We are more and more recognising that the ‘soft people skills’ are neither unimportant nor inevitable, and we fail to give them our best attention and expertise at our peril.
“…given the chance, brilliant people want to do brilliant things for and with their own community, because our greatest resource is now, and always has been, people.” Stella Duffy
Our headline post for this new Happiness At Work collection takes its words from Stella Duffy, writing about the real power of brilliant everyday people to make brilliant things happen – and yes, that would be all of us.
What last year’s very first Fun Palaces experiment discovered, heightened and celebrated was the huge talent, enthusiasm, energy and abilities of people to make something together when there is the right mix of invitation, belief, openness, trust, and recognition.
A Fun Palace is a 2hour or 2day (or somewhere in between) event that is Free, Local, Innovative, Transformative and Engaging.
80% of the 3,000+ people who made them and 80% of the 40,000+ people who took part in last year’s Fun Palaces across the UK and in other countries were experiencing arts activity for the first time. And 90% of makers believed their Fun Palace made people very happy or happy.
And there is much we might learn from this to take into our organisations, teams and work relationships, as the article about relationships at work collected here all suggest.
Try reading this imagining that Stella Duffy is talking about your organisation, even if you are not a professional working in the arts, science or community engagement…
The 3,183 people across the UK who signed up to make local Fun Palaces last year did so for many reasons…
For most, whatever their initial reason for getting involved, it was the local aspect that proved crucial: working with neighbours (many of them not already friends), local councillors and public buildings, often for the first time, to make great, inclusive work – and making it locally.
One of the things we’re proudest of with Fun Palaces is that it’s not about outside experts. Contrary to many subsidised engagement programmes, this project doesn’t fly in experts to make a difference. It does not look for experts to tell a group how best to function, nor does it believe that experts are best-placed to inspire communities to create their own arts and sciences events. We do not bring in world-class orchestras or top-ranking scientists to work with Fun Palaces; we couldn’t afford to, even if we wanted to – and we don’t want to.
The local person – perhaps not well-known or known at all, but expertly and compellingly enthusiastic – is a role-model who says: “I am from here, I am like you and that means you can do this too.” The local enthusiast, rather than the flown-in expert, underlines the possibility that we can all be creative.
Joan Littlewood said she believed in the “genius in every person” – and we do too. We believe that everyone can make great work, in every field, and that what is lacking is not willing, hard work – nor the brilliance necessary for ordinary people to become expert – but opportunity and encouragement…
What we learned from our Fun Palaces pilot in 2014 was that the experts are already in communities, that excellence of engagement is far more valuable than a subjective excellence of artistic quality.
We also learned that, given the chance, brilliant people want to do brilliant things for and with their own community, because our greatest resource is now, and always has been, people.
Real people, ordinary people, the people: the ones who know their own community’s needs and wants, because they live in it, offering engagement and participation far from Westminster, from the grassroots up.
Maybe you can make something brilliant during this year’s Fun Palaces where you are? Fun Palaces, 3–4 October 2015, is now open for registration.
Admittedly this is a real potpourri of seemingly random bits and pieces of research, but it has been made up into an intriguing provocation to some of the assumptions and beliefs that w might need to let go of in the new world of work we are making for ourselves.
Nathan Wiltshire writes
During the course of my work and life, many people ask me for advice on where to begin their own explorations into empathy. Having personally consumed hundreds of articles, books, blogs, and video content, I thought I would help de-clutter and put on a platter some of the best sources to not only get started, but to challenge your thinking. Happy reading!
1. Empathy: A handbook for revolution by Roman Krznaric
Out of all high-level discussions on empathy, this is by far the most ideal introduction to the topic. As an inspirational yet very accessible read, I suggest this as the ideal stepping-stone into empathy. By approaching the exploration from a philosophical lens, the author provides a high level overview of empathy, interwoven with many excellent historical illustrations and practical real-world examples. Also, there is a great TED talk previewing the book.
2. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
I like this book as the strongest practical demonstration empathy, in which Orwell immerses himself in a homeless life. For me its impact comes as much from the descriptions of lived experience on the street, as it is for knowing that this was a transformational period for the writer. The reader really gets a strong sense for how this experience provided Orwell with the deepest of insights into humanity, which he would use as the basis for later seminal works that remain relevant today – 1984 and Animal Farm. This might even inspire you to seek immersion in your own life, to intensify your own empathic exploration beyond your usual comfort zone. It is suggested second on this list deliberately as you will find it easier to make the connection between the author’s empathic journey if you start the book with an understanding of empathy basics provided by Roman Krznaric.
3. Zero Degrees of Empathy by Simon Baron-Cohen
This was the first book I ever read by a neuroscientist. I chose this because it seemed logical that in order to really understand empathy, it is necessary to get to the very source – the human brain. Zero Degrees turned out to be an easy to read and fascinating account of the conditions that leave some people without the neurological capacity for empathy. For anyone interested in empathy, this is a key insight as it demonstrates that the vast majority of us can be empathic.
