Seligman’s PERMA+1 Essentials for Flourishing

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Positive psychology is not yet twenty years old.  In the short time since Martin Seligman’s 1998 call to turn on a scientific inquiry into what helps human beings to flourish, rather than merely survive, we have discovered an enormous amount about what we can all learn to do and practice and ultimately master to grow and sustain our own and each other’s happiness.

And doing this is much more than a luxury.  Research is showing that our happiness is integral to our individual success, in terms of our performance and productivity, our creativity and learning, and our resilience and positive responsiveness to change and uncertainty.  And it is an equally vital aspect of making strong trusting relationships in our families and friendships, our teams and wider networks, as much as in our societies and increasingly interconnected, interdependent global systems.

Martin Seligman

Human beings want much more in life than not to be miserable” Prof. Martin Seligman pictured with Prof Ian Robertson.   Photo source: Can you teach wellbeing? Martin Seligman thinks so Irish Times

Seligman is speaking across the UK at the moment and I am looking forward enormously to hearing him on 9th May at the Action for Happiness event in London.

In his Irish Times article, Can you teach wellbeing? Martin Seligman thinks soRonan McGreevy writes:

Introducing Seligman in Dublin, TCD professor of psychology Ian Robertson described him as a “polymath” engaged in nothing less than “a movement which is creating a paradigm change in how humanity thinks about itself”.

Seligman described himself as a self-confessed pessimist and depressive who tries out his own techniques first on himself before expanding them to his own family and then his students.

He was a relatively late convert to the concept of wellbeing and happiness. As a psychologist, he recalls, happiness was regarded as the “froth on the cappuccino”, immeasurable and irrelevant to his profession.

“Thirty years ago there was no theory of wellbeing which distinguished it from suffering and no interventions that built wellbeing. That has changed over the past thirty years.”

It might seem obvious given the recent emphasis on wellbeing and happiness, but the focus of psychology and psychiatry was, for so long, on alleviating suffering and examining mental illness rather than the pursuit of happiness.

He defines wellbeing as what “non-suffering, non-oppressed people choose to do”. It pertains not only to individuals but also to corporations and even nation states.

Seligman’s  understanding of wellbeing includes the notion of “flourishing”, where human beings create the conditions for making the best of themselves and their circumstances.

Seligman’s model for wellbeing is made up of five building blocks summed up in the acronym PERMA: Positive emotion, Engagement, strong Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment. These five concepts together represent a definition of wellbeing.

We add one more – Resilience – and use this framework in our training and coaching programmes as a springboard to help people explore what they feel most and least satisfied about in their work and lives, and what they can do to keep strong their highest elements and build up their lowest scoring elements.

Here then are the five+1 essential elements for flourishing:

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Positive emotion is feeling happy or comfortable in a situation, what we think of when we think of happiness.

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ways to find greater positive emotion

  • Use your Signature Strengths every day
  • Experience ~ do what you know makes you happiest
  • Gratitude ~ keep a Gratitude Journal for at least 21 days
  • Exercise ~ even 20minutes a day is better than none
  • Music ~ listen to music to lift or change your mood
  • Mindfulness exercises: focus in on your breathing – even 2minutes a day makes a very big difference
  • B A L A N C E ~ explore what this means to you and how you can get better balance in different aspects of your life

Engagement is when we are completely absorbed by something, whether it is our work, pastimes, making the dinner, or any activity that we find just the right level of challenge and interest to take our fullest and finest attention. This totally engaged state is known as “flow”, occurring when we are totally absorbed in what we are doing. Greater “flow” brings greater happiness.

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Having strong Relationships relates to those that bring us benefit. Human beings are “hive creatures”, Seligman says, not just selfish individuals.

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Strong Relationships come from feeling respected and valued, loved and loving, and involves: love, compassion, kindness, gratitude, giving, teamwork and easy self-sacrifice.

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ways to build stronger relationships

The more you feel that you have made someone else happier the more ~ and the longer ~ you will feel happier yourself.

 

  • Really listen. Try to listen even more fully and openly.
  • Give ~ your time, your attention, your interest, yourself…
  • Appreciate ~ others, yourself, beauty and excellence
  • Share successes
  • Make moments to enjoy being with people who matter to you

Meaning is the extent to which you feel that what you doing adds up to something beyond and unrelated to your own self-interest and ego.  It is the idea making a positive difference to something you care about, of belonging to and serving something that you believe to be bigger than yourself, such as a cause or activity linked to your deepest values. “The more meaning people have at work, the more productive they are,” Seligman says.

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ways to increase your sense of meaning

Ask…  By doing this work what do I help to achieve?  What else?  What else? And what do these things help to achieve? …

4 Ways to Find Meaning in Any Job

  • Know what fuels you. Our personal values are hard-wired to our sense of purpose. When you know what you value right down in your bones, you’re able to anchor any activity or behaviour to a sense of something that genuinely matters, bringing your work alive with meaning and purpose. Discover what your values are and then look for how they can connect to what you do.
  • Turn up the texture of experience. Your sense of meaning can be found in the simple moments of life. Find ways to increase the intensity of what you bring by looking out for ways to be help, or show your warmth, or give your attention, or even by taking a deep breath of fresh air not because you’re stressed out, but because you love how it feels in your chest.
  • Leave a room better than when you found it. Decide never to leave a room until you’ve done something to contribute, make a difference, or leave it better than when you entered. Offer your insight or expertise, appreciate someone for something they’ve said or done, or simply give someone your fullest hearing.
  • Leave a little legacy as often as you can.  Look at your legacy as something you possess that you can gift to others by your own free will. Your time, consideration, skill, empathy, hospitality, experience — all of these things and more are things you can gift to others.

Accomplishment would appear to be self-evident, he states, but it is startling how self-discipline trumps talent. It is twice as important as IQ for predicting academic success, Seligman says.

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Accomplishment comes from a combination of our own internal source of pride in what we have done and achieved along with sufficient recognition and appreciation from others.  One of the top reasons people give for feeling unhappy at work is insufficient recognition and appreciation from their manager.  And Gallup’s research into strengths based leadership concluded that if every manager were to spend 3-5 times as much of their conversations with their people talking about their strengths and achievements as they do about their weaknesses and failings, this one change alone would triple people’s productivity, engagement and commitment to their work and the organisation.

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Resilience means making the best of – even becoming stronger as a result of – setbacks, failure, hardship or trauma.  It involves elasticity, bouncing back, flexibility and is grown from the capabilities of optimism, courage, buoyancy, self-determination, and perseverance.

Resilience is “the capacity to mobilise personal features that enable individuals, groups and communities (including controlled communities such as a workforce) to prevent, tolerate, overcome and be enhanced by adverse events and experiences” (Mowbray, 2010).

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Seligman advocates simple techniques that will enhance one’s sense of wellbeing – one of which is to write down “three good things” that occur during the day.

“It turns out that when people do this, six months later they are less depressed and have higher positive emotion compared with a placebo.”

What works for the individual also works for larger organisations. Seligman pointed to research in the United States that showed a startling correlation between the type of language used on Twitter and incidences of fatal heart attacks.

One would seem ostensibly to have nothing to do with the other, but there was an unerring correlation between negative language used on the social media platform and increased risk of heart attacks.

“I think this is causal,” he says. “If you change the way people think and talk about the world, you can change things like the heart attack and death rates.”

The critical question, Seligman says, is whether PERMA can be taught. Can happiness be improved? Do these techniques work? Can the success or otherwise of such techniques be measured? He maintains the answer to all these questions is yes.

Studies in Bhutan have shown marked differences in schoolchildren to whom wellbeing was taught against a placebo group that was not taught wellbeing.

Bhutan has made national wellbeing – gross national happiness – a goal as distinct simply from gross national product. Children who were taught the techniques of positive psychology experience half the rate of depression and anxiety as adolescences, Seligman says.

Similarly, Seligman was employed by US army chief of staff George Casey to teach positive psychology to drill sergeants. Casey wanted an army that was mentally as well as physically fit and strong, and has spent €150 million teaching resilience psychology to soldiers.

The result has been a notable decrease in incidences of suicide, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder. Governments should follow suit, Seligman says.

Happiness At Work - BMA

Post Script:

Here is one more quote from Martin Seligman, from when I heard him speak the Action for Happiness event in 2016:

I believe it is within our capacity that by the year 2051 that 51% of the human population will be flourishing. That is my charge.”  Martin Seligman

See also

Second Wave Positive Psychology: An Introduction

Learning to find light in the darkness…

Plus many more stories and articles in our eclectic collection:

Happiness At Work

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Happiness At Work #122 ~ People: our greatest resource, now as it has always been

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.

Fun Palaces 2015: realising the excellence of local people

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.

Read the full article here

7 workplace myths disproven by research [infographic]

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.

Read the full article here

Where To Start On Empathy? 5 Essential Reads

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.

Read the original article here

10 Ways to Make Employees Happier in 2015

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.

Read the full article here

What Does Your Communication Say About Your Culture?

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?

Leadership expert 

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.

Read the full article here

Life as a Gymnasium, Trading and Investment as Workouts

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.

Read the original article here

Also on this theme…

Science Proves That Hugs Can Boost Your Immune System

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

Why Managers Need To Focus On Employee Happiness

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…

Happiness At Work edition #122

You can find all of these articles, and more, collected together in edition #122 of Happiness At Work here

Happiness At Work #119 ~ latest signs that our wellbeing matters and will matter even more in 2015

Photo: Mark Trezona

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Every single person could become more effective and more able to relate to others by developing greater understanding about – and practical capabilities in – their own and each other’s happiness and wellbeing.

We have a tendency to overestimate our “mindreading” abilities, ascribing to people intentions they don’t have, based on our projections of how we would act in a certain situation and on our assumption that others think like us when they don’t. We also err in the other direction: exaggerating perceived differences between members of other social groups and ourselves, which can lead to stereotyping.

The sad conclusion is that we may underestimate the richness and variety of other people’s minds (while not depreciating our own), creating misunderstandings and even dehumanisation  To counteract this, we need to better understand the way our minds work and consciously deeply listen to those who are different than us.

Vertical development comes about when we understand the role physiology and emotion play in decision-making and that unless we can consciously control our physiology and emotion, we will continue to fall prey to sub-optimal decision-making across society.

Those who aren’t aware of the place of physiology and emotion won’t even know they’ve made a sub-optimal decision.

The quality of the thinking – and by extension the decision-making – of the 500 people who run the 147 companies who control the multinationals affects the lives of us all.  And the quality of this thinking is inextricably linked to the physiology and emotional states in which these people operate. 

True equality isn’t just a numbers game. Of course we need more women in senior positions and in the boardroom, but a seat at the table isn’t enough. What is more important is creating a business environment where female leaders have visibility, a strong voice and a central role in driving the future of the company.

If you really want to take advantage of this new science – rather than falling back on the old Maslow pyramid of hierarchical needs – you should focus on: autonomy, relatedness, and competence.

Autonomy is people’s need to perceive that they have choices, that what they are doing is of their own volition, and that they are the source of their own actions.  Relatedness is people’s need to care about and be cared about by others, to feel connected to others without concerns about ulterior motives, and to feel that they are contributing to something greater than themselves.  Competence is people’s need to feel effective at meeting every-day challenges and opportunities, demonstrating skill over time, and feeling a sense of growth and flourishing.

A survey carried out by The Institute of Leadership Management (ILM) in 2013 found that 31% of respondents stated that the one thing that would motivate them to do more at work was better treatment by their employer.  A more motivated workforce ultimately makes for a more profitable and successful organisation.

Even small companies, maybe more so than big, must attract people not just on the job but with the purpose and mission of the organisation.  We’re coming out of a recession and are now in a global values system of giving back, taking care of the environment, being part of a global community. In some way these are memes that we’ve become attuned to.

Young people today – and we know this from the data – don’t only want work they like but they want something that’s bigger than them. They want to make a difference. Maybe it’s always been true but it’s particularly true now.

Positive education rests on the premise that teaching skills that promote positive emotions, relationships, and character strengths and virtues also promotes learning and academic success.  And a rising epidemic of young mental health problems and a narrowing of the school experience makes the need for a new approach to education urgent…

Nearly all of the above words are a mashup from our highlighted stories in the new Happiness At Work #119 and give us this week’s headline.

Here then are these top stories that I have spliced these lines from…

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

International Positive Education Network: New Global Campaign Group Challenges Narrow, Exam-driven Approach to Education

A new global organisation, the International Positive Education Network (IPEN), has launched, with support from Dallas-based Live Happy LLC. IPEN’s campaign calls for a radical shift in how young people are educated.

IPEN’s campaign is built around evidence showing that developing pupils’ character strengths and wellbeing are as important as academic achievement to their future success and happiness.

With a rising epidemic of young mental health problems and a narrowing of the school experience, the need for a new approach to education is urgent.

IPEN is calling on like-minded individuals and organizations to sign our Manifesto for Positive Education and demonstrate the strong desire for change we believe exists around the world.

Commenting on the launch, James O’Shaughnessy, chair of IPEN and former director of policy to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, said:

“Young people are crying out for a new approach to education, one that prepares them to live a good, meaningful life that is full of purpose.

“That is where positive education comes in. It supports intellectual development and the cultivation of the mind, but it places equal value on the development of character strengths to help young people flourish.

“We are calling on everyone who supports this broader approach to education to sign our Manifesto and make their voices heard.”

Martin Seligman, Senior Adviser to IPEN and the Zellerbach Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, said:

“The high prevalence worldwide of depression among young people, the small rise in life satisfaction, and the synergy between learning and positive emotion all argue that the skills for flourishing should be taught in school.

“There is substantial evidence that students can be taught good character, resilience, positive emotion, engagement and meaning, in such a way that also supports and amplifies their academic studies.

“By taking this broader approach – which I call positive education – we can give our young people the skills and knowledge they need to thrive.”

Link to read the full IPEN press release

Positive education challenges the current paradigm of education, which values academic attainment above all other goals. Drawing on classical ideals, we believe that the DNA of education is a double helix with intertwined strands of equal importance:

  • Academics ~ The fulfillment of intellectual potential through the learning of the best that has been thought and known

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  • Character & Wellbeing ~ The development of character strengths and well-being, which are intrinsically valuable and contribute to a variety of positive life outcomes.

The IPEN Vision

We want to create a flourishing society where everyone is able to fulfil their potential and achieve both success and wellbeing. Every institution in society has a moral obligation to promote human flourishing, and none more so than those responsible for educating young people – families, schools and colleges.

The IPEN Mission

People flourish when they experience a balance of positive emotions, engagement with the world, good relationships with others, a sense of meaning and moral purpose, and the accomplishment of valued goals.

The aim of positive education is to equip young people with the knowledge and life skills to flourish and contribute to the flourishing of others.

Link to the IPEN site and the invitation to sign their manifesto

The Case for Positive Education

by James O’Shaughnessy and Emily E. Larson

Unless we can show that the arguments for positive education are true in practice, as well as in theory, then we will not deserve to change education in the way the International Positive Education Network (IPEN) is proposing. This post, therefore, tries to answer some of the most burning questions with the strongest evidence currently available to support our proposition. Its structure is based on the kind of questions we tend to experience when discussing positive education with an interested but sceptical audience.

Positive education represents a paradigm shift: away from viewing education merely as a route to academic attainment, towards viewing it as a place where students can cultivate their intellectual minds while developing a broad set of character strengths and virtues and wellbeing. This in a nutshell is the ‘character + academics’ approach to education.

Positive education rests on the premise that teaching skills that promote positive emotions, relationships, and character strengths and virtues also promotes learning and academic success.  So it is important to argue that, aside from its own intrinsic value and the wider benefits it brings, educating for character and wellbeing can help the quest for academic excellence.  School interventions that focus on social emotional learning, character development or wellbeing have been shown to increase academic performance as an outcome.  A report by Public Health England has shown that an 11% boost in results in standardised achievement tests has been linked to school programmes that directly improve pupils’ social and emotional learning.

Further evidence suggests that positive educational interventions have been found to increase facets of the student experience that contribute to academic success such as:

  • Hope
  • Engagement in school
  • Academic expectations
  • Motivation
  • Perceptions of ability
  • Life satisfaction
  • Self-worth
  • Classroom behaviour

In separating mental health and wellbeing from academic achievement we are ignoring the fact that depression has been on the rise since World War II despite increasing national wealth, and even worse, almost one in five will experience a major depressive episode before graduating from high school.

