loss of eye contact, fidgeting) If you are talking, you are not listening. Ding! Ding!
  6.  If you need to talk to wear someone down with your voice, then they are agreeing under duress. That was not successful communication. It could even be considered a form of passive aggression if you don’t allow your listener the opportunity  to participate. Ding!
  7. It suggests that you think what you have to say is more important than what others have to say and conveys arroganceDing! Ding!
  8. It confirms that you like the sound of your own voice, email etc. See point 7. Ditto Ding!

So does this mean that women and chatterboxes in general have to learn  “Mench,”  the abridged speak of a certain type of male?  Lynette felt that while organisational culture is male dominated this is a necessary work- around to get our voices heard. Isn’t this another one of those fix women things? No apparently not, it can be completely gender neutral. Factor in a general reduction in people’s attention span, then anything prolonged is going to be ineffective for both men and women alike. We have already seen the one minute elevator pitch cut back into the 30 second commercial.

So perhaps the converse  can also apply  Maybe we should start saying  “OK that was the book cover blurb  – now give me the mini-series”

Link to read the full unedited article

Dads Who Do Dishes Raise Ambitious Daughters

Dads who equally divided the drudgery of household chores with their wives tended to have daughters whose “when I grow up” aspirations were less gender-stereotypical, suggests an upcoming paper in Psychological Science.

Moms’ work-equality beliefs did also color their daughters’ attitudes toward gender roles, but this study found that a stronger predictor of girls’ career goals was the way their dads handled domestic duties. The daughters of parents who shared housework were more likely to tell the researchers they wanted to be a police officer, a doctor, an accountant, or a “scientist (who studies germs to help doctors find what medicine each patient needs),” lead author Alyssa Croft wrote via email, quoting one little girl in the study.

Continue reading this story

How To Say “Thank You” At Work: a guide to showing gratitude to peers, managers and employees

…It tends to be really easy to see when you’ve done “saying thank you at work” wrong (because the other person is uncomfortable, offended, or just doesn’t know how to react), but hard to know when you’re doing it right.

In this post, I want to create a guide for how to say thank you at work based on the best widely accepted rules and smart strategies for forming trust and stronger relationships with your peers and coworkers.

Why saying thank you matters

At work, it’s often easier to say nothing than to risk saying “thanks” in the wrong way. And as such, a lot of us go about our days feeling under-appreciated or not realizing the impact our work has on other people.

People thrive at work when they know their contributions have meaning. Letting people know the ways in which their work matters — to you, to the company, to their team — helps you to keep the people around you engaged and excited about their work. Especially if you are a manager, this is an important part of your job.

Saying thank you helps to build trust and stronger relationships with the people you work with too. When people know you value them, they are more likely to value you in return and want to work with you (since you make them feel great about their contributions).

Plus, expressing gratitude isn’t just good for the people you’re thanking — it’s actually good for you too! People who say thank you are happier (it makes sense right? It feels good to help other people feel good) and are more well-liked. It’s like a self-perpetuating cycle; the more positivity you spread, the more is out there to come back to you.

Read the full article

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12 Unusual Ways To Spur Creativity During Meetings

Holding brainstorming sessions is easy. It’s the actual brainstorming that’s tough — and often ineffective. As the boss, how do you get your team to come up with great ideas on the spot, and then actually follow through? Members from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) share some ideas.

Ask Your Team to Think Fast!

Encourage thinking on your feet, so every meeting typically includes a spur of the moment prompt, where each person quickly throws out an idea that comes to mind. Crazy is OK.

Show Gratitude

In order to get the most out of my team for a brainstorming session, we ask everyone to reach out via phone to someone they are grateful towards prior to the session. When we start the meeting, everyone comes in with a positive and open mind. The results are spectacular.

Ask for the Worst Idea in the Room

When creativity is at a standstill or a project is particularly difficult, I like to challenge our team members to come up with the WORST idea possible. Sometimes we even make it a competition, trying to one-up each other with even more ridiculous and off-the-wall ideas.

Know Your Team

One thing that helps to spur creativity is to have your team take a personality trait test and share their test results amongst their peers at a meeting. It’s a fun and different way of helping to foster a deeper understanding about each team member that will incite new and more effective/creative ways to think collectively.

Make It a Team Effort

To spur creativity, we play “Yes… and….” For a given problem each team member provides a solution that is not to be judged by anyone. Instead, another team says, “Yes I like this idea because…. and we can also….”

Incorporate Humour

Humor is brain juice. Dopamine and endorphins keeps tension low, morale high, and bring people toward a state of engagement. Everything in a brainstorm session should be fair game for making FUN of. Bring people into the room who can make people laugh.

Extra credit points for having Play-Doh and other fun tactile objects that stimulate various regions of the brain. Also make sure people are fed. Forming new ideas takes up a lot of chemical resources.

Know When to Stop

Sometimes there’s only one right answer to a creative conundrum, from how the trade show booth should look to the headline and font for the new campaign. The simple, elegant, smart choice wins, and often the best answer comes up early on because it didn’t require too much thinking.

Take a Walk

When I want to get the creative juices flowing on our team, we go for a walk. We call these “walkies,” where we go for 15 minutes and talk about life. Generally, the conversation always goes back to work.

There is something about nature that spurs a person to be more creative. It will help you see the world better. I find that being healthy and alert will always boost up the creative side in people as well.

Provide Special Incentives

We value the creativity of our employees in routine brainstorming sessions and always encourage them to think “outside the box.” To show our appreciation for their creativity and implementation of a successful project, we reward them with special incentives like a weekend getaway.

Showcase Your Ideas

Our office has a massive whiteboard that we use to brainstorm and stay focused. Being able to walk into the office everyday and see your ideas in front of you is a constant reminder of what needs to get done. It is definitely an accomplishment to be able to erase something when it has been completed.

Don’t Brainstorm

In place of a brainstorming session, we break each task down into very specific areas and have each team or individual attack each idea with a purpose. This gives them not only a starting location, but also a direction, and produces great results when combined with other teams/individuals who are given different tasks and directions.

Bring Wine—And Demand Results

Every Friday my team gets together for what we call the “Eatin’ Meetin’.” This is our time to relax, throw around ideas and talk about our deliverables for the week. Everyone eats cheese, drinks wine and brainstorms.

When someone throws out an idea and it’s well received, we simply talk about how we can make it happen and who can lend a hand. And that becomes their deliverable to report on for the next Eatin’ Meetin’.

Read the full unedited article

Happiness At Work edition #97

All of these rticl;es and many more are collected together in Happiness At Work edition #97, online from Friday 30th May 2014.

I hope you find things here to use and enjoy.

Becoming More Happy, Creative & Productive ~ a back to earth toolkit of tips and techniques

After last week’s post putting our heads in the clouds to think and expand our thinking about thinking, I thought it might be helpful this week to come back to earth with a post that is grounded in practical How To tools and techniques.  I hope you find something in this selection to enjoy and use with what you are trying to make and make happen in your life and work.

The loudest story to catch my attention this week, turning up across a range of different sites, is Sharon Salzburg’s ideas brought together in her new book:

Practices For Having A Happier Day At Work

Margarita Tartakovsky writes in Psych Central’s blog World of Psychology:

…In Real Happiness at Work Salzberg discusses eight pillars of happiness in the workplace:

  • balance;
  • concentration;
  • compassion;
  • resilience;
  • communication and connection;
  • integrity;
  • meaning; and
  • open awareness.

At the end of each chapter she features formal meditations that take about 10 to 20 minutes, along with mini meditations and practices throughout the book.

Below are some of my favorite tips from Salzberg’s book for helping us have a more peaceful and happier day at work. The great thing about these exercises is that they’re simple, small and totally doable ways we can enjoy greater calm and satisfaction.

  • Before starting a project, meeting or even a conversation, ask yourself: “What do I most want to see happen from this?”
  • Before starting your day, set an intention. Salzberg gave this example: “May I treat everyone today with respect, remembering each person wants to be happy as much as I do.”
  • As you sit down at your desk, spend several moments listening to the sounds around you. Take note of your reactions to the sounds.
  • Notice how you’re holding something in your hand, such as a pen or cup. Are you holding on tightly? “Sometimes, we exert so much force holding things, it exacerbates tension without our realizing it.”
  • Try to perform a simple act of kindness every day. Salzberg included these examples: “holding an elevator door, saying thank you in a sincere manner, or listening to someone with a clear and focused mind.”
  • Pay attention to your feelings. For instance, if you’re feeling irritated toward a co-worker, pay attention to your irritation, “not so much the story of why you’re irritated, but the actual feeling of it.” What does it feel like in your body? Where do you feel it? Identifying irritation as it starts helps you prevent an action you might later regret. “With a more immediate recognition of what we’re feeling, we have a choice as to how we want to respond in that moment.”
  • As you heat up your lunch, stop, and simply pay attention to your breath until your hear the ding of the microwave.
  • If you’re feeling upset, consider helping someone out. (“The more you help, the happier you can be.”)
  • Think about the people who make your job possible, such as a housekeeper, elevator operator or fundraiser – and thank them.

As Salzberg writes, “Being happy at work is possible for all of us, anytime and anywhere, with open eyes and a caring heart. We need only to take the first step.”

Link to the original article

‘Real Happiness at Work’ is an Inside Job

Love Your Job’s reviewer ‘Olivia Greene’ writes

In Real Happiness at Work, Sharon Salzberg’s first question to her readers is, “When we took this job did we expect it to make us happy?”

…Stuck in a rut at work, mostly of my own making, I stumbled across this book and I decided to read it every morning on my way to work for ninety days. My subway commute is about forty minutes, so I had time to get into the philosophy of the book and choose an exercise for the day before I walked through my office’s doors.

Using some of her exercises began to change my work day:

Unitask!
So many of us pride ourselves on our capacity to multitask, but that mindset can lead to a lot of stress. Salzberg’s exercises call for us to do one thing at a time, give that one activity our attention and thereby give ourselves a break. Once I tried this, I realized I was happier if I was unitasking, not multitasking. It is exhausting to stretch our attention in two or three different places — and it’s unnecessary.

Notice our Stress
Salzberg writes that every job has stress, but each of us gets stressed about different things. I tried an exercise that calls for writing down every thing during the work day that stressed me. Looking over my list, I found out it was different stressors than I realized — and a lot of the stress came from my own thoughts, which I could slowly change.

