Happiness At Work #74 ~ good news, bad news, and more food for thought

Happiness At Work Edition #74

Here are some of the highlights in this week’s stories about happiness – and unhappiness – an our current state of flourishing in this time of (at least in America) collective Thanksgiving…

photo credit: yanik_crepeau via photopin cc

photo credit: yanik_crepeau via photopin cc

Happiness: the silver lining of economic stagnation?

A study suggests that national wellbeing peaks at £22k average income. But that doesn’t mean there’s no point in pushing for wealth

 writes in The Guardian

It’s time to rewrite the story of the financial crisis. Far from being a disaster movie, it was in fact a tale of salvation. As for the green shoots of recovery we are now seeing, they are virulent weeds to be stamped out.

That would seem to be the conclusion to draw from a new studythat suggests ever-rising national wealth is the source of decreased life satisfaction. Looking at data from around the world, Warwick University’s Eugenio Proto and Aldo Rustichini of University of Minnesota conclude that average wellbeing rises with average income only up to around £22k per head per annum. After that, it slips back again. Britain is more or less at that sweet spot, which suggests economic stagnation may be an excellent way of avoiding the problems of poverty without acquiring the problems of wealth.

You may well be sceptical. Even the authors acknowledge that many people “still prefer to live in richer countries, even if this would result in a decreased level of life satisfaction”. In other words, people are overall more satisfied by less life satisfaction, which suggests we should take the whole concept of “life satisfaction” with a pinch of salt…

What the data does appear to show, and which almost all studies support, is that having a low income is more of a problem than having a high one is a benefit. From a public policy point of view, that suggests the priority should continue to be raising the life chances of the worst off, not those of the better off, or even the “squeezed middle”…

In short, the problem is explained by the familiar idea that money is not valuable in itself, but only for what it can do. The failure of western societies to convert greater wealth into greater wellbeing is in essence a failure to use our wealth wisely. This should not surprise us. The majority of people alive today and throughout history have not been accustomed to plenty. Humanity is on a steep learning curve and many of the lessons we need to learn go against our natural tendency to acquire first and ask questions later.

That’s why the debate about the relative merits of increased GDP and “gross domestic happiness” are misguided. They are not mutually exclusive options. The optimal strategy would be one in which we grew wealth but harnessed it better to enable people to really flourish, rather than just have more stuff. What we should be afraid of is the pointless march of a narrow materialism, not the resumption of economic growth in itself. A richer world in which the money was well spent is something with which we should all be well satisfied.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Study Reveals Higher Levels of Control and Support at Work Increase Wellbeing

Research from Queen Mary University of London reveals positive aspects of working life – such as high levels of control at work, good support from supervisors and colleagues, and feeling cared for – support higher levels of wellbeing among Britain’s workers….

Stephen Stansfeld, Professor of Psychiatry, Queen Mary University of London (Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry), comments:

“The so-called ‘happiness debate’ has gained a lot of attention in recent years, with economists, politicians and psychologists all hypothesizing on how to create a happy society. If the Government proceeds with the idea of measuring wellbeing as an indicator of Britain’s progress, it is crucial they know what impacts a person’s wellbeing.

“This study shows the quality of our working conditions and personal relationships are key to the nation’s happiness. We believe any policies designed to improve the workplace should not just minimise negative aspects of work, but more crucially, increase the positive aspects, such as a creating a greater sense of control and support among employees.

“The quality of the working environment has a very important effect on how a person feels and greater  may also be related to greater productivity and performance at work, increased commitment and staff retention as well as effects on physical health and lifespan.”

Link to read the original article

Wealth Inequality in America

Infographics on the distribution of wealth in America, highlighting both the inequality and the difference between our perception of inequality and the actual numbers. The reality is often not what we think it is.

photo credit: Gene Hunt via photopin cc

photo credit: Gene Hunt via photopin cc

Americans at Work: The Best and Worst Jobs 2013

Most Americans spend more time working than doing anything else.  The average employee spends more than 2/3 of his or her day at work or on work-related activities. That’s more time than we spend sleeping or raising our children.  Americans work an average of nearly one month more per year now than in 1970.  In 1960, only 20 percent of mothers worked. Today, in 70 percent of American households all adults work.

America vs. the world:

  • Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers
  • 260 more hours per year than British workers
  • 499 more hours per year than French workers
  • Average productivity for American workers has increased 400% since 1950
  • In every country included except Canada and Japan (and the U.S., which averages 13 days/per year), workers get at least 20 paid vacation days. In France and Finland, they get 30 – an entire month off, paid, every year.

So it matters what you do… doesn’t it? Because Americans work so much….

Here are the 10 Best AND 10 Worst Jobs in America, 2013 (with median salaries)

Link to see the info graphic and which jobs feature high and low

photo credit: Mike Willis via photopin cc

photo credit: Mike Willis via photopin cc

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs

Anarchist, Activist and London School of Economics anthropology professor David Graeber traces the 20th century promise of a 4 hour day and how we got unproductive labour instead.

In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.

Why did Keynes’ promised utopia – still being eagerly awaited in the ‘60s – never materialise? The standard line today is that he didn’t figure in the massive increase in consumerism. Given the choice between less hours and more toys and pleasures, we’ve collectively chosen the latter. This presents a nice morality tale, but even a moment’s reflection shows it can’t really be true. Yes, we have witnessed the creation of an endless variety of new jobs and industries since the ‘20s, but very few have anything to do with the production and distribution of sushi, iPhones, or fancy sneakers….

…productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be).

But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the “service” sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical, or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza deliverymen) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.

These are what I propose to call “bullshit jobs.”

…While corporations may engage in ruthless downsizing, the layoffs and speed-ups invariably fall on that class of people who are actually making, moving, fixing and maintaining things; through some strange alchemy no one can quite explain, the number of salaried paper-pushers ultimately seems to expand, and more and more employees find themselves, not unlike Soviet workers actually, working 40 or even 50 hour weeks on paper, but effectively working 15 hours just as Keynes predicted, since the rest of their time is spent organizing or attending motivational seminars, updating their facebook profiles or downloading TV box-sets.

…Once, when contemplating the apparently endless growth of administrative responsibilities in British academic departments, I came up with one possible vision of hell. Hell is a collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don’t like and are not especially good at. Say they were hired because they were excellent cabinet-makers, and then discover they are expected to spend a great deal of their time frying fish. Neither does the task really need to be done – at least, there’s only a very limited number of fish that need to be fried. Yet somehow, they all become so obsessed with resentment at the thought that some of their co-workers might be spending more time making cabinets, and not doing their fair share of the fish-frying responsibilities, that before long there’s endless piles of useless badly cooked fish piling up all over the workshop and it’s all that anyone really does.

I think this is actually a pretty accurate description of the moral dynamics of our own economy.

Now, I realise any such argument is going to run into immediate objections: “who are you to say what jobs are really ‘necessary’? What’s necessary anyway? You’re an anthropology professor, what’s the ‘need’ for that?” (And indeed a lot of tabloid readers would take the existence of my job as the very definition of wasteful social expenditure.) And on one level, this is obviously true. There can be no objective measure of social value.

I would not presume to tell someone who is convinced they are making a meaningful contribution to the world that, really, they are not. But what about those people who are themselves convinced their jobs are meaningless?

…There’s a lot of questions one could ask here, starting with, what does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law? (Answer: if 1% of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.) But even more, it shows that most people in these jobs are ultimately aware of it. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a corporate lawyer who didn’t think their job was bullshit. The same goes for … a whole class of salaried professionals that, should you meet them at parties … they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their job really is.

This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well….

If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the, universally reviled, unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly its financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days.

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: nateOne via photopin cc

photo credit: nateOne via photopin cc

10 Simple and Easy Ways To Give Thanks To Your Employees

Randy Conley writes…

In the spirit of today’s Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, I thought I’d share ten simple and easy ways to tell your employees “thank you.” Telling an employee “thank you” is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to build trust, yet it doesn’t happen near enough in the workplace.

Whenever I conduct trust workshops with clients and discuss the role that rewards and recognition play in building trust, I will ask participants to raise their hands if they feel like they receive too much praise or recognition on the job. No one has ever raised a hand.

So on this day of giving thanks, take a few minutes to review this list and commit to using one of these methods to tell your employees “thank you.” I’ve used many of these strategies myself and can attest to their effectiveness.

1. Let them leave work early – This may not be feasible in all work environments, but if you’re able to do it, a surprise treat of allowing people to leave early does wonders for team morale and well-being…

2. Leave a “thank you” voice mail message – …The spoken word can have a tremendous impact on individuals, and receiving a heartfelt message from you could positively impact your employees in ways you can’t imagine.

3. Host a potluck lunch –  …Sharing a meal together allows people to bond and relax in a casual setting and it provides an excellent opportunity for you to say a few words of thanks to the team and let them know you appreciate them.

4. Give a small token of appreciation – Giving an employee a small memento provides a lasting symbol of your appreciation, and although it may cost you a few bucks, it’s well worth the investment…

5. Have your boss recognize an employee – Get your boss to send an email, make a phone call, or best-case scenario, drop by in-person to tell one of your employees “thank you” for his/her work. Getting an attaboy from your boss’ boss is always a big treat. It shows your employee that you recognize his/her efforts and you’re making sure your boss knows about it too.

6. Hold an impromptu 10 minute stand up meeting – This could be no or low-cost depending on what you do, but I’ve called random 10 minute meetings in the afternoon and handed out popsicles or some other treat and taken the opportunity to tell team members “thank you” for their hard work. The surprise meeting, combined with a special treat, throws people out of their same ol’, same ol’ routine and keeps the boss/employee relationship fresh and energetic.

7. Reach out and touch someone – …Human touch holds incredible powers to communicate thankfulness and appreciation. …Unfortunately, most leaders shy away from appropriate physical contact in the workplace, fearful of harassment complaints or lawsuits. Whether it’s a handshake, high-five, or fist bump, find appropriate ways to communicate your thanks via personal touch.

8. Say “thank you” – This seems like a no-brainer given the topic, but you would be amazed at how many people tell me their boss doesn’t take the time to express thanks. Saying thank you is not only the polite and respectful thing to do, it signals to your people that they matter, they’re important, valuable, and most of all, you care.

9. Send a thank you note to an employee’s family – A friend of mine told me that he occasionally sends a thank you note to the spouse/significant other/family of an employee. He’ll say something to the effect of “Thank you for sharing your husband/wife/dad/mother with us and supporting the work he/she does. He/she a valuable contributor to our team and we appreciate him/her.” Wow…what a powerful way to communicate thankfulness!

10. Give a handwritten note of thanks – Some things never go out of style and handwritten thank you notes are one of them. Emails are fine, voice mails better (even made this list!), but taking the time to send a thoughtful, handwritten note says “thank you” like no other way…

What other ways to say “thank you” would you add to this list?

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Sigfrid Lundberg via photopin cc

photo credit: Sigfrid Lundberg via photopin cc

How To Think Like A Wise Person

by Adam Grant

If I asked you to judge how smart someone is, you’d know where to start. But if you were going to assess how wise that person is, what qualities would you consider?

Wisdom is the ability to make sound judgments and choices based on experience. It’s a virtue according to every great philosophical and religious tradition, from Aristotle to Confucius and Christianity to Judaism, Islam to Buddhism, and Taoism to Hinduism. According to the book From Smart to Wisewisdom distinguishes great leaders from the rest of the pack. So what does it take to cultivate wisdom?

In an enlightening study led by psychologists Paul Baltes and Ursula Staudinger, a group of leading journalists nominated public figures who stood out as wise. The researchers narrowed the original list down to a core set of people who were widely viewed as possessing wisdom—an accomplished group of civic leaders, theologians, scientists, and cultural icons. They compared these wise people with a control group of professionals who were successful but not nominated as wise (including lawyers, doctors, teachers, scientists, and managers).

Both groups answered questions that gave them a chance to demonstrate their wisdom. For example, what advice would they give to a widowed mother facing a choice between shutting down her business and supporting her son and grandchildren? How would they respond to a call from a severely depressed friend? A panel of experts evaluated their answers, and the results—along with several follow-up studies—reveal six insights about what differentiates wise people from the rest of us.

1. Don’t wait until you’re older and smarter. The people with the highest wisdom scores are just as likely to be 30 as 60. …. Cultivating wisdom is a deliberate choice that people can make regardless of age and intelligence…

2. See the world in shades of grey, not black and white. …

Wise people specialize in what strategy expert Roger Martin calls integrative thinking—”the capacity to hold two diametrically opposing ideas in their heads”—and reconcile them for the situation at hand. In the words of the philosopher Bertrand Russell, “fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

3. Balance self-interest and the common good… It’s neither healthy nor productive to be extremely altruistic or extremely selfish. People who fail to secure their oxygen masks before assisting others end up running out of air, and those who pursue personal gains as the expense of others end up destroying their relationships and reputations. Wise people reject the assumption that the world is a win-lose, zero-sum place. They find ways to benefit others that also advance their own objectives.

4. Challenge the status quo. Wise people are willing to question rules. Instead of accepting things as they have always been, wisdom involves asking whether there’s a better path…

5. Aim to understand, rather than judge. By default, many of us operate like jurors, passing judgment on the actions of others so that we can sort them into categories of good and bad. Wise people resist this impulse, operating more like detectives whose goal is to explain other people’s behaviors. …Over time, this emphasis on understanding rather than evaluating yields an advantage in predicting others’ actions, enabling wise people to offer better advice to others and make better choices themselves.

6. Focus on purpose over pleasure. In one surprising study, Baltes’ team discovered that wise people weren’t any happier than their peers. They didn’t experience more positive emotions, perhaps because wisdom requires critical self-reflection and a long-term view. They recognized that just as today’s cloud can have a silver lining tomorrow, tomorrow’s silver lining can become next month’s suffering. However, there was a clear psychological benefit of wisdom: a stronger sense of purpose in life. From time to time, wisdom may involve putting what makes us happy on the back burner in our quest for meaning and significance.

Link to read the original article in full

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

What does it Mean to be a Citizen at Work?

In his 2013 Chief Executive’s Lecture, Matthew Taylor puts the focus on good employment, and how to move this from an idea with general support but very mixed take-up into something which is available to all employees and supported by wider society.

Béatrice Coron’s Daily Battles in 3D

French artist Béatrice Coron creates stories from cut paper. And while this one—told in stunning 3D, with a soundscape—contains castles and fire-breathing dragons, it tells a tale we all can relate to: of the constant, everyday battles we face. Says Coron, “It seems there is always a dragon to slay, a kingdom to be won, a Holy Grail to find … I win some battles but the war is never over.”

photo credit: Erik Daniel Drost via photopin cc

photo credit: Erik Daniel Drost via photopin cc

What To Do If You Don’t Feel Grateful

 shares a story along with her suggestions for building a sense of gratitude when times are tough…

Sometimes circumstances we consider to be horrendous turn out to work in our favor. We usually don’t see the big picture until much later, if ever. The following parable illustrates this concept:

There is an ancient story of a farmer whose only horse ran away.  Later that evening the neighbors gathered to commiserate with him since this was thought to be such bad luck. “Your farm will suffer, and you will not be able to plough your fields,” they said. “Surely this is a terrible thing to have happened to you.”

 The farmer said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

 The next day the horse returned but brought with it six wild horses, and the neighbors came to congratulate him and exclaim his good fortune. “You are much richer than you were before!” they said. “Surely this has turned out to be a great thing for you.”

 The farmer replied, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

 Then, the following day, the farmer’s son tried to saddle and ride one of the wild horses. He was immediately thrown from the horse and broke his leg.  With this injury he couldn’t work on the farm. Again the neighbors came to offer their sympathy to the farmer for the incident. “There is more work than only you can handle, and you may be driven poor,” they said. “Surely this is a terrible misfortune.”

 The old farmer simply said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

 The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to seize young men for the army, but because of his broken leg the farmer’s son was rejected.  When the neighbors heard this they came to visit the farmer and said, “How fortunate you are!  Things have worked out after all.  Most young men never return alive from the war. Surely this is the best of fortunes for you and your son!”

 Again, the old man said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

 …Who knows but that you were let go from your last job so that you could put some time and energy into contemplating and pursuing your real passion? Perhaps a relationship didn’t work out, and thus you developed greater inner strength and autonomy. Maybe that addiction you’ve battled for so many years will lead you to effective treatment, a support group, and the ability to help many other people, based on your own experience and recovery. You can make your mess your message.