This is deeply worrying in itself, but it directly impacts academic achievement too. Adolescents who experience poor mental health at ages 16 to 17 have been found to be less likely to obtain higher education degrees than adolescents without such challenges, suggesting that mental health problems during secondary school have lasting implications for achievement later on in life.

The raw intelligence of an individual is an important determinant of future success and wellbeing but it isn’t the only thing that matters. Research by Angela Duckworth has shown that the character trait called ‘grit’, or passion and perseverance for a long-term goal, is a better predictor of some success outcomes than IQ.  And James Heckman has show that character traits are malleable or ‘skill-like’ and can be improved with good teaching and practice.  In a meta-analysis of positive education interventions, researcher Lea Waters found that interventions targeting students’ character can indeed lead to development of character strengths.

So even if our characters and IQs are partially determined by genes and upbringing, then there is still plenty of room for improvement.

We strongly favour rigorous, stretching academic development as an essential route out of poverty. But on its own it is not enough. Carol Dweck has popularised a construct called the ‘Growth Mindset’, which is the belief that intelligence is malleable and can be changed through hard work and perseverance. It stands opposed to the ‘Fixed Mindset’, which is the belief that intelligence is inherited and cannot be changed.  Blackwell, Trzesniewski, and Dweck supported this research in their study, which found during difficult transition periods at school, students who have a growth mindset displayed superior academic performance even though the students entered with equal skills and knowledge.  Additional research has found this effect was especially prominent in students who have a stereotype against them, such as being female or from a minority.

A note of caution must be sounded, however. Impressive as these results are, Dweck and her fellow authors note that, “believing intelligence to be malleable does not imply that everyone has exactly the same potential in every domain, or will learn everything with equal ease. Rather, it means that for any given individual, intellectual ability can always be further developed.”   What this means is that, like academic education, character education can make us better version of ourselves, but it cannot change everything about us.

Link to read the original IPEN post

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Creating physiological and emotional coherence is one of the biggest challenges of our time

Dr Alan Watkins is an ex-physician dedicated to transforming business and society by vertically developing business leaders. Vertical development is, according to the Global Leadership Foundation, “building our ability to distinguish and let go of our own limited thinking and perceptions.” Alan’s book, Coherence, is a how-to guide.

“People think things but they don’t really understand the phenomenon of thinking and what determines it,” explains Alan.  “We don’t just ‘have a thought’ – every single thought we have occurs in a context of our biology and our emotional state. Both are crucial to not only what we think but how well we think it.

“Despite this, we over-privilege cognition and under-privilege emotional regulation.”

Poor thinking comes as a result of incoherence in our biological and emotional signals. You see this problem in children. Those who are bullied, agitated, nervous or upset simply cannot learn. They lose the cognitive capacity to take in and assimilate new information.

As adults, we less commonly face bullying peers or overbearing teachers. Yet the problem presents in a different way and has far-reaching consequences.

“Part of my mission is to reduce suffering on the planet and we believe big business, while it could be an incredible force for good, is often the source of the greatest suffering.  Some of the companies we work with have 650,000 employees, so when leadership is wrong it affects the lives of 650,000 people.

“Furthermore, business determines outcomes on the planet. A study in New Scientist in October 2013 analysed 40,000 multinationals and found 147 companies basically controlled those multinationals. Assume you have two or three power brokers in each of those 147 companies and you find you have around 500 people that run the planet.”

Basically, the quality of the thinking – and by extension the decision-making – of 500 people affects the lives of us all. And the quality of this thinking is inextricably linked to the physiology and emotional states in which these people operate. That’s why Alan focuses on leaders.

The problem is more acute because of globalisation and the ever-increasing complexity and uncertainty of the world around us. To make optimal decisions, we must consider ever more variables and consequences.

“The amount of pressure and the intensity of business structures these days is so overwhelming. Robert Kegan, professor of education at Harvard, says most leaders these days are ‘in over their heads,’ dealing with a level of complexity that they literally can’t cope with.”

Alan’s model of decision-making looks like a pyramid and is built on layers. At the bottom is physiology, topped with emotion, then feeling, and then cognition. Finally comes the decision we make. We think we’re clever for ‘coming to’ a decision, when in reality it’s heavily influenced by the bulk of the pyramid that has come before.

What is emotion really? According to Alan it’s the ‘tune’ played  by all the various physiological parts of the body interacting in a multitude of ways, like an orchestra. The feeling is our conscious awareness of this tune.

In order to adapt and become better at thinking and better at decision-making, we need an orchestra that is aligned, tuneful and rhythmic rather than one that is erratic. This is effectively ‘coherence’ throughout the system. With that comes a solid, stable breeding ground for clear thought production.

The pyramid is a two-way street. Our thoughts and feelings can influence our physiology and our emotions. When we remember a stressful occasion we feel our body lose coherence. Our heart rate intensifies. Our pupils dilate. We can’t think straight.

It feels like we have no control of our physiology and our emotion.

Alan teaches people the skills they need to take back conscious control of their physiology and emotion and therefore prepare themselves for different situations depending on what type of thinking or emotion is needed. About to go on stage to make a presentation? You need to put yourself in a ‘passionate’ state. About to make a big pitch to a client? You need to put yourself in a ‘competent’ state.

One of the biggest influencers of our system coherence is heart rate variability. A smooth, consistent, rhythmic heart rate can actually entrain the rest of our physiology to ‘beat in time.’ And the best way to influence our heart rate variability is through breathing to a set pattern.

What else can we do? Better emotional literacy and management is key. Alan says that if he could only teach his children one skill it would be emotional management. This is the ability to identify, classify, deconstruct and invoke emotions at will.

This is important because unless we know how we’re feeling at any one time then how can we know how our thinking is affected? And from that, how can we know which emotional state we need to be in?

In his book Coherence, Alan distinguishes between two emotions, frustration and disappointment. They feel very similar. But while frustration should encourage you to push forward and tackle obstacles, disappointment is designed to make you take a step back and reassess before deciding on a new course of action.

How can you come to an optimal decision if you can’t differentiate between the two? The decision you make, however rational you think it is, will be created in the context of the emotional interpretation you make, yet you’ll feel like you’ve come to the decision through rational cognitive process.

Once we understand and can label a wide range of emotions, we can better identify how we feel and ensure we are aware of how this affects the decisions we make.

“If you transform your own capability, your whole orientation and the whole way you perceive yourself and your own identify and the world around you, the situation, transforms. You see it completely differently, it’s like moving from black and white to colour.”

This vertical development comes about when we understand the role physiology and emotion play in decision-making and that unless we can consciously control our physiology and emotion, we will continue to fall prey to sub-optimal decision-making across society.

Those who aren’t aware of the place of physiology and emotion won’t even know they’ve made a sub-optimal decision.

Every single person could become more effective and more able to relate to others by vertically developing along the lines of emotional regulation and system coherence.

Link to read the full HRZone article

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Six Tips for Business Leaders to Show Staff They’re Cared For

Learn more ways to improve your workplace wellbeing with The Ultimate Wellbeing Toolkit – a practical learning hub brought to you by financial protection specialists Unum, designed to equip HR professionals with the skills and knowledge they need to show employees that they are valued. You can also find out more information about the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Showing your staff that you care about them simply makes good business sense. Staff who feel that their employer cares about them are likely to be more engaged and productive.

A survey carried out by The Institute of Leadership Management (ILM) in 2013 found that 31% of respondents stated that the one thing that would motivate them to do more at work was better treatment by their employer.

In short, a more motivated workforce ultimately makes for a more profitable and successful company.

So what does a caring employer look like? Below are some practical tips to help managers increase caring while boosting productivity and profitability:

1. Thank the people who put you there

First, consider who your organisation has to thank for its success and how you can demonstrate your appreciation to these key stakeholders, whether it’s the employees, suppliers or communities you operate in. This means taking the time to understand their needs and aspirations and meeting them. This could include:

  • Structured praise and recognition/development opportunities/team-building days
  • Charitable donations to the local community/allowing your staff to volunteer with community projects

2. Nurturing relationships is not just a “nice to have”

ILM research reveals managers find working relationships (within teams and with customers and suppliers) increasingly important. Developing and maintaining good working relationships are the key means of, not distraction from, doing real work.

Organisations are using the strength of working relationships as a market differentiator. Managers should take time to properly engage with colleagues and understand their aspirations and concerns. Twenty-nine per cent of managers have had training in relationship management.

3. Keep lines of communication open

In a world of digital working, with more people working flexible hours, you might not be the same location as your staff as often. Therefore communication has become a top priority. It’s not surprising that communication has been noted as the top skill managers would like to develop.

However, recent ILM research has noted that this is also the skill which managers state their peers tend to do most badly.

The key to communicating well is fostering good two-way communications. It’s essential that people feel consulted and listened to.

4. Help your managers manage 

Communication, planning, and leadership and management are all cited as being increasingly important but they can be hard to achieve, especially in large organisations.

Training and qualifications will help, especially for people who are newly promoted into management: frequently they are promoted on the basis of technical/subject ability and left without support when it comes to putting management and leadership into practice.

ILM has found that only 57% of organisations have a leadership and management talent pipeline, even though 93% recognise that a lack of management skills is affecting their business.

5. Find out what your employees value

We know from ILM research that the top-ranked (by both managers and employees) performance motivator is job enjoyment.

  • Only 13% of employees rated bonuses as a top motivator
  • 59% of employees rated job enjoyment as a top motivator
  • 31% of employees identified better treatment from their employer; more praise and a greater sense of being valued would make them more motivated.

This could be non-financial recognition and reward, improved office environments, team and company away days or schemes to encourage innovation and creative thinking.

Think how jobs are structured and what opportunities there are to provide development – whether formal training and qualifications or informal opportunities such as secondments or varying the projects or roles of each staff member.

6.  Ensure everyone works towards the goals of the business

Have clearly stated values and work out with everyone what those look like in practice (abstract words on posters or screen savers are not enough).

This will help everyone to pull in the same direction and will also help people applying to work for your company to gauge their suitability.

Having a clear vision which managers can pass on to staff will help everyone to work towards the same thing. ILM research also indicates that it will improve staff positivity and performance.

Specific training and development will help aspiring and current organisational leaders to turn dry objectives into something tangible that their people can reach.

Link to read the original article

see also:

The Art and Science of Giving and Receiving Criticism at Work

Understanding the psychology of criticism can help you give better feedback and better deal with negative reviews…

by Courtney Seiter

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Companies  Are Realising They Must Hire Self-Learners

Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte,  shares his insights from their Global Human Capital Trends study with 1700 organisations around the world and his observations of current trends and movements…

…It would be nice if employees took a holistic view of their job and their company but most don’t. Most go to work, try to do the best they can, and hope they get paid well, then they go home.

We must build a work environment that works and select for people who suit our culture. Job fit is not just skills and capability but cultural fit e.g. we’re a fun-loving company, we’re a serious company, we work late, we don’t work late etc.

All these are cultural things. These statements will attract different people. If you don’t characterise your culture, you’ll get some percentage of people leaving because the company just isn’t for them.

We have to build organisations that attract the right people.

I think cultural fit does not mean uniformity of thinking and uniformity of race, gender etc. So most of the time when you look at culture you’re looking at behaviour that crosses different work styles and thinking styles.

Deloitte is at its roots a financial services accounting firm, so there’s a certain amount of rigour, quality etc. That doesn’t mean you need to be this race or this gender but you do have to be comfortable with that culture.

A lot of innovative companies have cultures that are very open. One of Zappos’ culture attributes is ‘we like wacky people,’ and they are saying, we want you to be yourself, it’s ok to be different, to look different. Culture doesn’t mean we’re all the same.

Even small companies, maybe more so than big, must attract people not just on the job but due to the purpose and mission of the organisation. Some people will go to work and do their job anywhere – some engineers, for example, even though might be making a nuclear bomb.

Young people today – and I know this from the data – don’t only want work they like but they want something that’s bigger than them. They want to make a difference. Maybe it’s always been true but it’s particularly true now.

We’re coming out of a recession and are now in a global values system of giving back, taking care of the environment, being part of a global community. In some way these are memes that we’ve become attuned to.

The word talent has been overused so it’s now a buzz word. But more and more economic studies are showing a higher and higher percentage of the economy is driven by services, intellectual property, creativity and innovation – things that require human beings.

At the same time there are the machines that are as smart as people – like Watson from IBM – starting to replace white collar jobs. So you go to a fast food joint and there’s no one there to take your order, you just press a button. And that’s happening in law and accounting and almost every other discipline.

Companies are realising they have to look for people who are creative and self-learners. There’s an accelerating obsolescence of skills. If you’re a software engineer and you don’t know machine learning, you’re falling out of the mainstream. The rate of change in all these technical disciplines is going up.

Companies want to hire self-learners who are passionate about their domain, hard-working, collaborative, creative and want to stay ahead.

More and more learning is pull-driven – by the person. The training department still has to do a lot of formal training but they have to create a learning environment where they can learn on their own.  Otherwise, staff will go outside and learn it somewhere else. That’s why MOOCs are so big and all these online learning systems – people are scrambling around trying to keep their skills and careers modern.

Deloitte just published this study from the Center for the Edge based on profiles of personalities at work. One is called the Passionate Explorer – these are people who are domain experts who love their domain and who continually educate themselves in their domain. Around 15-20% of the workforce falls into this category.

They aren’t always the most execution-focused people, but companies realise you need some of these people in your organisation.

Link to read the full HRZone article

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

Five career lessons to live by

From accepting that you can’t always have a plan to making sure your voice is heard above the noise,  shares these words of wisdom are relevant to us all from five inspirational businesswomen at this year’s annual  Institute of Directors Women in Leadership conference

“You don’t need to have a plan to succeed” ~ Dr Suzy Walton

The “what are you going to do with your life?” question pops up at a worryingly young age, and while it’s wonderful if you have a clear passion and vision for your career path, it can be hugely intimidating for those of us who have never really had a clue.

Setting goals for yourself can be a positive step forward, but it can also leave you blinkered and unable to see the unexpected opportunities that might come your way. Trying to stick too rigidly to a plan can also mean that if life throws you a curveball, it can knock you sideways. Being open to change and accepting that things don’t always work out the way you thought they would could be the key to a happier life and a more exciting, varied career path.

“Sometimes you need to pretend to have authority” ~ Anne-Marie Huby, founder of Justgiving

When asked how she dealt with the difficulties of asserting yourself as a young person in a new role, Huby’s advice was clear: “pretend to be the person you want to be.”

Self-doubt is one of the biggest career stallers out there. You could be brilliant at what you do, but if you don’t act with conviction then others will doubt you and your leadership. If you have trouble being authoritative and believing in yourself at work, perhaps its time to see how far a little acting takes you, and how quickly the way you project yourself becomes the reality.

“You have to speak up if you want to get noticed” ~ Dr Leah Totton, winner of the Apprentice and founder of Dr Leah Clinics

If you work in a company where good work is always rewarded and credit is always given to the right person, then you’re one of the lucky ones. For most of us, sitting back and hoping that someone notices that we’ve been in the office since sunrise isn’t the route to career success. If you want to stand out from the crowd and prove that you deserve that promotion/pay rise/investment then you have to stand up for yourself so that you can be heard over the noise.

“Starting a new business always takes longer than you think” ~ Pippa Begg, director of Board Intelligence

For many women, entrepreneurship offers a rewarding alternative to the corporate rat race. Running your own business is often painted as the perfect situation, offering motivation, job satisfaction and the opportunity to set your own rules. The reality however, can be more challenging than you could possibly imagine.

“People will tell you that it takes twice as long as you think it will to get your first client,” said Begg. “Forget that – it takes at least five times longer.” It took Board Intelligence over a year to get its first client; a time frame that would have left many entrepreneurs ready to give up. For Begg and her business partner, a firm belief in their proposition kept them going, and a few years down the line they boast an impressive lineup of clients.

“Diversity is a seat at the table; inclusion is having a voice” ~ Cindy Miller, president of European operations at UPS

Miller joined the famously male-dominated company she now runs 25 years ago as a package car driver and worked her way up to her current position. She described her first promotion to manager, and how she later discovered that she had been fourth choice for the role, behind three men.