Mindful Emailing
Before reading Salzberg’s book, I answered an email as quickly as possible. Responsible for an inflow of hundreds of emails a day, the key for my professional survival seemed to me to be speed. But that was making me harried, unable to appreciate what I was writing or reading. Instead, I tried her mindful emailing exercises: I read emails twice entirely before replying and found out I was missing important points, I considered more carefully how my emails would be read and I added more kind words, and I decided I didn’t need to check my email while walking or riding the elevator. This mindful emailing made me, quite simply, happier at work.

Plant seeds
I made lists of accomplishments I hoped for at work, and noted which parts of success I could control — and which I couldn’t. It helped to ground me when I considered that I could set intentions, I could work towards something, but every outcome was dependent on forces beyond my control.

Notice sounds
Most work environments are noisy, with sounds we have no control over. Stationed between an employee social area and a crucial work area, I’m surrounded by sounds I can not control and do not need to pay attention to. I learned that when they begin to overwhelm me, I can stop, truly notice the sounds without feeling the need to stop them, and then gradually return to work with more ability to focus.

Take a deep breath!
While it’s core and basic advice I’ve heard countless times, Sharon Salzberg writes convincingly of the power of breath to restore and center us. In moments when I feel afraid and lose my calm, I learned that taking a deep breath can restore a sense of peace and vitality. It only takes three seconds and it works wonders.

I found that using these exercises allowed me, after a year of wishing I had the courage, to point out the amazing accomplishments I’d had over the past years and ask my boss to help those be recognized. I’ve also found the strength to apply for other jobs. I know that something wonderful is on its way, and I embrace what is happening right now instead of wishing it were different. Most importantly, I remember that finding happiness at work is an inside job. Only I can find it. My boss, my colleagues, and my company can not give it to me. I need to reach for it every day by making the time to breathe, to mini-meditate and to remember a greater sense of purpose. That’s my real responsibility — and it’s a big job.

Link to the original article

Sharon Salzberg, “Real Happiness at Work” | Talks at Google

Here you can watch Sharon Salzburg talking about her research and ideas and leading some guided mindfulness exercises in this video talk.  When you can give this the time to listen to, there’s lots of gentle wisdom here and a very easy mindfulness experience to enjoy at 23’55”:

“Life is full of surprises when we pay attention…”
And here is Sharon Salzburg writing the illustrative story she tells in this video, extracted from her book:

Self-Forgiveness at Work

…before too long, we got stuck in unthinkably bad traffic. I don’t recall ever seeing such traffic. As we crawled along, trying to go cross-town, then trying to go uptown, then cross-town again, trying anything, we barely made any progress. I wondered if I would make it to the talk at all. More than anything, I felt bad for the cab driver, wondering if he would get a fine for returning the cab late. I began to apologize, “I am so sorry. You were nice enough to pick me up and now you’ll be late. I can’t believe this monstrous traffic. I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m so, so sorry.” He interrupted me, “Madam, traffic is not your fault.” Then he paused a moment, and added, “Nor is it mine.”

I just loved that he added “Nor is it mine.” I thought of how many times customers probably blamed him for their own tardiness, for bridge closings and tired toll collectors and wild drivers of other cars. I thought, “That was a wonderful teaching. Actually it would be okay if I don’t make it to the lecture at all” (I did, by barely a second).

When we challenge the habit of unfair self-blame, we learn to focus our energy on areas of the job that we can manage and let go of the rest. When we take time to focus on the part of the environment we can control – most particularly ourselves — working life becomes less emotionally fraught.

Patience is a much-underrated tool for dealing with frustrating work situations. Cultivating a flexible perspective, and the ability to let go, is essential to whatever kind of work we do. As we learn to delay the story lines and mental habits that we typically bring to our work, and simply become available to our circumstances in the moment, we’re able to adapt to things as they actually are. Patience at work begins with the full acknowledgment of conditions exactly as they are.

This includes the restless, critical or stubborn states of our own mind. A student of mine was amazed, on the morning of a job interview, when mindfulness practice enabled her to catch herself in the middle of a long-held assumption regarding her confidence and self-worth (“I’m not good enough! I can’t compete. I’ll never get it!”). Barraged by fear as well as impatience over the interviewer’s response, her mind in the past would have spun out of control, kept her on tenterhooks, and beaten herself up in the interim. Had she not been patient enough to stop, sit quietly and observe her self-defeating thoughts, she would never have been able to notice this pattern — and compose herself enough to land the job.

The more time we spend on meditation practice, the more rewarding it becomes as rather than rejecting difficulties as bothersome interruptions, we can acknowledge our work with all its complications and challenges as an invitation to wake up and live our lives more honestly and fully.

Link to the original article

Self-acceptance: a key to a happy life, but difficult to achieve

A new survey has found that self-acceptance is the “healthy habit” people struggle with most.

The UK charity Action for Happiness in conjunction with online behavioral change program Do Something Different asked 5,000 participants to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10 on ten “happy” habits. These habits, identified as “keys to happiness” via scientific research, plus the questions used to identify them, were as follows:

Giving: How often do you make an effort to help or be kind to others?
Relating: How often do you put effort into the relationships that matter most to you?
Exercising: How often do you spend at least half an hour a day being active?
Appreciating: How often do you take time to notice the good things in your life?
Trying out: How often do you learn or try new things?
Direction: How often do you do things that contribute to your most important life goals?
Resilience: How often do you find ways to bounce back quickly from problems?
Emotion: How often do you do things that make you feel good?
Acceptance: How often are you kind to yourself and think you’re fine as you are?
Meaning: How often do you do things that give you a sense of meaning or purpose?

While questions about Giving and Relating each scored an average of more than 7/10, the Acceptance question scored the lowest of the bunch: an average of 5.56 out of 10, just below Exercising (5.88/10).

“This survey shows that practising self-acceptance is one thing that could make the biggest difference to many people’s happiness,” says Professor Karen Pine, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire and co-founder of Do Something Different. “Exercise is also known to lift mood so if people want a simple, daily way to feel happier they should get into the habit of being more physically active too.”

Do Something Different and Action for Happiness have created a Do Happiness programme, which sends people messages to help them practice scientifically backed healthy habits. Some of the recommended actions include being as kind to yourself as you are to other people, spending quality quiet time by yourself, and asking a trusted friend what he or she thinks your greatest strengths are.

Link to the original article 

Russ Harris: ‘How To Build Genuine Confidence’ at Happiness & Its Causes 2011

In this talk Russ Harris uncovers the real causes of lack of self-confidence, and gives us three rules for building our confidence in those times when we do not feel it naturally:

Rule 1 – Genuine confidence is not the absence of fear and anxiety, it is a transformed relationship with fear and anxiety.

Rule 2 – The actions of confidence come first, the feelings of confidence come later.

Rule 3 – Focus full attention on the task in hand.

And at this point in the talk is where I have set the video to play from, when Russ Harris’s shows a quite different mindfulness technique for doing this…

The Secret to Managing Stress: Adding the Opposite

How many of you are stressed about something right now? Did I hear an overwhelming “yes?” Well, I’m not surprised—a whopping 83% of Americans say they’re stressed at work.

And sure, you can find plenty of advice online about how to manage stress—from working out to using relaxation techniques like yoga or mediation to socializing with family and friends.

But I want to add another, rather unique tool to your stress-management kit. You may not have heard about it before—or you may have, years ago: It’s based on a strategy for teaching math to kids, known as “adding the opposite.”

In the classroom, this technique is used to help explain the idea of subtracting a negative—by adding a positive instead. Instead of 4 – (-6), for example, the student is taught to think of the equation as 4 + (+6).

Turns out, this is a great way to deal with stress, as well: Instead of trying to mitigate the negative effects of stress, think about what you can do to create a positive outcome, instead. Also referred to as “proactive coping,” this technique has worked wonders for my clients and has been proven in studies to reduce levels of worry and anxiety.

To help illustrate exactly how to use this method, read on for three ways you can “add the opposite” in common stress-inducing situations at the office.

1. Focus on the Positive

We’ve all had that kind of day: Your boss was a crank, your co-workers were annoying, you had a killer all-day headache, and you’re about to take this workday stink home and share it with your family. (Won’t they be thrilled?)

Not so fast! According to the University of Minnesota, you can greatly reduce evening stress levels simply by jotting down a few positive things that happened during the day. And they don’t even have to be work-related! Maybe you received a great compliment, nailed a presentation, or made a new friend in the office. Whatever you write, make sure to note why these things made you feel good. This will help you remember all the positive attributes, skills, and people you have in your life, and focusing on the “why” helps you appreciate those things even more.

You see, instead of dealing with stress by rehashing your terrible day to anyone who will listen, you can add the opposite by reminding yourself of what went well.

2. Envision Success

I don’t live downtown, but I have to go there frequently for meetings. And up until recently, I dreaded everything about it. Between the unfamiliar territory, one-way streets, ever-present construction, and full parking garages, I knew that it was always going to take much longer than I expected to arrive, find parking, and get to the meeting on time. It was harried and stressful, and I dreaded it.

Eventually, I realized that I couldn’t keep operating that way, and I started trying to proactively cope. So, whenever I had a city meeting, I’d envision myself leaving the office with plenty of time to spare, effortlessly finding a parking spot, and arriving well ahead of time, relaxed, unstressed, calm, and ready to conduct business.

And you wouldn’t believe the difference it made. I realized that by working myself up mentally and always picturing the worst possible experience, I was creating my own stress. But when I shifted my outlook, I had a completely different experience. I actually did arrive early, find parking, and had time to gather myself before the meeting.

Whether you dread city parking, presentations, meetings, performance reviews, or any number of other stressors, try adding the opposite by shifting your outlook from dread to anticipation and imagining a positive outcome. You’ll be able to ditch the stress—which will put you in the right mindset to succeed in any situation.

3. Start a Conversation

I often work with clients who complain that their managers are a constant source of stress, but they avoid tackling the issue head on. Why? They feel uncomfortable confronting an authority figure, or aren’t sure what to say or how to say it. And so, they take no action at all—and the stress continues.

To add the opposite in this situation, try focusing on the goal you want to achieve in that conversation and taking the steps to make it happen.

For example, let’s say your stress stems from your boss’ tendency to assign projects right as you’re about to leave the office. Instead of panicking about those last-minute tasks, directly confront the issue with a conversation—perhaps asking if you can meet each morning to outline the day’s assignments.

You’re instantly replacing that fear, dread, and avoidance with a proactive with a focus on the desired outcome—and that’s a much better way to replace that end-of-day stress.