4. Empathy: A motivated account by Jamil Zaki
After reading the first three, this will be a slightly more testing read as the author provides a more technical account of empathy. This has been added to the list mainly because it will make you consider what brings people to empathy (or not). It discusses the selectiveness of empathy, that it is dependent on several personal and situational factors, and that we even avoid empathy under certain conditions. Why do we act when a family member is in need of help, or even a fellow countryman, but not the millions living in poverty in far away places? These are fundamental questions we all need to ask ourselves. It may seem overly technical for some – however, those who can stick with it will gain new levels of insight.
5. Well Designed: How to use empathy to create products people love by Jon Kolko
Having read the first four on this list, you’re probably thinking, ‘Great, I now have some understanding of empathy… but what the heck am I supposed to do with it?’ One of the great challenges I see at the moment is the rapidly developing thought leadership in the clinic sphere, coupled with a relative dearth of advice on applied empathy. Well Designed takes steps towards a practical framework for applying aspects of empathy in product design. The author combines his background in design thinking and develops it to address the need for robust empathic insights. To do this he leverages ethnographic techniques and an immersive account of empathy, which indicates that observation is an essential starting point. The steps contained with this book are simple enough for anyone to try – not only in product development, but also in service or process design.
Derek Irvine, employee recognition expert and co-author of The Power of Thanks, suggest his top ten tips to reinvigorate employees, and build and foster a more dynamic company culture…
One simple way to breathe new life into your workforce and culture is by focusing on “thanks” and social recognition.
According to Globoforce’s Spring 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey, 73% of employees who are recognised at work feel happier in their jobs. Thanking your employees daily and, in turn, encouraging them to consistently thank each other, will go a long way; as will implementing a recognition program that can help streamline and track moments of “thanks” in your company.
By saying “thank you,” you will not only have happier employees, but employees who are more engaged, motivated and loyal to you as their employer.
Here are 10 ways to create a culture of recognition, and make your employees happier in 2015:
1. Thank your employees every day
While “thank you” is instinctual, it’s most powerful when it occurs repeatedly, and in a timely manner. Focus on recognizing employees on a consistent basis throughout the year.
2. Foster friendships at work
According to Globoforce’s Fall 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey, 89% of employees say work relationships matter to their quality of life.
Work friendships inspire and motivate employees, make employees feel more loyal and connected to their company, and provide the foundations for building trust among colleagues. By encouraging friendships at work, you create a happier employee and also an employee who’s more productive and committed in the workplace.
3. Pay attention to employees’ needs
Some managers are more task-focused than people-focused. Instead of looking at their employees and their needs, they’re looking at their to-do lists.
By keeping your head up, you’re not only in a better position to see and acknowledge your employees’ needs, but also their contributions, which puts you in a much better position to reward their work.
4. Nurture your company’s culture
Choose the values that define your company, and then encourage your employees to express those values in their everyday behaviour.
Instituting a recognition program can help breathe life into these values and make them actionable for employees every day.
5. Encourage employees to celebrate each other
Every company is a collection of communities and of human beings, bonded by their connection to each other through their work.
By giving employees the opportunity to congratulate and thank each other for their work, a culture of recognition naturally emerges through associative behavior.
6. Create better leaders
There’s an old adage that people don’t leave companies, they leave their bosses.
By encouraging people to thank their teams often and, in turn, encourage the same behaviour among employees, a palpable rise in employee happiness will occur.
7. Show employees empathy
The importance of humanity in the workplace cannot be overstated. It’s one of the critical components of developing and retaining employees because, as humans, we have an incredible need for acknowledgement and compassion.
Listen, support and protect your employees, and encourage the same behavior among all teams by celebrating instances where great connections occur.
8. Prolong the honeymoon
New hires love their jobs, are more engaged and feel appreciated and acknowledged at work. However, after passing the one-year mark, these feelings tend to wane.
In order to keep employees happy, make every year feel like the first year. Recognise and appreciate your employees as often as possible so their enjoyment and engagement in the job starts high and stays high.
9. Unite your team
Today’s multigenerational workforce calls for an adaptable culture that is functional for a variety of different styles and approaches.
Understanding people’s motivations and work styles, and being sure to make room for all of them in a united workplace, will help you make great strides in energizing your team.
10. Give “thank-you” gifts
Everyone loves receiving gifts. So why wouldn’t the same apply in the workplace?
Consider giving employees a gift with tangible value, such as a choice of merchandise or gift card, which will in turn improve their engagement, motivation and happiness.
Are you aware of how your communication style impacts your culture?
Is it the impact you want?
What one change in communication style would make if it returned a better outcome?
There are several ways we, as a society, currently communicate:
- Verbal: Face-to-face, words, tone;
- Written: Email, text, tweet;
- Non-Verbal: Body language;
- Interpretation of environment: Atmosphere, cultural styles.
Your current and future leaders need to be able to communicate in all these ways because today is different from yesterday and it will be different tomorrow. It is a continual change.
However, no matter what method you communicate through, there are some things that will not change.
Perception is reality
How others hear you and how they see you is reality to them, not your interpretation of the situation.
Perception is reality, and whether or not you are listening intently while staring off into the distance during a conversation, the individual you are engaged with will interpret you as disinterested, rude, and disengage quickly.