So, be kind to yourself if you’re having a tough time feeling gratitude at this moment. This is a great opportunity to practice self-acceptance of your full spectrum of emotions and to also practice “acting as if” you’re grateful. Although you may be gritting your teeth, you can still ask yourself, “What’s the good in this?” As has been said, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, but only if we’re able to learn from the experience. Your lesson may come to light down the road, so no worries if you don’t see it now – but keep your eyes open.

Link to read the full original article

photo credit: MACLA Flickr via photopin cc

photo credit: MACLA Flickr via photopin cc

Link to the full Happiness At Work Edition #74 collection of stories

All of these stories and more can be found in this week’s new Happiness At Work Edition #74.

Happiness At Work #73 ~ the (brave?) new world we are making for ourselves

If happiness were the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?

A really terrific question – and we’d love to hear your answers…?

And it’s a great headline too for this week’s Happiness At Work collection #73 question: based on the strongest trends, patterns and the new norms we are carving into our cultural assumptions and expectations, are we making ourselves any better?

This week we highlight a blend of stories that illuminate and probe and wrestle around and celebrate the new-in-the-now – in our organisations as much as across our societies and within the fabric of our everyday lives.  Together these stories bring a growing sense of what we are becoming and making of ourselves.

See whether you think this is to our greater good or our increased ill…?.

Well-Being Jettisons To Critical Performance Metric In Workplace

by Judy Martin writing in Forbes magazine

We have often noticed that what gets valued gets measured and what gets measured gets attention, energy and investment.  In our first story Judy Martin marks the growing validity of happiness and wellbeing at work as a serious metric in the engine rooms and accounting houses of our organisations, and asks…

Can you hear it? There’s a nascent ethos of binaural business wisdom coming from progressive CEOs truly concerned with the health and well-being of their talent, and the deepening of our own mindful awareness as individuals in desperate need of a more peaceful, productive and healthy working experience.

The well-being of the workforce, if only disconsolately by default, might be the metric of salvation in an era of digital exuberance, overworked employees and disengaged talent looking to jump ship.

A salvo of scientific research in stress and creativity, along with statistics reflecting big business’ desperation to retain and engage talent, pack a wallop of a wakeup punch to the tummy of the traditional business model. And some of  big business is hearing the wakeup call.

CIPD, a UK Human Resources trade organization, reports that over the last year alone, the number of employers making workplace cultural changes to try to reduce long-term absence levels has increased 20% in the last year. It its Simplyhealth Absence Survey, 85% revealed they’re making changes to working patterns, environments and flexibility. This passage from the report speaks volumes to acknowledging employee well-being:

“The benefit of changes to working patterns has been recognized by many employers, with over 70% of organizations reporting a positive impact on employee motivation and employee engagement. A further 46% also stated they were using flexible working options to support employees with mental health problems.”

But the positive news is littered with some hard core disturbing facts:

  • Absence levels, according to CIPD have crept up to post-recession numbers seen in 2010 and 2011.
  • ComPsych reports that “elevated stress levels are the new norm for employees.” The employee assistant provider says its 2013 StressPulse Report found that 62% of employees indicated high levels of stress, and that one-third lose an hour a day in productivity as a result of stress.
  • Gallup’s recently revealed that 70% of American employees are either disengaged or miserable at work.

(I discuss the intersection of work stress and well-being here in my recent post Work, Stress, Bliss Manifesto.)

“The message is clear,” says HR trend tracker Meghan M. Biro, Founder of TalentCulture.com and host of one of the most popular Human Resources twitter chats on the web, #TChat.  “Leaders have to do better building employee engagement and job satisfaction through programs like wellness and work flexibility. When you see people who can’t wait to get to work in the morning, you’ll know you’ve created intrapreneurs who will radiate a highly contagious fulfilment and happiness. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Mindfulness and Well-Being Garners Growing Attention

That beautiful thing seems elusive and hard to define in terms of success. But if you ask media mogul Arianna Huffington, well-being at work should be trending high enough for the c-suite to take more notice…

“The truth is that we no longer have the luxury to ignore our well-being, our wisdom, our ability to make good decisions, because the world is moving so fast that we can no longer be in maintenance mode. We have to constantly be innovating, constantly creating, and we can’t do that from the surface. We can’t do that from burnout,” said Huffington adding, “Right now the American workforce is running on burnout, sleep deprivation and exhaustion.”

The Wisdom 2.0 Business Conference at Google’s New York City headquarters, founded by author Soren Gordhamer who wrote  Wisdom 2.0: Ancient Secrets for the Creative and Constantly Connected, explored mindfulness in business and its impact on the well-being and performance of talent in our real-time world. The topic resonated deeply with another speaker at the conference, Rich Fernandez; a former Google employee and Founder of WisdomLabs. He effused with audience agreement that due to technology – demands, information and complexity are increasing without the capacity to manage all the stimulation.

“Our in-boxes and the way we work make the world very complex, and the world is already turbulent as it is. It’s really hard for our organizations, and those of us who work in those organizations to become resilient at the same rate,” said Fernandez.

Fernandez says we have more wicked problems than we’ve ever dealt with before, adding, “Our leaders need to be more complex and adaptive in their thinking. They need to be more agile and self aware…”

A Personal Take on Well-Being at Work 

Judging by the arguments made, it behooves leaders to take the reins on the well-being wagon at work, but that dirt road is paved with potholes of resistance unless the spreadsheets prove other wise. Perhaps individual effort to improve ones well-being might be the faster track. If employees learn to better manage their energy and work flow, they just might see an improvement in their performance and ability to manage stress.

“Everyone needs to learn to recognize and respect their own personal rhythms of peak performance and need for healing rest and recovery,” Rossi recently told me in an interview at WorkLifeNation.com.

I’ve been fascinated by the concept of well-being at work and how it has the potential to fuel more energy and better employee performance.  The implications are more crucial than ever before as the global marketplace becomes more competitive, and talent driven creativity and innovation might catapult a company above the rest. The question is, whose responsibility is it to nurture the well-being of employees? Please share your thoughts.

Judy Martin is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and stress management consultant who tracks workplace trends. Connect with Judy on Twitter: @JudyMartin8 and visit her at WorkLifeNation.com where she writes in depth about workplace concerns,  work stress management initiatives, workplace well-being trends and  transforming stress in an “always-on” world.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: kern.justin via photopin cc

photo credit: kern.justin via photopin cc

Diana Diamond asks: Are We Being Happy Yet?

More than 1,000 books on happiness were released last month on Amazon

At a recent Stanford alumni conference – “Are you happy now,” moderated by former CBS News anchor Katie Couric – the focus was on just that. The panel featured Stanford professors and David Kelley, founder of IDEO, a design and innovation firm based in Palo Alto.

Panelists first defined happiness as a feeling good experience, a combination of pleasure and meaningfulness, knowing how to have fun, and doing something with a purpose.

Some people are hard-wired for happiness. Surprisingly, there are happy and unhappy minds, mostly dependent on our genes but also our upbringing. Couric said her husband always tells her she was born on the sunny side of the street. I have cloudy-side origins. Fascinating, since we seldom analyze ourselves this way.

When asked if stress is an impediment to happiness, Kelley said that doing something for someone else or society helps alleviate stress. He added that creative people are happier and usually more excited about things.

Firdaus Dhabhar, a Stanford psychiatry professor, said stress can be helpful and make us more effective, but we need down times between stressful periods. And while some of us view stress as a bad thing, it need not be so unless it overwhelms us.

Panelists agreed more children are depressed now, compared to a decade or two ago; no explanation why. While money won’t buy happiness, as long as one’s basic needs are met, individuals tend to be happier. Those who choose to spend their money on experiences and activities are happier than those who spend their money on “things” such as another pair of shoes or a second house.

Technology is changing our lives, Kelley said, for better or worse. He knows of teenagers who come home early from a dance date so they then can text each other about the dance. “Technology can help you keep unconnected and impersonal.”

Yet, he added, an amazing 60 percent of teens surveyed say they feel worse after spending time on Facebook because all their friends “seem to be doing all these fab things.”

Panelists discussed children a lot, beginning with Couric’s question: Does having children make you happier?

Studies show children create more meaning in our lives. But parents today have a difficult time allowing their kids to fail — they want to protect them, and turn into helicopter parents, constantly hovering over them.

Couric asked why parents today feel they have to go to every one of their kids’ sports activities, every practice, every concert and every on-stage event. Parents work on their kids’ projects, and supervise their homework. It’s “what parents have to do,” she complained.

Jennifer Aaker, a Stanford marketing professor, said studies show that the happiness curve starts at 18 when kids are doing all sorts of exciting things, then leads to satisfaction, then onto doing something meaningful. And finally some contentment. People are least happy when they are 35 to 45 years old with three kids, but from 50 to 70 happiness increases, and then goes downhill. Happiness shifts over the course of life.

The United States is 18th in the world in happiness ratings, but compared to other countries, we pay less attention to the meaningfulness of life.

And what is the most important component for happiness? The panelists listed a sense of autonomy in one’s life, personal growth, authenticity, genuineness – and sleep.

Dare I now wish you a Happy Thanksgiving? Perhaps that will stress you out.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc

7 Things You Didn’t Know Were Internet-Connected

By 2015 there will be 25 billion devices connected to the internet, and by 2020 this is predicted to haves doubled to 50 billion interconnected devices.

This IT Brief outlines seven items sampling what they call the vast Internet of Things…

Within this “Internet of Things,” there is an already massive range of connected devices that continues to grow every minute.  Here are seven things you may not have realised are internet-connected:

Already here and a part of the Brave New World we have made for ourselves are…

Assassination by WiFi – as seen in Homeland, heart devices already have WiFi capability and are increasingly transmitting data to smartphones, registering potentially life-threatening irregularities. But this bring risks, and Vice President Cheney’s cardiologist has had this WiFi disabled – just in case…

Cows on Facebook – Ranchers are already using wireless sensors to monitor their stock from afar, bringing them news feeds such as when a cow is pregnant, and other farmers are using robotic milking that sends data about much milk their cows are producing…

Pot plants that water and light themselves – WiFi enabled sensors that provide information about nutrients and temperature can also automatically tun off and on watering and lighting accessories…

TV computing – WiFi capabilities are increasing the range of internet activities we can do through our televisions…

Pills that keep us monitored – WiFi enabled to transmit information to remind us to take our meds, and report us if we don’t to our doctors and relatives…

Rubbish that keeps us honest and clean – new tech systems using radio frequency identification that transmit data so there is no hiding what rubbish we’ve put where…

Machine control – in manufacturing a increasing amount of data is being provide across a broader and broader network to provide the intelligence to drive business excellence and controls…

Link to get this free download

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

Meaning 2013: A Business Rebellion

Meaning 2013 was the annual NixonMcInnes business conference that happened this year on 8th November in Brighton, with the aspiration to

‘help connect and inspire people who believe in better business…Be part of the change…’

Luke Dodd reviews this one-day conference in his Melcrum Internal Communications blog

Finding meaning in what your organization does is at the heart of smart Internal Communication.

Using that understanding and infusing it within your communication strategy encourages employee engagement, makes messages sticky and ensures alignment to business values.

And for those communicators wishing to make that connection, the search for meaning can go far beyond the office walls. It can lead us to reach out into the world and ask whether our individual efforts are helping society.

Meaning is powerful. And meaning can transform your organization.

Taking a high-level view of business was at the heart of the agenda for Meaning 2013 (#meaningconf), organized by Nixon McInnes and held at the Corn Exchange, Brighton, UK this past week. Over 200 delegates attended, ready to take a look at the world in a different way. Here are my highlights and thoughts from the day’s proceedings…

Link to read Luke Dodd’s memories and reflections of this event

10 Things We Learned From Meaning 2013 at Brighton

Some of the themes and the issues this gathering set out to explore were…

  • Organisational Design & Structure ~ is topdown command and control fit for the 21st century?
  • Workplace Democratisation ~ are businesses with collaborative decision-making practices getting the edge on old-school competitors?
  • 21st Century Leadership ~ what kind of leaders do the challenges of our time demand, and what is leadership today?
  • Steady State Economics ~ can we keep growing in conventional terms and if not, what are the alternatives?
  • Sustainability In Business ~ what are the opportunities for businesses to embrace sustainability?
  • Technology Disruption ~ what technology themes are imminent and likely to disrupt business as usual?
  • The Future Of Work ~ what do people want from work and what can they expect from progressive businesses?

In this post, Fiona Duffy of The Happy Startup School draws out her top themes from the Meaning 2013 NixonMcInnes event.

And, generously, NixonMcInnes have posted all of the the talks from the day in their YouTube channel, so you can pick and mix the ideas that interest you from this blended guide…

NixonMcInnes believe as we do, that business needs to re-design in the 21st century.  They created Meaning  to connect and inspire future business leaders who believe in the same thing, curating talks that inspire action.

Key take-aways and all of the talks from the day…

  • People want to be part of change (founder of the Swedish Pirate Party and Swarmwise author Rick Falkvinge)…   “We work for autonomy, mastery and purpose…Leaders need to provide a mission for people to rally around, where everybody can see there’s a place for them.  If someone can help towards reaching a goal or driving a single idea without having to be asked, magic happens, people start swarming towards that idea.  Ideas should be credible, executable and epic, so shoot for the moon.  On second thoughts, no – we’ve already been there.  Shoot for Mars…”

  • If you’re human, you’re a storyteller.  Get good at it (story activist, Mary Alice Arthur)…   “How do you make change?  By unleashing the Trojan mice…”  Stories make for driving positive change.  If you apply this to entrepreneurs, having a story in business gives clear purpose for people to rally around your cause.  Stories show a mrs human approach to business, essential for gathering a swarm of proactive people for driving change.  What question is your life calling for?  And what story are you living in and living into?“…

  • The best leaders lead through inquiry (co-founder of JustGiving Anne Marie Huby)…   “The stronger the culture, the less rules you need.”  At JustGiving leaders lead through questioning.  No single person can win points through status.  It takes collective intelligence to answer problems no one person can answer.  JustGiving’s core values and democratic approach to business empowers culture and team integrity…
  • Invent things that add value (Anne Marie Huby)…   Focus on inventing products that have real meaning – profits should be a by-product of doing better things.  Placing more focus on how we’re doing business not what we’re doing leads to better outcomes.  Test and learn constantly…

  • It’s possible not to fire a single soul in 57 years of business (Mikel Lezamiz, director of cooperative dissemination at MONDRAGON)…   “Workforce has the power, capital has the tool.”  Employee have their core values, cooperation, social responsibility, innovation and participation which owes a lot to a 0.01% staff turnover rate and 0 firing record.

  • Fun should be featured in the business model (James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog)…   BrewDog have adopted a disruptive business model where they set up an ‘equity for punks’ scheme allowing their fans shares in the company along with huge discounts across their beers – proving that having a little fun, disregarding corporate growth models and doing something you’re truly passionate about is the future of business…

  • Positive understanding of tech = positive change (Dr. Sue Black, one of the Guardian’s top ten women in tech)…   Since launching the #techmums campaign Sue Black has helped numerous mothers enrich their lives with the power of the internet  If you’re going to lead a business you’ve got to be moving towards Maslow’s ‘self-actualisation’…”

  • A dark age is looming (rogue economist, author and Harvard Business Review blogger Umair Haque)…   We need to build businesses with stronger values and less focus on financial growth.  When we look at meaning in our everyday lives, we shouldn’t be focusing on material wealth, we should be focusing on fulfilment.  The same is true for business.  We need meaning more than ever but “we’re entering a Dark Age for humanity when we’re reluctant to speak out against unfair systems.”

  • Don’t become the companies you set out to disrupt (social technologies expert Lee Bryant)…    Too many startups are mimicking the very organisations they’re battling against.  We need to recognise that top-down organisational norm isn’t working anymore.  It’s time to innovate and squash traditional structures, finding a way that incorporates your mission and values.