The next time you anticipate a stressful event, focus on creating positive outcomes and aligning the resources you need to be successful. Doing this before stress has a chance to get to you has a much better effect on your personal well-being—rather than simply recovering from stress after the fact. That means a healthier body, a healthier mind, and a happier life. I challenge you to take steps to proactively cope with those tough situations by adding something positive. Your well-being depends on it!

Link to the original article

How to Help a New Co-worker (When You Have Your Own Work to Do)

The latest water cooler gossip has leaked the news that someone new is finally getting hired, which means your overloaded plate may actually see some lightening in the near future.

But, before you can let out a sigh of relief, you remember what a chore it was the last time someone new joined the team—and your excitement is quickly replaced with a feeling of dread.

Adding a new person to your team in the office can be a bittersweet experience. On the one hand, when he or she finally gets up to speed, your workload should get a lot more manageable, and ideally, your team will become more efficient. On the other hand, new hires—no matter how experienced they already are— require a lot of training.

Fortunately, you’re not necessarily doomed to suffer through a months-long ramping up period for a new hire. Here’s how to handle the inevitable barrage of questions with style and grace—and stay sane.

1. Flash Back

…I reminded myself what it was like when I first started several years before. From accidentally setting off the office alarm after forgetting the code to completely botching one of our daily reconciliation procedures, I was probably a nightmare to my peers. I also remembered how cohesive the team was and how hard it was being the “outsider” trying to break in to the group. With that in mind, I was able to keep my frustration in check and be much more compassionate about what she was going through as she adjusted to life with our tiny team.

2. Set Boundaries

I know, boundaries sound like limitations, but try to think of them less like restrictions, and more like a roadmap for a happy relationship. No matter who you are, there are rules to the road that you just won’t know when you first start out. At least, not until someone tells you. And, that’s where the boundaries come in.

…Sometimes, you can see a disaster from a mile away, so don’t be afraid to head it off as soon as possible. If you’re a tyrant before your morning coffee infusion, make sure the newbie knows not to come knocking unless the office is on fire. Not a fan of the 4 PM Friday afternoon team meeting? Make sure your new hire knows that on day one, and you’ll avoid resenting him for rest of his tenure. Whatever your pet peeves and professional thorns in your side may be, the more upfront and honest you are about your own boundaries, the happier and more productive everyone will be.

3. Get in the Game

Sometimes, you just can’t avoid all the questions. The job is complicated, and the culture is unique, and whoever is joining the team will need the secret handbook if he or she stands a chance at being successful—not to mention, help you out. That’s when it’s helpful to view the newbie onboarding process as a game, rather than an added burden.

This tactic was especially helpful to me when I had a recent graduate join my team. I had well over a decade of experience over her, so looking at her joining as a coaching opportunity just made sense. I knew things she couldn’t possibly know, and it was my responsibility to teach her. And, if I did it well, we’d both come out winners. While I’d have to give up about half the hours in my day until that point, I liked those odds. I ended up sharing everything I knew with her and answered all her questions with the same enthusiasm as my junior high basketball coach had when I asked him to explain a certain offensive play. And it worked.

At the end of the day, a job is just like any other game. There are rules and certain ways to get things done that work better than others. And, in many cases, taking the time to step back and be a coach—even if it’s not necessarily your job—is the only way to make sure your team will work effectively together.

Whether it’s the ins and outs of how to complete the TPS reports or the idiosyncrasies of the coffee machine, your new colleague is going to have a lot of questions, and chances are, you’ll be answering some of them. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll soon enjoy the benefits of having a new, awesome, addition to your team in no time.

Link to read the full original article

Be Happier at Work—This Week With Huffington Post’s The Third Metric

The previous two posts both come from The Muse, a new website I discovered by signing up for the free five-day programme they are offering in partnership with The Third Metric.  Its a great site and so far, two days in, this has been a great programme.

Is your job leaving you over-worked, over-stressed, tired, and unhappy? It doesn’t have to be this way. This class, in partnership with The Huffington Post Third Metric, will give you smart, research-backed strategies for how to re-think about your daily grind and be happier at work. Starting now.

Here’s the link to check out the offer and sign yourself up

A bit more about this programme:

Introducing The 5 Day Program To Find Happiness At Work

by  Jordan Freeman

Small things can help you be happier at work. It comes down to choices, and you really can choose happiness. The Huffington Post has partnered with the career experts at The Daily Muse to lead the way, putting together a five-day lesson plan on how to be “Happier At Work.”

At HuffPost, we focus on something called “The Third Metric,” which seeks to redefine success beyond money and power. We want to introduce a third metric to success that includes well-being, wisdom and wonder. We explore happiness as part of this initiative — especially happiness at work. For many, career success means working harder, longer, and faster — which tends to lead to burnout, sleep deprivation, and driving ourselves into the ground. Not quite the picture of success and happiness we imagined.

Our lessons will teach you smart, research-backed strategies for how to re-think your daily grind, stop making yourself crazy, and be happier at work every day.

Here is an overview of some of the tips and tricks we’ve put together for you.

Day 1: Is “Busy” Helping or Harming You? 
Sometimes, being busy feels good — it makes us feel productive and important. But it can also hold us back from big-picture thinking and even happiness. Learn why it’s so important to take a break and how to do it the right way.

Day 2: The Happiness Booster Sitting Next to You 
It’s easy to separate your work and personal lives, but the truth is, having friends at the office can go a long way toward making you a happier (even better!) employee. Learn how to get to know people outside the office and why it’s important to do it now.

Day 3: The Pursuit of (Im)perfection 
Do you know perfection is impossible, yet continue to strive for it anyway? It could be bringing you down, big time. In this class, we’ll show you just how valuable a little imperfection can be.

Day 4: The Meaning of Your Work 
Even if you don’t love your job, there are still ways to find meaning in it — and get excited for it. We’ll show you practical ways to find purpose at work.

Day 5: Happy Today, Happy Forever 
Here’s a secret about happiness: You have more control over it than you think you do. In this last class, we’ll show you small activities you can do every day that can make a big impact on your happiness.

Sign up here.

Link to the original article

7 Ways to Make it Easy for People to Work with You

by  

“It all depends on who you’re working with.”

That was the feedback from team members to a recent survey about the state of collaboration within our department. The feedback was consistent. Collaboration is…well…inconsistent.It all depends on who you’re working with.

In all organizations you’ll hear people complain about the difficulty of working with certain colleagues. The common refrain is, “If only they would _____…”— communicate better, be more responsive, give me all the information I need…fill in the blank with whatever reason suits the occasion.

Instead of being frustrated with other people not being easy to work with, shift the focus to yourself. Are YOU are easy to work with? If you are easy to do business with, odds are you’ll find others much more willing to cooperate and collaborate with you.

Here are seven ways to make it easy for people to work with you:

1. Build rapport – People want to work with people they like. Are you likable? Do you build rapport with your colleagues? Get to know them personally, engage in small talk (even if it’s not your “thing”), learn about their lives outside of work, and take a genuine interest in them as people, not just a co-worker who’s there to do a job.

2. Be a good communicator – Poor communication is at the root of many workplace conflicts. People who are easy to work with share information openly and timely, keep others informed as projects evolve, talk through out of the box situations rather than make assumptions, and they ask questions if they aren’t sure of the answer. As a general rule, it’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate.

3. Make their job easier – If you want to gain people’s cooperation, make their job easier and they’ll love you for it. But how do you know what makes their job easier? Ask them! If handing off information in a form rather than a chain of emails makes their job easier, then do it. If it helps your colleague to talk over questions on the phone rather than through email, then give them a call. Identify the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) from your colleague’s perspective and it will help you tailor your interactions so both your and their needs are met.

4. Provide the “why” behind your requests – Very few people like being told what to do. They want to understand why something needs to be done so they can make intelligent decisions about the best way to proceed. Simply passing off information and asking someone to “just do it like I said” is rude and condescending. Make sure your colleagues understand the context of your request, why it’s important, and how critical they are to the success of the task/project. Doing so will have them working with you, not against you.

5. Be trustworthy – Above all, be trustworthy. Follow through on your commitments, keep your word, act with integrity, demonstrate competence in your own work, be honest, admit mistakes, and apologize when necessary. Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship, and if you want to work well with others, it’s imperative you focus on building trust in the relationship. Trust starts with being trustworthy yourself.

6. Don’t hide behind electronic communication – Email and Instant Message have their place in organizations, but they don’t replace more personal means of communication like speaking on the phone or face to face. I’ve seen it time and time again – minor problems escalate into major blowouts because people refuse to get out from behind their desks, walk to their colleague’s office, and discuss a situation face to face. It’s much easier to hide behind the computer and fire off nasty-grams than it is to talk to someone about a problem. Just step away from the computer, please!

7. Consistently follow the process – Process…for some people that’s a dirty word and anathema for how they work. However, processes exist for a reason. Usually they are in place to ensure consistency, quality, efficiency, and productivity. When you follow the process, you show your colleagues you respect the norms and boundaries for how you’ve agreed to work together. If you visited a friend’s home and were asked to remove your shoes at the door, you would do so out of respect, right? You wouldn’t make excuses about it being inconvenient or it not being the way you do things in your house. Why should it be different at work? If you need to fill out a form, then fill it out. If you need to use a certain software system to get your information, then use it. Quit making excuses and do work the way it was designed to be done. Besides, if you consistently follow the process, you’ll experience much more grace from your colleagues for those times you legitimately need to deviate from it.

No one likes to think of him/herself as being difficult to work with, yet from time to time we all make life difficult for our colleagues. Focus on what you can do to be easy to do business with and you’ll find that over time others become easier to work with as well.

Link to read the original article

3 Ways To Handle Criticism Like A Pro – And Actually Grow From It

Be smart about the way you ask for feedback and you’ll realise you can’t live or learn without it.
Here’s how to ask the right questions and get the answers you need.

Ignoring this feedback can have detrimental effects on your company’s success, yet many of us are still averse to criticism. Sheila Heen, author of the new book Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well says there’s a powerful reason this.

“Feedback sits at the juncture of two core human needs,” argues Heen. While on the one hand, we have a desire to improve and grow, we also have an innate need to be accepted and loved the way we are. “Feedback suggests that how you are now isn’t quite A-okay,” says Heen. High-achievers, in particular, struggle with this. “We think we should be doing it all and handling it all, if not perfectly, at least perfectly enough that other people don’t notice.”