Organisations must invest in their people to improve self-awareness, understand that perception is reality, and proactively deal with impact of communication on their overall culture.
Don’t kill the messenger
First impressions represent 80% of what people think of you – period. This occurs within the first 90 seconds or less.
To change an impression requires a lot of work over many hours, sometimes even days. You have heard that one “Oh, S***” will replace 50 “Atta boys!” in five seconds! This is the same with first impressions.
In today’s world of speed, your words or letters and their delivery will either capture their attention or eliminate it.
Body language tells its own story. Awareness of your facial expressions, your stance, and your eye contact (to name a few) can create a perception that is very negative or very positive and inviting.
In addition, behaviours are interpreted as actions, whether they are verbal or not. What is your organisational culture telling you if during a manager’s meeting everyone is sitting around the table with their arms folded and checking their phones?
Learning more about non-verbal communication may actually help you reach your return on investment (ROI)!
Big Bang explosions create lasting scars
We mentioned earlier that change is constant. If an organisation wants to meet their revenue targets, they must be able to live through constant change and reduce any type of chaos associated with how work gets done differently.
Some company cultures that experience continual change have often felt that the Big Bang style is the best; as everyone is an adult, they need to get over the past, live with the modification, and get on with it. They proceed to toss all modifications on the table at once and basically tell their people accept it or move on.
But experts say this causes people to wish for the past and how things use to be, blocking them from moving forward and slowing down your team and productivity. Leaders of tomorrow must learn the techniques to eliminate the scaring effects of a Big Bang explosion.
These are just a few examples of how communication can impact your organisational culture. For companies that are truly serious about their future, it becomes part of their leadership development as they grow leaders for the changing needs of their company’s future.
When Positive Psychology starts being applied to finance you know it’s being taken seriously!
Although written specifically for finance professionals, especially traders, Brett N. Steenbarger’s ideas here lift easily across and into many of our professional lives, and offer some strengths-based ways to treat ourselves with greater humanity, recognition and appreciation…
My initial post introduced positive psychology as a bridge between the real and the ideal–between who we are and who we aspire to be. The radical paradigm shift of positive psychology is that we don’t cross that bridge simply by solving problems and resolving conflicts. We evolve by building upon our strengths: by becoming more of who we are when we are at our best.
Imagine that life is a gymnasium filled with exercise machines and equipment. One station provides us with a workout for joy and happiness. Another station exercises our capacity for life satisfaction, fulfilment, and gratitude. Still another station pushes us to higher levels of energy and vitality. Creativity, mental toughness, love and friendship,mindfulness – all have their workout spaces in life’s gym.
The notion of life as a gymnasium suggests that how–and whether–we develop hinges on the quality of our workouts. In life, as in the weight room, it’s use it or lose it. We either exercise and develop our strengths or we allow them to fall into disuse. That perspective yields a very different way of looking at our daily calendars and weekly planners: What have I exercised this day, this week? What strengths have I strengthened and which have I neglected? Am I working out, exercising the best within me? Or am I merely coping, keeping head above water in status quo mode?
Development requires expansion, not shrinking. In any gym it is only when we push our boundaries that we expand, becoming stronger, faster–more fit.
Work As Gymnasiums
Because of the need for continuous adaptation, [21st century work] requires ongoing workouts of our psychological capacities. Successful [professionals] must maintain a steady discipline of risk control, a self-confident capacity for decisive action, and also an unusual open-mindedness and flexibility when change occurs. Opportunities are ever-changing, which means that successful [professionals] must be analytical and creative, optimistic and cautious. On top of it all, skilled [professionals] must manage themselves as well as they manage risk and reward. If we fail to maintain focus/concentration, emotional balance, and self-control, our decision making suffers and we can fail to profit from even the best ideas.
Making Your Workouts Work For You
Positive psychology suggests one powerful strategy: dissect, analyse, and study your most successful decisions and actions. Reverse engineer your successes and you will discover your principles for peak performance.
This is what is known in psychology as a solution-focus. To bridge real and ideal, immerse yourself in what you do when you most closely approximate your ideals. If you unearth a great idea and manage it well, break down how you generated the idea, how you turned the idea into an successful strategy, how you managed the risk and reward, and how you managed yourself to sustain good decision making. If you study your own work over time, patterns emerge. You’ll see errors you need to correct, but you’ll also observe strengths you can build upon. In studying your successes, you will realise that, at times, you already are well along that bridge toward your ideals.
You can’t sustain great workouts if you don’t know your best practices. Exercising your strengths requires that you know what your strengths are. If you begin to catalogue your best work, you will observe your patterns of success: the ways in which you leverage your strengths.
Also on this theme…
We know that hugs make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. And this feeling, it turns out, could actually ward off stress and protect the immune system, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University…
If managers were smart, they would focus on employee happiness, and allow employees to naturally come up with great ideas and provide great service.
Happy employees are more productive. If an employee is happy, they’ll be more likely to be engaged, and go above and beyond to perform well.
And this has now been proven by research…
You can find all of these articles, and more, collected together in edition #122 of Happiness At Work here