  • Identity is the new money (internationally recognised thought leader in digital identity and digital money, Dave Birch)…   “We have a new superpower because we can connect with anyone else on the planet in an instant… 

 

  • Finding meaning in what your organisation does is at the heart of smart communication...   Using the understanding [of meaning] and infusing it within your communication strategy encourages employee engagement, makes messages sticky and ensures alignment to business values.  Meaning is powerful.  And meaning can transform your organisation.” (Luke Dodd)

Link to read the original Happy Startup School article

photo credit: mugley via photopin cc

photo credit: mugley via photopin cc

How to Create a Workplace that Works for Women

Inge Woudstra, director of W2O Consulting & Training, writes in the Guardian

Management programmes often suggest ways to change the way women think, but perhaps we should be changing our workplaces instead.

Women are different, yet coaching, mentoring and leadership programmes often focus on fixing women; helping them to do well in an organisation designed for men. Is that really the solution?

Don’t adapt, instead create a workplace that works for women. Here’s how:

Create a female support network

Growing in your career requires self-confidence. A great way to do this is to join a women’s network: a place where you can find inspiration and recognition from sharing with like-minded people.

You may have to try a few networks before you have found one that feels right for you. If you can’t find one, why not create your own? Invite a few colleagues for a monthly dinner. Make sure that the people you invite are at a similar level to you and aren’t connected to your day-to-day workplace.

Author and bio-psychologist Martine Delfos explains that female support networks satisfy the basic human need of feeling safe and secure. Men have the same need to feel safe and secure, but they tend to find this kind of support and encouragement with their partner at home.

Remember to also build networks that do include men, as you will need those for the same purpose men use networks: for sales, self-promotion or increased power and influence.

Ask for the management support you need

Not everyone is motivated in the same way. Do you know what makes you stretch yourself? Reflect on questions such as: What inspires you to work harder? What gives you that little push to go for a challenging project, or promotion?

 …Most men tend to be motivated by challenges and competitions. Language that may work for men could include, “I bet you can’t beat our competitor” or, “This is a very challenging project.”

Women tend to be motivated by co-operation and a more encouraging style, with language that could include, “We really need your help to build our client base” or, “I saw you perform really well on the last project, I just know you can do this one.”

Find out what works for you and subtly let your manager know; they may well become your fiercest supporter.

Speak up: your view is important

It’s easy to sit back and let others take the lead. After all, putting yourself in the spotlight isn’t easy.

However, as Sheryl Sandberg argues in her book Lean In, your organisation needs you there. Teams with a better gender balance perform better simply because women’s brains tend to make different connections. You may, for instance, see the wider impact of a decision, or remember past experiences better and draw lessons from them.

 Voice what you need to feel valued

 You should feel happy and satisfied at work. Barbara Annis, author of Work with Me, did exit interviews with women, and her research shows that 40% cite “not feeling valued” as a key reason for leaving their organisation. Work-family reasons are mentioned by only 30%.

Men and women have a different way of feeling recognised and valued. Women tend to need to hear they are valued more often. In addition, women tend to look for appreciation for themselves as a person, whereas men tend to feel valued when their (public) achievements are valued.

It’s good to realise that you have a different approach, but may well get the same results. Knowing this may help you to feel more confident at work, which can make all the difference.

Link to read the original Guardian article

Better People Equals Better Business – Lessons from the All Blacks

James Kerr, author of Legacy: What the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life, writes for HRZone….

…Having feasted for 100 years on an extraordinary 75% winning record, results were slipping. The Men in Black had just come a miserable last in the Tri Nations, a championship they’d come to regard as their own.  Worse, morale had plummeted…

Something had to change.

The senior leadership gathered for a three-day summit under head coach, Graham Henry, in what he now calls the most important meeting of his career.

Out of it came a new resolve – to redesign the world’s most successful sporting culture – and a new phrase; Better People Make Better All Blacks. The strategy? Develop the character of the players off the pitch, so that they perform better on it.

Their plan revolved around the following pillars:

  • Devolved leadership, involving techniques not dissimilar from the military’s ‘mission command’ doctrine; to arm the players ‘with intention’ and to trust them to deliver.
  • Individual personal development; involving the creation of a ‘living document’ that charted individual progress day by day, week by week, season by season.
  • The creation of a learning environment modeled on Henry’s experience as a headmaster; a philosophy of continual improvement encapsulated in the phrase ‘Champions Do Extra’.
  • Train to win; training at intensity so Thursday’s training was even more brutal than the cauldron of a test match, leading to recalibration of expectations.
  • A focus on brain biology in which they identified the effect of stress on cognitive function and developed triggers and anchors to help the players cope.
  • The ritualisation of behaviour around their core narrative; epitomised by the team’s development of a new haka, Kapa o Pango.

This final element bound the rest together. “The success was being really good at that,’ says Wayne Smith, the All Blacks assistant coach. ‘Really good at making our team talks, our reviews, our game plans, all apply to the central story.”

Between 2004 and 2011, the All Blacks took their winning record from an extraordinary 75% (over 100 years, making them the most statistically successful sporting team in any code, ever), to an almost unbelievable 86%.

Clearly, the soft stuff – the story, the mind game – delivers the hard stuff, measurable competitive advantage. It also delivered a little gold cup.

In my bookLegacy: What the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life, I isolate the 15 key lessons in leadership I learned from my immersion into this inspiring environment. They are the proven principles that the All Blacks use to fuse themselves into a singularly effective high-performance organisation.

Here are a few of the All Blacks’ secrets of success:

Sweep the Sheds

…Surprisingly perhaps, a core All Blacks value is humility. They believe that stratospheric success can only be achieved by keeping their feet firmly on the ground.

Follow the Spearhead

…the All Blacks seek to replace the ‘me’ with the ‘we’. No one is bigger than the team, so much so that there is an unofficial policy, ‘No Dickheads’. They select on character over talent, believing that it delivers better long-term dividends. Something that many corporate environments might do well to consider.

Create a Haka

A key factor in the All Blacks rebirth was the development of the new haka, Kapa o Pango. By bringing the players and management together in an inclusive process that invoked the past while creating the future, the All Blacks reattached personal meaning to public purpose. Rituals reflect, remind and reinforce the belief system of the collective; it’s no surprise that the organisations and cultures that have survived and thrived over the centuries – from countries to churches, Wal-Mart to Leo Burnett, have significent rituals at their core to communicate their story and purpose.

Pass the Ball

To paraphrase Tom Peters, leaders create leaders, not followers. Central to the All Blacks method was the development of leadership groups and the nurturing of character off the field, to deliver results on it. This involved a literal and metaphorical handing over of responsibility from management to players, so that by game day the team consisted of ‘one captain and 15 leaders‘…

Leave a Legacy

There is a Maori concept, whakapapa, which captures the idea of our genealogy, our lineage from the beginning of time to the end of eternity. The sun shines on this, our time, just for a moment and it is our responsibility to ‘leave the jersey in a better place’. The All Blacks seek to ‘add to the legacy’ in everything they do, knowing that higher purpose leads to higher performance.

To regain their momentum, and to win back the World Cup, the All Blacks developed a values-led, purpose-driven high-performance culture and they used the power of storytelling to give it personal resonance. The result of this extraordinary environment was extraordinary results.

Those organisations that know what they stand for – and most importantly, why – consistently outperform those who are just going through the motions. They create better commercial results, generate more sales, deliver higher shareholder value, attract better talent, and retain it.

Clearly, many of the challenges HR leaders face are different to those of the All Blacks. Scale creates complexity, individual ambition can trump a collective spirit, organisational structure often undermines strategy. Nevertheless, if we seek to align all our people, resources and effort around a singular and compelling central narrative, and reinforce that story through communications, rewards, resourcing and training, the results will come.

Link to read the original unedited article

photo credit: Catching Magic via photopin cc

photo credit: Catching Magic via photopin cc

Gratitude Can Fuel School – and Work – Transformation

In this article Elena Aguilar outlines the benefits and application of practising gratitude in schools, but these ideas are so universally applicable I have adapted it only very slightly to show its relevance for all of us, whatever work we doing…

The Neuroscience Behind Appreciation

Here’s the thing: Our brains need to feel gratitude in order for us to want to be at work. Our brains are like Teflon for positive experiences and like Velcro with negative experiences. This means the negative comments, interactions, professional development (PD) workshops, and so on, cling to our brains. But if we spend a few minutes in appreciation, recalling those fulfilling moments in a day or encounters with supportive [people], or the segments in workshops when we felt we were learning, our brains create new links between neurons.

As we strengthen these links and build them day-after-day, our mind finds it easier to travel down those neuron paths and to experience the associated positive emotions. We can help our brain evolve in a positive way and in a way that might help us transform schools.

If we feel more positive, we will want to be at work. We will most likely be more patient with our [customers] and with colleagues. We may speak to each other with more kindness. We might listen to each other more deeply. We might take risks in our [work] or leadership. But we can’t do any of these when we’re perpetually distressed. Expressing gratitude can allow us to engage in our [work] and learning in a more positive, open way.

“Gratitude is like a flashlight. It lights up what is already there. You don’t necessarily have anything more or different, but suddenly you can actually see what it is. And because you can see, you no longer take it for granted.” – M.J. Ryan in Attitudes of Gratitude.

Ways of Practising Gratitude

Adapting and responding to what is most meaningful to each individual person increases the potency and impact of the appreciation we show.  Each one of us knows how we want to be appreciated. You might prefer quiet affirmation, or you might really like a public acknowledgment.  Perhaps you would really appreciate getting a written message, or maybe you would rather hear it in person. Or maybe a small gift of chocolate is what it would take to make you feel truly appreciated.

Closing meetings with public expressions of gratitude is a powerful and invaluable to create community, as are other practices. For example, a staff lounge can have an “Appreciation Tree” where all are invited to write an appreciation on a leaf and post it on the tree. In addition, there are many ways that we can individually practice this brain-enhancing behavior. Here are a few ideas:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. This exercise is a way of closing every day by recalling a few things we are grateful for from that day. By simply cataloguing them our minds start to search them out during the day
  • What do I appreciate about today and what was my role in making it happen? This is a more focused journal prompt to respond to each day that helps us recognize our agency in our blessings. Through this process, we discover how we can create more positive experiences for ourselves
  • Email a friend. You can also find a friend who wants to commit to emailing each other every day — or a few times a week — and sharing what you’re grateful for. Some of us feel more motivated by (and accountable) if we have an audience
  • Write a gratitude letter. Select one person you feel gratitude for (living or dead) and write a letter appreciating the ways that that he/she has enriched your life. If you can, read it face to face. This is a powerful exercise to engage in occasionally and could be tailored to an education context at times – write a letter to someone from your past, someone you have been touch with for too long, someone you see a lot but somehow never tell them what you appreciate about them…
  • Project 365. This is a fun photography project for those visually inclined. I did this for a year, taking one photo a day, and focused on capturing images that reflected something I was grateful for. After a while, I noticed that each day I’d consciously look for positive moments to capture. I felt like my mind was training itself, honing in on all that was good so that I could accomplish my daily task
  • Use guided imagery and meditation. By taking a few minutes at the start or end of each day to call to mind what we’re grateful for, we strengthen those neurons that make us feel happier. When I wake up, I often silently appreciate my body for all it does each day to keep my healthy. You can do this for whatever you’re grateful for.

Our ability to feel gratitude is a muscle of sorts – it’s a habit our minds can develop – we just need practice. Imagine if we were all practicing individually, for a few minutes in the morning and a few in the evening, and then if there were ways built into our work day to express gratitude to those around us; imagine how different we’d feel about being at work each day.

Link to read the original article about practising gratitude in schools

10 Ways To Create a Compassionate Workplace

 writes, on 13th November, World Kindness Day, about some new thinking that shows us how to make a better and more fictive workplace through practising more compassionate and kinder ways of working with each other…

1. Start small

According to business professor Adam Grant, the most successful ‘givers’ don’t try to be Gandhi or Mother Teresa. They do a lot of five-minute favours. “That might be sharing a little bit of knowledge, making an introduction when somebody is down on their luck or their opportunities, just listening, and offering advice or sympathy for a challenge that somebody is facing.”

2. Learn to focus

One Harvard University study found that we spend almost half our waking hours doing one thing but thinking about something else – and our distraction levels are highest at work. Amongst other things, this stops us from connecting with people around us.

Simple meditation and mindfulness exercises bring all kinds of benefits, including boosting our compassion levels (as this doctor’s waiting room study shows). More and more companies are offering meditation classes, and even CEOs and politicians are getting involved.

3. Try compassion training

In the last 10 years or so, research has confirmed that we can deliberately cultivate empathy and compassion. For example, studies using ‘economics games’ found that people acted more altruistically after compassion training and were more likely to redistribute money that was unfairly allocated. Teachers and healthcare professionals were less stressed, anxious or depressed, and compassion training seems to protect caregivers from burnout and compassion fatigue. A number of different organisations now run courses for professionals.

4. Be kind to yourself

Our biggest enemy at work – or anywhere else – is often ourself. Self-compassion (which is not the same as self-esteem) is important because the more we have, the more likely we are to be happy, optimistic and satisfied with life.

Self-compassion is linked with qualities that are very useful at work. It makes us more conscientious, resilient and motivated, and more willing to take responsibility for mistakes.Kristin Neff, a leading self-compassion researcher and teacher, believes it is hard to show compassion for others if we don’t have any for ourselves. “Your batteries are going to run dry,” she says.

5. Promote compassionate leaders

Organisations don’t set their values, structures and procedures, the people at the top do – so we should select, train and support leaders who are prepared to make changes and listen to employees. Leadership consultant Richard Barrett gives the example of a large South African bank that started conducting regular staff surveys. The result was a striking growth in staff engagement, profits and share price. “Caring about your employees is really good for business,” says Barrett.

6. Beware of ‘takers’

“The negative impact of takers on a culture is greater than the positive impact of givers,” says Adam Grant. Weeding out “the most selfish, horrible people” creates a balance of givers and ‘matchers’. As matchers tend to reciprocate the treatment they receive, they will emulate the givers around them, and this will shift the whole culture of the organisation.

7. It’s not always about money

We’re missing a trick if we think the only way to motivate employees is through financial incentives, with an injection of fear for good measure. Many organisations overlook the value of appreciation, support and affiliation, both as a performance motivator and as a calming factor in stressful work environments. One practical way to address this is to find ways to recognize and reward employees who go out of their way to help others.

8. Make compassionate decisions

We can never know exactly what the consequences of a decision will be. But before we act, we can run a few simple checks. What is our motivation? What are the implications for others? How would we feel if we were on the receiving end?

9. Ignore the compassion myths

We might worry that acting in a compassionate way will see us branded as a soft touch who can’t get the job done (even though research suggests the opposite is true). Adam Grant says: “The easiest way to remove that barrier is to identify other givers in your organisation and build a community of people who share your values and are willing to see concern for others and compassion as a sign of strength as opposed to a source of weakness.”

10. Lead by example

As the psychologist and author Daniel Goleman points out, our emotions and behaviour are contagious. “A leader is anyone who has a sphere of influence, and we all do in our lives somewhere… We are all in a situation, in any interaction, to be compassionate.”

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

Women are more engaged at work, so are they happier?

Jonathan Richards, chief executive of breatheHR writes…

Structured development improves morale and ultimately productivity, yet new research shows that many companies overlook the importance of supporting employees

…Continual staff mentoring and development is at the heart of every successful team and business. Yet despite demonstrable benefits, the Personal Development in the Workplace study we recently commissioned revealed that personal development was being seriously neglected by business owners across the UK.

The study surveyed employees in small-and medium-sized businesses in the UK. It revealed that almost half (47.6%) of staff feel that their boss doesn’t take their personal development seriously, while a quarter (27.9%) said they have never discussed personal development or training with their boss.

Perhaps most alarming is that more than 66% claimed to have no kind of personal development plan in place, effectively working day to day without any goals or training focus. While the figures showed only marginal differences of up to 7%, it emerged that women actually feel more engaged in the workplace, discuss their personal development more frequently with their employer and are more likely to have a personal development plan in place than their male counterparts.

These differences between men and women in the workplace may have roots in the classroom. It has been statistically proven that girls perform better than boys while at school, right through to GCSEs. This suggests that on a simple level, girls may well be more conscientious than boys, a trait which would mean they would also take a greater interest in their development at work.