So, how can we embrace criticism and learn to grow from it?

1. LET GO OF YOUR FIXED MINDSET.

Whether we view feedback as threatening or helpful depends on how we see ourselves, says Heen. Some people view themselves through a fixed identity. They have a mindset that says: “I am how I am. I’m either smart or stupid, capable or not, I’m going to be a success or a failure.” Such individuals take feedback as a verdict about their core being.

On the other hand, people who maintain a growth mindset assume that how they are today isn’t necessarily how they will be in the future. Thinking this way will allow you to accept feedback as a way to learn and grow.

2. IGNORE WHAT YOU DON’T AGREE WITH.

Not all criticism is helpful. “Getting good at receiving feedback doesn’t mean that you actually have to take it. It simply means that you resist the temptation to instantly either reject it or let it overwhelm you and instead work to understand it better,” says Heen. Knowing which opinions to accept and which to ignore means taking the time to fully hear people out.

Since the majority of feedback tends to be vague (“You need to be more of a team player” or “You need to be more responsive to the market”) you might need to push for more specifics. You could ask: “What specifically prompts you to say this?” or “What do you think I should be doing differently?” Getting answers to these questions will help you decide whether the message is useful or not.

3. DON’T FISH FOR A CANNED RESPONSE.

How you ask others for their opinions of you and your work will determine whether or not their responses are useful. “Asking ‘Do you have any feedback for me?’ is overwhelming for the giver and it’s not clear how honest you want them to be,” says Heen.

Instead, be more specific in your questioning. For example, asking “What’s one thing we could change that would make a difference to you?” makes clear the type of response you’re soliciting. You’ll be rewarded with more detailed thoughts that can help you and your business grow.

Link to the original article

Introverts: Know Your Strengths, And You Can Flourish At Work, Too

By Laura Pepper Wu, editor, The Write Life Magazine.

In business culture, we often favour extroversion. Yet the latest research suggests introverts make up one-third to one-half of the population. Author Susan Cain’s recent book, QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking, shines a positive light on us more modest individuals.

In fact, Cain suggests that their traits can actually be strengths — personally and professionally.

Are You an Introvert, Extrovert or Ambivert?

The term introvert is often used inaccurately. Introversion does not necessarily equate to shy, though some introverts are shy — as are some extroverts. Instead, Cain defines introverts as “people of contemplation,” who may enjoy the company of others, but are also comfortable with solitude. They are sensitive, contemplative, modest and calm, and spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting. They can enjoy social occasions, but crave restorative time afterwards. They do their best work alone in quiet places since they are easily overstimulated by noise, lights and action.

In contrast, extroverts are “people of action.” They gain energy from other people, are sociable, excitable and light-hearted. Unlike introverts, extroverts can tolerate a higher level of noise and work well collaboratively. And if neither of these temperaments resonate with you strongly, you may be an ambivert, someone who sits somewhere in the middle of this wide spectrum.Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, Quiet emphasizes that there are strengths that come with your temperament. You can also minimize the impact of the so-called weaknesses with self-knowledge.

Here are a few tips for introverts (and their bosses) to flourish in the workplace:

  1. Reduce noise. Shut the door to your office for stretches at a time, or wear noise-cancelling headphones. You’ll produce better work in a more satisfying environment.
  2. Set some rules for your interactions with colleagues and collaborators. If you have the luxury of doing so, let people know that you prefer email rather than phone conversations. Work in a conference room or coffee shop where you can’t be interrupted. Schedule regular meetings into your calendar to limit the need for spontaneous ones.
  3. Recognize your need for rest. After a big presentation, give yourself permission to restore your energy levels. This is essential for introverted workers to stay on top of their game. While it is important to bond with your work peers outside of the office, focus on quality over quantity.
  4. Let your temperament shape your career path. Since introverts flourish in quiet spaces with minimal interaction, careers such as graphic design, writing, programming and accountancy are all good choices.

The best tip of all is to commit to understanding more about the strengths associated with introversion. You’ll focus more on what you do best, and stress less about the differences between you and the louder voices who get more airplay at meetings. Introverts are observant, so they’ll often ask poignant and important questions, and see a different angle on something. Managers can respect these quiet strengths by asking questions and allowing everyone to speak during meetings. By understanding individual differences in a team, everyone wins.

Link to the original article

Eight Habits that Improve Cognitive Function

What daily habits improve brain structure and cognitive function?

by Christopher Bergland in The Athlete’s Way

On March 11, the New York Times published an article about the “brain fitness business titled, Do Brain Workouts Work? Science Isn’t Sure. I believe the answer is no. Without a variety of other daily habits, these “brain-training games” cannot stave off mental decline or dramatically improve cognitive function.

Most of these brain-training games will have some benefits—but it’s impossible to optimize brain connectivity and maximize neurogenesis (growth of new neurons) sitting in a chair while playing a video game on a two-dimensional screen.

In order to give your brain a full workout, you need to engage both hemispheres of the cerebrum, and both hemispheres of the cerebellum. You can only do this by practicing, exploring, and learning new things in the three-dimensions of the real world—not while being sedentary in front of a flat screen in a cyber reality.

Digital games are incapable of giving the entire brain a full workout. These digital programs can’t really exercise the cerebellum (Latin: “Little Brain”) and, therefore, are literally only training half your brain. These “brain-training workouts” are the equivalent of only ever doing upper body workouts, without ever working out your lower body…

For this post, I did a meta-analysis of the most recent neuroscience studies and compiled a list of habits that can improve cognitive function for people from every generation. These eight habits can improve cognitive function and protect against cognitive decline for a lifespan.

Eight Habits that Improve Cognitive Function

  1. Physical Activity
  2. Openness to Experience
  3. Curiosity and Creativity
  4. Social Connections
  5. Mindfulness Meditation
  6. Brain-Training Games
  7. Get Enough Sleep
  8. Reduce Chronic Stress

The secret to optimising cognitive function can be found in daily habits and exercises that flex both hemispheres of the cerebrum, and both hemispheres of the cerebellum. The eight habits I recommend here exercise all four brain hemispheres. If performed consistently, these habits can improve cognitive function and protect against cognitive decline.

Link to read the full set of of findings in the original article

Why Young Leaders Drive Old Leaders Crazy

by Leadership Freak

NOTE: Definition of a leader: ‘someone who influences the activities of an individual or a group in efforts toward goal achievement in a given situation’.  (Hershey & Blanchard, Situational Leadership, 1977)
This is probably you – whatever your job tile reads.
Only you know of course whether you are an ‘old’ or a ‘young’ leader…

Old leaders feel superior to young leaders because young leaders haven’t paid their dues. Young leaders devalue the value of experience when they think, “Paying your dues is over-rated.”

Young leaders don’t appreciate what old leaders put on the line to support them. When young leaders screw up, they don’t realise they diminish the prestige of those who selected them.

Young leaders who walk away when things get hard weaken old leaders who are gutting it out.

10 Tips for young leaders:

  1. Make everyone around you look good. Nothing good comes from pointing out the bad in others when you’re a young leader.
  2. Celebrate and thank more. One strength of young leaders is dissatisfaction. But, when dissatisfaction turns negative, influence declines.
  3. Slow down when you feel barriers lifting. Enthusiasm and good ideas don’t lower resistance – connection does. People won’t see how smart you are when they’re protecting themselves from you.
  4. Use personal rather than accusatory language. “Our slow progress makes mefeel trapped,” is better than, “You aren’t moving fast enough.”
  5. Respect and answer the fears of old leaders. You scare old leaders when you don’t appreciate their fears.
  6. Channel passion, enthusiasm, and excitement into focus and resolve. Calm determination has more power than vein popping enthusiasm.
  7. Tease out the suggestions of experienced leaders. Say something like, “So, if we go the way you suggest, the next steps are…” Old leaders love to be taken seriously.
  8. Don’t pressure people to get on your team. Get on theirs.
  9. Say what you want. “How can I gain respect?” “Will you help me gain a voice?”
  10. Honour experience.

Link to read the original article

BUT BUT BUT – there is always another side to the coin…

Looking Down on Young Leaders

by Leadership Freak

The hope for dying organizations isn’t found in old leaders who don’t have the guts to say they created the problem.

Organisations reflect the age and attitude of their leaders. The older some grow, the more they lean toward no, and “no” isn’t going anywhere.

Transform organisation by integrating young leaders.

Dedicated young leaders:

  1. Feel impatient.
  2. Address issues elders sweep under the carpet.
  3. Complain when stuck in bureaucracy.
  4. Consistently ask, “Why?”
  5. Care deeply.
  6. Yearn to make a mark.
  7. Embrace diversity.

4 Tips for maximising young leaders:

  1. Push them past the “all talk” stage. Let them struggle and support them at the same time.
  2. Take their perspective. Learn from them.
  3. They don’t know what they don’t know. Teach rather than scoff.
  4. Realise many of the qualities you look down on are the ones you need.

Youth alone isn’t the answer. I’m advocating for respectful age integration.

Link to the original article

see also:

Why Millennials are the New Greatest Generation (infographic)

by 

Generation Y is constantly being given a reputation of being entitled and uncompetitive in the workforce that is very undeserved.

But what if I told you, in spite of this public perception and bad luck, or perhaps even because of it, the Millennials are actually the most generous, educated and civic-minded generation since the Greatest Generation? Don’t believe me? The following infographic debunks many of those Gen Y myths.

See for yourself what this generation has accomplished and how hard they work despite the less than favorable job market they face…

The Top 6 Questions Leaders Have About Communications

by David Grossman

I talk to a lot of leaders who say they want to communicate effectively, but they’re not sure how to. They have questions about how to overcome communication challenges, how to share tough news with employees, and how to measure the effectiveness of their communication. I thought I’d answer the top six questions I get from leaders about communication.

1. If communication is so critical to leadership and business, why isn’t there enough communication in business today?

Communication is often seen as an “add-on” to “hard” or “technical” business skills. Communication is often perceived as someone else’s job. Sometimes leaders spend their time and resources focusing on goals that directly contribute to the bottom line, not knowing that communication does too.

And there are a myriad of myths about communication that get in the way, myths such as “talking is communication” or “people won’t interpret situations or give them meaning if leaders don’t talk about them,” both of which are far from the truth.