She spoke about current company developments, including mentoring, support and community building for female employees, emphasising the importance of cultural changes as well as practical ones.

True equality isn’t just a numbers game. Of course we need more women in senior positions and in the boardroom, but a seat at the table isn’t enough. What is more important is creating a business environment where female leaders have visibility, a strong voice and a central role in driving the future of the company.

Link to read the original Guardian article

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

Photo: Mark Trezona 2014

What Maslow’s Hierarchy Won’t Tell You About Motivation

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What you can find amongst this week’s toolbox of practical techniques

Playing To Your Signature Strengths

24 SMS ‘ till Christmas is the initiative from Happy Newcomer that presents a movie and a song that reflect the spirit of each the 24 Character Strengths from Seligman & Peterson’s model that we are using more and more.

In this week’s collection you will find the next six Character Strengths:

  • Gratitude
  • Humility
  • Love of Learning
  • Social Intelligence
  • Zest & Enthusiasm

Three Critical Conversations that Boost Employee Engagement

by  and 

Employee engagement is an individual experience, and here are three types of conversations that will give you critical engagement-boosting information from your employees…

1. The “Start, Stop, Continue, Increase” Conversation

Here’s how this conversation might sound:

Lisa, one of the things I like to do with each new hire is get specific feedback on how I manage … specific feedback on what works for them and what doesn’t. So, with that in mind, I’d like to get your responses to the following questions:

  • First, what’s one thing that I do that is really helpful in terms of bringing out the best in you that I should keep doing?
  • The second question I’d like to get your response to is ‘What’s one thing I do that irritates or frustrates you, so that would be the one thing I should STOP doing, if I want to bring out the best in you?
  • The third question I’ll be asking is, ‘What’s one thing you recommend I START doing, because by doing this, I will make the biggest positive impact in your work experience and in my ability to bring out the best in you?’
  • Finally, what’s something I do that is really positive, but, I could be doing it a lot more?

Those are the four questions I’d like to get your take on. So, here they are on a sheet of paper. To give you some time to think rather than catch you off guard, how about if you think about your answers and then we can go through them next week when we meet?”

Because most employees have never been asked such questions, and because many people need time to think through their questions and responses, you will get better quality answers by letting them reflect on their answers.

2. The “What Would Be Most Helpful?” Conversation

This is a more focused, situation-specific request for feedback on your management style.

So, here’s how it might sound:

When I asked you to go search out that difficult answer, was that helpful or would it have been better for me to have teamed you up with Joe?”

Asking “What would be most helpful?” in the conversation gives you valuable information you can use to tailor your approach to each specific employee. As we discussed in our previous article, each employee has their own unique combination of motivators, de-motivators, preferences, and aspirations.

One size does not fit all, and your ability to bring out the best in each employee depends on your ability to tailor your approach to meet each employee’s unique combination.

Asking this also strengthens your relationship with the employee. Even if they don’t have a ready answer, your asking the question demonstrates that you want to manage that employee in the way that works best for them. It communicates that you care enough to want their feedback.

Also, the courage and humility demonstrated in such a request engenders tremendous respect and appreciation in the employee.

3. The “What would You Like to Know About Me?” Conversation

This conversation is especially useful for new employees. It saves them from the unnecessary anxiety caused by an uncommunicative boss who won’t express explicitly what they want from their employees and what makes them happy.

Here’s an example of how this conversation might sound:

Just as we’ve been having conversations about what works best for you and how I can bring out your best, I’d like to have what I call a “What Would You Like to Know About Me?” conversation with you. I have found this to be really helpful with new employees.

This is where they ask anything they want about what I look for most in my team members, my core values, specific business goals, things that drive ME crazy as a supervisor … that sort of thing. So with that in mind, what would you like to know about me that you would find helpful?”

Besides helping them get to know you, this question also allows you to model that it’s beneficial to be direct and open about who you are and what you want. This is a subtle invitation to the employee to do the same with you.

Link to read the original article

Favourite Books of 2014

Berkley’s Greater Good editorsJill Suttie, and Jeremy Adam Smith list their top picks from the previous year – perhaps one or two of these might make a good gift for someone you care about about.  This might well be yourself of course…

the-truth-about-trust- David DeSteno

The Truth About Trust: How It Determines Success in Life, Love, Learning, and More by David DeSteno

Trust is the social glue that allows us to do more together than we could ever do alone. But trustworthiness is a moving target, argues psychologist David DeSteno, dependent on our moods, circumstances, and competing needs; therefore, it’s best to learn how trusts works if we want to connect with others without being taken for a ride.

As social animals, we’ve developed shortcuts for knowing whom to trust—“gut reactions,” based on subtle cues, like folding arms across one’s chest or leaning back—that signal someone is untrustworthy. While some of these can be quite accurate, others are subject to manipulation and prejudice, which DeSteno demonstrates with ingenious science experiments. Some of his findings fly in the face of conventional wisdom—most notably, the view that trustworthiness is a fixed trait. Instead, he argues, being trustworthy depends on an internal calculus, where we weigh the benefits versus the costs of acting with integrity in any given situation.

Our ability to predict our own trustworthiness—like trusting ourselves to refrain from adultery—is hampered by our inability to predict future cost/benefits and by our tendency to rationalize our own behavior. He argues that we should work toward nurturing our trusting nature and our trustworthiness if we want to succeed in life and contribute to a more harmonious society.

Mindwise - Nicholas EpleyMindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want by Nicholas Epley

Though we humans are equipped with a brain specially attuned to predict what others are thinking, feeling, and planning, there are many cases in which our “mindreading” powers lead us astray. Social psychologist Nicholas Epley presents fascinating research on how our social brains work and why we sometimes can’t look beyond our own preconceptions.

Epley suggests we have a tendency to overestimate our “mindreading” abilities, ascribing to people intentions they don’t have, based on our projections of how we would act in a certain situation and on our assumption that others think like us when they don’t. We also err in the other direction: exaggerating perceived differences between members of other social groups and ourselves, which can lead to stereotyping.

The sad conclusion is that we may underestimate the richness and variety of other people’s minds (while not depreciating our own), creating misunderstandings and even dehumanization. To counteract this, we need to better understand the way our minds work and consciously deeply listen to those who are different than us.

Making Grateful KidsMaking Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character by Jeffrey Froh and Giacomo Bono

Many parents worry that our modern culture, with its focus on materialism, will make their kids spoiled and entitled. But, while culture can have a negative impact, researchers Jeffrey Froh and Giacomo Bono suggest ways parents can avoid this outcome: by helping kids develop gratitude.

Research has shown that grateful kids have all kinds of advantages later in life—better relationships, higher levels of happiness and optimism, and more commitment to community, to name a few. Froh and Bono’s book outlines that research and provides thirty-two research-based tips for parents to encourage gratitude in their children. Much of what they suggest falls into the category of overall good parenting—i.e. being present for your kids, encouraging their talents, and providing needed support. In other cases, their tips involve specific gratitude practices, as well as role-modeling the gratitude behavior you want to see in your kids.

But, their goals go beyond wanting parents to enjoy their kids more: “The ultimate function that gratitude may serve in human development…is to help individuals find their own life story for elevating others and to make a difference in the world,” they write.

The Upside of Your DownsideThe Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self—Not Just Your “Good” Self—Drives Success and Fulfillment by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener 

“Every emotion is useful,” write the authors of The Upside of Your Dark Side. “Even the ones we think of as negative, including the painful ones.”

Kashdan and Biswas-Diener delve deep into the research to understand why “negative” states like anger or sadness have evolved; they also look at what happens when positive emotions aren’t restrained by negative ones that may cause us to reflect, take a stand against unfairness, or speak our minds. Of course, not all anger is useful; not all sadness is healthy. This is where the book shines: The authors tease out the differences between, for example, anger and rage, and then provide very concrete tips for managing negative states so that they don’t run out of control.

But The Upside of Your Dark Side also contains a larger cultural critique of movements for greater happiness and well-being. Positive emotions are good, argues this book, but focusing excessively on them can cut us off from our whole selves.

Empathy - why it matters and how to get itEmpathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It by Roman Krznaric

Roman Krznaric, a philosopher and founding faculty member of London’s School of Life, explains how we humans are wired for empathy and why empathy is so important to cultivate.

Science shows that we literally have brain circuits devoted to trying to understand how another person is feeling and to “feel with” them. Yet there are social, political, and psychological barriers to feeling empathy that can get in the way. Krznaric’s book argues that we need to understand these barriers and find ways to overcome them if we are to create the compassionate society we want.

Empathy is not about pity or sympathy, he writes, but about truly putting yourself in another’s worldview and treating them accordingly—“Do unto others as they would want you to do unto them.” He outlines six habits of highly empathic people—i.e. immersing yourself in another culture, engaging in conversation with people who don’t share your views, or joining a choir with people from many walks of life—as a way of decreasing prejudice and developing empathy.

Brainstorm - the power and purpose of the teenage brainBrainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel Siegel

The cultural view that impulsive teen behavior is due to “raging hormones” is outdated and just plain wrong. These two books explain what’s actually going on in teens’ lives and what we can do to support and nurture them on their path to adulthood.

 

Age of Opportunity - lessons from the new science of adolesenceAge of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence by Laurence Steinberg

Their advice rests on what scientists now understand about the human brain and teen development. During adolescence, the brain starts to become more efficient by “pruning” out neural connections that are less needed, making adolescence a period of both great neural reorganization and creativity.

Ha! the science of when we laugh and whyHa!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why by Scott Weems

You may assume that the appreciation of humor is too idiosyncratic to study scientifically; but you’d be wrong. Psychologist Scott Weems has delved into the science of laughter and come up with an entertaining read about what humor is and what it does for our brains, our health, and our relationships.

It’s true that not everyone finds the same jokes funny. But the common thread in different types of humor is that they all involve dealing with surprise and resolving the ensuing cognitive dissonance in the brain—neural processing that has benefits in other realms of our lives, such as creativity and insight.

Laughing at jokes also releases the feel-good hormone dopamine in the brain, and can increase blood flow and strengthen the heart, much like aerobic exercise does. Perhaps that’s why a sense of humor often tops the list of desirable qualities in a mate.

People say that “laughter is the best medicine,” and laughter has indeed been shown to decrease pain and to reduce stress. Weems suggests laughing at jokes even if they aren’t funny is a good strategy. It will make your life happier and healthier and, because laughter is contagious, spread good feelings to those around you.

Link to the original Greater Good article

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

Photo: Mark Trezona 2013

Happiness At Work edition #119

All of these stories and many more are collected together in this week’s latest edition of Happiness At Work

Enjoy…

Happiness At Work #113 ~ a toolkit of practical techniques for getting and staying happier

This week’s featured Happiness At Work articles highlight a clutch of articles that offer us some down-to-earth tools and techniques for being and staying happier.

These include how to manage our emotional intelligence, our time and work-life balance when we are feeling especially stretched, how to be better at stopping and smelling the roses, and how to enhance your state of being in flow – those best moments when we feel at the frontier of our abilities, playing to our strengths and doing our finest work.  Plus some tips on how to jumpstart employee happiness in your organisation, and some reasons why we now need to be teaching the new science of happiness in our schools.

5 Ways to Reset Your Work-Life Balance When You’re Crazy Busy

No matter how much you love what you do, striking a balance between work and your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing is essential. Studies have repeatedly shown that happy workers are more productive workers, so keeping up stable relationships with friends and family, making time for fulfilling activities, and taking a break from work is key to maintaining a quality of life that serves you and your employer best.

To maintain your happiness and keep your wellbeing in check, Melody Wildings hares her strategies to stay balanced and stress-free, courtesy of The Muse.

 

1. Communicate with your boss

Even if you choose to embrace the extra work and additional responsibilities as a challenge and way to grow your skill set, it’s important to communicate with your boss about expectations such as deadlines and the duration of the project. Be sure you’re both aware of when the craziness will start to wind down, whether the project is on schedule, and any potential roadblocks that could arise.

Not only will having this information help you feel in control of your workload, it will actually help you control the process. With full knowledge of your boss’ expectations, you can step in when things aren’t moving along to suggest a change in direction, and you’ll be able to weather surprises (like the project getting extended for an extra week) with grace and ease.

2. Create a morning and a bedtime routine

Research shows that following a morning routine can help get your day off to a productive start—and that good feeling can boost your mood throughout the rest of the day.

Create a routine around a daily morning practice, such as meditating or waking up a half-hour early to get work done before ever checking your email. By sticking to this morning after morning, you’ll automatically begin your workday on a positive note, with a sense of accomplishment.

Then, at the end of the day, make a point to go to bed at the same time each evening (more or less), and designate some time beforehand to wind down by reading, jotting down tomorrow’s to-dos, or another calming routine that isn’t in front of a screen. Engaging in a nighttime ritual signals to your body it’s time for bed, and clearing your mind before bed also helps calm your nerves, which improves sleep.

3. Move your body (even a little)

Exercise is often one of the first things to go when work gets crazy, but its stress-reducing benefits make it even more important to incorporate during demanding times in your life.

If there’s no way you can squeeze in your normal gym routine, think of smaller ways you can get the blood flowing, like changing up your commute to walk or bike to work, YouTube-ing a short yoga or abs routine that you can do at home, or even just spending 10 minutes stretching when you wake up. Physical activity is proven to reduce stress and can help calm you down when you’re amped up—which will help keep you sane during marathon workdays.

4. Set Aside Quiet Time

When it feels like you’ve signed your life over to your company or clients, carving out some time for yourself is essential to stay grounded. Whether you squeeze in time to call a friend or just sit and decompress sans electronic devices, designating uninterrupted time (however short!) to clear your head can work wonders for your mood and will help you to think more clearly when things are moving fast.

Try getting in early to take advantage of the empty office, or, if most days you’re starved for a peaceful moment, pop on some headphones and jam out to your favourite Spotify station on the way to work. Or, taking lunch away from your desk—especially if you can find a quiet park or courtyard—is a great way to de-stress.

5. Make Room for Creativity

Making time for creative expression—whatever that looks like for you—will help stay centered when it feels like work is taking over your life. Creativity is cathartic: It allows you to channel stress, anger, resentment, or whatever other negative emotions you may be holding onto in a productive, healthy way.

So, be sure you’re still making time to sing your favorite jam in the shower, write posts for your blog, or send your mom a thoughtful card in the mail, no matter how busy things are in the office. Yes, there is always one more thing on your to-do list and you can always find more reasons to work, but if you don’t pause to take a timeout, you’ll stop being productive.

Finally, when it seems like all you do is work, do your best to maintain perspective. It can be helpful to remind yourself that the stress will not last forever, and in the meantime, you have plenty of resources to cope with the stress and take back control of your life.

Making time for yourself amid the dozens of other demands on you is what will help reset your balance—and what will make you a better employee and happier person in the long run.

 

Read the original article here

 

 How To Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

by Preston Ni

Here are six keys to increasing your emotional intelligence:

1.  The Ability to Reduce Negative Emotions

Perhaps no aspect of EQ is more important than our ability to effectively manage our own negative emotions, so they don’t overwhelm us and affect our judgment. In order to change the way we feel about a situation, we must first change the way we think about it. Here are just two examples:

A. Reducing Negative Personalisation. When you feel adversely about someone’s behaviour, avoid jumping to a negative conclusion right away. Instead, come up with multiple ways of viewing the situation before reacting. For example, I may be tempted to think my friend didn’t return my call because she’s ignoring me, or I can consider the possibility that she’s been very busy. When we avoid personalizing other people’s behaviors, we can perceive their expressions more objectively. People do what they do because of them more than because of us. Widening our perspective can reduce the possibility of misunderstanding.

B. Reducing the Fear of Rejection. One effective way to manage your fear of rejection is to provide yourself with multiple options in important situations, so that no matter what happens, you have strong alternatives going forward. Avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket (emotionally) by identifying a viable Plan B, and also a Plan C, should Plan A not work out. For example:

Increased fear of rejection: “I’m applying for my dream job. I’ll be devastated if they don’t hire me.”

Decreased fear of rejection: “I’m applying for three exciting positions. If one doesn’t pan out, there are two more I’m well qualified for.”