There has also been a noticeable shift away from traditional gender roles in the past 15 years. Women, who are anecdotally and scientifically proven to be better at multitasking, are using this to their advantage and enjoying the benefits of a career and parenthood. Research by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman called Study in Leadership: Women Do it Better Than Men asked 7,280 professionals which skills they believed leaders of both genders possessed. While you might expect traits such as relationship building and teamwork to come high on the list (which they did), the top three were: takes initiative; practises self-development; displays high integrity and honesty.

The study concluded that women excel at 15 of 16 individual leadership characteristics, as judged by their peers, subordinates and managers, with the variation between women and men increasing as individuals gain seniority. Traits such as taking the initiative and practising self-development go some way to explaining why women are more engaged in the workplace and are therefore more likely to have a stronger focus on their personal development.

So why are so many small to medium-sized businesses neglecting their staff development obligations? This could be down to the impact of the recession, with business owners more concerned with paying wages and keeping the business on an even keel, rather than diverting already limited funds to training and developing staff.

Happy employees tend to be high-performing ones, so an important starting point for business owners should be to think about how they can improve the individual lives of each of their staff. This doesn’t mean taking them on a company break or sending them away on training courses; it can be as simple as just providing support and encouragement and taking the time to understand what it is they want to get out of their job.

There is no silver bullet to improve company morale or productivity, but by making a small improvement to each employee’s work life you will dramatically improve business performance.

Link to read the original Guardian article

photo credit: ^riza^ via photopin cc

photo credit: ^riza^ via photopin cc

Pret a Manger Wants Happy Employees – And That’s OK

 reports on the growing trend for organisations to train their staff to ‘treat customers as if they are guests in your home’…

The front page of the New York Times recently carried an in-depth report on a “broad and transformative trend” in Russia. It had nothing to do with more democracy or less corruption. It had to do with better customer service — specifically, an intense focus inside Aeroflot, the infamous Russian airline, to teach flight attendants how to smile.

“Anna, you just showed her the champagne bottle but didn’t say anything,” one instructor coaxed a young employee. “This is the silent service of Soviet times. You need to talk to her. And you need to smile and smile and smile.”

I found two things about the report especially noteworthy. First, these basic reminders are having a revolutionary impact at Aeroflot. According to the Times, customer surveys indicate that the airline now has the best service of any carrier in Eastern Europe, including the best the West has to offer.

Second, Aeroflot’s program comes at a time when the business culture in the United States seems to be questioning the importance, the value, even the authenticity of human-to-human connections. In an era of cutthroat competition, deep-seated cynicism, and the digital disruption of everything, does it make sense to make big bets on the power of small acts of kindness?

… the success of Pret a Manger, the fast-growing (323 stores around the world), fast-casual sandwich shop, [depends upon] its unapologetic commitment to developing a workforce that is bright, cheerful, and happy to keep smiling.

One distinctive part of the Pret offering is its wide variety of fresh (yet pre-made) sandwiches. This model allows the company to get customers in and out of the store in as little as 60 seconds — a true value for harried office workers, its target customers. But Pret wants that brief time to be filled with smiles, positive energy, and a genuine human connection, especially for repeat customers. CEO Clive Schlee calls it the Pret Buzz, and the company has identified a set of Pret Behaviors to create the Buzz and an in-depth training program to instill those behaviors.

“The staff manual tells staff to ‘use personal phrases that you are comfortable with and treat customers as if they are guests in your own home,’” a report in London’s Telegraph newspaper explains. “This is nothing so glib as a ‘Have a nice day’ culture; this is a philosophy that runs much deeper.”

It’s also a philosophy that has attracted loud critics on both sides of the Atlantic. The first attack came from the London Review of Books, which objected to the idea that Pret employees should be expected to do more than just provide competent service at a reasonable price. “Work increasingly isn’t, or isn’t only, a matter of producing things, but of supplying your energies, physical and emotional, in the service of others,” the essay complained. “It isn’t what you make, but how your display of feelings makes other feel.”

Then came an assault by Timothy Noah of The New Republic, who offered a withering critique of the “emotional labor” and “enforced happiness” that is at the heart of the Pret model. The essay began with a lament (tongue-in-cheek, I hope) about how Noah had come to believe that a young woman behind the counter at his local Pret was in love with him. “How else to explain her visible glow whenever I strolled into the shop for a sandwich or a latte?” he asked. “Then I realized she lit up for the next person in line, and the next. Radiance was her job.”

Noah then generalizes from his personal disappointment. “Why must the person who sells me a cheddar and tomato sandwich have ‘presence’ and ‘create a sense of fun’?” he wonders. “Why can’t he or she be doing it ‘just for the money’? I don’t expect the swiping of my credit card to be anybody’s vocation. This is, after all, the economy’s bottom-most rung.”

That’s a serious question, to which I’d offer three serious answers.

First, I find it odd, and more than a bit condescending, to think that entry-level customer-service jobs should be performed with a grim sense of duty and barebones competence. It’s better for customers — and, I’d argue, for employees as well — to be part of an experience that is built around good cheer and personal expression rather than gritted teeth and furrowed brows. That’s why flying on Southwest Airlines still seems like such a one-of-a-kind experience (for flight attendants and passenger alike), and why Aeroflot is flying high these days.

To be sure, and this is my second answer, the Pret experience is not for everybody. That’s why Pret evaluates job applicants based on how well their personal attributes map to the company’s core behaviors, and assigns them trial runs at a shop, after which current employees vote on whether to extend newcomers a full-time offer. Every truly distinctive workplace I’ve encountered makes it clear to all concerned: If you don’t fit, it’s going to be hard for you to commit.

Finally, the lessons being learned by Aeroflot, and the model being perfected by Pret a Manger, speak to a deeper shift going on in the economy and society. At a time of vast and troubling uncertainty, in a world that is being reshaped by technology, small acts of connection take on outsized importance. It’s strange to think that a winning smile from a cashier or a flight attendant, or a nod of recognition from an employee who has seen you three times that week, might matter to the person receiving it — or to the person doing it. But I believe it does matter, both in terms of creating better human experiences and building more valuable organizations.

I’m convinced that “emotional labor” will become a more important part of the job at companies that win big in the future — and that’s a development that makes me smile.

Link to read the original article

photo credit: marsmet511 via photopin cc

photo credit: marsmet511 via photopin cc

Cities, Cars, Cycling – and Human Happiness

By Susan Perry

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

The British newspaper The Guardian ran an edited excerpt last week from Charles Montgomery’s most recent book, “Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design.”

In the excerpt, Montgomery, who has written extensively about the link between urban planning and human wellbeing, asks the question “Is urban design really powerful enough to make or break happiness?”

His answer is (not surprisingly) a resounding “yes.”

“If one was to judge by sheer wealth,” he writes, “the last half-century should have been an ecstatically happy time for people in the US and other rich nations such as Canada, Japan and Great Britain. And yet the boom decades of the late 20th century were not accompanied by a boom in wellbeing. The British got richer by more than 40% between 1993 and 2012, but the rate of psychiatric disorders and neuroses grew.”

Social deficit and the shape of cities

Writes Montgomery:

There is a clear connection between social deficit and the shape of cities. A Swedish study found that people who endure more than a 45-minute commute were 40% more likely to divorce. People who live in monofunctional, car‑dependent neighbourhoods outside urban centres are much less trusting of other people than people who live in walkable neighbourhoods where housing is mixed with shops, services and places to work.

A couple of University of Zurich economists, Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer, compared German commuters’ estimation of the time it took them to get to work with their answers to the standard wellbeing question, “How satisfied are you with your life, all things considered?”

Their finding was seemingly straightforward: the longer the drive, the less happy people were. Before you dismiss this as numbingly obvious, keep in mind that they were testing not for drive satisfaction, but for life satisfaction. People were choosing commutes that made their entire lives worse. Stutzer and Frey found that a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40% more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office. On the other hand, for a single person, exchanging a long commute for a short walk to work has the same effect on happiness as finding a new love.

Daniel Gilbert, Harvard psychologist and author of Stumbling On Happiness, explained the commuting paradox this way: “Most good and bad things become less good and bad over time as we adapt to them. However, it is much easier to adapt to things that stay constant than to things that change. So we adapt quickly to the joy of a larger house, because the house is exactly the same size every time. But we find it difficult to adapt to commuting by car, because every day is a slightly new form of misery.”

The sad part is that the more we flock to high-status cities for the good life — money, opportunity, novelty — the more crowded, expensive, polluted and congested those places become. The result? Surveys show that Londoners are among the least happy people in the UK, despite the city being the richest region in the UK.

photo credit: gynti_46 via photopin cc

photo credit: gynti_46 via photopin cc

Stress worse than that of a fighter pilot

But when cities enable us to get out of our cars and commute by slower means, such as biking or walking, our sense of wellbeing improves. Writes Montgomery:

Driving in traffic is harrowing for both brain and body. The blood of people who drive in cities is a stew of stress hormones. The worse the traffic, the more your system is flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, the fight-or-flight juices that, in the short-term, get your heart pumping faster, dilate your air passages and help sharpen your alertness, but in the long-term can make you ill. Researchers for Hewlett-Packard convinced volunteers in England to wear electrode caps during their commutes and found that whether they were driving or taking the train, peak-hour travellers suffered worse stress than fighter pilots or riot police facing mobs of angry protesters.

But one group of commuters report enjoying themselves. These are people who travel under their own steam. … They walk. They run. They ride bicycles.

Why would travelling more slowly and using more effort offer more satisfaction than driving? Part of the answer exists in basic human physiology. We were born to move. Immobility is to the human body what rust is to the classic car. Stop moving long enough, and your muscles will atrophy. Bones will weaken. Blood will clot. You will find it harder to concentrate and solve problems. Immobility is not merely a state closer to death: it hastens it.

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

A sense of connection

As Montgomery reports, one study, in which student volunteers were provided with pedometers for 20 days, found that the more people walked each day, the greater their energy, sense of self-esteem and level of happiness.

“The same is true of cycling,” says Montgomery, “ although a bicycle has the added benefit of giving even a lazy rider the ability to travel three or four times faster than someone walking, while using less than a quarter of the energy.  … [C]yclists report feeling connected to the world around them in a way that is simply not possible in the sealed environment of a car, bus or train. Their journeys are both sensual and kinesthetic.”

Time to switch to a ‘new mobility’

A growing number of people — urban planners, environmentalists, health experts and others — are, in Montgomery’s words, calling on “cities and corporations to abandon old mobility, a system rigidly organised entirely around one way of moving, and embrace new mobility, a future in which we would all be free to move in the greatest variety of ways.”

“We all know old mobility,” one expert tells the Canadian reporter. “It’s you sitting in your car, stuck in traffic. It’s you driving around for hours, searching for a parking spot. Old mobility is also the 55-year-old woman with a bad leg, waiting in the rain for a bus that she can’t be certain will come. New mobility, on the other hand, is freedom distilled.”

Link to read the original article

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

photo credit: Amsterdamized via photopin cc

Henry Evans and Chad Jenkins: Meet the Robots of Humanity

Where out technology meets our humanity there is no doubting the bravery and betterment of the world we are making.

Paralyzed by a stroke, Henry Evans uses a telepresence robot to take the stage — and show how new robotics, tweaked and personalized by a group called Robots for Humanity, help him live his life. He shows off a nimble little quadrotor drone, created by a team led by Chad Jenkins, that gives him the ability to navigate space — to once again look around a garden, stroll a campus …

photo credit: Masahiko Futami via photopin cc

photo credit: Masahiko Futami via photopin cc

Threshold of the New (Steve McCurry’s Blog)

Steve McCurry’s new photo collection profiles people in their oldest years from around the globe – all emanating a strong presence that glows out of these images, as if to say to us: “we have made good enough – what will you do?”

Enjoy and draw breath from these exquisitely crafted and curated images…

Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art.
– Garson Kanin

photo credit: ~FreeBirD®~ via photopin cc

photo credit: ~FreeBirD®~ via photopin cc

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.
– Henry David Thoreau

Link to see Steve McCurry’s Threshold of the New photo collection

photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc

photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc

75 Years In The Making: Harvard Just Released Its Epic Study On What Men Need To Live A Happy Life

BY 

In 1938 Harvard University began following 268 male undergraduate students and kicked off the longest-running longitudinal studies of human development in history.  The study’s goal was to determine as best as possible what factors contribute most strongly to human flourishing.  The astonishing range of psychological, anthropological, and physical traits — ranging from personality type to IQ to drinking habits to family relationships to “hanging length of his scrotum” — indicates just how exhaustive and quantifiable the research data has become.  Recently, George Vaillant, who directed the study for more than three decades, published the study’s findings in the 2012 book Triumphs of Experience (Amazon) and the following is the book’s synopsis:

“At a time when many people around the world are living into their tenth decade, the longest longitudinal study of human development ever undertaken offers some welcome news for the new old age: our lives continue to evolve in our later years, and often become more fulfilling than before.  Begun in 1938, the Grant Study of Adult Development charted the physical and emotional health of over 200 men, starting with their undergraduate days.  The now-classic ‘Adaptation to Life’ reported on the men’s lives up to age 55 and helped us understand adult maturation.  Now George Vaillant follows the men into their nineties, documenting for the first time what it is like to flourish far beyond conventional retirement.  Reporting on all aspects of male life, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies, and alcohol use (its abuse being by far the greatest disruptor of health and happiness for the study’s subjects),

‘Triumphs of Experience’ shares a number of surprising findings.  For example, the people who do well in old age did not necessarily do so well in midlife, and vice versa.  While the study confirms that recovery from a lousy childhood is possible, memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength.  Marriages bring much more contentment after age 70, and physical aging after 80 is determined less by heredity than by habits formed prior to age 50.  The credit for growing old with grace and vitality, it seems, goes more to ourselves than to our stellar genetic makeup.”

In Triumphs of Experience, Vaillant raises a number of factors more often than others, but the one he refers to most often is the powerful correlation between the warmth of your relationships and your health and happiness in your later years.  In 2009, Vaillant’s insistance on the importance of this part of the data was challenged, so Vaillant returned to the data to be sure the finding merited such important focus.  Not only did Vaillant discover that his focus on warm relationships was warranted, he placed even more importance on this factor than he had previously.  Vallant notes that the 58 men who scored highest on the measurements of “warm relationships” (WR) earned an average of $141,000 a year more during their peak salaries (between ages 55-60) than the 31 men who scored the lowest in WR.  The high WR scorers were also 3-times more likely to have professional success worthy of inclusion in Who’s Who.

One of the most intriguing discoveries of the Grant Study was how significant men’s relationships with their mothers are in determining their well-being in life.  For instance, Business Insider writes“Men who had ‘warm’ childhood relationships with their mothers took home $87,000 more per year than men whose mothers were uncaring.  Men who had poor childhood relationships with their mothers were much more likely to develop dementia when old.  Late in their professional lives, the men’s boyhood relationships with their mothers — but not their fathers — were associated with effectiveness at work.  On the other hand, warm childhood relations with fathers correlated with lower rates of adult anxiety, greater enjoyment on vacations, and increased ‘life satisfaction’ at age 75 — whereas the warmth of childhood relationships with mothers had no significant bearing on life satisfaction at 75.”  

In Vallant’s own words, the #1 most important finding from the Grant Study is this:

“The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points to a straightforward five-word conclusion: Happiness is love.  Full stop.” 

Link to read the original article

On Considering The (English) Hedge

This is a very special delicately potent video poem by artist Shelia Ghelani

“O long line of green… O Hedge O Hedge…’

In August Sheila spent two weeks in Cambridge with straybird working on Ramble 1 of Rambles with Nature hosted by Cambridge Junction. Together they made a series of four short ‘cinepoems’ for small screens, such as smartphones, which will also be presented as an installation. On Considering The (English) Hedge is the first of the series to be released for viewing.

Click here to find out more about Rambles with Nature and visit Sheila’s blog to keep up to date with the project as it unfolds.