2. Why do leaders need to be effective communicators?

Today’s leaders need to be effective leadercommunicators and use strategic communication as a way to achieve the business goals they seek. Leading is communicating; you can’t separate communication from leadership. Without communication, employees lack direction and can’t measure their performance. They lack an ability to see themselves and their work as part of the bigger picture. They can’t add value by contributing as a thinking member of the team.

And what’s most important is that you can’t lead if you can’t express yourself.

Your technical skills and abilities can take you only so far. Leadership is much more. It’s about getting things done and moving a business forward through other people.

3. What traits are most important for a skilled leader communicator?  

Asking questions and listening are critical. Leaders create engagement by focusing on productivity, creating morale and building relationships. Before you can understand a business problem or achieve a goal, you have to understand what the situation is. Asking questions is the best way to come at a problem from varied perspectives. If a leader problem solves from assumptions or only the information at hand, he or she won’t be effective.

4. What’s the greatest communication challenge for leaders?

The greatest challenge leaders face is failing to remember that everything they do communicates.  Whether they intend to or not, everything leaders do (and don’t do) communicates something, so why not communicate well? It’s no secret that people will read into your behavior. They interpret situations and give them meaning, whether or not you communicate about it. Communication provides the right information and prevents misinformation. Leaders need to remember that they make the weather every day for their people.

5. How can leaders measure the effectiveness of their communication?

You can ask others. You can listen (and then listen some more). You can also use a 360 to assess how you’re actually communicating, as compared to how you may think you’re doing.

We all have blind spots, and most of us tend to overestimate our skills. Leaders who are extroverted typically say and do a lot, but the quality of their communication suffers. On the other hand, introverts tend to think they’re communicating more than they actually are.

Effective leadercommunicators practice just like great athletes. Look at Serena Williams. She’s one of the best tennis players in the world, but she still practices every day. Leaders don’t have to be perfect, but we all need to work on flexing our leadership muscle so it gets stronger over time.  A great place to start is to listen to see how you’re doing in meeting you team’s needs: listen to the questions people ask, and look in the mirror and check your reflection.

6. How can leaders inspire their employees when they don’t have good news to share?

The test of great leadership is to ensure understanding in the tough times as well as in the good times. The best leadercommunicators communicate even more in challenging times. They place greater emphasis on two-way dialogue and face-to-face (or at least voice-to-voice) communication, and they’re visible. They listen more than they talk. They ask questions.

They’re genuine, honest, and empathetic.

Be assured, too, that as a leader, it’s OK to not have all the answers.  The three best credibility-building words a leader can say are, “I don’t know” (and then go out and find the answer).

Link to the original article

And here’s a quirky new piece of science that I loved discovering, not least because it lends weight to the realisation that listening is much more complex and skilled and demanding than merely the absence of talking…

Different Brain Regions Handle Different Music Types

Functional MRI of the listening brain found that different regions become active when listening to different types of music and instrumental versus vocals. Allie Wilkinson reports in Scientific American

Vivaldi versus the Beatles. Both great. But your brain may be processing the musical information differently for each. That’s according to research in the journalNeuroImage. [Vinoo Alluri et al, From Vivaldi to Beatles and back: Predicting lateralized brain responses to music]

For the study, volunteers had their brains scanned by functional MRI as they listened to two musical medleys containing songs from different genres. The scans identified brain regions that became active during listening.

One medley included four instrumental pieces and the other consisted of songs from the B side of Abbey Road.

Computer algorithms were used to identify specific aspects of the music, which the researchers were able to match with specific, activated brain areas. The researchers found that vocal and instrumental music get treated differently. While both hemispheres of the brain deal with musical features, the presence of lyrics shifts the processing of musical features to the left auditory cortex.

These results suggest that the brain’s hemispheres are specialized for different kinds of sound processing. A finding revealed but what you might call instrumental analysis.

Link to hear the podcast of this story with short snatches of the music it references

Pharrell Williams – Happy (Official Music Video)

And on the subject of music, here is Pharrell Williams’ Happy, which has been chosen to be this year’s song for UN International Day of Happiness on 20th March.

Clap along and enjoy…

Happiness At Work Edition #88

All of these stories and plenty more are collected together in this week’s Happiness At Work collection of stories.

I hope you find something to take away from this to use and grow and profit from.

Happiness At Work #85 ~ “Perspective Is Everything…”

~ 'Afternoon Light' ~ photo by Sue Ridge

~ ‘Afternoon Light’ ~
photo by Sue Ridge

Reality isn’t a particularly good guide to happiness…”

I have lifted the title for this week’s post from Rory Sutherland’s TedTalk (below) in which he makes an eloquent and persuasive case for how we need to recognise that the way we choose to see and think about things – and then what we say about them – matters far more than the things themselves.

Here are the key principles that Sutherland wants us to accept and work from:

More and more studies are reiterating this same principle that how we frame things fundamentally affects what we make happen, as much as it does what ‘actually’ happens to us.  This is now core to the intelligence coming from a growing agreement across the combined research fields including neuroscience, positive psychology, genetics, psycholinguistics and behavioural economics.

For example, new research in psychology and neuroscience shows that we become more successful when we are happier and more positive. Doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost 3 times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19% faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56%. Students primed to feel happy before taking a maths exam far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are in positive.

Here is what Shawn Achor tells us in his inspirational book The Happiness Advantage

The old formula is broken and waiting to happy actually limits our brain’s potential for success – whereas cultivating positive brains makes us more resilient, creative and productive…

A leading expert in this research is psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, who has found that positive emotions broaden our visual focus, our thoughts and our behaviour.  This makes our thinking more creative, inclusive, flexible and integrative.  Experiments have shown that inducing a positive mood (e.g. by showing participants a funny movie or reading them a funny story) increases our scope of attention, our abilities to solve problems accurately, and our interest in socialising and in strenuous and leisurely activities.  By feeling more positive we change the way we perceive things, broadening our focus and beneficially affecting our physical health, our relationships, our creativity, our ability to acquire new knowledge and our psychological resilience.

Making our best mental maps

We see the world through the mental maps we make of it and most of what we see depends less on what is there and far more on what we expect to see.

On every mental map after crisis or adversity we always have a choice of three possible mental paths:

One that circles us around and around where we are now and keeps us stuck, seeing only the narrowest view on the problem:  “Nothing will ever change – there’s nothing I can do and I will never get out of this”

A second path expects to see even worse things and greater disaster still to come: “It’s just going to get worse and worse no matter what I do.”

The third path is the one that will start to lead us away from our problems to a better place:  “This moment will pass, it will get better eventually, and there will be things that I can do to improve things if I look for them.”  In its best form, we go further still to look for what we might need or be able to learn as a result of getting ourselves back up again: “There must be a way I can use this to learn and grow from somehow…”

Our perspective on what happens to us has also been studied by psychologists like Martin Seligman, who have found that pessimists and optimists have very different explanatory styles (the ways they explain bad and good events to themselves and to others.)  Optimists tend to respond to adverse events by viewing the consequences as temporary and limited in scope – “It could be worse and it will get better” – and they favour words such as “sometimes” or “lately.”  Optimists tend to have an internal locus of control – the belief that they can influence events in their lives and what happens to them is largely done to what they, themselves, do or don’t do, unlike pessimists who tend to be much more fatalistic, seeing control as largely outside themselves and their own influence.  And studies are now showing repeatedly that optimists get much better outcomes: by expecting to get good results we get more of them.

A famously extreme test of the power of how we choose to perceive things is told by holocaust survivor and neuroscientist, Viktor Frankl In his classic book, Man’s Search For Meaning.  He was able to deliberately shift the way his awful reality seemed by shifting his ways of thinking about it, including using his humour as…

“another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation.  It is well known that humour, more than anything else in the human makeup can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if for just a few seconds.”

For Frankl, humour provided a life-saving means to gain perspective.  And with perspective comes the capacity to reappraise and generate alternative approaches and solutions to problems.  Like other positive emotions, humour tends to broaden our focus of attention and thereby foster more exploration, creativity and flexibility in our thinking.

Humour manages to present positive and negative wrapped together into one package, combining “optimism with a realistic look at the tragic.”  Consider director and screenwriter Woody Allen musing on mortality:

“I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Or the classic exchange:

“Does it hurt?”

“Only when I laugh.”

“What one person expects of another can come to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Take, too, The Pygmalion Effect, the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation placed upon people, the better they perform, named after the myth that tells of the sculptor, Pygmalion, who came to so love the sculpture he was carving, that he was able to breathe her into becoming the living breathing Galatea,  a real woman who lived with him for the rest of his life.

Social psychologist Robert Rosenthal and his co-author, school principal Lenore Jacobson coined the term ‘The Pygmalion Effect’ to describe the striking results of an experiment they carried out in a California school in 1965. Students took a test and then teachers were given the names of those identified as “growth spurters” – students who were poised to make great strides academically. And sure enough, these students showed a significantly greater gain in performance over their classmates when tested again at the end of the year.

But here’s the thing: the “growth spurters” were actually chosen at random. The only difference between them and their peers, Rosenthal writes, “was in the mind of the teacher.” And yet the expectations held in the mind of the teacher — or the parent, or the manager, or the colleague — were everything needed to make an enormous difference.

Research conducted since Rosenthal and Jacobson’s original study has determined that the Pygmalion Effect applies to all kinds of settings, from sports teams to the military to the corporate workplace.  Here are four different behaviours we can each draw from to create our own Pygmalion Effect…

  • We give more warmth to people we regard as high-potential, through non-verbal signals: a nod, an encouraging smile, a “tell me more…” interest.
  • We communicate more, and more complex ideas, to people we see as especially promising.
  • To people we see as up-and-coming, we give more opportunities to contribute, including additional time to respond to questions.
  • With people we see as “special” we offer more personalised feedback and more detailed information than just a generic “Well done.”

It can be difficult to deliberately change our expectations of others.  But we can consciously change our behaviour, and, as great teachers know, by incorporating these approaches into more of our interactions, we act as if the people we are with have great potential — potential that they will then more than likely live up to.

The circumstances of our lives matter less than the sense of control we feel we have over our circumstances…”

Several studies have now found that our IQ – what you know – predicts – at most – only 25% of our success at work.  The remaining 75% of our job success is predicted by our level of optimism, the social support we have, and our ability see stress as a challenge rather than a threat.

In other words the way we think about things and the ways we respond to the situations and circumstances we find ourselves in is what makes the largest amount of difference.