For more in-depth information on reducing or eliminating over fifteen types of negative attitudes and feelings, see my book (click on title): “How to Let Go of Negative Thoughts and Emotions.”

2.  The Ability to Stay Cool and Manage Stress

Most of us experience some level of stress in life. How we handle stressful situations can make the difference between being assertive versus reactive, and poised versus frazzled. When under pressure, the most important thing to keep in mind is to keep our cool. Here are two quick tips:

A. If you feel nervous and anxious, put cold water on your face and get some fresh air. Cool temperature can help reduce our anxiety level (1)(2). Avoid caffeinated beverages which can stimulate your nervousness (3)(4).

B. If you feel fearful, depressed, or discouraged, try intense aerobic exercises. Energize yourself. The way we use our body affects greatly the way we feel (5)(6). As the saying goes – motion dictates emotion. As you experience the vitality of your body, your confidence will also grow.

3.  The Ability to Be Assertive and Express Difficult Emotions When Necessary

“Being who we are requires that we can talk openly about things that are important to us, that we take a clear position on where we stand on important emotional issues, and that we clarify the limits of what is acceptable and tolerable to us in a relationship.”

― Harriet Lerner

There are times in all of our lives when it’s important to set our boundaries appropriately, so people know where we stand. These can include exercising our right to disagree (without being disagreeable), saying “no” without feeling guilty, setting our own priorities, getting what we paid for, and protecting ourselves from duress and harm.

One method to consider when needing to express difficult emotions is the XYZ technique – I feel X when you do Y in situation Z. Here are some examples:

“I feel strongly that I should receive recognition from the company based on my contributions.”

“I feel uncomfortable that you expect me to help you over my own priorities.”

“I feel disappointed when you didn’t follow through when you told me you would.”

Avoid using sentences that begin with “you” and followed by accusation or judgment, such as “you are…,” “you should…,” or “you need to….” “You” language followed by such directives put the listener on the defensive, and make them less likely to be open to what you have to say.

4.  The Ability to Stay Proactive, Not Reactive in the Face of a Difficult Person

Most of us encounter unreasonable people in our lives. We may be “stuck” with a difficult individual at work or at home. It’s easy to let a challenging person affect us and ruin our day. What are some of the keys to staying proactive in such situations? Here are three quick tips:

A. When you feel angry and upset with someone, before you say something you might later regret, take a deep breath and count slowly to ten. In most circumstances, by the time you reach ten, you would have figured out a better way of communicating the issue, so that you can reduce, instead of complicate the problem. If you’re still upset after counting to ten, take a time out if possible, and revisit the issue after you calm down.

B. Another way to reduce reactivity is to try to put yourself in the difficult individual’s shoes, even for just a moment. For example, consider the person you’re dealing with, and complete the sentence: “It must not be easy….”

“My child is being so resistant. It must not be easy to deal with his school and social pressures…”

“My boss is really demanding. It must not be easy to have such high expectations placed on her performance by management…”

To be sure, empathetic statements do not excuse unacceptable behavior. The point is to remind yourself that people do what they do because of their own issues. As long as we’re being reasonable and considerate, difficult behaviors from others say a lot more about them than they do about us. By de-personalizing, we can view the situation more objectively, and come up with better ways of solving the problem.

C. Set Consequence.The ability to identify and assert consequence(s) is one of the most important skills you can use to “stand down” a difficult person. Effectively articulated, consequence gives pause to the difficult individual, and compels her or him to shift from violation to respect. In my book (click on title) “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle People,” consequence is presented as seven different types of power you can utilize to affect positive change.

5.  The Ability to Bounce Back from Adversity

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

— Michael Jordan

Life is not always easy. We all know that. How we choose the way we think, feel, and act in relation to life’s challenges can often make the difference between hope versus despair, optimism versus frustration, and victory versus defeat. With every challenging situation we encounter, ask questions such as “What is the lesson here?” “How can I learn from this experience?” “What is most important now?” and “If I think outside the box, what are some better answers?” The higher the quality of questions we ask, the better the quality of answers we will receive. Ask constructive questions based on learning and priorities, and we can gain the proper perspective to help us tackle the situation at hand.

“Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections, failed twice in business and suffered a nervous breakdown before he became the president of the United States.” 

— Wall Street Journal

6.  The Ability to Express Intimate Emotions in Close, Personal Relationships

The ability to effectively express and validate tender, loving emotions is essential to maintaining close personal relationships. In this case, “effective” means sharing intimate feelings with someone in an appropriate relationship, in a manner that’s nourishing and constructive, and being able to respond affirmatively when the other person does the same.

A person’s “heart withers if it does not answer another heart.”

— Pearl Buck

Psychologist Dr. John Gottman calls the expression of intimate emotions “bidding.” Bidding can be any method of positive connection between two people desiring a close relationship. For example:

Verbal bidding: “How are you doing?” “How are you feeling?” “I love you.” “I appreciate you.” “I like it when we talk like this.” “I’m glad we’re spending this time together.” “you’re such a good friend.” “I’m sorry.”

Body language bidding: positive eye contact, hugging, smiling, patting the elbow, arm around the shoulder.

Behavioral bidding: offering food or beverage, a personalized card, a thoughtful gift, a needed favor. Empathetic listing. Engaging in shared activities that create a closer bond.

Dr. Gottman’s research reveals that close, healthy relationships bid with each other in ways large and small up to hundreds of times a day. The words and gestures can be a million variations, all of which say, in essence, “I care about you,” “I want to be connected with you,” and “you’re important in my life.” Constant and consistent bidding is crucial in the maintenance and development of close, personal relationships. It’s the vitamin of love.

Link to read the original article

 

Riding Your Flow: 8 Steps for Enhancing Your Creativity and Productivity

by Dr Kelly Neff

Why is that we tend to be more successful at pursuits we are genuinely passionate about? Why does time seem to drag when you are completely bored and uninterested in a task? How come you can easily lose yourself in a task that really piques your interest?

According to positive psychology, doing things that you find genuinely interesting and stimulating can put you into a state Flow, which is defined as an ‘optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.’ During flow, self-awareness and the ego can dissolve, meaning you become completely focused and immersed in the activity for its own sake. Flow has been linked to enhanced performance and creativity across a wide range of activities, such as sports, artistic pursuits, and even in the workplace. Perhaps you can visualize a time when you became so focused and passionate about something that time just dissipated?

WHAT DOES FLOW FEEL LIKE?

Psychologically, riding a state of flow can feel incredibly pleasing and liberating. As we immerse ourselves in an activity that stimulates our passions, curiosity and interests, we lose track of the world around us and can enter unusual states of creativity and productivity.

According to psychologist Mikhal Csíkszentmihályi’s landmark book Finding Flow, the feeling of flow is associated with these ten factors, although not all of them need to be present to experience it. Have you ever experienced some or all of these?

  1. You feel a complete focus of attention
  2. The activity is intrinsically rewarding
  3. You have clear, attainable (although still challenging) goals
  4. You have a feeling of peace and losing yourself
  5. There is an element of timelessness, or, losing track of time during the activity
  6. You receive immediate feedback
  7. You know that the task is doable, and you can strike a balance between skill level and the challenge presented.
  8. You feel a sense of personal control over your efforts
  9. You lose track of your physical needs.
  10. You experience an unusually high level of concentration

WHAT DOES FLOW LOOK LIKE IN THE BRAIN?

A variety of processes occur simultaneously in the brain when we enter a state of flow. Essentially, these processes are threefold and together they help explain why during flow, the brain is capable of enhanced creativity and productivity: Transitions in brainwaves, deactivation of the prefrontal cortex, and changes in neuro-chemistry.

  • Brain Wave Transitions:

While in a state of flow, our brainwaves transition from the more rapid beta waves of waking consciousness to slower alpha waves, and even to the border of much slower theta waves. Alpha waves are associated with relaxed and effortless alertness, peak performance and creativity, while theta waves are associated with the deeper dream-state consciousness and experienced predominately during REM sleep.

  • Pre-Frontal Cortex Deactivation:

During flow states, the Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC) becomes deactivated in a process called “transienthypo-frontality.” The PFC is the area of the brain that houses higher-level cognitions, including those that help us to cultivate our ego and sense of self. During a flow state this area becomes deactivated, helping us lose ourselves in the task at hand and silence our criticisms, fears and self-doubts.

  • Neuro-chemistry:

Flow states also trigger a release of many of the pleasurable and performance- inducing chemicals in the brain, including dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and endorphins. A recent study shows that when are intrinsically curious about an outcome and driven for answers, dopamine is released in the brain, helping to solidify our memories. These findings suggest why flow states are good for promoting learning and memory in addition to creativity.

EIGHT STEPS FOR ENHANCING YOUR STATE OF FLOW

In addition to being a pleasurable and productive experience, riding the flow also has a host of other benefits to well-being including increased self- esteem, self-confidence, life satisfaction and overall happiness. Here are eight steps for enhancing your state of flow:

  1. Do something that interests you.

Flow comes most naturally when we are intrinsically motivated, excited and curios about the task. So if you are looking to get creative and productive, choose to focus on a task that you enjoy and already feel passionate about. If this is for work, or you don’t have a choice of the task, try to identify elements of the tasks that excite you. Maybe there are certain parts of project or elements of an assignment that interest you? Pay special attention to those.

  1. Set Clear Goals.

Be specific when you are getting started on a task. What is the goal you are aiming for? Are you trying to finish a painting? Write a new song? Complete a presentation? Or perfect a new yoga pose? This will help to hone your focus and keep you on task. If you try to do too much it could overwhelm you, and if you do too little you might not spend enough time in deep concentration to reach a flow state.

  1. Find A Quiet and Productive Time.

Most people find that an environment of peace and quiet works best for inducing a state of flow, possibly because of how brainwave patterns shift into slower frequencies during flow. When you begin your work, try to cultivate a calm, quiet environment. Also, make sure to identify when you are most productive: For some, this is first thing in the morning, and for others it is afternoon. For me, it is late at night. Identify the right time for you to be creative and block it off to engage in your flow time.

  1. Avoid Interruptions and Distractions

Interruptions are the nemesis of flow. Every time get distracted, whether it is a roommate speaking to us, our phone beeping, emails coming in, a distracting song, or a messy desk, it can pull us out of flow and quicken our brainwaves to beta state. When you decide it is time to get into flow, turn off the phone, ask your friends, family or roommates not to disturb you, and tidy up your work space before you get started.

  1. Focus as Long as you Can:

Once you are able to sit down during a quiet productive time without distractions, try to stay focused for as long as you can. At first, especially if you are new to the task, you may only be able to focus for five or ten minutes. This is OK: Just keep practicing! As you continue to direct your energies to focusing, you will train your brain to more easily and fluidly drop into the flow state and before long, hours will be passing by like minutes.

  1. Match Your Skills to the Task

We can best enter flow when we are working on a task that is suited to our skill level. In other words, when we are well prepared for the task at hand, we are more likely to experience flow. Csíkszentmihályi gives the example of a runner experiencing flow during a marathon for which she has trained for several months.

  1. But There is No Harm in Stretching Your Skills Slightly

Your skills should match the task at hand, but it is also possible to stretch your skills slightly past your comfort zone to maximize flow. A little bit of a challenge can be a great thing. So perhaps you are trying a new yoga move that is extra difficult. Or you are recording a song using new software. As long as the background skills are there, pushing yourself a little bit can be excellent for bringing you into a concentrated, productive state.

  1. Emphasize Process, Not Outcome

Finally, please remember that the experience of flow is a PROCESS, not an outcome. In other words, working and creating from a place of flow is a life skill that you can strive to master with practice, and this usually does not happen overnight. Just keep trying and do not give up even if you don’t nail it right away. Remember, flow is all abut enjoyment and living in the present moment. If you become to wrapped up in the outcome, then it can take your enjoyment away. Who really cares what the painting looks like, so long as you enjoyed painting it right!? Just keep trying and continue to be open to the creativity flowing through your space

Link to read the original article

Meditation Techniques for People Who Hate Meditation

by Stephanie Vozza

Brooks, director of the Austin Psychology and Assessment Center, says our thoughts are like a river. When we’re thinking about what we need from the store, the river is calm, but when we’re having negative thoughts–worrying about a presentation, for example–the current becomes more turbulent.

Mindful people–those who live in the present–can step back and stay on the riverbank, watching their current of thoughts and not getting swept away by their content.

Meditation fosters mindfulness, but the practice seems difficult in today’s world of constant stimulation: “People think the goal of meditation is to empty the mind,” says Brooks. “It’s not about clearing the mind; it’s about focusing on one thing. When the mind wanders, the meditation isn’t a failure. Our brain is like a wayward puppy, out of control. Catching it and putting it back to the object of focus is the mediation.”

Brooks says meditating is like exercise; a full workout is preferred, but there is value in short bursts.

“Research shows that a total of 15 minutes of meditating each day for several weeks produces detectable, positive changes in the brain as well as corresponding reductions in stress, anxiety, and an enhanced sense of well-being,” says Brooks. “You can get the benefits of a formal meditation practice by weaving mini-meditations into your daily life.”

He offers six ways you can effortlessly incorporate meditation into your daily life:

1. WALKING MEDITATION

While walking your dog, taking a hike, or simply getting the mail, focus your attention on one item, such as the sound of the cicadas, the feel of the ground beneath your feet, or the color of the tree. When the mind wanders, catch it and return to your original focus.

“Research has found that just being in nature reduces stress,” says Brooks. “We weren’t meant to sit in cubicles all day and when we disconnect from nature, we suffer a lot of stress.”

2. RED LIGHT MEDITATION

While stopped at a red light, turn off your radio and focus on deep breaths. When your mind wanders, go back to your breath.

“Breathing meditation is one of the easiest because it’s always with us and exists in the present moment,” says Brooks. “You can’t listen to yesterday’s breath.”

3. RUNNING/CYCLING MEDITATION

If you run or bike, leave your headphones at home and focus on the experience.

“Tune into a physical sensation, such as the ground beneath your feet, the wind in your hair, or the warmth of the sunlight,” says Brooks. “Choose one item and maintain your focus. Don’t jump mindlessly from one sensation to another.”

4. EATING/DRINKING MEDITATION

As you eat or drink, focus on the various flavours, textures, and sensations of the particular food or drink. Drinking a cup of tea or enjoying a piece of chocolate can be a form of meditation, says Brooks.

“Savor what you have in the moment,” he says.

5. WAITING MEDITATION

While in line, observe your breath or surroundings. Use the time to do some inner observations. For example, are your muscles tense? Are you cold or hot?

“It is important that when you do the observations, you do them without judgment,” says Brooks. “If you’re in the supermarket checkout line, for example, avoid judging people for what they have in their shopping carts. Observe and notice without opinion.”

6. TASK-RELATED MEDITATION

You can also incorporate mindfulness meditation into daily activities, says Brooks. For example, washing your hands, folding laundry, taking a shower, washing dishes, or brushing your teeth can serve as mini-meditations if you focus on the experience and stop your mind from wandering.

“Focusing on what’s happening now pulls us out of our river of thoughts,” says Brooks. “The benefit of meditation is that when something in the real world comes up, we’re much better at catching our thoughts instead of getting swept into their current.”

Link to read the full original Fast Company article

Five steps to jumpstarting worker happiness at your company

by Amy Westervelt

The workplace happiness trend is sweeping through corporate America, but overhauling a company culture is no easy task. Businesses big and small share their most effective strategies

Companies of every size and in every industry have whole-heartedly embraced the idea that happy employees are more productive, and that engaging employees in a company’s mission is one of the best ways to ensure success. But let’s face it: not everyone is Etsy, with an entire team devoted to such endeavors, or Bank of America, with a budget for extensive sociometric studies of its workplace, and even fewer could justify the sort of investment Google makes in attracting and retaining top talent.

Fortunately, it’s not an all-or-nothing endeavor. According to Alison Davis Blake, dean of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, there are myriad ways for companies to pick and choose the positive business strategies that best suit their size, industry and particular needs. Here are five strategies some of the world’s most successful businesses have deployed to help them not only hire employees that are a good fit, but also keep them engaged over the long term.