Happiness At Work Edition #73

All of these stories – and many more – are collected in this week’s Happiness At Work Edition #73.  As always, we really do hope you find things here to enjoy, use and grow from.

photo credit: The Rocketeer via photopin cc

photo credit: The Rocketeer via photopin cc

Happiness At Work #61 – how relationships matter to our learning, our communication and our happiness

The stories we are specially highlighting from this week’s new collection, Happiness At Work #61, draw out ideas and new understandings about the connection and importance of relationships, to our happiness, yes, but for our learning and our creativity too.  And as well, as of course, to our effective communications, for the very definition of communicate, from its Latin root communicare means to share, to exchange.  And thus communication without relationship is more than an oxymoron, it is an impossibility.

photo credit: Rojer via photopin cc

photo credit: Rojer via photopin cc

Six Habits of Highly Empathic People

–by Roman Krznaric

If you think you’re hearing the word “empathy” everywhere, you’re right. It’s now on the lips of scientists and business leaders, education experts and political activists. But there is a vital question that few people ask: How can I expand my own empathic potential? Empathy is not just a way to extend the boundaries of your moral universe. According to new research, it’s a habit we can cultivate to improve the quality of our own lives.

But what is empathy? It’s the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions. That makes it different from kindness or pity. And don’t confuse it with the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As George Bernard Shaw pointed out, “Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you—they might have different tastes.” Empathy is about discovering those tastes.

The big buzz about empathy stems from a revolutionary shift in the science of how we understand human nature. The old view that we are essentially self-interested creatures is being nudged firmly to one side by evidence that we are also homo empathicus, wired for empathy, social cooperation, and mutual aid…

…empathy doesn’t stop developing in childhood. We can nurture its growth throughout our lives—and we can use it as a radical force for social transformation. Research in sociology, psychology, history—and my own studies of empathic personalities over the past 10 years—reveals how we can make empathy an attitude and a part of our daily lives, and thus improve the lives of everyone around us. Here are the Six Habits of Highly Empathic People!

Habit 1: Cultivate curiosity about strangers

…Respect the advice of the oral historian Studs Terkel: “Don’t be an examiner, be the interested inquirer.”

Curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our usual social circle, encountering lives and worldviews very different from our own. Curiosity is good for us too: Happiness guru Martin Seligman identifies it as a key character strength that can enhance life satisfaction. And it is a useful cure for the chronic loneliness afflicting around one in three Americans

Habit 2: Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities

We all have assumptions about others and use collective labels—e.g., “Muslim fundamentalist,” “welfare mom”—that prevent us from appeciating their individuality. Highly Empathetic People challenge their own preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what they share with people rather than what divides them…

Habit 3: Try another person’s life

So you think ice climbing and hang-gliding are extreme sports? Then you need to try experiential empathy, the most challenging—and potentially rewarding—of them all. Highly Empathetic People expand their empathy by gaining direct experience of other people’s lives, putting into practice the Native American proverb, “Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before you criticize him.”…

We can each conduct our own experiments. If you are religiously observant, try a “God Swap,”  attending the services of faiths different from your own, including a meeting of Humanists. Or if you’re an atheist, try attending different churches! Spend your next vacation living and volunteering in a village in a developing country. Take the path favored by philosopher John Dewey, who said, “All genuine education comes about through experience.”

Habit 4: Listen hard—and open up

There are two traits required for being an empathic conversationalist.

One is to master the art of radical listening. “What is essential,” says Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of Non-Violent Communication (NVC), “is our ability to be present to what’s really going on within—to the unique feelings and needs a person is experiencing in that very moment.” Highly Empathetic People listen hard to others and do all they can to grasp their emotional state and needs, whether it is a friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer or a spouse who is upset at them for working late yet again.

But listening is never enough. The second trait is to make ourselves vulnerable. Removing our masks and revealing our feelings to someone is vital for creating a strong empathic bond. Empathy is a two-way street that, at its best, is built upon mutual understanding—an exchange of our most important beliefs and experiences…

Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change

We typically assume empathy happens at the level of individuals, but HEPs understand that empathy can also be a mass phenomenon that brings about fundamental social change…

Empathy will most likely flower on a collective scale if its seeds are planted in our children.  That’s why Highly Empathetic People support efforts such as Canada’s pioneering Roots of Empathy, the world’s most effective empathy teaching program, which has benefited over half a million school kids. Its unique curriculum centers on an infant, whose development children observe over time in order to learn emotional intelligence—and its results include significant declines in playground bullying and higher levels of academic achievement…

Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination

A final trait of Highly Empathetic People is that they do far more than empathise with the usual suspects. We tend to believe empathy should be reserved for those living on the social margins or who are suffering. This is necessary, but it is hardly enough…

Empathising with adversaries is also a route to social tolerance. That was Gandhi’s thinking during the conflicts between Muslims and Hindus leading up to Indian independence in 1947, when he declared, “I am a Muslim! And a Hindu, and a Christian and a Jew.”

Organisations, too, should be ambitious with their empathic thinking. Bill Drayton, the renowned “father of social entrepreneurship,” believes that in an era of rapid technological change, mastering empathy is the key business survival skill because it underpins successful teamwork and leadership. His influential Ashoka Foundation has launched the Start Empathy initiative, which is taking its ideas to business leaders, politicians and educators worldwide.

The 20th century was the Age of Introspection, when self-help and therapy culture encouraged us to believe that the best way to understand who we are and how to live was to look inside ourselves. But it left us gazing at our own navels. The 21st century should become the Age of Empathy, when we discover ourselves not simply through self-reflection, but by becoming interested in the lives of others. We need empathy to create a new kind of revolution. Not an old-fashioned revolution built on new laws, institutions, or policies, but a radical revolution in human relationships.

Link to read this story in full, including  another video talk

50 Smiles Guaranteed To Make You Smile (get happy in less than 5 minutes)

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” ~Mother Teresa

photo credit: abhiomkar via photopin cc

photo credit: abhiomkar via photopin cc

Ken Wert writes…

It seems that with smiling, you can actually have your cake and eat it too!

Not only are smiles expressions of positive feelings (like happiness, excitement and enjoyment), the act of smiling, even if forced, enhances the very positive feelings that make us want to smile. So the smile is both cause and effect. The more we smile, even if we don’t particularly feel like it, the more we feel like it.

Moreover, one person’s smile is another person’s reason to smile. The smile, it turns out, is one of the most contagious of human conditions.

Why a post filled to the brim with happy faces?

This post is meant to instigate a ripple effect of smiles across the globe as you grin from your heart to your face (or your face to your heart, since smiling works in both directions) as you share your smile with others and they share theirs in turn (and please feel free to share this post with them too, while you’re in a sharing mood!).

Read the quotes and words under each photo and look at the smiley faces and see what happens to your own mood! Put yourself in the shoes of the happy faces and see if you can feel what they seem to be feeling.

And then just try not to smile. I bet you a 100 smiles you can’t make it to the end of this post without one creeping onto your kisser! :)

Link to this article and its 50 smiling faces

photo credit: Marwa Morgan via photopin cc

photo credit: Marwa Morgan via photopin cc

Steve McCurry’s Blog: When Words Fail

“When words fail, music speaks.”  (Hans Christian Andersen)

The brilliant photographer’s latest collection features his photos of people making music.

Ravishing and joyful and overflowing with relationships…

Link to Steve McCurry’s When Words Fail photographs

Looking To Genes For The Secret To Happiness

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

Our genes may have a more elevated moral sense than our minds do, according to a new study of the genetic effects of happiness. They can, it seems, reward us with healthy gene activity when we’re unselfish — and chastise us, at a microscopic level, when we put our own needs and desires first…

…those volunteers whose happiness, according to their questionnaires, was primarily hedonic, to use the scientific term, or based on consuming things, had surprisingly unhealthy profiles, with relatively high levels of biological markers known to promote increased inflammation throughout the body. Such inflammation has been linked to the development of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They also had relatively low levels of other markers that increase antibody production, to better fight off infections.

The volunteers whose happiness was more eudaemonic, or based on a sense of higher purpose and service to others — a small minority of the overall group — had profiles that displayed augmented levels of antibody-producing gene expression and lower levels of the pro-inflammatory expression…

…purpose is an elastic concept, not necessarily requiring renunciation but only that “you think first of someone else” or “have a goal greater” than your immediate gratification. Being a parent, participating in the creative arts or even taking up exercise so that you can live to see your grandchildren may ease you toward eudaemonia, he says. It may even be that this will enable your genes to respond more favorably to how you’re conducting your life.

Link to read the unedited version of this story

photo credit: Bindaas Madhavi via photopin cc

photo credit: Bindaas Madhavi via photopin cc

Business Renaissance Must Be Human-Centric

by 

…The typical approach is to define all the potential variables, then prioritize them based on impact, frequency, risk exposure…you see where I’m going with this, right? This is 20th century thinking to deal with a 21st century issue. Not the brightest approach, yet we keep banging our collective heads against the idiot wall and think something positive will happen if we just repeat it enough times.

The renaissance is, and must be, human-centric.

It is a return to seeing the value in a person as a person, not an asset to sweat. Life is complex. Technology is complex. Intertwining two complex systems results in chaos. We have learned to respond to chaos in our personal lives as a means of necessity. We seem to feel the organization should somehow be exempt from it. So, we create demanding and manipulative policies that only serve to frustrate, disengage and manipulate people…

It will be a changing of the guard that will be necessary, but difficult for many people. It will affect how we do business, how we define success and how we structure education regarding business. This is good. This is necessary. This is overdue…

Link to read the unedited version of this post

photo credit: jesuscm via photopin cc

photo credit: jesuscm via photopin cc

5 Steps To Building A Culture of Communication

It’s important to understand the gravity of effective communication in business, then build a culture around it. Putting great communication at the center of your business is the greatest way to ensure success. Bill Gates said it best, “I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.”

Here are a few steps that will help you build a culture of communication in your business.

1. Don’t Punish the Bad Ideas…

2. Every Personality is Different, Think of Key Ways to Communicate with Everyone…

3. Async Communication… a simple and passive way of communicating with your team on your own schedule when messages aren’t urgent or time based. This can be through email, or third party tools designed with this type of discussion method in mind… 

4. Talk, Even When It’s Not Comfortable…

5. Enable Transparency in Every Aspect…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: josemanuelerre via photopin cc

photo credit: josemanuelerre via photopin cc

Babies Learn To Recognise Words In The Womb

BETH SKWARECK

…The research team gave expectant women a recording to play several times a week during their last few months of pregnancy, which included a made-up word, “tatata,” repeated many times and interspersed with music. Sometimes the middle syllable was varied, with a different pitch or vowel sound. By the time the babies were born, they had heard the made-up word, on average, more than 25,000 times. And when they were tested after birth, these infants’ brains recognized the word and its variations, while infants in a control group did not, Partanen and colleagues report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Babies who had heard the recordings showed the neural signal for recognizing vowel and pitch changes in the pseudoword, and the signal was strongest for the infants whose mothers played the recording most often. They were also better than the control babies at detecting other differences in the syllables, such as vowel length. “This leads us to believe that the fetus can learn much more detailed information than we previously thought,” Partanen says, and that the memory traces are detectable after birth…

…Just because babies can learn while in utero doesn’t mean that playing music or language recordings will help the child. Partanen says there is no solid evidence that stimulation beyond normal sounds of everyday life offers any long-term benefits to healthy babies. Moon adds that playing sounds to a fetus with speakers close to the belly could even be risky because this could overstimulate the fetal ear and the rapidly developing brain. Too much noise can interfere with the auditory system and may disrupt the baby’s sleep cycles.

Rather than playing recordings for healthy babies, Partanen sees potential treatments for children at risk for dyslexia or auditory processing disorders, if hearing certain sounds in pregnancy turns out to speed up language learning—”but that’s a big if.” His team’s study looked only at babies less than a month old, and it’s not clear whether the babies will retain the memories as they get older, or whether in utero learning has an effect on language learning or ability later in life.

Link to read this article in full

origin_4657619168

Handling Conflict

By 

Stevenson Carlebach, who used to teach acting and directing, says there are many similarities between his former profession and what he does now. For starters, “when an actor takes on a character they’re actually sort of negotiating with their mind to think like the character. When you’re trying to negotiate, you’re doing the same thing, you’re negotiating with your mind to be less antagonistic or to be more cooperative, to be more creative,” he says.

In other words, a good negotiator is really just a good actor in that they’re able to put themselves in another person’s shoes which promotes both empathy and understanding. As Carlebach says, both actors and negotiators are essentially asking what’s driving or motivating the other person, what’s causing them to behave in a certain way, and whether they too would behave in the same way under similar circumstances. But unlike actors, negotiators have their own interests to consider in this process as well.

He employs various exercises to do this including one he calls the “hot buns exercise” where three participants each assume a particular role: that of enquirer whose job it is to stay curious and ask open questions about a topic of their choice, that of speaker who takes a different perspective to that of the enquirer, and that of enquirer’s coach whose job is to observe whether the enquirer is, in fact, asking open questions.

Carlebach notes, “Going into this exercise everyone thinks, you know, ‘how hard can it be, I’m an open-minded person, sure I can do this.’ But within a minute the enquirer is only asking leading questions. They can’t stay curious. You know, ‘how could you be so stupid’, kind of questions. For most of us, we’ve never observed ourselves being close-minded.”

Indeed for many folk, this realisation proves to be a light bulb moment…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: It'sGreg via photopin cc

photo credit: It’sGreg via photopin cc

School Is A Prison – and damaging our kids

This research showing how young people are are at their most unhappy when they are in school mirrors research findings by London School of Economics Mappiness study, which found that people are most miserable when they are at work, second only to when they are ill.  What sort of world have we made for ourselves, and what will it take for us to start to undo and remake the conditions we live in and terms of engagement for the greatest time we spend of our lives: our education and our work?

As  writes in his article:

Longer school years aren’t the answer. The problem is school itself. Compulsory teach-and-test simply doesn’t work

…Most students — whether A students, C students, or failing ones — have lost their zest for learning by the time they reach middle school or high school. In a recent research study, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyl and Jeremy Hunter fitted more than 800 sixth- through 12th-graders, from 33 different schools across the country, with special wristwatches that provided a signal at random times of day. Whenever the signal appeared, they were to fill out a questionnaire indicating where they were, what they were doing, and how happy or unhappy they were at the moment. The lowest levels of happiness, by far, occurred when they were in school and the highest levels occurred when they were out of school playing or talking with friends. In school, they were often bored, anxious or both. Other researchers have shown that, with each successive grade, students develop increasingly negative attitudes toward the subjects taught, especially math and science.

As a society, we tend to shrug off such findings. We’re not surprised that learning is unpleasant. We think of it as bad-tasting medicine, tough to swallow but good for children in the long run. Some people even think that the very unpleasantness of school is good for children, so they will learn to tolerate unpleasantness, because life after school is unpleasant. Perhaps this sad view of life derives from schooling. Of course, life has its ups and downs, in adulthood and in childhood. But there are plenty of opportunities to learn to tolerate unpleasantness without adding unpleasant schooling to the mix. Research has shown that people of all ages learn best when they are self-motivated, pursuing questions that are their own real questions, and goals that are their own real-life goals. In such conditions, learning is usually joyful…

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

The Rise of Authority Or Why Being An Expert Is Not Enough

The importance of relationship is emphasised, too, in this post, by , which draws the distinction between getting power and influence from being able to speak with authority – dependent entirely upon the perceptions made by the receivers of your communication – as opposed to expertise, a more fixed position of claiming to be right.  Authority comes from a blend of Aristotle’s’ three modes of credibility: Logos (appeal to the objective rational argument), Pathos (successfully connecting into a shared understanding of our values, beliefs, feelings and the things we hold to be most important), and Ethos (the credibility, believability, perceived authenticity and trustworthiness – gravitas – of the speaker):

…You have authority when the audience says you do. You earn that praise by “bringing the thunder” every day…

How do you spot an Authority in a crowd?

First, they aren’t trying to be an expert. ** They are trying to matter.**

They want their skills, perspective, and tools to be useful. They are in it for the long-term. This is why they seem to stay relevant, even when the latest fad cools and disappears.

You will also see:

Confidence  They are willing to take a stand, point out error, and go it alone. Their confidence doesn’t come from a slick website or a clever book title. It comes from years refining their craft.

Openness  An Authority welcomes inspection. They hate black boxes. They believe they grow when everyone can collaborate on a point of view. For this reason, Authorities often frustrate their followers because they are willing to change their mind. They don’t confuse decisiveness with stubbornness.

Curiosity An Authority is obsessed with “what if”. They quickly tire of the same line of conversation. They are looking for new connections and they are intensely focused on the unconventional strategies that the expert’s dismiss.