~ 'Let There Be Light' ~ photo by Sue Ridge

~ ‘Let There Be Light’ ~
photo by Sue Ridge

Rory Sutherland: Perspective is Everything

The circumstances of our lives may matter less than how we see them, says Rory Sutherland. At TEDxAthens, he makes a compelling case for how reframing is the key to happiness.

In this talk, Rory Sutherland, ‘advertising guru’ and Vice Chairman of the Ogilvy Group, argues that we need to rebalance our previously asymmetrical precedents and make many more solutions from what he calls ‘the sweet spot’ that lies in the intersection between our economic, technological and psychological thinking.  Why are we not given the chance to solve problems psycholocally rather than just from an economic and/or engineering perspective? he asks, citing several examples including the provocation that 0.01% of the £6million spent reducing the travel time from London to Paris on Eurostar would have installed WiFi into all of the trains, substantially improving the travel experience and negating against the need to make it shorter far beyond the perceived benefit of getting there 40 minutes faster.

Other things he says in this talk that stand out for me:

Before Kahneman we didn’t have a good psychological model to give a lattice on which to hang things.

Behavioural economist, Daniel Kahneman’s Nobel Prize winning ‘Prospect theory’ emphasises the value we give to our perceived sense of potential gains and losses when we make decisions, over and above the actual value of the final outcome in and for itself.

One of the great mistakes that economics makes is that it fails to understand that what something is, whether its unemployment, retirement, cost, is a function not only of its amount but also its meaning…

I think the danger we have today is that the study of economics considers itself to be a prior to the study of human psychology, but …’if economics isn’t behavioural I don’t what the hell is’…

We all tend to look at value in two ways: there is the real value when you make something or provide a service, and then there is what is perceived to be the more dubious value which you create by changing the way people look at things.  But Austrian economist and praxeologist Ludwig von Mises refutes this completely, giving this analogy:  if you run a restaurant there is no greater value from the person who cooks the food than from the person who sweeps the floor – one creates the primary product and the other creates the context in which it can be enjoyed…

“If your perception is worse than your reality then why are working on trying to change the reality?”

Sutherland’s example here is when the UK Post Office made great efforts to raise their next-day delivery performance from 98% to 99% it almost broke the organisation, despite the fact the most people scored their next-day delivery at 50-60%.  Any achievement they made here was doomed to fail until our perception of what they were achieving was radically improved, and this calls for completely different strategies.  Leveraging up the psychological value, Sutherland suggests that telling the us that more mail arrives the next day in Britain than it does in Germany would have a much better guarantee of making us happy.

“Choose your frame of reference and the perceived value and the actual value is transformed.”

He cites Google as a company whose success is grounded in the understanding that psychological impact is as critical as their technological prowess.  Taking and exploiting the insight that ‘people who do only one thing have got to be better at doing that thing than anyone who is trying to do that thing and something else too,’ make Google seen to be ‘only search engine’ worth using.

“Our perception is leaking…”

Another illustration Sutherland notices is when we have our car washed it always seems to go that much better.  Of course this is logically unlikely to be really happening, but try this for yourself and see if you can stop yourself from believing that your car is running better when you drive it away after a thorough wash and polish…

 

One proposal Sutherland makes to leverage the benefits of perspective is, rather than making a course of antibiotics into 24 white pills, making them 18 white pills and 6 blue pills and telling people to take the white ones first.  The likelihood of people completing their whole course is increased by an innate desire to get to the blue pills and then to finish them off.  This is based on the idea that ‘chunking’ what we have to do down into smaller more manageable goals with a milestone somewhere in the middle dramatically increases our likelihood of getting us to the end.

And this tallies with insights presented in this week’s BBC Two Horizon programme about the latest research into why and how the Placebo Effect works – as it now is fairly universally accepted that it does.  There are limits to what a placebo can do  – it won’t fix a broken leg or shrink a tumour.  But here are just some of the attention-grabbing findings this programme highlights about what can be achieved, simply through harnessing the power of our own expectations:

  • Olympic cyclists, asked to race a second time in the same day despite this never normally happening, were randomly selected to take either a nutrient supplement pill or a caffeine pill to test which made a positive impact on their performance.  Even though they expected to race slower than their earlier times, most of the athletes made a faster time, with one even making a new personal best record.  And all of the pills were placebos, containing nothing more than a little cornflour.
  • In a more controversial trial a surgeon tested the actual benefits of a kind of ‘cement injection’ that was seeming to bring significant relief to particular kinds of back injuries.  As is usual, patients who opted on to the trial didn’t know whether they would were getting the actual treatment or not, and conditions were scrupulously simulated to keep the suggestion that they were high.  All patients were prepped and anaesthetised the same, and only then did the medical team discover that patient’s draw.  Those who got the fake treatment still got the nail polishey smell as the cement was opened and the apparent pressure sensation of the injections.  And many of these patients achieved the same benefit they could have expected, despite getting a placebo treatment.  One woman, who had previously benefited from the actual treatment, was on the golf course and returned to most of her usual physical activities within days of her spinal fracture being treated with nothing more than an elaborate hoax and the incredible power of her own self-belief.
  • In another trial a man with Parkinson’s Disease, which affects the part of our brain responsible for making our movement, told how he was able to get most of his mobility back within half an hour of taking his first pill of what he supposed was his prescribed drug but was really a placebo.
  • Most surprisingly of all, an American doctor ran a trial where the patients knew they are taking nothing more than a placebo, and still managed to experience significant improvements to their condition.  Despite having knowledge of both her condition and the drug treatments available and knowing she was only taking a sugar pill twice a day, one  woman said she got complete relief from all of her Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms for the weeks she was taking them.
  • And in another trial IBS patients were given placebo acupuncture treatment with fake needles that only seemed to be piercing the skin within one of two contrasting setups:  some patients were given the fake acupuncture with the absolute minimum interaction from their physician, and  the other group of patients were treated to the highest quality time from their physician before their fake acupuncture, who listened with their fullest interest and attention to how their condition was affecting them.  Most of the trial patients across both groups showed some improvement in their symptoms from the placebo treatment.  And – I am very happy a perhaps a nit relieved too -to be able to report that the patients who received the high quality interaction experienced about 20% greater benefit, leaning up the case for how the power of good communications and relating well with people will amplify the benefits we can get from our own positive expectations.

Horizon: The Power of the Placebo

They are the miracle pills that shouldn’t really work at all. Placebos come in all shapes and sizes, but they contain no active ingredient. Now they are being shown to help treat pain, depression and even alleviate some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Horizon explores why they work, and how we could all benefit from the hidden power of the placebo.

Link the BBC Two site for this programme

Happiness At Work Edition #85

Here are some more top picks linked to this theme from this week’s new collection of stories about happiness, resilience, creativity and making great relationships in our 21st century work and lives…

Link the Happiness At Work Edition #85 collection

Human Body Distinguishes Between ‘Hedonic’ and ‘Eudaimonic’ Happiness on Molecular Level

By Tamarra Kemsley

Even on a molecular level, the human body is able to distinguish between a sense of well-being derived from a profound, “noble” purpose versus simple self-gratification, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

Led by Barbara L. Fredrickson, Kenan Distinguished Professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina, the researchers looked at the biological influence of the two forms of happiness through the human genome.

“Philosophers have long distinguished two basic forms of well-being: a ‘hedonic’ form representing an individual’s pleasurable experiences, and a deeper ‘eudaimonic,’ form that results from striving toward meaning and a noble purpose beyond simple self-gratification,” wrote Fredrickson and her colleagues.

It’s the difference, they explained, between enjoying a good meal and feeling connected to a larger community through a service project.

While both offer a sense of satisfaction, each is experienced very differently in the body’s cells.

“We know from many studies that both forms of well-being are associated with improved physical and mental health, beyond the effects of reduced stress and depression,” Fredrickson said. “But we have had less information on the biological bases for these relationships.” …

While eudaimonic well-being was associated with a significant decrease in the stress-related CTRA gene expression profile, hedonic well-being was associated with a significant increase in the CTRA profile.

Fredrickson said she found the results initially surprising since study participants themselves reported overall feelings of well-being.

One possibility for the discrepancy, she suggested, is that people who experience more hedonic than eudaimonic well-being consume the emotional equivalent of empty calories.

“We can make ourselves happy through simple pleasures, but those ’empty calories’ don’t help us broaden our awareness or build our capacity in ways that benefit us physically,” she said. “At the cellular level, our bodies appear to respond better to a different kind of well-being, one based on a sense of connectedness and purpose.”

(Link to the original article)

From Enron to Advocacy: How Women are Transforming Corporate Culture

By Nicole Alvino, Co-Founder and SVP at SocialChorus

When you look at the companies pioneering advocate marketing and other social media strategies, you’ll notice a common theme: women are leading the charge. Although women are underrepresented in C-level and VP-level roles, they are disproportionately creating entire marketing, sales, human resources and customer service strategies grounded in social connectivity. As powerful women translate company values, goals and brand identity into actions, social media has become their medium of choice. By championing advocacy within their organisations — by making their customers and employees the motors of company participation, inspiration and appreciation — I believe women are transforming corporate culture on an unprecedented scale. The results will redefine our notions of leadership for years to come and recreate brands as a source of community and inspiration, not just profit, products and employment.

Women, I would argue, are strongly attracted to businesses that foster a sense of community through open sharing and transparent leadership. The rise of advocacy is in large part a rejection of corporate cultures that elevated achievement and competition above these values. This is what I discovered in my own journey to advocate marketing, and I believe many women have shared in this experience….

When I started, Enron had a culture of people who wanted to change the world responsibly. But success became a cloud of hubris. We thought highly of ourselves, and we began to lose sight of our customer. Instead of delighting customers, Enron began to take advantage of them. Torn between vision and vanity, Enron corporate culture became a moral time bomb. The thought process became: “We’re changing the world. And, we’re the smartest people in the room. Therefore, we can do what others don’t.” The extent of the company’s ethical decay was hidden behind a thick wall of secrecy…

After my Enron experience, I vowed to only get involved with companies where I could guide company values and culture, lead by example and inspire others…

Advocacy—both customer and employee forms— … works when customers and employees love a brand and are encouraged and empowered to advocate to their network of friends, family and social media followers. The women pioneering advocacy at Dell, Virgin America, IBM, Oracle and Stella &Dot strive to make their customers, employees and partners into thought leaders, networkers, connectors and relationship builders—the type of people who can build community, inspire their network and win appreciation from anyone who interacts with the brand. These women are helping the business world transcend the Enron culture that ultimately led to criminal behavior and bankruptcy. While we once thought of leadership as an accomplishment within a business or team, the women driving advocacy are putting their customers, employees, bloggers, new social media influencers and even partners into a bigger game. By turning the natural ethic of social sharing into business strategies, women are asking their colleagues to become leaders in their industries and networks. As women turn entire organizations into groups of leaders through advocacy, they certainly will transform our expectations of corporate culture and forever change how brands build respect, loyalty and community among people.