Step one: consider your culture

If the idea of re-engineering your company’s culture sounds overwhelming, consider the case of Mercedes-Benz, which had to figure out how to accomplish the task across a geographically distributed franchise dealer network with more than 25,000 employees.

“How do you build a strong culture, especially with an organization like ours, which has 3,000-plus employees and then a dealer network wherein each organization has its own initiatives and agendas?” said Gareth Joyce, the automaker’s vice president of customer experience. Tasked with improving customers’ experiences across the brand, Joyce knew he needed to start with the employees that interacted with those customers daily.

“You have to create a vision for people to follow, and once you succeed in doing that, you have to tell the story, again and again,” he said. “Eventually the story begins to feed itself. People start to feel good about what they’re doing. If you know what your purpose is and you start to see the connection between what you’re doing every day and the company’s vision, you see that you’re making a difference. Then tomorrow you want to get up and do more of that.”

The first step in that process for Mercedes was giving each employee access to the company’s product. “We got them into a Mercedes to take home, to show their families, their wives, their kids, their boyfriends and girlfriends, so that they could say: ‘This is the brand I represent. This is what I take pride in,’” Joyce said. “If they haven’t experienced it themselves, how are they going to sell it to anyone else with any passion?”

Next, the company created a culture survey that it regularly administers to both corporate and dealer employees. Mercedes provides one day of consulting to each of its dealers to go over the results of the survey and turn the information into action, which then gets evaluated in the next survey.

Instead of using software or IT tools, “we’ve opted for a people-centered approach because we think that goes straight to the root: if you get your people behind what you’re doing, it takes you further, faster than any other approach,” Joyce said.

Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of online food seller Zingerman’s, puts it simply: “If you want customer service to be better, give better service to the staff.”

Step two: rethink hiring

Once your company has set its culture and vision, the next step is thinking really carefully about who you hire, Blake said. She recommends evaluating candidates not just for skills, but also for temperament and fit.

“The problem is that hiring tends to be based on attraction bias – I like people who are like me – which has nothing to do with features that are relevant to the sort of firm you want to build,” she said.

This approach to hiring, sometimes called “attribute-based,” is growing more popular for companies of all sizes. In some cases, companies are ignoring resumes, references, and even the traits traditionally associated with success in a particular role, and opting instead to look at the attributes that make employees successful (and likely to stick around) in their particular culture.

It requires a bit more planning and potentially a lengthier interview process, but figuring out which attributes work well in a specific company and role – and documenting those traits – is helping businesses to get better talent and keep it. ATB Investor Services, a mid-size financial advisor firm in Alberta, Canada, for example, saw its turnover rate drop and sales increase when it adopted this approach.

“It doesn’t cost any money to be more disciplined in hiring – in fact it costs less in the long-term because you make fewer errors,” Blake said. “Companies should think carefully about not only a candidate’s skills, but also their attitude about work, attitude about the role of business in general, about the company’s products and so forth, and be intentional about writing that stuff down.”

This is especially important for small businesses, which often have loose hiring practices, she said. “Smaller firms will often say ‘we don’t need HR; we don’t need all that bureaucracy,’” she said. “But mission-aligned, culture-aligned hiring is important for companies of any size.”

Step three: increase performance reviews

The idea of conducting more performance reviews doesn’t sound like something that would catch on, but more and more companies are doing just that. The idea is simple: only giving employees and managers one chance a year to sit down and talk about what does and doesn’t work all but ensures that things will slip through the cracks. It doesn’t give managers time to improve an employee’s performance, nor does it give employees time to raise important issues. The result is typically higher-than-necessary turnover rates.

Instead, some companies are opting to conduct quick weekly surveys that not only help the companies deal with issues but also help employees pass good ideas up the management chain regularly. Luke Ryan, a spokesperson for 15Five, which provides performance review software used by eyewear brand Warby Parker, software company Citrix Systems and invention website Quirky, says the idea is to “create ‘trickle-up’ communication, to surface ideas and problems on a weekly basis”.

Other companies have created their own performance review processes, incorporating input from employees and external HR experts. Australian software company Atlassian conducted a year-long program aimed at replacing its performance-review process – a standard bi-annual, 360-degree review – with something that took less time and did a better job of engaging employees.

In a blog post about the project, Joris Luijke, the company’s vice president of talent and culture, wrote: “Twice a year, the model did exactly the opposite to what we wanted to accomplish. Instead of an inspiring discussion about how to enhance people’s performance, the reviews caused disruptions, anxiety and de-motivated team members and managers. Also, even though our model was extremely lean and simple, the time investment was significant.”

In the end, the company created its own new process, which has since been duplicated by hundreds of other companies. It got rid of the scale associated with performance reviews, and replaced bi-annual review meetings with monthly check-ins. Atlassian managers were already meeting weekly with their employees, so the company decided to devote one of these weekly meetings per month to a broader conversation about performance, with a different focus area each month.

Eventually the company discovered and began using software from Small Improvements to manage this process, joining several other companies, including social media company Pinterest, ride-sharing company Lyft and home décor business One King’s Lane.

Step four: be transparent

Transparency is often discussed in terms of how a company communicates with the public, but even companies that have transparency down pat in their external communication can falter with internal transparency.

There are, of course, companies that manage to be transparent in the extreme: Zingerman’s Deli, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for example, opens its books to every single employee. Digital payment infrastructure company Stripe, based in San Francisco, has a famously open email policy wherein all email is internally public and searchable. And social media app Buffer has made its internal salary formula public, along with all employee compensation packages, as part of its commitment to the “radical transparency” CEO Joel Gascoigne says is intended to “breed trust, the foundation of great teamwork”.

But even companies that are either unwilling or unable to be completely open could benefit from a bit more transparency with their employees.

“A lot of public companies in particular are worried about legal and financial issues with opening up their books, but they could still be transparent about their operations and some aspects of the finances and reap the benefits,” says Wayne Baker, who teaches open-book finance at the Ross business school.

Baker cites Whole Foods Markets and Southwest Airlines as large, public companies that use a modified form of open-book finance to help keep their employees engaged.

Step five: empower employees

In addition to educating employees about the company’s mission, it’s important for executives to find ways to empower their employees to contribute to that mission in every way they can.

Mercedes’ Joyce sees this as critical to the success of his company’s customer service goal of delighting customers. Mercedes’ internal brand program, MB Select, provides a framework that gives employees who have direct customer contact the flexibility to do what they deem necessary to keep those customers happy.

“In that moment, where the customer is right in front of someone, and they see that something is going in a direction it shouldn’t be, you have to empower people to act,” Joyce said, describing MB Select as a “no-rules program”. “It’s about saying to our employees, ‘we trust you to do the right thing’ and enabling them to truly wow a customer in the moment.”

For Zingerman’s Weinzweig, it’s not just about making employees feel empowered but also about doing what’s best for the business.

“Why wouldn’t you want to tap into all the intellectual and physical capabilities of your staff?” he said. “People are smart and they want to do good work. Our job is to create an ecosystem in which that’s ever more likely and to create processes that encourage them to use that intelligence, and a system in which they have agency so they’re not helpless victims of some big corporate entity.”

 Link to read the original Guardian article

It’s time to teach our kids happiness, says psychologist

A Trinity College researcher says students need to develop resilience, by focusing on their strengths.

Jolanta Burke believes not enough attention is paid to what makes children happy in the Irish curriculum, and yet it has a huge bearing on how well they perform in school.

Ms Burke, a psychologist and PhD researcher at Trinity College’s School of Education, believes we should embed positive psychology in the Irish curriculum. She has been advising guidance counsellors on how to use it in schools and says teachers should also receive training.

Positive psychology is defined by Jolanta Burke as the “science of well-being”.

“Until now, psychologists in schools have tended to focus on students with problems. They focus on the students’ weaknesses and how they fall apart.

“Positive psychology looks at the school differently. We look at the top students and learn from them as much as possible, so that we can help the majority of students become better. Rather than focusing on the weaknesses of students, we focus on their strengths.”

The psychologist is keen to emphasise that this is not a “happy clappy” approach, where children are told how wonderful they are.

“It is not about building up self-esteem. That was a mistake among the 1970s generation of parents. They tried to blow up their child’s sef-esteem by telling them how fabulous they were and that they could do anything. That is actually not good for a child because it reduces their resilience.”

The positive psychology programmes in schools place a strong emphasis on developing character strengths and encouraging resilience.

Jolanta Burke believes resilience can be encouraged in three ways:

• children can be taught to bounce back after disappointments – for example, if they fail exams

• they can be taught to build up a shield that protects them from hurt in certain situations

• kids can learn how to keep going and the importance of perseverence when facing up to the challenges in life

The psychologist says perseverance and an attitude of not wanting to give up are hugely important when it comes to performance in schools.

“You might have a talent for music, but unless you are prepared to put the effort in, it can be wasted.”

While Jolanta Burke does not believe in inflating self-esteem, she wants to encourage more positive emotions and a more optimistic outlook.

“An optimistic way of thinking is very important. I am doing research on bullying at the moment, and it is associated with a pessimistic thinking style.

“Adolescents who think optimistically believe adversity is temporary, and that it affects only one aspect of their lives, and they do not tend to blame themselves for the situation.

“Those who are pessimistic believe adversity is permanent and affects all aspects of their lives and that they themselves are to blame. We try to get students to think more optimistically, and this can reduce depression and anxiety.”

Read the original article in full here

Happiness At Work edition #113

All of these articles and many more can be found in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection

Happiness At Work #111 ~ how to be happier at work

This week I have put happiness at work right in centre stage, and concentrate on what we can each do for ourselves to be happier at work, no matter what our current circumstances.  And thus, this means also looking at some of the skills we need to expand and strengthen our self-mastery.

It is interesting and exciting to us that the science of happiness at work really does seem to growing, both as a field of legitimate study and as a beacon of interest for professionals wanting to increase their own success and the success of their teams and organisations.

We know from our work making learning programmes with a variety of different professionals and organisations, that ‘happiness’ can seem, at best, like a luxurious extra, only to be contemplated when the harder agenda of results, efficiencies, increased performance and productive relationships have been achieved, and, at worst, like an irrelevant piece of frippery that has no place whatsoever in the serious business of business.

But we know, too, from the growing research findings, case studies, intelligence garnered from psychology, neurology, biology and economics, as well as our own experience with what works best, that happiness at work is a baseline essential for all of the other outcomes we aim to accomplish:  high quality results, customer service and staff relationships, peak performance and productivity, high motivation and engagement, successful learning, creativity and resilience and high levels of employee loyalty, commitment and retention.

And we now know conclusively, too, that ‘happiness’ is the engine that drives and sustains all of these outcomes, not the other way around.

These 2 Keys To Happiness At Work May Surprise You

by Alexander Kjerulf

(This article is adapted from Happy Hour is 9 to 5: How to Love Your Job, Love Your Life and Kick Butt at Work.)

…if raises, bonuses, perks and promotions aren’t the key to a happy work life, what is?

This has been the subject of extensive research over the last few decades, and it seems it comes down to two things: results and relationships.

One Key to Work Happiness: Results

Results is about making a difference at work, knowing that your job is important, getting appreciation and doing work that you can be proud of.
Results comes from having all the resources, skills, training and time to do a really good job. But it also comes from your own attitude. Do you actually care about the quality of your work or are you just putting in the hours?

Three great ways to get that feeling of results:

Offer and receive praise and recognition Great workplaces have a culture of recognition, where people who do good work are acknowledged and praised.

Celebrate success In many companies, a project that goes well is never mentioned again and a lot of time is spent finding and fixing mistakes. I say: We should turn that around and be sure to celebrate the results we achieve.

Help others One hallmark of a toxic workplace is that everyone is in it for themselves. In great workplaces, people freely help each other whenever they can, boosting everyone’s performance.

Another Key to Work Happiness: Relationships

Relationships are about liking the people you work with, having a good manager and feeling like you belong.

In short, we are happy at work when we do great work together with great people. Three great ways to create good workplace relationships:

Say “good morning” It seems banal (and honestly it is), but actually saying a friendly cheerful “good morning” to your co-workers helps create better relationships.

Take breaks together More and more people feel so busy at work that they skip coffee breaks and eat lunch alone at their desk. That’s a shame.

Make sure to take breaks with your co-workers and use them as a chance to connect.

Offer random acts of workplace kindness Do little things to surprise and delight co-workers, like bringing someone a cup of coffee out of the blue.

Link to read the original article in full

How To Keep Workers Happy – It’s Not What You Think

by William Craig

happiness at work - it's not what you may think

happiness at work – it’s not what you may think

Happiness in the workplace is something of a double-edged sword. Yes, having happy employees is critical to the success of any company, but there are plenty of ways that bending over backwards to put a smile on your workers’ faces can backfire. As with everything else, balance is key.

Myth #1: Employees should be kept happy 24/7

Let’s start simple. As a boss, you’re neither able nor expected to be in charge of your employees’ happiness every second of every workday.

The thing about employee culture is that participation should never be compulsory. Yes, you should encourage employees to get together outside of regular business hours, but don’t force it. That kind of “extracurricular” contact could go a long way toward helping your team work more effectively together while they’re on the clock; encourage it, but don’t try to mandate it.

What any boss needs to understand is that the people he or she oversees have lives of their own, with individual hopes, desires, worries, sources of stress and, yes, plans for what they want to do after work. We are not our job descriptions, after all.

Employees have plenty of their own reasons for being less than enthusiastic on any given day. If their discontent has something to do with working conditions, then you have your work cut out for you. But if it’s something to do with their personal lives? Well, then, that’s really not your concern unless it starts to interfere with their work.

Onno Hamburer, the author of the Happiness at Work e-book, understands that negative feelings are a part of daily life: “…Even when things are going well, we sometimes need negative feelings, as they serve as a warning when there is a chance that things may go wrong. Negative emotions also help bring about change.”

Trying to create happiness is putting the cart before the horse. If you focus first and most intently on creating a welcoming environment with a high hiring bar, your happiness “problem” will probably take care of itself.

Myth #2: The ‘good guy boss’ is the best kind of boss

Being a boss obviously brings with it a host of challenges, and chief among them is the whole identity crisis thing.

What I mean is that there are a number of management styles available to you, and while you’ll probably find that some combination of them will get you the best results, there are still stereotypes that you’ll want to avoid.

One of these is the “good guy boss.” This is the boss who wants to be everybody’s best friend – who feels honour-bound to wear a smile, say yes all the time, and generally sacrifices objectivity for artifice.

I understand the appeal; everybody wants to be liked. And, yes, to a certain extent, being a likeable boss is pretty essential to morale. Just keep in mind that being likedand being effective are not always the same thing.

So what does the good guy boss look like? He’s the one who’s always smiling, even though it looks a little bit more pained than it used to. He’s the one who never says noto his employees, even when it will hurt the company.

Here’s the thing – being a good guy boss every second of the day could actually hurt you. Here’s how:

  • Your employees won’t bring serious issues to your attention. You probably have people in your life who can’t handle criticism; we all run into them from time to time. If you’re the kind of boss who’s unrealistically positive every day, you’re going to give the impression that you don’t want to hear bad news or receive constructive criticism, however badly they may be needed.
  • You’ll be putting unnecessary pressure on your employees. Employee expectations are essential, but you don’t usually see “relentlessly sunny disposition” on the list of prerequisites. Being a good guy boss puts quite a lot of pressure on your employees to match the intensity of your smile and optimism, when the truth is that contentment is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.
  • Your customers may not respect you. Customers are always going to be interested in how their business partners treat their employees. This is particularly true in the retail scene, but it holds up in just about every industry. They want to know that you have the respect and trust of your employees, but if you try too hard to be the good guy boss, your customers will think you’re a pushover.

I’m not saying it’s impossible or inappropriate to be a positive, well-liked, and optimistic boss; the only danger comes from replacing things like objectivity and honesty with artifice. Your focus needs to be on creating an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect, rather than on being liked no matter what.

Myth #3: Happiness is not the same thing as engagement
Despite what Gallup might tell you, happiness is not the same thing as engagement, no matter how often we use them interchangeably.

I’m going to make a slightly ridiculous comparison, so bear with me. If you’ve ever owned a cat, you probably know that they go crazy for string. You can drag it around and they’ll run and jump to catch up with it. After a while, though, they’ll tire of the stimulation, lie down, and only halfheartedly reach for the string while they repose lazily on the carpet. The pursuit of the reward is no longer worth their time.