Productivity An Authority embraces “the grind”. They know that Authority is perishable. Authority stays fresh when it publishes. They are more afraid of being inconsequential than being perfect. [They bring ways] to force the world to push back and make them better.

The good news is that you’re an Authority. You have to decide how you’ll grow and cultivate your skills and experience…

Link to read this article in full

Our own top tip for optimising the authority you can bring to your communications is to become obsessively interested in your audience: who they are, what they care about, what they know already, what position they are likely to be hearing you from, what problems, threats and difficulties they are wrestling with, and anything and everything else you can think of to wonder about them.  And then go into the communication ready to learn and notice as much as you possibly can during every stage of your encounter.

Another technique that helps to raise the level of authority you will be perceived to have is to surprise your listeners.  If people think they know what you are going to say, and you seem to start on track with these expectations, they are not likely to really listen openly to what you actually do say.

Here are some more ideas from  about increasing your powers of persuasion with more extravert, people-oriented people:

Keys To Persuading Expressing Personalities

…how best to persuade someone who is an expressive or influencer personality? When I think of an expressive, Oprah Winfrey immediately comes to mind because she’s someone who is more relationship-focused than task-oriented. Like the Trump, Oprah also likes to control situations and others.

The following describes this personality type:

Expressives like being part of social groups; enjoy attending events with lots of people; are more in tune with relating to people than working on tasks; are imaginative and creative; can usually win others over to their way of thinking; like things that are new and different; have no problem expressing themselves…

Some persuasion advice when dealing with an expressive-type person:

Definitely spend time engaging the liking principle with them, because they want to like the people they interact with. Oprah certainly cares about closing the deal but she also cares about you and your story so look for ways to connect with her. If she likes you it’s a good bet she’ll go out of her way to help you.

Expressive personalities responded more to reciprocity than any other personality type so look for ways to genuinely help them and they’ll respond in kind much more than pragmatics or thinkers will.

As was the case with pragmatics, in a business setting overcoming uncertainty is key for expressives.

Sharing trends and what others are doing – the principle of consensus – can be quite effective with expressives. Oprah types want to move the masses and they know it’s easier to swim with a wave rather than against it so share what many others are already doing.

Sharing hard data or using the advice of perceived experts is the most effective route with this group.  However, while authority was the #1 principle chosen by expressives, it wasn’t as effective as it was with the other personalities. Show Oprah the numbers or share insight from experts and it will give her pause to consider your request.

When it came to using consistency – what someone has said or done in the past – this was the #3 choice for expressives. For this group it’s not as much about being right as it is being true to themselves and what they believe. Look for ways to tie your request to his or her beliefs or values and the chance you’ll year “Yes” will increase significantly.

Scarcity was no more effective for this group than the others. Definitely don’t force the issue unless something is truly rare or diminishing. Oprah Winfrey and her expressive friends don’t like to miss out on opportunities but just know you won’t be as effective with the scarcity strategy as you might be with Donald Trump and his pragmatic buddies.

Link to read the unedited version of this article

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photo credit: jurvetson via photopin cc

Presenting? Take A Pause For The Cause

Here is some excellent advice from Steve Roesler about the power and potency of using silence in our communications:

Logical pauses serve our brains, psychological pauses serve our feelings.”Stanislavski

Watch a really good stand-up comedian. You see pauses between jokes. Sometimes even a pause between syllables.

Sometimes they do it to allow the audience a chance to catch a breath or to create interest about what’s coming next.

Why?

Because good comedians are masters of change.

Night after night they move a new group of people from one intellectual and psychological state of being to another.They knew the flow of human dynamics.

The Importance of The Pause

Psychological: When you pause to create a “curious” state of mind, the tension makes people want to listen. That gives you the opening to help them learn.

Logical: Change initiatives mean new information and new experiences. Periodic, intentional pauses allow everyone time to make sense of what’s happening and create new context.

Where can you insert intentional pauses in order to become a really good “Stand-Up” leader and speaker?

Perhaps this is connected to intelligence coming from a new study into our inhibitory brain neurones and the role they play in selecting, shutting down and filtering out the information coming at us:

Researchers discover how inhibitory neurons behave during critical periods of learning

We’ve all heard the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Now neuroscientists are beginning to explain the science behind the adage.

For years, neuroscientists have struggled to understand how the microcircuitry of the brain makes learning easier for the young, and more difficult for the old. New findings published in the journal Nature by Carnegie Mellon University, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Irvine show how one component of the brain’s circuitry — inhibitory neurons — behave during critical periods of learning…

The brain is made up of two types of cells — inhibitory and excitatory neurons. Networks of these two kinds of neurons are responsible for processing sensory information like images, sounds and smells, and for cognitive functioning. About 80 percent of neurons are excitatory. Traditional scientific tools only allowed scientists to study the excitatory neurons…

…The prevailing theory on inhibitory neurons was that, as they mature, they reach an increased level of activity that fosters optimal periods of learning. But as the brain ages into adulthood and the inhibitory neurons continue to mature, they become even stronger to the point where they impede learning.

[But this new study] found that, during heightened periods of learning, the inhibitory neurons didn’t fire more as had been expected. They fired much less frequently — up to half as often.

“When you’re young you haven’t experienced much, so your brain needs to be a sponge that soaks up all types of information. It seems that the brain turns off the inhibitory cells in order to allow this to happen,” Kuhlman said. “As adults we’ve already learned a great number of things, so our brains don’t necessarily need to soak up every piece of information. This doesn’t mean that adults can’t learn, it just means when they learn, their neurons need to behave differently.”

Link to read the unedited version of this report

And for more ideas and knowledge about the fine art of persuading people, see:

42 Tips for Masterful Presentations

Posted by: Arnold Sanow

8 Must-Read Books on Influence and Persuasion

by JENNIFER MILLER

and in the week that we commemorate 50 years since one of the greatest speeches ever made, see:

15 Things You Might Not Know About the ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

By 

 

photo credit: Steve Corey via photopin cc

photo credit: Steve Corey via photopin cc

 

The Poetry of Childhood

BY RICHARD LEWIS

…The ability of children to easily enter into the life of something other than themselves—to exchange their own mind for the mind of another—grows not only out of their innate playfulness, but out of a fluidity and plasticity of thought that is, in many ways, an inborn poetic gift. It is, perhaps, a way of seeing in which the seer does not distinguish between herself and the nature outside of her, an imaginative grasping of the whole of life before it becomes separated into subject matters and academic disciplines. One might think of it as a wilderness of thought that encompasses a multitude of growing worlds, each connected and dependent on the other—a truly ecological means of thinking and perceiving…

…the mind of the child and an event or object from outside of the child are subtly and gently brought together. This means of expressing and interpreting the world is not something that was taught, but a spontaneous way of explaining that what is of me is also what is happening around me.

Certainly this is true of Marilyn from New Zealand, who wrote lyrically and suggestively, when she was seven years old, of this shared mind between an insect and herself:

Nothing is better than the song the cricket sings. The sound of the cricket brightens my feelings and makes me sing too. My mind is the cricket’s mind and I wish I was a cricket. Hop, hop the black cricket. The cricket pokes out his feelers and I can hold them and the song of the cricket is my mind.

…So much of this childhood ease with both the visible and invisible, what we know and don’t know—the pure sense of expectation and delight in the mystery of what is happening and about to happen—is not only a function of our mind’s ability to balance opposites through the equipoise that is our imagination, but also a way of experiencing the world poetically. I don’t mean a poetry of verse and poems, but a poetic understanding that allows us to stand, for instance, in the middle of a stream and say nothing, and yet to feel, if only fleetingly, a sense of how we and the flowing water are of one being. Or to walk down a city street and accidentally walk through the shadow of a tree that seems to move with us, to want to follow us—an expectation, an incandescent moment of which we are suddenly made aware. Each is only an instant, but an instant that carries with it a form of knowledge accessible to children and adults alike, one we rarely include in our current estimates of intelligence or achievement. This awareness should not be seen as a lack of development or a passing innocence, but as a container of thought that we carry with us over a lifetime. Within it, we, the stream, the tree, and the tree’s shadow share the same language.

To Be Alive

It was there
Something—happened
What was it
A bird
A fish
A lizard
Was it the girl
Listen.
I hear it again
It is the wind
Wind.
It created me
I am its friend
The wind lives
in a secret garden
far away from me
It comes and I sleep
Sleep and the wind and I
drift to air.

by David, aged 10

Link to read this story in full

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photo credit: jenni from the block via photopin cc

Design Thinking: Creating A Better Understanding Of Today To Get To A Better Tomorrow

Kevin Bennett, co-author of “Solving Problems with Design Thinking: 10 Stories of What Works,” co-authored by U.Va. Darden ProfessorJeanne Liedtka, writes about the importance of getting inside the thinking and perspective of other people to better solve our own problems and realise our own ambitions in these fundamentals of creativity:

…The value of design thinking is in allowing us to see “A” more clearly.  For it is in focusing on “A” that we truly understand ourselves, each other and our world.

Design thinking guides us through an archeological dig to better understand “A” with a sense of openness to exploration and discovery. In this archeological dig, design thinking takes up ethnographic research tools to help us truly understand customers and other stakeholders. “Journey mapping” enables us to map other people’s personal experiences by walking in their shoes. “Mind mapping” allows us to understand the values, assumptions, beliefs and expectations of individuals, to see the world through their eyes as they walk through their journeys.

Design thinking also helps us to see the world differently by looking to areas and organizations with seemingly nothing in common with our own. Throwing ourselves into another culture, industry or company can often shake up our own thinking. For example, in France, a group of banks and insurance companies said that design thinking “equipped us bankers and insurers with a new pair of glasses through which to see the world, our society, our clients and our jobs differently.”

In exploring “A” we open ourselves up to thinking differently, to innovations and solutions not previously contemplated. Many of the resulting insights and ideas will appear rough and not fully formed, but our research shows that there will be diamonds among them. And in finding these gems, we can not only better achieve our goals, we can test the very goals we set out to achieve.

Thus in focusing on “A” we can not only better achieve our goals in our businesses, organizations and lives, we can also better ensure we are picking the right ones in the first place.

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

Stress Does Not Fuel Creativity

Never Eat Alone co-author Tahl Raz interviewed author, speaker and entrepreneur Jonathan Fields for the Social Capitalist about his recent book Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance. During the interview, Jonathan discussed how stress actually reduces your creativity.

Research shows the higher your anxiety levels ratchet up, the lower your creativity goes. Also, one of the key things for creativity in business is a type of problem solving called “insight-based problem solving.” So to solve problems, you can come up with innovative ideas in two ways, either insight-based or analytically based.

Now analytical would be, “Ok, I have a big idea,” and if somebody said, “How did you get to that idea?” you could explain the steps, you could reverse them and back out and tell them how you got to it.

The insight-based solution is the one where you have this tremendous idea, but if someone said, “How did you get there?” you would have no idea. It’s the thing that just comes to you. What we know and what the research actually shows is that creativity plummets as anxiety goes up.

But even more specifically, insight-based problem solving, which is the highest level of problem solving because it introduces new paradigms, also plummets as anxiety goes up.

To read the full transcript of Jonathan’s interview, click here.

For more ideas about being more creative see also:

Six Ways to Expand Your Perspective

by KEVIN EIKENBERRY

Wait, What’s That? The Science Behind Why Your Mind Keeps Wandering

IF YOU’RE EXPERIENCING AN ATTENTION DEFICIT, YOU’RE FAR FROM ALONE.

BY: 

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photo credit: premasagar via photopin cc

What Happens to the Brain When You Meditate (And How it Benefits You)

BELLE BETH COOPER

How Meditation Affects You

Better Focus…

Less Anxiety…

More Creativity…

More Compassion…

Better Memory…

Less Stress…

More Grey Matter…More grey matter can lead to more positive emotions, longer-lasting emotional stability, and heightened focus during daily life…

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: wili_hybrid via photopin cc

Stifling Ourselves With The Need To Be Right

John Hodgman, author of The Areas of My Expertise, … provides some thoughtful – not to mention wry – perspectives on the importance of keep alive our sense of not knowing, giving compelling reasons for why it is that an acute sense of what we don’t know may be much more critical to our vitality and future possibility, than our certainties:

“What most people and societies become when they believe they know everything: incurious, self-satisfied, flabby, and prone to wearing tunics and lounging on grassy lawns…

“While there may be legitimate, eternal mysteries out there that are beyond our comprehension, history, in fact, shows us that if we do ask questions, we are likely to find answers eventually – which is perhaps more frightening than ignorance…. Being curious is the bravest human act, aside from skydiving.”

We shut ourselves off and limit our potential when we are certain we know what we really don’t, or maybe even can’t, know with certainty. We even make things up to make sense of life, and we confabulate, and [maybe unconsciously] “fill in gaps in memory with fabrications that one believes to be facts.”

Link to read more of this article

Schein on Dialogue

From the blog Theatrical Smoke, some reflections from Edgar Schein’s “On Dialogue, Culture, and Organizational Learning”:

…dialogue, for Schein…starts from a change in mental approach–the use of a somewhat unnatural “suspension”–instead of reacting when we hear discomfiting information that triggers us, we pause for a moment, and evaluate what we’re thinking. “Is this feeling I have true? Or is it based on a mistaken perception?” we ask ourselves, and wait a bit for additional information before we decide how to act. Dialogue means bringing a kind of mindfulness, or cognitive self-awareness as we talk–”knowing one’s thought as one is having it,” says Schein.  Thinking about a thought rather than being the thought. Leaving the animal-like, mechanical push-and-pull of a conversation, and watching, as it were, partially from above…

…if we’re using dialogue, we’re watching ourselves thinking as we simultaneously listen to what people are saying, we’re seeing and assessing our built-in assumptions as they pop up, we’re thinking about what language means, we’re holding multiple possibilities in mind simultaneously. … we create a psychologically safe space where we can efficiently develop new languages and new models…

…without dialogue, says Schein – and this is the kicker – you can’t do much at all. Dialogue is “at the root of all effective group action,” it allows groups to “achieve levels of creative thought that no one would have initially imagined,” and, finally, without it, you can’t learn, you can’t change, and you can’t adapt:

“Learning across cultural boundaries cannot be created or sustained without initial and periodic dialogue. Dialogue in some form is therefore necessary to any organizational learning that involves going beyond the cultural status quo.”

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: country_boy_shane via photopin cc

Prompts That Get Us To Analyse, Reflect, Relate and Question

This technique is offered by  in Teaching Professor Blog as a teaching aid to help students learn, but we think it has excellent potential as a tool for us all to keep our own experiential learning continuous with our day-to-day activities:

This particular technique involves a four-question set that gets students actively responding to the material they are studying. They analyze, reflect, relate, and question via these four prompts:

  • “Identify one important concept, research finding, theory, or idea … that you learned while completing this activity.”

  • “Why do you believe that this concept, research finding, theory, or idea … is important?”

  • “Apply what you have learned from this activity to some aspect of your life.”

  • “What question(s) has the activity raised for you?  What are you still wondering about?”  [You might need to prohibit the answer “nothing”.]

Link to read the rest of this article

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photo credit: Mister Kha via photopin cc

How To Be More Creative

 offers these really helpful techniques:

Think left

…researchers have found that information in your left visual field is more likely to help you solve a problem creatively than information perceived by your right visual field – which means placing inspirational information or items on your left is one way to help promote more creative thinking…

Cut out distractions

When an idea starts rolling around inside your brain, part of your visual cortex shuts down … to allow the ‘germ’ of an idea to bubble up to the surface and into awareness.  New research shows that cutting off the distractions of the outside world, even for a short time, seems to help the brain have more insights.

Break patterns

…Activities that ‘open your mind’ by breaking established cognitive patterns enable new and original associations to occur. Scientists suggest trying something different, changing routines, reading or watching things that demonstrate creative thinking, or doing puzzles that require creative thinking.

Take it easy

…The trick is to immerse yourself in a mindless, easy task like arranging Lego blocks into colours, mowing the lawn, walking, doing the housework or meditating. Activities like these enable the frontal lobes to relax, allowing thoughts to flow more freely and subconscious ideas to percolate into conscious ideas more readily…

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: Tambriell via photopin cc

Learning how to live

Why do we find free time so terrifying? Why is a dedication to work, no matter how physically destructive and ultimately pointless, considered a virtue? Jenny Diski urges you to down tools while you can.