Link to read the original article in full

Why the Office is the Worst Place for Work

by Lisa Evans

Despite the fact that many of us spend 40 hours or more a week in offices, it’s likely not the place where you’re most productive.

Jason Fried, author of Remote: Office Not Required says the majority of office workers don’t actually get their work done at the office. “Offices have become places where interruptions happen,” he says. Fried claims offices, and especially those with open floor plans, offer chunks of work time – 15 minutes here, a half hour there – between meetings, conference calls and other interruptions, but the real creative work, the type that requires concentration, happens during non-peak times or when employees are away from the office in an interruption-free zone.

“If you ask people where they go when they really need to get something done, very few people will ever say the office and if they do, they’ll say really early in the mornings or really late at night or on the weekends when no one’s around,” says Fried. This, of course, cuts into people’s family and personal time.

Although it seems we’re working more, Fried says we’re putting in longer hours but accomplishing less because we’re not actually getting anything done at the office. Stepping away from the office, says Fried, is the best way to get meaningful work done. While for some, that place may be a coffee shop, for others it may be a library or a home office.

But a coffee shop can be noisy too, so why would it be better than working in an office?

Fried says the reason some people can work more effectively in a coffee shop than their office is because the type of noise is different. “If you’re in an office working on a project and other people around you are talking about the project, it’s very difficult to block that out, but if you’re in a coffee shop and there’s white noise and people are having conversations that don’t involve you at all and have nothing to do with the work you’re doing, it’s easy to block them out,” he says.

The anonymity the coffee shop creates is also a draw. The constant buzz of activity generates a productivity-inducing energy, but since the activity has nothing to do with your own work and you aren’t concerned someone is going to come up to you and ask you to do something or pull you into a meeting, you’re better able to feed off that energy and get work done.

This doesn’t mean we should do away with the office entirely. Fried admits face-to-face time is still valuable. “There are benefits to social interaction at work, but most work is ultimately solo work,” says Fried. While it makes sense to have a gathering place to brainstorm ideas every once and a while, once tasks have been delegated, everyone disperses to their own areas to do the real work.

Enlightened managers can help turn their office into productive work space in three stages:

1. Provide private areas for individuals to retreat to when they need the space to be creative and time to think.

2. Schedule silent time: an afternoon without meetings, conversations, knocking on doors, or emails, just employees working in a quiet environment on the tasks they’ve been assigned.

3. Offer the option to take work outside the office. Fried suggests starting slow, providing the option to work away from the office one day per month, advancing to twice a month, then once a week. “It may not work for everybody but most people will probably find they got a lot more work done the day they were away from the office,” says Fried.

Link to the original article

How Millennials are Redefining the Workplace

by Stephanie Krieg

As companies gear up for millennials in the workforce, middle managers are removing their beer goggles and realizing that their layer of the organizational chart may no longer be needed.  The biggest complaint read on Glassdoor.com?  Middle management is pretty useless, even at companies known for having great corporate culture.  Most middle managers aren’t natural-born leaders; they are typically the rock stars of their position who got a promotion into management.  Great companies realize that more emphasis should be placed on who you work with, not who you work for.  Furthermore, as terms like agile become more popular it can be determined that bottlenecks occur at the middle management level, slowing companies from innovation.  When monitoring clock punches, lunch breaks, and bathroom breaks was a necessity on the job, middle managers were absolutely necessary.  Most companies with great cultures have come to realize that it’s not about where you work or how long you work, it’s about the quality of work you produce. The middle management position is becoming about as popular as MySpace.

Employee is another term that is starting to be redefined as millennials don’t flock to Wall Street, but nerd out over startups and the appeal of startup culture.  Younger generations aren’t sprinting to jobs that scream stability as studies show most will forgo a fat paycheck in lieu of other cultural perks.  How does this trend affect the term employee?  The appeal of hiring contract employees is becoming more prevalent and can be beneficial to both the company and the person under contract, depending on the situation.  Intrapreneurship (corporate entrepreneurship) is on the rise as more companies are setting aside funding for fresh ideas from their employees combined with giving employees creative time to generate ideas.  Companies understand the value of serving as an incubator for their employee’s startup ideas, as it could benefit their bottom line.  Company hackathons are increasing in popularity and are essentially becoming internal startup competitions.  Taking this a step further, most millennials graduate college with a side business, such as a blog, a college project that launches a new product, or another creative way of making money like becoming a Tasker on TaskRabbit.  As millennials are bringing in income from other sources, they are becoming more like [TV reality show] contestants; they will use your company to get their 5 minutes of experience, but they probably won’t be around for the final rose ceremony.

Diminishing bureaucracy by overthrowing middle management and redefining the term ’employee’ will create big shifts in the structure of companies in the next few years as more millennials enter the job market.  Couple this with other cultural trends like eliminating or never having job titles and posting everyone’s pay and it will be quite a different corporate cultural landscape in the not so distant future.

Link to read the original article

see also:

How to Remake the Traditional Performance Review & Reap Deep Benefits

by Derek Irvine

It must be nearing annual performance review season. My reader is filling up with news articles and blog posts on the topic – all of them reiterating just how broken the traditional process is. Why is the traditional annual performance appraisal broken? There’s several reasons, including too much emphasis on feedback from just one person (the manager) and far too infrequent giving of needed feedback (both praise and constructive refocussing).

The good news is these “breaks” can be fixed – add in the “wisdom of the crowd” through positive feedback from peers and colleagues and you to overcome the single point of failure of manager-only feedback. Make this ongoing peer feedback specific, timely and, critically, frequent, and you help employees refocus and stay focussed on your most critical priorities…

Link to read this article

Roselinde Torres: What it takes to be a great leader

There are many leadership programs available today, from one-day workshops to corporate training programs. But chances are, these won’t really help. In this clear, candid talk, Roselinde Torres describes 25 years observing truly great leaders at work, and shares the three simple but crucial questions would-be company chiefs need to ask to thrive in the future.

“Many of us carry the image of the superhero leader who carries his (sic) followers.  But that’s an image from another time…

“In a 21st century world, which is more global, digitally enabled and transparent, with faster speeds of information flow and innovation, and where nothing big gets done without some kind of complex matrix, relying on traditionally development practices will stunt your growth as a leader.  In fact traditional assessments ,like narrow 360 degrees or outdated performance criteria will give you false positives lulling you into thinking that you are more prepared than you really are.

“Leadership in the 21st century is defined and evidenced by three questions:

1.     Where are you looking to anticipate the next change to your business model or your life?

The answer to this question is on your calendar.  Who are you spending time with on what topics?  Where are you travelling? What are you reading?  And then how are you distilling this into understanding potential discontinuities?  And then making a decision to do something right now so that you’re prepared and ready.

Great leaders are not head down.  They see around corners, shaping their future not just reacting to it.

2.     What is the diversity measure of your personal and professional network?

This question is about your ability to develop relationships with people who are very different from you.

Great leaders understand that having a more diverse network is greater source of pattern recognition and also of solutions because you have people who are thinking differently than you are.

3.     Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past?

Great leaders dare to be different.  They don’t just talk about risk-taking, they actually do it.

The development that has the greatest impact comes when you are able to withstand people telling you that your new idea is naive or reckless to just plain stupid

These stories are collected with many more in Happiness At Work Edition #85

Engagement At Work – a reflection of being in and out of flow

photo by Sue Ridge: 'sunbathing grape'

photo by Sue Ridge  ‘sunbathing grape’

I am just coming out of three months of making my first eLearning training programme. It has been huge, intense, wonderful, knackering, all-consuming, richly rewarding and quite definitely the hardest work I have done in one concentrated quarter of a year for a very long time.

At the end of each video I invite participants – still my preferred identity for the people who come to learn with me – to reflect back over what they most remember and want to take and use from their experience. And I decided it might be useful and of some interest, too, I hope, to step myself through these questions.

And I cannot even begin to want to do this to and for myself alone, and so I am using this post as a platform to come sit for a moment to reflect back out loud over what has been a huge three months of learning, making, experimenting, producing, crafting, failing, repeating, reworking, labouring and finessing this nearly-finished-now programme of learning videos.

Just like making a show in a multitude of ways, and completely different and unfamiliar for me in one ineluctable aspect: making a show is entirely collaborative and this experience has been entirely solo.

Question 1: What happened? What do I most remember from this experience? What stands out as significant or especially memorable?

I remember having to keep learning something new, every day, then every week. And every time I thought I’d learned everything I needed to produce this work, discovering something else I hadn’t realised I didn’t know that I needed to learn or figure out or muddle my way through or solve or fix or experiment with until I found a way to make it work. I love learning and this played right into one of my top strengths, but there were days when I felt like you can have too much of a good thing.

The programme itself consists of 6 x 70minute videos of me talking to powerpoint slides. My learning curve has been stretched to the maximum for weeks. First I had to learn all the technical skills of powerpoint (as complex as you want to make it), Quicktime screen recording (very simple) and iMovie video editing (a series of failed experiments and a great deal of scrolling through online Help conversations not really knowing what question to ask to get the solution I needed.) And there is still far more I do not know and will probably never know about video making than the tiny bit I now do know. I know that people who really know about these things would be able to do things with them in a trace of a moment and make them better. But I learned enough to make what I wanted to make good. And I learned that that was good enough.

But then I realised with a kind of Mr Stupid clunk, that in all my years of making and delivering learning programmes, I’ve never really been the expert at the podium with all the answers. I excel at participative facilitative learning. People don’t pay us to come and tell them all the things I know, they pay me to help them unlock and extend what they know and can do. So, although I joyfully help dozens of people become more persuasive and compelling speakers, I have never concentrated on delivering seminar or presentation-based teaching. This demands thinking through and ordering and finding the right articulation of all the theory and the ideas and learning you want to bring in advance and in the absence of the people it is designed to provide for. This involves making and sticking with a zillion decisions about the development and contours and cadences of the story to be told, enriching and vitalising it with the right images and preparing carefully constructed sentences. I thrive and am energised by keeping lots of different options in the air, multiplicity and then interactively weaving out meanings with the people in the room from the ideas we are creating in the space between us. Proactive independent decision making and narrowing and fixing things down are not my strong suit nor my preferred operating style, and this, more than anything else, exhausted me. I am good-on-my feet and being in-the-moment and I did initially try to make these speaking extemporaneously. The takes were hours long and then even the heavily and lengthily edited final results just sounded uncertain, graceless and irritatingly arhythmic and idiosyncratic. While I would never teach scripting a presentation, this turned out to be the winning solution, but this meant that I had to bring everything I had from my actor’s training to make it fly off the page.