In this example, the cat is your workforce and the string is, well, whatever you want it to be. Taco Tuesdays? Free shots of Yukon Jack at 3PM every day? You might be temporarily improving their happiness with relentless boondoggles, but too much of a good thing and they’ll stop putting in the effort to catch the proverbial string. Simply put, they’ll be happy and probably complacent, but they won’t be engaged. And they certainly won’t do their best work.

For the record: the occasional Taco Tuesday is wonderful for morale. Just don’t overdo it.

If I can put my WebpageFX hat back on for a moment, I’ll point out that we’ve seen really wonderful results from providing unique experiences for our employees – usually once a month or so (September’s was a sushi-making class). They’re not a direct reward for good performance – not exactly. The difference is that employees understand that we’re looking out for their happiness, and they very naturally look for ways to feel that they’ve earned it.

Link to read the original article

Zappos is one of the poster organisations for happiness at work.  Amazon reportedly bought the company for its superb customer relations, and these are achieved by an explicit an active commitment to employee happiness.  Here are some top tips about how to achieve this from one its founders, and now CEO of Delivering Happiness, Jenn Lim…

5 Ways to Be Happier at Work

by 

When former Zappos culture consultant Jenn Lim climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with Tony Hsieh, it was one of the most meaningful experiences of her life.

When we’re young, we often idealise work, as if our ascent to success will be as clear and rewarding as a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. But as we get into the working world, the reality sets in: there is boredom, apathy, and resentment. We’re not so sure we’re heading in the right direction, and we have no idea if we’ll ever make it.

As CEO of Delivering Happiness, Lim’s goal is to provide resources and information on how to find more happiness and meaning in the workplace and beyond. Beginning as a book by Hsieh, Delivering Happiness has flourished into a movement that brings together like-minded individuals online and offline, provides coaching for businesses, and works with schools to teach happiness to students.

Delivering Happiness promotes the idea, backed by positive psychology research, that happier people are more productive. Research has shown that happiness can boost our intelligence, creativity, and energy. It can increase our job security, job retention, resilience, productivity (by 31%), and sales skills (by 37%). Happiness reduces rates of burnout and turnover.

We caught up with Lim to hear some of the lessons they’ve learned about how to make work happier and more meaningful. Here they are:

Choose happiness

Psychology studies suggest that 40-90% of our happiness is a choice, Lim says. In other words, whatever our genetics or life circumstances, a substantial portion of our well-being comes down to attitudes and behaviors. If we want to be happy, we have to truly decide to be happy.

That also means that we can’t completely blame our bosses or our work environment for bringing us down. Just because our company isn’t on board with the happiness movement doesn’t mean we are powerless. “If you change your individual world, then together we can actually change the world,” says Lim.

Define your values

One of the reasons why it’s so key for a company to articulate its values is because employees need to figure out if their values align with the company’s. When we feel bored or down, it might be because the tasks we’re doing aren’t in line with our values. For example, if being social and helping others is important to us but we spend all day in our cubicle typing up reports, it makes sense to feel disconnected. 

At Delivering Happiness, their first value is “be true to your weird self.” Among their “motley crew” of 25 people – who sometimes refer to themselves as the “Bad News Bears” – individuality is respected and encouraged.

If we’re not sure of our values, one exercise Lim recommends is to identify the highs and lows in our life and look at which values were present or absent during those times. She actually found her purpose in life amidst one of the lows: losing her father to colon cancer. During that time, she took on the role of information disseminator, researching online and communicating with her father and his doctors. She realized that that was her purpose – to be a conduit of information – and today she’s fulfilling it by disseminating know-how about happiness. Her values shifted from a focus on money, title, and status to a focus on people.

Flow

As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi recounts in his book Flow, that feeling of full engagement and immersion happens when we’re operating at a high skill level to achieve a big challenge. If there’s a mismatch between our skills and the challenge, we’ll either feel bored or frustrated. To be happier at work, Lim says, we should aim to achieve flow once a day – which might mean seeking out bigger challenges.

Connection

The research is clear on this point: happier people have better relationships, and relationships make us happier. People in the top 10% of happiness have the most active social lives, and social support predicts happiness much better than GPA, income, SAT scores, age, gender, or race.

To make more connections at work, Lim suggests sharing our passions and hobbies with our coworkers. We’re bound to find someone with a similar interest, and that commonality can be the spark that leads to a relationship.

Explore

At the same time, says Lim, part of finding meaning and happiness is figuring out what we don’t like. We live in an age where we can explore, make mistakes, and learn from them. The way to find happiness, she says, is to be open to new opportunities – sometimes the thing that makes us happy is something we could never have predicted or imagined.

Read the original article here

3 New Scientific Findings About Happiness

Positive psychology is a relatively new field that’s churning out insights on how normal people can be stronger and happier every year. Here are a few recent ones.

Happiness may be as old as the human race. The idea of rigorously studying happiness, however, is far newer.

For most of its history, psychology was exclusively concerned with helping those who were struggling. It was a discipline whose main occupation was “spot the loony,” as Martin Seligman, the father of “positive psychology” joked in his TED talk.

Then just a decade or so ago something shifted. Psychology started to look not just at those who were sick, but also those were well, investigating not just how to fix the broken, but also how to help the normal flourish.   Studying happiness, in other words, became a thing. Today the investigation continues with important findings rolling out of labs and research institutes regularly.

PsyBlog recently rounded up ten of the most fascinating recent studies. Here are a few to get you started.

1. Happiness activates your body from head to toe.

We tend to think of happiness as a state of mind. Sure, it gives you a warm glow, but that’s mostly metaphorical, right?

Actually no. When Finnish researchers induced various emotions in 700 study subjects and then asked them to colour in a detailed body map, they discovered that feeling good isn’t just metaphorically or mentally energizing, it actually energizes the whole body.

Happiness is the one emotion that fills the whole body with activity, including the legs, perhaps indicating that happy people feel ready to spring into action, or maybe do a jig,” says PsyBlog.

2. Being nice to others increases happiness.

Maybe this isn’t the most shocking finding on the individual level – most of us have experienced the joy of making someone else’s life a little easier – but scientists recently found the same principle applies to whole communities as well. The research team looked at how 255 American metropolitan areas reacted to the disruptions and challenges caused by the recent financial crisis and found “that communities that pull together – essentially doing nice little things for each other like volunteering and helping a neighbour out – are happier.”

“Social capital has a protective effect: people are happier when they do the right thing,” concludes PsyBlog.

3. School can’t teach you to be happy.

Getting that PhD may help you come up with an important scientific breakthrough, score a world-class job, or understand the intricacies of Renaissance poetry, but chances are it won’t make bring you any closer to happiness. Friends and family, it seems, are the best way to do that.

“Relationships have stronger associations with happiness than academic achievement, according to a recent study,” PsyBlog reports. “Whilst strong social relationships in childhood and adolescence were associated with happier adults, the associations with academic achievement were much lower.”

Looking for more evidence that happiness isn’t down to fancy degrees. The lead researcher behind one of the longest-running studies of human flourishing ever (the Grant Study that tracked 268 Harvard grads for more than 75 years), boiled down decades upon decades of data to this conclusion: “Happiness is love. Full stop.

Read the original article here

If there is one challenge above all others that we find comes to the top of our skills training workshops it has to be the fine and imprecise art of achieving balance.  Striving to get work-life balance has become harder and harder as the increasing demands of our work have combined with the technology that makes being always switched on not only possible but our default state.  And as more and more of us find a real sense of vocation and purpose in our work, setting and keeping boundaries that give us space outside and away from our work become harder to realise.

Help with this comes from another headliner in the emergent happiness at work field is mindfulness expert and author of Real Happiness At Work, Sharon Salzburg, and her teaching that gives us ways to combine the discipline of self-mastery into the realities of our working lives.

Striking the Right Balance At Work

by Rene Lynch

“I think we can all understand happiness as something much deeper than just having a good time. It speaks to a type of resiliency, an ability to recover from mistakes or setbacks.” 

Consider for a moment what you hate about your job. (Everybody hates something about their job, right?) Maybe your boss is a screamer. Your co-workers are conniving backstabbers. And you feel like you’re on a dead-end career path.

Now, what if you reframed those work problems as opportunities for personal growth and self-examination?

Sharon Salzberg, author of “Real Happiness at Work,” says many Americans who feel increasingly frustrated, overworked and underappreciated have more control over their work lives than they may realize.

The title of the book is eye-catching. It’s been sitting on my desk, and people walk by and point to it and say something along the lines of “Yeah, right. No such thing.”

I hear that all the time. People say, “Hey, we don’t call it ‘play’; we call it ‘work.’ We’re not supposed to have a good time doing it.” But I think we can all understand happiness as something much deeper than just having a good time. It speaks to a type of resiliency, an ability to recover from mistakes or setbacks. I think everyone actually wants to be happier at work.

So happiness isn’t as much about having a blast at work but finding something meaningful in whatever it is you are doing?

Yes. By happiness, we are talking about the challenges of taking our deepest values and bringing them to work. … We can really have the intention to do whatever we are doing very well, where we’re not halfhearted, where we try to make every encounter something where we truly listen and care about the other person and see what comes out of that different sort of awareness.

The trick seems to be how to get to that place. The tools you suggest in your book revolve around mindfulness and meditation.

I’ve heard this phrase … “email apnea,” where we stop breathing or breathe in a shallow fashion when we are checking our email. That has a profound physiological effect. I think it’s powerful to take notice of the moments in the day when we are starting to feel that anger, that anxiety, that irritation, or when we are starting to feel like we are not breathing. I would suggest you begin by trying to establish even a very short period of [a meditation or mindfulness] practice at home, where you even take five minutes to push out all the distractions and focus on the breath.

How does that transfer to the office setting?

When tempers are starting to flare, tensions are starting to rise, we can recognize it and come back to ourselves. It’s taking a step back. Mindfulness is about changing our relationship to our thoughts, to our feelings, so we have more balance and clarity. Then you begin to realize when you are starting to get angry. Not when you’ve written the email and pressed send. One of the great benefits to mindfulness in the workplace is that it releases us from tunnel vision.

So many of the challenges we face at work revolve around communication. We seem to ping back and forth between a fear of asking for what we want or need, or exploding in anger and irritation. Why is it so hard to strike the right balance?

A lot of it is knowing your motivation. What are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to be seen as right? Do you want revenge? Do you want to get back at someone? Even if we need to say something that is difficult, we can still be kind.

Somebody I spoke to who had a great difficulty saying “no.” [Using mindfulness and meditation training], she recognized the feelings, the sense of panic that she’d feel when she was asked to do more and more. She trained herself to recognize the pattern and to draw clearer boundaries. But in a nice way. She was able to grow in herself.

Link to read the original article

by Henrik Edberg

Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?”

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best — ” and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”

Winnie the Pooh is a kind bear. He cares greatly about his friends.

And he has always seemed like a pretty happy bear to me.

He’s also a favourite of mine so today I’d like to simply share 5 of my favourite happiness tips from that honey loving bear.

1. Don’t get bogged down in details.

“You can’t help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn’t spell it right; but spelling isn’t everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn’t count.”

Getting bogged down in details, focusing on the small problems can have advantages. But it can also make you miss the big picture. What’s really important in your life.

Don’t make the classic mistakes of spending too much time nitpicking or making mountains out of molehills. Relax instead. Focus on the positive things you have and want in your life.

Keep your attention on that. Work towards that. The days may seem long but the years are often pretty short. So live them instead constantly inspecting, criticizing or overthinking them.

2. Be proactive. Take the lead.

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

It’s easy to get locked into a reactive mindset. You just follow along with whatever is happening. You do what the people around you do. You react to whatever is going on.

And so you get lost in your circumstances. This way of thinking doesn’t feel too good. You tend to feel powerless and like you are just drifting along in life.

Another way of going about things to be proactive. To be the one who takes action first and to take the lead. It’s not always easy though. You have to get out of your comfort zone and it can feel scary.

So to not get lost in procrastination take it one small step at time. Just be proactive instead of reactive about one little thing in your life today. Start with that action and then build your proactiveness muscle step by small step.

3. Keep conversations simple and positive.

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”

What do people want in a conversations and relationships?

Long-winded negative babbling?

Or positive, focused talks where it is interesting to listen, communicate and exchange ideas?

Although the answer probably varies but I’d rather spend most of my time with doing the latter.

Three tips that help me to keep the conversation positive and focused are:

  • Live a positive life. If you focus on the positive in your daily life then it’s usually no problem to keep focusing on it and talking about it in conversations. More on that in the last tip in this article.
  • Be aware and alert. If you know that you have a problem with excessive ramblings then simply being aware of this can help you to stop yourself more and more often before you go off into babbling.
  • Use words that helps you to get through. No need to try to impress people with big and complicated words when it’s not needed. Focus on getting through to others and communicating by using simple words that anyone can understand.

4. Do nothing once in a while.

“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

Although it feels good to work towards your dreams and doing the things you love I find that things tend to go better and I feel better if there is a balance.

If I take some time each week to do pretty much nothing. If I just spend time with myself on a walk in the woods or by the ocean for example.

By doing so I unload my mind. I relax fully and so life becomes less heavy and burdensome and I tend to have less stress and worries during the rest of my week.

5. Appreciate the little things.

“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.”

Daily happiness is to a large part about appreciating the small things.

If you just allow yourself to be happy when accomplishing a big goal or when you have some great luck then you are making life harder than it needs to be.

Instead, focus on appreciating things that you may take for granted.

Take 2 minutes and find things in your life you can appreciate right now.

The funny thing is that if you just start appreciating something you can very quickly start jumping around with your attention and appreciate just about anything around you.

You may start with the food you are eating right now. Then move your attention to the phone and appreciate that you can contact anyone – and be contacted by anyone – you’d like.

You might then move your attention outside, through the window and see the wonderful sunshine, then kids having fun with a football and then the tree by the road turning into wonderful autumn colours. And so on.

It might not sound like much. But this simple 2 minute exercise can help you to uncover a lot of the happiness that is already in your daily life.

Whether you are feeling really good or really bad, emotions are felt more intensely when the ambient lighting is brighter, according to recent research (Xu et al., 2013).

Since many decisions are made under strong lighting conditions, turning down the lights may help you make less emotional decisions.

The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, also has implications for those experiencing depression, as Alison Jing Xu, the study’s lead author explained:

“…evidence shows that on sunny days people are more optimistic about the stock market, report higher wellbeing and are more helpful, while extended exposure to dark, gloomy days can result in seasonal affective disorder.

Contrary to these results, we found that on sunny days depression-prone people actually become more depressed.”

Across six experiments the researchers gave participants various tests in both brightly and dimly lit rooms.

They found that:

  • Bright lights increase our perception of heat: people feel warmer when they are in a brighter area.
  • People order spicier food when the lights are brighter: we want to be thrilled in the light.
  • Aggressive people are judged to be even more aggressive when the judges are sitting under bright lights.
  • People find others more attractive when in bright rooms.
  • People react more strongly to both positive and negative words under bright lights.

What these experiments are telling us, the authors explain, is:

“Bright light usually correlates with heat, and heat is linked to emotional intensity.

This psychological experience of heat turns on the hot emotional system, intensifying a person’s emotional reactions to any stimulus.

Thus, in bright light, good feels better and bad feels worse.” (Xu et al., 2013).

So, to turn down your emotions, try turning down the lights.

And to turn them up, flick the switch on!

Link to read the original article

There are a number of studies that have shown the importance of the routines and habits we use to start our day with to how happy that day will then be.

In this new research, this idea is looked at specifically in relation to how we start our work day, and provides some good food for thought about why it might be worth our time and effort to get as right as possible, both for ourselves and for anyone we manage…

How start-of-day mood impacts work performance

Most managers don’t give much thought to the experiences their employees are having right before they get to work. Maybe one employee sat in hellacious traffic and another quarreled with her teenage daughter. Someone else dropped a buttered bagel on his new shirt. Others spent time getting elderly parents ready for their daytime routine. Managers would do well to pay more attention to their staffers’ morning moods.

My research with Steffanie Wilk, an associate professor at the Fisher College of Business at the Ohio State University, shows that start-of-day mood can last longer than one might think—and have a significant effect on job performance.