BY JENNY DISKI

…What if you answered the question “What do you do all day?” with “Nothing”? It isn’t as if that could possibly be true. If you spent all day in bed watching television, or staring at the clouds, you wouldn’t be doing nothing. Children are always being told to stop doing “nothing” when they’re reading or daydreaming. It is lifelong training for the idea that activity is considered essential to mental health, whether it is meaningful or not. Behind the “nothing” is in part a terror of boredom, as if most of the work most people do for most of their lives isn’t boring. The longing people express to be doing “creative” work suggests that they think it less boring than other kinds of work. Many people say that writing isn’t “proper work”. Often they tell me they are saving up writing a book for their “retirement”. Creative work sits uneasily in the fantasy life between dread leisure and the slog of the virtuous, hardworking life. It’s seen as a method of doing something while doing nothing, one that stops you flying away in terror…

…Leisure, not doing, is so terrifying in our culture that we cut it up into small, manageable chunks throughout our working year in case an excess of it will drive us mad, and leave the greatest amount of it to the very end, in the half-conscious hope that we might be saved from its horrors by an early death…

Link to read this story in full

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photo credit: Brett Jordan via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #61

You will find all of these articles – and more – with ideas and practical tips related to these themes of learning, making strong relationships and learning to be happier and more creative in this week’s new collection, Happiness At Work #61, as well as stories about happiness at work, leadership and resilience and wellbeing.

We hope you find things to enjoy and use.

Happiness At Work #59 ~ highlights in this collection

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photo credit: art crimes via photopin cc

This week’s new collection Happiness At Work Edition #59 features a number of stories about the unhappiness and imbalance of our 21st century working lives, with research findings, forecasts and best practice recommendations for how we can remedy this and build a more flourishing life around our work.

Solutions range from making time for more conversation, to being more generous, to harnessing the insights from a new range of apps designed to measure our different ways of feeling at work, to getting outdoors, to practising mindfulness to playing to our preferred ways of working, especially if we are an introvert.

And, too, as this first story and a couple of our later articles suggest, we need to redesign our outdated 20th century ways of working – where we do it, how we do, when we do and who we do it with – if we really want to build a more resilient, sustainable, workable and successful future…

CIPD warns business – use top female talent or lose it

As the green shoots of economic recovery emerge, new CIPD research shows how urgent action needs to be taken by the corporate world to stem the leaking talent pipeline that could hinder the progress of growth.

Building on the messages in a report from the Women’s Business Council published in June, it is clear that if business does not adopt flexible or innovative working practices, it will continue to lose impressive women who decide to set up their own businesses to achieve a better work-life balance.

‘Inspiring Female Entrepreneurs,’ the second report in a three part series by the CIPD on entrepreneurial practices, highlights that there are more than 2.4 million unemployed women who want to work and that if there were as many female entrepreneurs as there are male entrepreneurs, GDP could be boosted by 10% by 2030.

To gain insight into what motivates female entrepreneurs and makes them successful, the CIPD interviewed a number of women to find out what made them go solo, what has made them thrive and what they think would encourage more to set up on their own. What became clear is that employers could have much to gain by creating the conditions in which these talented and committed women could thrive in the corporate world…

Link to read this article

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photo credit: ttnk via photopin cc

Why You Should Care About Having Friends At Work

By 

Chatting over lunch and joking with coworkers may not seem like more than pleasant distractions at the office, but they could have an enormous impact on your work life. With employee engagement declining and more than eight in 10 American workersexperiencing job-related stress — female employees being even more more vulnerableto workplace tension than men — friendship could make the difference between happiness at work and burnout. Research has found that strong social connections at the office can boost productivity, and could make employees more passionate about their work and less likely to quit their jobs.

According to Christine M. Riordan, provost and professor of management at the University of Kentucky, camaraderie is a key ingredient to happiness at work for male and female employees. A study led by Riordan, published in the Journal of Business Psychology in the ’90s, found that the mere opportunity for friendship increases employee job satisfaction and organizational effectiveness…

Link to read this article in full

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photo credit: Victor1558 via photopin cc

The Surefire Way To Be Happier At Work: Chat With Your Coworkers

A NEW STUDY FINDS THAT PEOPLE REALLY ARE PRETTY MISERABLE AT WORK, AND NOT MUCH YOU CAN DO WILL HELP. BUT THERE IS ONE PRETTY EASY FIX: YOUR COWORKERS.

…According to a new study (PDF) by Alex Bryson and George MacKerron, published through the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics and Political Science, of all the things we choose to do at work (other than work!), it’s casually interacting with our colleagues that makes us happiest. From the article:

The largest positive net effect of combining work and another activity on happiness relates to ‘Talking, chatting, socialising’. . . .There are clearly positive psychological benefits of being able to socialise whilst working. It is the only activity that, in combination with working, results in happiness levels that are similar to those experienced when not working…

photo credit: marinakvillatoro via photopin cc

photo credit: marinakvillatoro via photopin cc

‘Talking at mealtimes boosts children’s confidence’

By Judith Burns

Mealtime chatter helps boost children’s communication skills, suggests a study by the National Literacy Trust.

Children whose families sit and talk during meals are more confident, the poll of 35,000 UK children indicates.

But more than one in every four misses out on daily mealtime chats with their families, suggests the poll.

Former EastEnders actress, mother and literacy campaigner Natalie Cassidy said: “Food is fuel for our bodies.  So is conversation for our brains.”

Ms Cassidy urged parents: “Even if you’re strapped for time, make 10-15 minutes to all sit down together.”…

The data suggests that sitting in silence at mealtimes is worse for children’s confidence than not sitting down for family meals at all.

The results suggest that some two-thirds (62%) of those who talk daily with their families at mealtimes feel confident to speak in front of a group, compared with less than half (47%) of those who eat in silence and just over half (52%) of children who don’t sit down for meals…

The trust’s director Jonathan Douglas said: “Our research shows just how vital conversation at home is to the future success of our children and young people.

“Talking and communicating at home, for example at mealtimes, will help children gain the skills they need for a successful and happy life.”

Link to read this article

An Introvert’s Guide To Happiness

By Beth Gilbert

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Introverts — people with quieter and more reflective personalities — typically thrive within the inner workings of their own minds. Extroverts, however, are more outgoing and tend to feel comfortable surrounded by people.

But social savvy isn’t the only difference between the two personality types: Research shows that the factors that contribute to an extrovert’s happiness and those that add to an introvert’s happiness don’t always mesh.

“An introvert’s rocket fuel is an extrovert’s Kryptonite and vice versa,” says Nancy Ancowitz, business communication coach and author of Self-Promotion for Introverts. “Long stretches of quiet activities like reading, writing, and researching may energize an introvert, but can serve as solitary confinement for an extrovert. Frequent social interactions and multitasking can energize an extrovert and really zap an introvert.”

Story continues as a slideshow

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photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc

Research Finds Happiness Is Found Outdoors

by 

The David Suzuki Foundation has discovered happiness. A report from the foundation has confirmed that a daily dose of nature boosts happiness and wellbeing…

The foundation asked more than 10,000 Canadians and 250 workplaces to participate in what it called the 30×30 Nature Challenge. Those participating were challenged to get outside for half an hour a day for 30 consecutive days.

Trent University Researcher Dr. Elizabeth Nisbet conducted the research initiative.

“We found that participation in the 30×30 Nature Challenge almost doubled their time spent outside during the month and reduced their screen time by about 4.5 hours per week,” said Nisbet of the spring report. “They reported significant increases in their sense of well-being, feeling more vitality and energy, while feelings of stress, negativity and sleep disturbances were all reduced.”

Nisbet reported the research indicated workplace participants said they felt more productive on the job. She reported participants indicated a slightly stronger sense of identification with the natural world and a desire to spend more time outdoors. Many of the people who took part in the challenge said they felt happier by eating lunch outside or walking through a park.

According to the foundation, the results of the challenge are consistent with growing evidence that even brief nature contact enhances positive mood and reduces stress…

Link to read the rest of this article

photo credit: fiddle oak via photopin cc

photo credit: fiddle oak via photopin cc

Pay It Forward: Why Generosity Is The Key To Success

by Sean Blanda

When it comes to when and how we help others, most of us fit into one of three categories:

  • Givers, who help others unconditionally, demanding nothing in return.
  • Matchers, who usually only help those who have helped them.
  • Takers, those who demand help but never offer.

Penn professor Adam Grant is a Giver. He’s also the youngest tenured professor at Wharton and is the author of the best-selling Give and Take. Grant believes that the success of our careers is due to our generosity with our time and knowledge. Givers, he says, are usually either at the top or bottom of their field, with Matchers and Takers sprinkled in between.

After publicly proclaiming to the world that he answers any and all favor requestsin the New York Times, Grant is the best test case for his own theory. However, Grant manages it all well thanks to being ruthless with his time. I asked him how he handles the deluge and if he has any advice for those of us who feel too squeezed to be good “Givers.” …

Here is the link to read this interview with Adam Grant

photo credit: jspad via photopin cc

photo credit: jspad via photopin cc

3 Insights from the Frontiers of Positive Psychology

By Elise Proulx

…“The science of positive psychology has now achieved a point where it is comparable to the other sub-disciplines of psychology,” wrote IPPA president Robert Vallerand in the Congress’ welcome message. “And the scientifically informed applications of positive psychology are more popular and diversified than ever.”

As Vallerand suggests, the leaders of positive psychology have always prided themselves on delivering scientific findings with clear practical applications. Here are three of the most striking and practical insights I took away from the Congress.

1. Look to the future for a meaningful life.

Now-familiar research shows that we are happiest when we live in the present and that practicing mindfulness — which involves tuning in to our thoughts, emotions and sensations in the present moment — is good for our bodiesbrains and relationships.

But in their IPPA keynote, Martin Seligman and Roy Baumeister, both giants in the field of positive psychology, argued for the importance of focusing on the future. Looking ahead, they believe, can bring meaning to our lives — a school of thought they call “prospective psychology.”

The core of this concept is that it becomes a lot easier to understand some of the complexities of the human mind once you consider that we evolved to predict the future — and that doing this well is key to survival.  “So intelligence isn’t about what you know,” said Seligman, “but about how well you can predict an act in the future.”…

So while happiness may be all about the present, meaningfulness may be found in the future. Only by connecting the two can one find the greatest meaning, purpose and happiness in life.

2. Detaching from work is a good thing … for most of us.

…Sonnentag defines detachment as a sense of “being away from work.”  While this feeling has different sources for different people, it could include staying off work email and not thinking about work in the evenings and on days off.

Detaching from work allows individuals to feel recovered and refreshed, Sonnentag said, which then allows them to have more energy and be more efficient in their work lives.

Sonnentag says detachment from work seems especially important — not surprisingly — when job stressors are high. Indeed, the more time pressure employees feel, the less able they are to detach, which leads to a negative spiral of stress and rumination.

Supervisors should take note: Being realistic about deadlines may make for a more efficient operation.

But not everyone feels the benefits from detachment: Employees who have strong positive emotions toward work — such as firefighters who feel their jobs provide a positive social impact — may benefit more from not detaching.  For this group, the positive feelings they have during the day spill over into evening rest time, and detaching can actually negate those positive feelings.

That said, while each individual needs to assess his or her own need for detachment, for most of us, periodically disconnecting from the stress of work and the burdens of technology — for example, by taking a Friday night family break from all electronics – is probably an important way to guard against burnout — and make us better workers.

3. “We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us.”

These words from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill infused psychologist Marino Bonaiuto’s talk on environmental psychology.

Bonaiuto, of the University of Rome, studies how the physical components of our environment are linked to and affect our mental states and social interactions.  When an individual’s biological or psychological needs are met by the resources available in the environment — green spaces, physical layout of infrastructure, well-tended buildings — there is good “person-environment fit” that leads to greater well-being…

In this way, Bonaiuto was affirming a theme I heard often at the Congress: the power we have to shape our happiness and the happiness of those around us.  Whether as individuals or working together as groups, the presenters emphasized, we can affect our external environment and internal landscapes for the better…

Here is the link to this article in full

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Mindfulness can improve leadership in times of instability

by Cheryl Rezek

A mindful leader can respond to change with focus and clarity, and avoid repeating the same mistakes

What does the ancient eastern practice of mindfulness, often associated with orange-clothed chanting monks, have to do with the fast-paced, performance-driven style of western leadership? In tough times, it could act as an influential asset in the public service’s fight for survival.

Mindfulness is about paying attention to what is happening in the present moment, a moment in time. It is about focusing attention on the present in a way that allows that moment to be experienced and observed closely. It involves developing the skills to allow yourself to engage actively with whatever is happening at the time, as well as concurrently viewing that moment from a more strategic standpoint.

…When there is less clutter and fewer distractions within one’s own head it is easier to gain clarity and perspective; mindfulness allows one to both notice more detail and see the bigger picture.

A mindful leader can reduce disorder by bringing focus and intent to the situation. By acknowledging and accepting change, the leader can step back, observe and respond with composure and purpose.

Dealing with change

If leaders realise that change is inevitable, they can encourage sufficient resilience in individuals, teams and organisations.  …This helps to safeguard an organisation from disillusionment and destruction by enforcing outdated rules and processes.

Research on mindfulness suggests that it can also help to:

•  reduce the cost of staff absenteeism caused by illness, injury and stress

•  improve cognitive functioning, memory, learning ability and creativity

•  improve productivity and improve overall staff and business wellbeing

•  reduce staff turnover and associated costs.

Mindful leadership is not a patronising fad implying that, if we are calm, everything will be fine.  The reality of our working world is that all may not be fine.  What mindfulness can do is develop a thinking, emotional and instinctual mind so that the leader can do the best for self, team and organisation.

This is the link to this original Guardian article, which includes a link to the full version of Cheryl Rezek’s article 

photo credit: miriam.v via photopin cc

photo credit: miriam.v via photopin cc

9 Leadership Essentials To Cause Meaningful Work

by 

Meaningful work stirs up internal satisfaction through doing the work and releasing it for others to benefit and experience.

While meaningful work is experienced at an individual level, its power is fully unleashed when it’s a characteristic of workplace or team culture.

So, then, what do leaders need to do to cause meaningful work?  Here are nine essentials.

Clarity in Your Values

Know what you stand for to anchor your leadership…

Culture of Optimism

The work environment needs to lead employees to believe that great results are possible through their contributions – individually and collectively. Additionally, employees are inspired by the good works of others and by their own output.

Concentration on People

A leader must believe that employees are the cornerstone to a business’s success.  Leadership actions and decisions essential for meaning are made from this central belief.

Connection Among Employees

Meaning expands when people have a sense of belonging.  Brené Brownadvocates that people need to believe they can be themselves and not worry about fitting in.  When connections exist among employees, belonging can emerge.

Constancy in Purpose

Leadership 101 always asks us to paint a picture of where we need to take the team.  Purpose helps paint such a picture.

Creative Conflict

Deeper meaning emerges when there is conflict between what we believe and do, and with different beliefs and approaches presented by others.

Charisma for Learning

Meaning thrives on insight and awareness.  These two criteria are only possible when we stay in a continuous learning loop…

Courage to Care

Address half-ass work and missed deadlines.  Celebrate milestones.  Give just-because recognition.  Have the courage to show you care about people and quality results – consistently.

Continuous Progress

Work that results in little or no progress frustrates, infuriates, alienates, and decimates meaning and hope.  People must see progress and alignment with the purpose you communicate.  Without progress, meaning wanes.

This list presents a major leadership challenge.  The weak leader will choose to procrastinate in creating a culture where meaningful work abounds. However, given the abysmal state of the workplace, it’s a choice that cannot be overlooked if a thriving culture is important to producing results and keeping talented people from leaving your team.

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: chlip via photopin cc

photo credit: chlip via photopin cc

Why HR should tip its hat to the measuremement of wellbeing

by Andy Philpott

…there is much more to it than the headlines which revel in us being happier than the French or proclaim that marriage makes you happier than co-habitation.

The research also provides useful insight for anyone whose job it is to ensure their organisation can attract and retain the right employees.

For instance, the findings that those who work flexibly or study part-time have the greatest sense of wellbeing should spur any organisations to think about how training, education and a creative approach to working hours can be used as employee benefits.