‘Being in flow’ has always had a performance sensibility about it for me: the flow of a good conversation, the flow of ideas being conjured in the act of talking and listening together, the improvisational “yes – and…” (accept and build) flow of being in a group and riding the wave of what is actually happening as it is actually happening in the live here-and-now, the flow of movement, flux, emergence, dialogue, co-creation. Collaboration. This was altogether different, and it took me a surprisingly (now I think of it) long time to recognise that just because I was making this thing at 2am on a cold dark January night didn’t mean it still didn’t have to feel for the listener that it was being thought and spoken and presented as a compelling idea or an invitational springboard in that moment of them hearing it. I tried to remember (and steal from) what playwrights do. And designers do. And directors do. I could have done a lot more stealing from what stage managers do to galvanise and co-ordinate and plan and keep on track my scheduling and logistics, but I suppose I can accept being a one-person team means some things are going to fall short.

But it was a great advantage to have performance making to pull from.

And I have (nearly) got there. I have done it and I’m proud of what I’ve made. Time and the programme participants will tell with more authority on this but I dare to believe trying to practice what I teach has served me well.

As well as this I remember images: hundreds of pictures I have searched through looking for the best (creative commons licensed for commercial use) images to convey the multiplicity of ideas this programme incorporates: happiness, engagement, great relationships, meaning & accomplishment, positivity & creativity, and resilience at work are my six titles to give you a flavour of the ground I have tried to cover. And searching for the right image for each slide that is hopefully not too obvious nor too obscure, evocative without being just weird, and meaningful without being cliched has been one of the most exhausting and satisfying parts of this experience. My primary creativity is not visual, and yet it has been an immense and constant pleasure to have continually had to immerse myself in pictures and be repeatedly stimulated by all their colour and wonderful metaphor.

photo by Sue Ridge successful marmalade 1

photo by Sue Ridge
successful marmalade 1

So, above all else it seems, I remember learning, constantly and consciously in a way that I haven’t done for years.

Question 2: What new meanings, insights or conclusions can I take from any of this experience?

I have learned that, despite being a devoted follower of the less-is-more principle, I continue to be rubbish at practicing it.

I have learned that despite my love of going-with-the-flow and being spontaneous and gregarious, when I am working alone I become a zealot of perfectionism (my not-very-detailed version of it) and capable of working myself beyond and then some anything I would accept from another human being, or expect of another human being.

I have learned again that I am not at my best in extended periods of working in solitude and that I really do need to keep getting out into the world and interacting with people to keep my energy levels restocked, and my focus open and alert to incoming wide-range signals, and my sense of perspective balanced and broader than the minute ramifications of whether to align a photo credit along the left or the right hand margin. Oh yes – and that I continue to be utterly dependent upon feedback (read ‘praise’) to really know if what I am doing is good or not and to feel that what I am doing has any worth or purpose. (how do you introverts do it? how do you writers do it???) Happily I have been luxuriously favoured by my client and devoted family with enough cheering to keep me going, but I do realise that, in the absence of regular, emphatic and high quality appreciation, I could easily run myself into the doldrums and get lost in drift. (I heard in a documentary about Blondie that when rock performers get a level of repeated popularity and excitement from their audiences it helps them to hone and polish what they do. I get this. I learn best from praise and affirmation. Don’t we all? Give me the new 5-to-1 positivity ratio please. I will be so much better at responding productively to one criticism when it comes with 5 specific convincingly conveyed compliments. This is also perhaps what makes making fringe theatre great so impossibly hard – there is never enough performances to really polish a show in collaboration with its audiences: you work for months making it and you get it as good as you possibly can in the 7, 14 or 21 performances it gets to play. This isn’t enough to really find its proper orchestration. But I digress too far off road here…)

I have learned, too, and despite asserting the contrary case in one of the videos, that I can run out of creativity. By Module 6 I had squeezed out every last possible idea for what materials to include or leave out, in what order, with what images, framed alongside which model and with which ideas clustered together. But that this was only temporary and already my mind is percolating next and new ideas and making new possibilities and dreams for me to play with and/or chase down. So scratch that – it’s true – we don’t use up our creativity, or if we do run it dry, it restocks itself automatically.

photo by Sue Ridge successful marmalade 2

photo by Sue Ridge
successful marmalade 2

I have reconfirmed that engagement really is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines in his idea of ‘being in flow’, and is best experienced for me when I am deeply and completely immersed in a creative project that I care about stretched to the outer limits of my capabilities and able to spend uninterrupted periods of time being fully absorbed in what I am doing without competition from other demands. And that I am very lucky to have a husband who insists on pulling me out of this state at least once every day to eat and appreciate his delicious cooking. (And as an extra bonus I have learned to approximate the right pronunciation of Csikszentmihalyi, altho I have had to teach and rely on my spellchecker to spell it for me.)

And I have reconfirmed the irreplaceable reliability of my unconscious brain to bring me some of my best insights and ideas, but only if and when I take my foot off the pedal for a bit a make a space to hear the messages it is sending through. This means for me not drowning it in exhausted sleep – my project dreams tend to be fierce re-firings of existing ideas and anxieties. And it is not drowning it out with the noise of other media. TV and radio help me to fall asleep when my brain is on overdrive but they do not yield me any new insights. What works for me is my Qigong exercise and my fledgling novice mindfulness attempts to drop my thinking into my breathing and just stay with that. Then the thoughts fly out and at me, but I am learning that the best ones will hang around in my consciousness, ready and waiting to be worked with after my exercise. I did not manage to make this time nearly as much as I wanted to or aimed to but I made it more than I might have. And this too was good enough.

photo by Sue Ridge successful marmalade 3

photo by Sue Ridge
successful marmalade 3

Question 3: What could I do as result of any of this learning? How can I use or apply any of these ideas? Who could I share any of my learning with?

I have been able to use in practice many of the principles and techniques that I have been championing in my teaching and this has been doubly good: good for me to confirm experientially that they seem to hold up and bring real benefit in their application, and good for me to get the benefits they have provided. Techniques taken from Positive Psychology such as knowing and playing to my Signature Strengths to optimise my performance and productivity, and the capabilities of resilience that I have been able to draw from when the going’s got tough, such as staying resolutely and, hopefully, realistically optimistic and facing my fears. And, too trusting my creativity and using my slow emergent collage-based way of making to incrementally sculpt out the matter from the materials I was working with. To not need to be original in everything but, again I hope, to be original enough.

All of these capabilities become better with practice. So I will aim to keep practicing. And to keep making my practice better. And to remember to keep alive and as true as I can the artist’s holy discipline of being a practitioner.

And this above all others… Whatever aspect of happiness you look at you will find the predominant necessity of having strong relationships, to give and receive love and support.. It is key to our happiness and success at work as much as it is central to our health and being able to live a flourishing life, as it is, too, to building and sustaining resilience. This has been an especially tough time for some of the people I love most in the world – way beyond any of the challenges I have been facing in this piece of work – and it has been essential and nourishing for me to be a part of their lives and actively involved and exercised in getting their love and giving them mine.

So then this above all others – to remember in less heightened times that the people in my life are my life. They make me possible and they make matter. Not for who I am or anything I may do, but for what happens between us, in our connections and in how this affects and changes us. This surely is the finest flow to be in, and, if I am to have another time working in solitude I hope to remember that this must be without withdrawing too far from the people I love. Memo to self: the less collaborative your work activity the more engaged you better make the rest of your time.

As to the last part of this question, in this instant that turns out to be you dear reader. And thank you for your interest.

The question: “who could you share this with?” is exactly the kind of question we learning facilitators love to hand out to the people we work with, but are perhaps less likely to take up ourselves. Or at least I am. Which is what got me writing this piece, as a way to try and unravel and uncover a little more intelligence about what has just happened and what it means and what it could lead to than I might have scooped down to notice without stepping through these questions. This is why we give out these questions, And extraverted me needs an audience to have any reason to start to talk before I hurtle off into whatever will be next.

Actually, what will be next for me is learning to facilitate live online webinars as part of the weekly provision of learning elements that accompany the programme I have just made and packed into modular video instalments.

And in this, very much like making a show, the programme is only just being begun. Just as a show needs its audience to truly discover itself and find its real worth in the interplay and rhythms that happen between performance and audience, now my learning programme will have to find its actual relevance and interest and usefulness and enjoyment in the weave that happens in the space where learners – participants – bring their questions and existing knowledge and challenges and expectations to the programme I have made for them. It is, I am pleased to remind myself, only there and then that this programme exists and has a life. Let the new experience begin…

Thank you for listening. This has been a good thing for me to do. And I wouldn’t have done it without you.

If you want to find out more about your own top Signature Strengths, I like this VIA Me online self-assessment questionnaire a lot. It will give you a free report of your ranked order of the 24 character strengths based on the five virtues of Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, Transcendence and Wisdom. Our top 5 are our Signature Strengths, and the guide is that exercising our Signature Strengths is a really great way to increase our sense of being in flow, as well as giving us increased energy, happiness and fulfilment, confidence, energy and resilience. (This site also offer an option to purchase a more detailed report.)

Link to VIA Me Character Strengths Profile

The programme I made and will continue to lead is called the Mini MBA in Peak Performance and Productivity, and will launch in mid-February from the IME: inspire motivate and engage online learning platform. If you’re interested in this do let me know and I will make sure you get any updates about it.

Link to the IME; inspire motivate and engage website

This post was originally written for Shaking Out – the Shaky Isles Theatre blog

Happiness At Work Edition #84

And you will find more stories about learning, creativity, productivity, self-mastery and happiness at work in this week’s new Happiness At Work Edition #84

Link to read Happiness At Work #84

photo by Sue Ridge: the view from Guy's Hospital cancer centre

photo by Sue Ridge:
the view from Guy’s Hospital cancer centre