In our study, “Waking Up On The Right Or Wrong Side Of The Bed: Start-Of-Workday Mood, Work Events, Employee Affect, And Performance,”i we examined how start-of-workday mood serves as an “affective prime.” An affective prime—similar to the proverbial rose-colored glasses–is something in an environment or situation that orients you to see and respond to events in a certain way. Our work builds on research on affect (emotion) in organizations, a growing focus in recent years.  In our study, we asked the question of whether start of day mood or “waking up on the right or wrong side of the desk” could follow employees throughout the day and influence their work performance.

Both vicious and virtuous cycles emerged, linked to how employees felt at the beginning of the day. People who started out happy or calm usually stayed that way all day, and interacting with customers tended to further enhance their mood. For the most part, people who were already in a terrible mood didn’t really climb out of it, and felt even worse after interacting with positive customers.

Self-mastery is one of the themes I return to again and again, because happiness, as much as our learning, begins and works from ourselves: knowing ourselves and what ‘playing to our strengths’ means for us, and then increasing our capacity to think helpfully about the situations we face and creatively about the possible responses we might bring to progress them and move things forward.  And this is quite likely to mean changing what we are doing in fundamental and long-lasting ways and starting and maintaining a new habit is not easy.  Here is a helpful approach to get our best resolutions off the ground and making them ongoing…

3 Simple Ways to Make Exercise a Habit

by James Clear

A lot of people want to build an exercise habit that sticks. (A 2012 survey analysed the top ten habits of  thousands of people and found that exercise was number one by a long shot. [1])

Of course, wanting to make exercise a habit and actually doing it are two different things. Changing your behavior is difficult. Living a new type of lifestyle is hard. This is especially true when you throw in very personal feelings about body image and self-worth.

But there are some strategies that can make it easier to stick with an exercise habit.

Here are 3 simple ways to make exercise a habit.

1. Develop a ritual to make starting easier.

…if you can find a way to make getting started easier, then you can find a way to make building a habit easier. This is why rituals and routines are so important. If you can develop a ritual that makes starting your workout mindless and automatic, then it will be much easier to follow through…

“During the next week I will exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at [PLACE].”

One research study showed that people who filled out this sentence above were 2 to 3 times more likely to exercise over the long run. This is a psychology concept called implementation intentions and there are hundreds of studies to back it up.

2. Start with an exercise that is ridiculously small.

The best way to make exercise a habit is to start with an exercise that is so easy that you can do it even when you are running low on willpower and motivation. In the words of Leo Babauta, start with something that is so easy you can’t say no…

Here’s one strategy that you can use in the beginning: The 2-Minute Rule.

It’s very simple: focus on finding a way to get started in just 2 minutes rather than worrying about your entire workout…

3. Focus on the habit first and the results later.

What matters most in the beginning is establishing a new normal and building a new routine that you will stick to; not the results that you get. In other words, in the first 6 months it is more important to not miss workouts than it is to make progress. Once you become the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts, then you can worry about making progress and improving…

Read the full article here

Much of what we know about how to be happier at work, and how to make it easier and more likely for others to be happier at work too, is wisdom that we already have in what we tend to call common sense, hardwired into us from our centuries of being successful human beings.  Strange then that so much of this intelligence can leave us when we are at work, whether because we just forget it in our keenness to adopt the cultural protocols of the prevailing environment we find ourselves in, or because we come to believe that everyday niceties of kindness, politeness, respect and generosity have no legitimacy in the fast-paced results-driven world of work.  Wrong, as this article that pulls out a few choice quotes from people about their managers points up…

Straight from the Employee’s Mouth: 3 Keys to Being A Successful Manager

by 

Managers are the No. 1 influence on employee engagement in the workplace, while being one of the most under-trained positions in the business world.

As a result, there is a wealth of white papers, scientific studies, and entire organizations devoted to figuring out what makes managers effective at motivating and leading others. But there’s one study by Quantum Workplace, The 50 Best and Worst Recognition Comments of 2013, that goes to the horse’s mouth to find out what employees are really saying.

Quantum Workplace compiles some of the most compelling recognition-related comments found in Best Places to Work and TeamPulse surveys for the annual publication, and it’s a great snapshot of the ground-floor recognition needs of today’s employees.

On the subject of poor management, these were choice comments:

  • “As time has passed, I’ve become more and more convinced that I am invisible. My manager does not care about my growth and development at all. I am very much looking forward to finding a job with a different company.”
  • “Recognition is given to those who put in the most hours, not those who do the best work.
  • “Would a ‘thank you’ be so hard?
  • We just go through the motions so we don’t get yelled at and can get home by 5.”

How workers view good managers

Here’s what people had to say about good managers:

  • Management gives constructive criticism when it’s needed and praise when it’s due.
  • “I appreciate the small incentives, general kindness, and ‘thank-you’s’ for a job well-done”
  • Senior management talks with us to find out what motivates us to strive for company goals. They use those means of motivation to show that they really care about their employees.”
  • I have a great supervisor who listens and considers my thoughts and ideas.”

The Three Keys

When you hear it straight from employees it all seems pretty simple, and that’s because it is!  The keys are:

  1. Give – your time, your interest, your attention, yourself.
  2. Listen; and
  3. Recognise and appreciate what people do.

NB I have amended these three keys from the original article (Ed.)

Link to read the original article its author’s suggested three keys 

One of the greatest destroyers of happiness at work is any perception of unfairness or inequality.  Study after study has shown that people are prepared to be happy to put up with all sorts of hardships, provided they believe that the pain is being equally shared, but the y will feel unhappy and even militant the moment they feel that someone is being given preferential treatment of any kind.  The same is true when we look at studies of societies and nations, which is one of the reasons that Denmark consistently achieves the highest rankings in global happiness rankings.

This report on the work eBay is doing to overcome gender equality stands out for its relevance and pertinence for all of us, while also underscoring the difficulty of the challenges still be successfully conquered…

In 2010, eBay embarked on a journey to bring more women into its top ranks. It found that commitment, measurement, and culture outweigh a business case and HR policies.

by Michelle Angier and Beth Axelrod

Changing the culture—for everyone

Since WIN began, eBay has more than doubled the number of women in leadership roles. At the same time, we have increased the proportion of women in leadership by improving the promotion rates and (notably) our retention of female leaders. We’ve made progress across all businesses, functions, geographic regions, and key workforce segments, including technology. Yet the numbers can also tell a different story. At the most senior level, we are still almost exclusively male, and our board diversity remains a work in progress. Despite the impressive increase in numbers at the director-and-above level, we are far from declaring victory and are in fact humbled by our experience thus far.

We know that shifting the culture to improve the day-to-day experience of women at eBay has only just begun. Yet cultural change is essential because culture trumps all: even the best policies fail if employees think it isn’t really acceptable to avail themselves of them without hurting their careers. Furthermore, women must have faith that our people processes are fair to feel confident that they can build lasting careers at eBay.

The perception of fairness in people processes matters to everyone, not just women. Many of the concerns they expressed in our survey—for example, about promotions, hiring, challenging assignments, mentorship, or the visibility of job opportunities—worried men too. By improving our execution and the perceived fairness of our people processes, we can make eBay a better place for women and men to build their careers.

This is no small undertaking—nearly 6,000 people managers around the globe must raise their game—but it is also a tremendous opportunity. We intend to spur cultural change through multiple efforts, including our people-manager-effectiveness initiative already under way. We have just embarked on this journey.

As we reflect on what drove the early progress of our gender-diversity initiative, it is clear that a few things mattered most: senior leadership commitment and conviction, a focus on a few people processes, and the measurement of our data. Our continued progress will require shifting mind-sets and changing our culture so each employee gains a greater awareness and understanding of these issues and becomes better equipped to embrace our differences and support our successes.

This isn’t just a journey for women. Academic research shows that everyone has gender biases and expectations. Women and men acquire these attitudes, many of them unconscious, early in life. Starting with the children we raise, we must rewrite the norms that limit both genders, and this will take time. “Meeting everybody where they’re at in the journey” is hard while establishing trust and sustaining momentum for change, but it’s a worthy effort. In the future, winning companies will be those that learn to deploy the entire workforce productively and inclusively. We hope eBay will be one of them.

Link to read the original article in full

Happiness At Work edition #111

Link to all of these articles and many more in this week’s Happiness At Work edition #111

Happiness At Work and/or Engagement ~ what’s the buzz?

Office workers in meeting

We are noticing more and more noise about the necessity of what is being termed ’employee engagement’ – why it is so necessary, what it makes it so hard to achieve, and what is likely to help and hinder it happening.

Of course we whole-heartedly applaud this emphasis on the human dimension of organisational life.  But at the same time, we wonder why ’employee engagement’ is perhaps being credited with a higher, harder-edged validity than happiness at work.  Are they the same?  Is one an aspect of the other?  Are the two symbiotically dependent upon each other?  Should we be concerned about the use of the more distanced, abstracted and objective-sounding ’employee engagement’ in preference to the more straightforward-sounding everyday recognisable un-jargoned idea of happiness at work?

This post won’t necessarily answer these questions, but rather, deliberately leave them hanging, suspending them above a series of new articles from this week’s latest Happiness At Work Edition #54, in the hope of encouraging more conversation about what we really want and what really matters to us in our work.

photo credit: Theophilos via photopin cc

photo credit: Theophilos via photopin cc

This week’s HRZone publishes a new toolkit of ideas to help organisations to build engagement amongst their people, which they title: Employee Engagement Is the Secret Sauce of Business Success…have you got the bottle for it? and from which we have drawn heavily in this post.  In it in his conclusion to his chapter, Professor Cliff Oswick makes a call for a radically new ‘Art of Non-Leadership’, writing:

Better decisions are made by groups than individuals. All the research tells us that. So why not allow the ecosystem of employees to be decision makers? Leaders of a truly engaged workforce create the conditions where people feel they have a voice and a stake, where organisations have forms of internal crowdsourcing, and where the leader facilitates employee-instigated behaviour rather than delegates responsibility.

In truly engaged organisations, employees take decisions and implement solutions for themselves. It’s the route to a more successful organisation.

And it’s still leadership. But not as we know it.

Employee Engagement is the Secret Sauce of Business Success… have you got the bottle for it? 

The link attached to the above heading will give you the HRZone’s free download guide –

an employee engagement toolkit with insight from leading academics, it’s a practical roadmap for organisations looking to engage their staff…

There is much valuable resource in this and here are some of the highlights that stood out for us.

In the introduction, Tom O’Bryrne, CEO of Great Place To Work writes:

…The truth is that it’s actually quite hard to do. Although there are a number of approaches to engagement there are no guarantees of success. For every organisation that creates a workplace of motivated, engaged people improving business performance, there are many others who struggle and fail. Many businesses today are too busy focusing on the short term – the order books, the bills – to have the time or resource to focus on engagement. The irony is of course that focusing on the people side of the business will ultimately help drive the business outcomes in the long term…

Employee engagement, as much as happiness at work, is situational, and what will be right and relevant in one place and time is likely to be very different than any other specific place, time and people.  In their opening chapter, Engagement Across The Globe – The Importance of Local Context, the authors summarise the findings from their recent study to show that even though engagement matters in every conext, what helps of hinders engagement changes according to the situation:

…As one director remarked, employee engagement is much easier in times of growth, when the aims of the company can be easily aligned with those of the employee, since both parties can benefit from growth. However, one of the MNCs in the study had had to reduce its workforce by 20% following the financial crisis, and in a period of such significant downsizing the drivers of employee engagement became very different. Managers felt that they needed to direct their energies towards maintaining and/or rebuilding trusting relationships with the workforce and the trade union representing them…

One of our favourite Happiness At Work experts in Jessica Pryce-Jones, and we notice a very strong correlation with the research conclusions of the top factors that affect people’s happiness at work that she outlines in her excellent book, Happiness at Work: Maximising Your Psychological Capital for Success:

Pryce-Jones defines happiness as “a mindset which allows you to maximise performance and achieve your potential. You do this by being mindful of the highs and lows when working alone or with others.”

Happiness at work has five major components, called the 5Cs:

  1. Contribution: what a person does in the workplace and her view of it.
  2. Conviction: a person’s ability to stay motivated.
  3. Culture: how well a person fits within the ethos and dynamic of the workplace.
  4. Commitment: a person’s general level of engagement with his work.
  5. Confidence: a person’s level of self-belief and how well she identifies with her job.

The 5Cs are accompanied by three supporting themes: PrideTrust, and Recognition.

Notice the similarity to the list of the most important factors for success in being a highly engaging manager, as identified by Katie Truss, Professor of Human Resource Management, Kent Business School, in the second chapter of the HRZone report, What Can Line Managers Do To Raise Engagement Levels?

Research suggests that these cluster around five core interconnected domains:

  1. the design of work,
  2. trust,
  3. meaningfulness,
  4. interpersonal respect, and
  5. voice. 

It is really interesting to see the word ‘voice‘ being used in this list of essential factors for employees.  During our work with schools we came to understand the immense importance and difficulty of encouraging and really listening to student voices talking about what they needed to flourish and learn at the best.  At the moment we working again with the wonderful Hackney Museum to help make a series of arts-based learning events with local community members, and again we are discovering the complexities of keeping an alert curiosity and interest in what the people in the room want and think and believe and feel about their own lives and aspirations, especially when our own ideas are trying to get out and into the room.

photo credit: Paolo Margari via photopin cc

photo credit: Paolo Margari via photopin cc

This idea is well illustrated in the American case study written up by  in his story:

Want To Help Kids Solve Problems? Have Them Design Their Own Solutions

… Their journey began with a simple question: What change do you want to see in your community? It ended with their answer, which they created collectively over 12 class periods as part of their marketing class…

It aimed to help them learn the 4Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity…

The idea of recognising employee voice made in this Employee Engagement  guide remind us of the necessity alongside the challenge of making time to ask into and listen closely to the people whose lives we seek to affect…

…Studies have shown that where employees feel they are able to express their views on work-related matters and know that these views will be listened to, then levels of engagement will be high. Some organisations are particularly good at encouraging employees to share ideas. One award-winning financial services firm has a scheme they call ‘Why on earths?’; if employees find themselves asking, ‘why on earth are we doing this?’ and bring this to the attention of managers, along with some proposals for improvement, then they are eligible to win a prize…

The aforementioned Jessica Pryce-Jones is emphatic about the distinction between engagement and happiness at work, as she writes in her introduction to her book, Happiness at Work: Maximising Your Psychological Capital for Success:

Myth 2: Happiness is Job Satisfaction or Engagement in Another Guise

Engagement in its purest sense refers to the relationship you have with your working environment and the strength of your connection to it.  Thought to be the opposite of burnout, it’s been broadly defined as “vigour, dedication and absorption” and has been widely used by organisations and consultants for improving retention…At its best engagement has been researched through using the concept of flow at work…

 But here’s the central issue:  in crunching through all our statistics – and we now have over 300,000 data points – we can see that engagement relates to 10% fewer items than happiness at work does…Although its something that matters – who doesn’t want to feel engaged at work? – it’s not as “large” a concept as happiness at work is…Engagement – and job satisfaction – are both things which happiness appears to encompass…

The starting point of happiness at work is that it is self-initiated:  we know that you want to make your working world better and enjoy contributing to it if you are given that opportunity…Being happy at work operates best from the ground-up because you know most about managing and affecting your world…

Be honest: would you rather be satisfied, engaged or happy at work?  You decide…

photo credit: Leonrw via photopin cc

photo credit: Leonrw via photopin cc

Pryce-Jones’ contention that engagement is primarily concerned with getting the right environment appears to be corroborated by Amy Armstrong, Research Fellow, Ashridge Business School, in her chapter of the HRZone engagement guide, Overcoming The Barriers To Senior Leader Engagement, which begins by citing the MacLeod Report Engaging For Success

Engaging leaders create work environments where employees are more committed, stay longer and give more to their organisations, which means that leaders are the ‘climate engineers’ by setting a culture and tone for engagement across the entire organisation. That said, UK engagement levels remain stubbornly low, therefore it is important to understand what prevents some leaders from taking responsibility for engagement. This was one of the objectives of a fascinating piece of research launched earlier this month by Ashridge Business School in partnership with Engage for Success, a Government-sponsored movement that is seeking to improve levels of engagement and well-being across the UK, and in which, it is suggested that it is the skills and capabilities of top management that is a key barrier to engagement.

The research, a year-long study which explored engagement through the eyes of 16 UK CEOs, suggests that for senior leadership, engagement is one of the most difficult parts of the leadership task, requiring them to possess specialist skills and attributes and often having to manage seemingly contradictory demands. The research also suggests that a new leadership model should be found given that the ‘command and control’ style of leading, with its emphasis on organisational hierarchy, has declining relevance in many organisations.

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

The three main obstacles this research identified for leaders in their attempts to build engagement in their organisations…

…shortcomings in leadership capability, such as poor self-awareness on the part of leaders, facets of leaders’ personality and values that prevent them from being engaging leaders and the culture and system in which we operate, seen in some ways as antithetical to engagement…

1. Developing Leadership Capability
…Leading engagement can be characterised as walking a fine line. There may be a dichotomy in leading engagement whereby leaders feel an expectation to project confidence, while admitting that they do not have all the answers. Equally, they need to be decisive while giving voice to people across the organisation and they have to be resilient yet emotionally attuned.It is therefore important that we focus on developing leaders who are encouraged to experiment with new ways of leading to discover a personal style that is emotionally-attuned, contextually-relevant and is borne from self- insight…
2. Get To the Heart of Leadership
Engaging leaders also lead with authenticity and purpose and in a way that is aligned to their personal values. Leaders are not simply mouthpieces for their board of directors; rather they find ways of leading that are congruent with who they are and what they believe. However, leading in this way requires a level of personal self-disclosure, which some leaders find deeply uncomfortable. Some leaders may be inherently shy, or be more comfortable with ‘managing the numbers’ than with entering into conversations in which they reveal their own fallibilities…
Leaders need to be encouraged to enter into conversations at work where they are open about who they are and how they feel, since it takes a confident leader to disclose, empower and engage.
3. Change the System
In the UK, we have a task-oriented culture, valuing hard work and output above almost all else. In this kind of environment it is the tangible business outcomes that are valued, so the push on senior leaders is to get things done in a systematic way in order to drive business results. Consequently, it is easier for senior leaders to be judged on measurable outcomes, such as increasing turnover, as opposed to being judged on their ‘softer’ skills of engagement such as inquiry, conversation and interaction. These issues are further compounded within the current economic climate where some leaders have become pre- occupied with addressing questions of short-term viability and survival, as opposed to focusing on the long-term processes of engagement.
However, leaders should be encouraged to move the dial to the longer term to encourage a system in which the invisible processes of engagement are valued just as highly as the tangible outcomes of it.
4. Calling for New Ways of Leading

We have for a long time talked about the role of leader as though it were static, yet this is far from being true – generational shifts, social and demographic change and the impact of declining trust have all contributed to new and different demands being placed on those who lead. Tomorrow’s leaders may look very different, which is likely to have significant implications for how we identify and select leaders for the future.

In the past, individuals may have been promoted into senior leadership positions for possessing skills such as rationality, order, control and toughness, but these are skills that have declining relevance in many organisations. Future leadership models need to have engagement at their core, particularly given the differing expectations of a multi-generational workforce.

The absence of a single ‘right way’ to lead opens the path to more individual ways of leading. It is also time to try genuinely different approaches to leadership development and to encourage a new generation of leadership experimenters who have the courage and the attributes to play their part in defining leadership for the future.

Her conclusion is a clear call to action that chimes with the things that we, too, deeply care about…

By exploring what characterises engaging leaders and engaging leadership, leaders should be encouraged to experiment with new ways of leading to discover their own personal styles that are emotionally-attuned, contextually-relevant and borne from self-insight. Ultimately, through leading with engagement at its heart, there becomes a better way to work that releases the full capabilities and potential of people at work, while at the same time enabling organisational growth and ultimately economic growth for the UK. 

Photo by: KaliFire (Maroc) kali.ma photo credit: kali.ma via photopin cc

Photo by: KaliFire (Maroc)
kali.ma
photo credit: kali.ma via photopin cc

In his chapter, Developing Leadership Styles That Facilitate Employee EngagementProfessor Cliff Oswick identifies Engagement as the latest in a progression of E’s that begins in the 1970’s with Enrichment, which required leaders to help create work that was more meaningful;
and developed in the 1990’s into Empowerment, which meant leaders delegating work and responsibility within agreed boundaries, and proved more of a struggle and less often a success for most managers.

Which leads us to today and engagement, a process where employees feel a sense of commitment and an affinity to their organisation. Employees feel that they have stake in the organisation, feel part of it and care about it…

And here again is another voice making the call for a new style of leadership…

When you have high levels of employee engagement people self-instigate; they do things because they think it is right to do so, because they feel they have a responsibility. Not out of a sense of compliance. There is a more collegiate atmosphere and a greater sense of community. This feeds into a more innovative culture, and better performance.
Once again, with engagement, a change in management approach requires a change in leadership approach. Engagement is more about political engagement, people having a stake in their organisation, and in its decision-making, democratising the workplace. It requires a different style of leadership…
photo credit: WilliamMarlow via photopin cc

photo credit: WilliamMarlow via photopin cc

Oswick’s paper goes on to discuss what he calls Bad Leadership, Good Leadership…

Certainly there are some popular and prevalent leadership styles which are a bad fit with engagement. One is the highly controlling and autocratic directive style, often dressed up in more acceptable language as strong leadership. Strong leadership is the polar opposite of what is required to create the conditions for employee engagement.

Equally bad, but different, is the highly charismatic leader. Charismatic leadership is often described in terms of vision and highly developed interpersonal skills. The leader has a vision, knows the direction everyone should head in, and persuades others to follow. Although different to the directive style, it is similar in the sense that employees are still following the direction set by the leader.

Perhaps surprisingly these two leadership styles are still common in organisations. The higher up you go in organisations the more you see these styles exhibited. Senior executives, for example, are often described as “strong leaders” with this being considered a positive attribute…

…if they want to engage their workforce leaders should avoid these leadership styles for much of the time. There are more effective ways to lead people to get high levels of engagement. They represent, to varying degrees, what I refer to as the art of non-leadership.

The ‘better forms of leadership’ he advises then include ‘distributed leadership,’ where the leadership role is shared and rotated with the situation; and ‘servant leadership,’ which emphasises what the followers need and makes it the leaders job to satisfy these.  But he is critical of both of these because they don’t go far enough.  And again we get the call to revolutionise leadership practice:

If we really want employee engagement to flourish, to get the very best from the workforce, we need leaders to be braver. A more radical approach is required.

The Art of Non-Leadership

Non-leadership is a form of leadership. It’s a form of leadership which involves deliberately not intervening. Non-leadership is the active non-engagement leadership approach – it’s not intervening and not imposing a direction or view. You don’t construct a problem and you don’t constrain the solution. As things arise you don’t step up and take responsibility.

How does it work in practice? …

Increasingly work in organisations is open and ambiguous, with many alternatives, rather than closed and predictable. So processes of organisational change, of innovation and creativity, matters relating to social responsibility, these are ambiguous and hazy. In the early stages of a project you may find yourself asking questions such as ‘how do we improve our processes of customer service?’ or ‘what new products and services should we be developing?’ These are divergent type thinking situations, where there are a number of possible answers. These cry out for a non-leadership approach.

Next, frame the problem or the situation in the broadest possible terms to create the best conditions for engagement. “How can we become more sustainable?” is a more broadly framed topic than “how can we reduce the amount of non-recyclable packaging on a particular product?” This allows people to be very creative and generative in their thinking around problem solving. It allows more people to get involved and to interact, so you get a ‘wisdom of the crowd’ effect within the workplace.

With a non-leadership model, not only do you not constrain employees over identifying the problem and the solution, you don’t constrain them on the implementation, either…

When the team is busy devising problems and implementing solutions, what is the leader doing? Apart from the mundane resource-type decisions, leaders should be facilitating and accommodating employees in their problem-solving activities. It is more of a non-directive counselling role, available to provide resources and advice if required, and actively encouraging and supporting the creativity that people exhibit.

It takes courage to adopt a non-leadership approach, and to resist the temptation to step in and direct, to retain and exercise a degree of control. That is one reason why this style of leadership has taken so long to start to develop. Managers like to be in control. Psychologically, it feels far more secure…

Non-leadership may seem a radical approach, but the workforce is changing in radical ways. Employees want to be included in the decision- making process. They want the workplace to be more democratic in orientation and more inclusive. Traditional ‘leader knows best’ models do not work with the new generation of employees.

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

This guide ends with the Editor of HRZone Jamie Lawrence’s 10 Thoughts To Take Away With You.  These are the ones that stand out especially for us…

2. For engagement to succeed, it must form part of an organisation’s DNA, owned by everybody, with the understanding that the benefits will be felt in the future.

3. Organisations looking to engage employees must consider what they are trying to achieve and where they are trying to achieve it – successful engagement depends on taking into account contextual economic, social, political and local factors

4. Across different national contexts and employment groups, effective communication and the critical role of line managers emerge as universal drivers of engagement

5. To become engaged, employees need to appreciate the connection between their own work and the overall aims of the organisation and, ultimately, society

9. Senior leaders will not become engaging leaders until they find ways of leading that are congruent with who they are and what they believe in

10. Ultimately, change is required at all levels of an organisation in order to foster the trust and behaviours necessary to build a long-term culture of engagement

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5 Ways Leaders Build A Culture of Trust

JENNIFER MILLER offers these practical guidelines for developing greater trust…

Is your organization built on a culture of trust?

Look around you; there are plenty of clues as to whether trust abounds. How quickly are decisions made? How many people do you copy (or worse, bcc) on e-mails? Do executives check in on the “troops” even when on vacation?

Given that 82% of workers don’t trust their boss, trust is a scarce resource in many organizations.

When it comes to creating a trusting workplace culture, the best place to start is with you. As a leader, you either believe in someone’s trustworthiness or you don’t. Leaders who try to split the difference with “trust but verify” won’t build a culture of healthy organizational trust…

Trust is about creating space for people to thrive; excessive verifying diminishes that space. Use these five tips to reduce the amount of verifying happening in your company so that trust will flourish:

  1. Assume positive intent, until proven otherwise…
  2. Banish bureaucracy…
  3. Look at your company’s written word…
  4. Tell employees: “I trust you to make a good decision.”…
  5. Eliminate “we” and “they” when describing other teams…
photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

Why So Many Leadership Programs Ultimately Fail

On the subject of leadership development, Peter Bregman, writing in Forbes magazine has this to say…

…There is a massive difference between what we know about leadership and what we do as leaders.

I have never seen a leader fail because he or she didn’t know enough about leadership. In fact, I can’t remember ever meeting a leader who didn’t know enough about leadership.

What makes leadership hard isn’t the theoretical, it’s the practical. It’s not about knowing what to say or do. It’s about whether you’re willing to experience the discomfort, risk, and uncertainty of saying or doing it.

In other words, the critical challenge of leadership is, mostly, the challenge of emotional courage…

We’re teaching the wrong things in the wrong ways.

If the challenge of leadership is emotional courage, then emotional courage is what we need to teach. You can’t just learn about communication, you have to do it, in the heat of the moment, when the pressure is on, and your emotions are high…

The only way to teach courage is to require it of people. To offer them opportunities to draw from the courage they already have. To give them opportunities to step into real situations they find uncomfortable and truly take the time to connect with the sensations that come with that…

Alongside their toolkit for engagement that I have extensively quoted from above, HRZone also publish a success story from the field:

Interview: Emma Pinker, General Manager, London Vision Clinic, on employee engagement

in this HRZone feature Emma Pinker says what this much-talked about idea of employee engagement means to their organisation…

…employees are passionate, enthusiastic and happy to work at our clinic.

Talking about how they achieve this so successfully – good enough in fact to be included in the latest  2013 Best Workplaces List, she cites their annual team building event as the most important thing they do…

…This was introduced in 2010 and involves a half-day clinic. The clinic departments will be placed in a mix of different teams prior to the day and they will immediately start with coming up with a team name and theme. Each team is given a set of 20 tasks and clues/riddles to solve together. A time frame is normally given and teams need to photograph evidence or perform various tasks to obtain points. The themes involve London landmarks and history so not only do they work as a team but also get to explore and learn about the city as well. The team with the most points win. Needless to say, there is a great level of competition, team building, laughs and many memories made on the day of this event and to date, I believe it bonds the team and brings them closer together…

Reading this makes us wonder whether, even though we are using to some new words to headline the development agenda these days, if perhaps some of the solutions we already know about continue to be worth investing in.  Over the years we have seen dozens of team building events give people time out and away from their day-to-day demands to refresh and revitalise themselves and their relationships and bring an extremely high return rate, and perhaps, now more than ever, people need these moments to re-fire and sustain their commitment to the hard work and hard work days of 21st century professional lives.

Improve Your Happiness At Work

Whereas Jessica Pryce-Jones sees engagement as a subset of happiness at work, Kevin Kruse sees it exactly the other way around.  What difference does this make?  In the end we notice more similarities than difference in what Kruse and Pryce-Jones are advocating.

Here are some thoughts extracted from Skip Pritchard’s interview with Kevin Kruse for his blog Leadership Insights

Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author, former CEO, speaker, and a blogger.  His newest book is Employee Engagement for Everyone.

…”Engagement is similar to being happy at work, but it’s a little deeper. Engagement is the emotional commitment someone has to their organization and the organization’s objectives. When we care more, we give more discretionary effort. Whether we are in sales, service, manufacturing or leadership, we will give more, the more engaged we are. Not only is this good for a company’s bottom line, but when we are engaged at work, we also end up being a better spouse and parent, and we have improved health outcomes…”

“Communication is one of the top drivers of engagement. It is sort of the “backbone” that runs through the other primary drivers of Growth, Recognition and Trust….”

“The biggest impediment [to having an engaged culture] is the senior leaders themselves. Either they don’t truly get why engagement is important, or they think it’s important but think the answer lies in corporate-driven initiatives like casual Fridays or a summer picnic. Instead, they need to realize that most of engagement comes from one’s relationship with his or her boss. It has to be a grassroots effort driven at the front lines…”

“…People who are engaged use the word “we” a lot. In fact, that was the title of my first book on the subject of engagement….”

photo credit: tronathan via photopin cc

photo credit: tronathan via photopin cc

Workplace Happiness

Dr Izzy Justice writes about the confusion between engagement and happiness in his latest blog post…

Last week, Gallup revealed troubling survey results in its 2013 State of the American Workplace Report on employee happiness and engagement. Both at dismal levels. 70% of employees are not inspired or engaged at work.

I have been writing about this trend since 2008 when workplace power shifted dramatically from the employee, who was just grateful to have a job during a paralyzing recession, to the employer. No point in rehashing the mistakes that were made in leadership across many organizations as I am pleased to note a renewed focus on happiness as a key element in workplace performance.  A happy worker, and engaged worker, is simply a more productive worker.  The Gallup Report gave many examples of creative programs that some companies are doing. Everything from game rooms, to nap rooms, to flexibility in schedule – all popular with employees. But I believe these are merely band-aid solutions to a much larger issue no one seems to want to discuss.

Why do we think that what is needed for a human being to be happy at work is somehow different than what is needed for happiness in general? Happy people generally tend to be those who have very healthy relationships with people in their lives. The quality of human relationships far outweighs the ping pong table, pool table, free lunch and whatever else employers are providing to engage their employees. Quality human relationships are almost entirely an emotional experience. There are no real set of quantitative metrics to check off to determine quality relationships. The American worker, leader, and workplace are mostly bone-dry of human emotions, many even discouraging emotions in the workplace. The level of emotional literacy, emotional intelligence, and emotional training/programs are dismal. I submit that as long as this is the case, then employee engagement levels will continue to drop. We have to have the courage to accept the powerful role of emotions in all we do – not just at work – and to embrace EQ as a foundational competency…

For more stories that connect with these ideas you might like to check out our weekly Happiness At Work  collection.  Here is this week’s latest edition, which includes all these stories:

Happiness At Work #54

Enjoy…

photo credit: Ant1_G via photopin cc

photo credit: Ant1_G via photopin cc