The negative impact that illness and disability has on wellbeing is a call to action for all employers to take these issues seriously in the support they offer their employees.  Not just through reactive measures like employee helplines and health insurance but by proactive wellbeing programmes – whether these relate to financial or physical wellbeing.

More broadly, the focus on wellbeing is a reminder that happiness makes a great difference to the way people approach their lives. This applies to the workplace as much as anywhere else…

Here is the link to the rest of this article

From heart rates to surveys: How to keep workers happy

By Nastaran Tavakoli-Far

Unhappy workers leave.  

Recent studies show that up to 70% of workers in the US are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work.

Happy workers tend to be more productive – which makes it sensible to focus on making sure your staff are content…

Tiny Pulse is an app which sends out short weekly surveys to workers to see how happy they are, and makes graphs of the results so bosses can see how workers feel each week.  Employers can tailor the surveys, and can also give positive feedback straight to workers.

The app also allows employees to communicate with their bosses – anonymously.

Better tech at home

Microsoft chief envisioning officer and author Dave Coplin believes workers often have better technology at home than in the workplace; it used to be the other way around.  As a result he thinks people are often frustrated at work.

“Today people feel trapped by technology,” he says, explaining many workplaces have limited its use.

Work.com’s Nick Stein agrees.  Work.com is a platform that aims to increase performance, by focusing on aligning goals between employer and employee, providing feedback, and mutual motivation.  On Work.com employees have profiles which display their expertise and goals, and employers and employees can praise each other on performance day to day, rather than in one end-of-year review.

Mr Stein says the internet has given people more voice than ever before, but work environments have not kept up – it can still be hard to speak up.

Workers may feel they need to be at a certain level before they can express their views…

Healthy brain, healthy work

Companies don’t have to use bespoke tools to create happier workers.  Devices used to measure various health indicators can also gauge worker happiness.

Neuroscientist Rob Goldberg believes that pushing people is simply bad for the brain.  The result is that they don’t do their best work.

“We really need to push the perspective that brain health and performance are one and the same thing,” he says.

Mr Goldberg is part of Neumitra, a start-up out of MIT.  Their app Bandu measures stress levels via a special wrist watch.

Feeling stressed is a survival mechanism – however it stops the brain focusing and functioning effectively, according to Mr Goldberg.  He says employers should monitor workers’ stress levels and adjust accordingly.

There may even be the need for fundamental changes.  Mr Goldberg points to the high stress levels caused by getting into the office at rush hour.

Apps like Cardiio, which measures heart rate, can be used to check employee health.

Yet working 9-5 is a historical throwback to the manufacturing production line, and is no longer relevant for many companies, he says.  So one easy way to reduce stress might be to change working hours to reduce the amount staff have to travel at peak times…

Journalist and founder of the non-profit The H(app)athon Project John Havens believes that other health related apps and tools can and should be used by workplaces.

He points to apps like Cardiio, which measures heart rate using an iPhone’s camera, and Affectiva, created so that advertising agencies can read people’s emotions through their facial expressions.  These tools may not have been designed with offices in mind, but he says they can be used by bosses to see how well, and in turn how happy, their workers are.

However, he believes there are other factors at work.

“Most of it boils down to having a sense of purpose and meaning,” he says about workplace happiness.  “These should be more of a focus.”

Basic questions, not tools

Consultancy Delivering Happiness believes in the importance of deriving meaning from work.  It began as a book by Zappos chief executive Tony Hsieh, looking at how companies could make workers happy while also pursuing profits.

Now they consult, helping businesses focus equally on worker happiness and profits.

Chief executive Jenn Lim says happy workers require a company that knows what its values are, and that this is more important than tools and technologies.

“[Not asking these questions] is the answer to why we as a society can’t sustain our happiness,” she says.  “It all comes back to very basic things. If we don’t have the values in place all the rest could be a lost cause.”

Link to this article  about these 21st century ways of achieving greater happiness at work

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

Britain’s working culture ‘damaging family life’

A new study has highlighted the impact that Britain’s ‘all work and no play’ culture could be having on employees’ personal lives.

Health cash plan provider Medicash conducted a survey of more than 1,000 working parents and found that more than four out of five (83 per cent) felt guilty about the amount of time they dedicated to their jobs.

Half (50 per cent) of respondents said their work commitments had limited the amount of time they could spend with their children and 46 per cent had experienced problems in their relationship with their partner.

A quarter (25 per cent) of workers have neglected friends because of their career responsibilities, according to the research.

Focusing on how demanding jobs can impact family life, the study found that 50 per cent of working mums and dads had missed a child’s sports day, school play or parents’ evening and 43 per cent had worked through holidays.

The majority (59 per cent) of people polled admitted that their children had complained about the amount of time they devoted to work.

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University and director of employee wellbeing firm Robertson Cooper, said: “The fact that many people feel guilty about how they spend their time is hugely significant – it shows how important it is to maintain work-life balance.

“The evidence shows that flexible working delivers to the business’ bottom line, with employees feeling less guilty about how they spend their time and achieving a better balance between work and home commitments.”

photo credit: americanartmuseum via photopin cc

photo credit: americanartmuseum via photopin cc

The Five Beats of Successful Storytelling & How They Can Help You Land Your Next Job

by Jenn Godbout

Author Philip Pullman wrote, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”  Whether we’re talking about life, business, or art, storytelling is an essential skill. Maybe even THE most essential skill.  But that doesn’t mean it comes naturally.

Whether it’s your own personal bio, a summary for your company’s “about” page, or a pitch to a major client, fitting everything important into a concise yet engaging narrative is a challenging task.  So we turned to performer, comedian, and storytelling guru David Crabb to share his storytelling framework.  It’s called the Five Beats of Storytelling, and you can use it to make any story more interesting, engaging, and memorable.

For example, let’s say you’re a business major-turned-illustrator who’s jumped from finance to freelance and is now seeking an in-house position. When the interviewer asks about your work history, you’ll want to convey how your background is relevant, your excellent work ethic, and your passion for the position.  The five beats can help you hit your mark AND keep your audience engaged. Here’s how it breaks down:

Beat 1: The introduction

Where you set the scene and tell your readers everything they need to know to understand why what you’re about to say is important…

Beat 2: The inciting incident

The question that your story is asking OR when the protagonist (you or your company) is faced with a challenge.  This is a great place to show vulnerability…

Beat 3: Raising the stakes

A series of moments that give weight and context to the inciting incident.  This is a great place to get specific and provide details that will make your story more memorable…

Beat 4: The main event

This is where we see the inciting incident come to a head (aka the climax).  This is either the answer to the question we asked in the second beat or where the protagonist solves his or her dilemma — a pivot or a change (even if it’s just a shift in attitude) should occur…

Beat 5: The resolution

In the fifth beat, you have an opportunity to highlight what makes the story unique.  If you’ve just described a failure or challenge, this would be the time to reflect on what you learned…

Link to read this article in full

photo credit: mharrsch via photopin cc

photo credit: mharrsch via photopin cc

Happiness At Work Edition #59

For all of these stories and more see our Happiness At Work collection…

Enjoy.

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

Happiness At Work ~ Part One of a look back over the first year of collections

Happiness Books spread

Here, by way of a reflection back over the last year of happiness & wellbeing stories is just one story from each of the first 3 months of these collections.

And each of the Happiness At Work Edition headings provide a link to that particular collection if you are interested in looking back further…

Happiness At Work Edition #1 – 6th July 2012

7 Must-Read Books on the Art and Science of Happiness

by 

From Plato to Buddha, or what imperfection has to do with the neuroscience of the good life.

If you, like us, are fascinated by the human quest to understand the underpinnings of happiness but break out in hives at the mere mention of self-help books, you’re in luck: We’ve sifted through our personal library, a decade’s worth of obsessive reading, to bring you seven essential books on the art and science of happiness, rooted in solid science, contemporary philosophy and cross-disciplinary insight. From psychology and neuroscience to sociology and cultural anthropology to behavioural economics, these must-reads illuminate the most fundamental aspiration of all human existence: How to avoid suffering and foster lasting well-being…

Happiness At Work Edition #2 – 13th July 2012

Guys, be happy! Do the housework. Really.

Linda Carroll, July 5, 2012

An intriguing new study suggests that men are happier and less stressed when they do more of the housework…

Though there were no data to explain why men were happier and less stressed when doing more housework, the researchers have their theories. “Men who leave the chores to women may be subject to more complaints than men who do their share of home chores,” the researchers suggested. “It is also plausible that some men want a more equitable role in the home and their well-being is reduced when the pressure of their jobs gets in the way.”

Scott and Plagnol suspect that men might be more willing to share housework equally if they knew there were benefits to the arrangement.

“Our study points to wider benefits for men who do their fair share of the housework,” they wrote. “Men today play a far greater role in home and child care than their fathers or grandfathers. It might help change move faster if the benefits of a more equitable divide became more widely known.” …

Happiness At Work Edition #3 – 20th July 2012

Austerity? Stimulus? Or Happiness?

, 10th July 2012

Capitalism needs profit, of course. It will fail without the entrepreneurship that seeks profit. But at the extremity of private enterprise is greed, an appetite that runs amok when given the chance. Without regulations, without restraints backed up by law, the appetite for power — money and position — is uncontrollable. This human weakness, a lust which is quite basic in our nature, is behind all our economic recessions. Irresponsibility – buccaneering – is inevitable when entrepreneurs are left to themselves. Greed will win out!

What the business and financial people driving the economy have forgotten is that the gains they derive from profits produced by enterprise must be shared if our society is to function with any cohesion. We are one people, one nation. But is this today’s reality? Income inequality is now a major issue in the United States. In his time Franklin Roosevelt talked plainly about this problem. He brought it out into the light and made it a cornerstone of the New Deal. What do we hear from our leaders today?

And what of happiness? That’s the word Laura Musikanski used when reporting on a United Nations conference convened last April: “The UN Embraces the Economics of Happiness.” Don’t turn away thinking some well-meaning NGOs have gone off the deep end again with some half-baked notions of pie in the sky. The conference was a serious affair attended by 650 luminaries and addressed by senior diplomats from many countries. On this occasion, the UN’s Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, proclaimed that “social, economic and environmental well-being are indivisible.” Well-known experts from academia also spoke. Lord Richard Layard, John Helliwell and Jeffrey Sachs introduced the unfortunately titled “World Happiness Report.”

Despite its name, the report is neither frivolous nor reckless. It seeks to introduce a new economic paradigm that shifts us away from looking at economic growth and recession as strictly financial matters, as if they were divorced from social consequences. It points to the current global order’s failure, even inability, to implement the drastic changes required for realistic, sustainable societies. Implicitly indicted are the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Their previous conditions for loans we now see were often destructive to economies in the Third World instead of helpful. And yet we continue now on the same destructive path with the European Union’s strict policies when loaning money to Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal.

I found the U.N. report useful. It helps to reinforce the basic thrust of this column. Government policies today, whether they emphasize austerity or stimulus, fail to recognize and correct the fact that the overall well-being of citizens continues to be outweighed by the protection of a single sector of our society, the financial one. No matter how important the financial sector may be, this state of affairs is unconscionable. Economic thinking that ignores the social element is not good economics.

So here’s the million-dollar question: When will policymakers start to take happiness seriously? …

Happiness At Work Edition #4 – 27th July 2012

Wellbeing index points way to bliss: live on a remote island, and don’t work

 and The Guardian, Wednesday 25 July 2012

First annual results of Measuring National Wellbeing Programme show teenagers and pensioners have key to happiness.

As part of the government’s attempts to develop an alternative measure of national performance to GDP, the Office for National Statistics has published its first tranche of detailed subjective data exploring how happiness and anxiety levels vary according to factors including sex and ethnic group.

Responses by 165,000 people in the annual population survey reveal the average rating of “life satisfaction” in Britain is 7.4 out of 10 and 80% of people gave a rating of seven or more when asked whether the things they did in their lives were “worthwhile”…

Relationships also play a big part, with 82% of people in marriages or civil partnerships giving high or medium life satisfaction ratings, followed by cohabiting couples on 79%, single people on 71% and divorced people on 60%. Women also rated slightly higher on both the “life satisfaction” and the “worthwhile” question, but reported an average level of 3.3 for anxiety, compared with men’s three…

Far more significant, however, appears to be the impact of work: not only not having it – which leads twice as many unemployed people to rate their satisfaction levels as low or very low as those in a job – but also what kind of work you do. The highest average life satisfaction was reported by those in professional occupations such as teaching, medicine or law and was lowest among “process, plant and machine operatives”…

But work is significant. Higher scores were given by groups of employees “with more responsibility and control over their work, as well as higher incomes”.

Happiness At Work Edition #5 – 3rd August 2012

The Benefits of Being Awestruck

July 31st, 2012

We’re losing our sense of awe at our own peril, however. The title of a new Stanford study tells you all you need to know: Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being. Apparently, watching awe-inspiring vidoes makes you less impatient, more willing to volunteer time to help others, more likely to prefer experiences over material products, more present in the here and now, and happier overall…

Happiness At Work Edition #6 – 10th August 2012

Angela Mollard: When happy is hard

ANGELA MOLLARD, AUGUST 05, 2012

REMEMBER when ‘happy’ was just something you were? Or weren’t. Good days, bad days, happy days, sad days – all jumbled in a life you lived rather than thought about too much.

Today happiness is a commodity; a ‘goal’, a ‘revolution’, a ‘project’. It’s what we want for ourselves and our children. “Yes, please,” we’d say to the doctor if she could vaccinate against sadness, along with the usual measles and mumps. Anything to immunise ourselves against pain and unease.

I write this because I’ve had an awful week – made somewhat worse by the book I’m reading (for work, not pleasure) called The Happiness Project. Ironically, as my world filled with woes, I read chapter after chapter about one woman’s attempt to “lighten up”, “be serious about play” and “keep a contented heart”. “I am happy,” writes Gretchen Rubin in her mega-selling memoir, “but I’m not as happy as I should be.”

More helpful, I think, than having an articulate and much-blessed woman tell you how to find happiness, is having a flawed and down-in-the dumps columnist recount the details of her weekus horribilis. (Shall we start with my appalling Latin?)

I may be guilty of over-sharing, but my argument is this: we live in a culture that propagates the notion that happiness should be a constant state of mind and perfection our universal aim. To that end, most weeks I write jaunty, optimistic and ‘wise’ missives underneath a photo that makes me look 10 times prettier than I really am. “Great life, lucky cow,” you probably say to yourself and, yes, sometimes it is and sometimes I am.

But if I neglect to tell you the bad stuff – the hard, horrible, trying times – then I’m as guilty of perpetuating perfect images as those ads where mums are always smiling…

There’s lots of sound good sense in Rubin’s project, but I’m concerned we’re trying to anaesthetise anguish from our lives. Psychologists are observing a new generation suffering “a discomfort with discomfort”.

“Please let them be devastated at age six,” implores Wendy Mogel, author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. I hear her. Last year, my eldest didn’t practice for a music exam and received a correspondingly poor result. It’s been the best lesson in her charmed life…

Happiness At Work Edition #7 – 17th August 2012

London Olympics: a “feel good” fix, or will they bring lasting happiness?

AUGUST 14, 2012 // BY: JULIET MICHAELSON

A poll conducted for the BBC, published today, shows that 56% of us say the Games have had a positive effect on us personally, and a whopping 83% say they’ve had a positive effect on the UK as a whole. Another poll by the consumer group Which? also showed an Olympic bounce – an increase in the proportion of people who felt satisfied with their lives during the first week of the Games.

To find out why the Olympics have made us feel so good we can turn to the findings of well-being science. We know that experiencing a sense of belonging is a crucial component of feeling good about our lives – and the Olympics have certainly made us feel part of the nationwide ‘Team GB’. And more than that, they’ve demonstrated a sense of people pulling together to work towards a shared goal – from the ‘Gamesmaker’ volunteers and medal-winning athletes to the cheering crowds – another thing the research shows is a route to happiness. In fact, it is possible to see how each of our evidence-based Five Ways to Well-being – Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give – have been encouraged in some way by the Olympics.

The positive feelings that have been generated need no further justification – of course we are happy to be happy. But in fact, research has shown that experiencing positive emotions does have practical benefits. For example, psychologists have found that experiencing positive emotions broadens people’s horizons – encouraging creativity. So this could be a good moment for businesses to experiment with new ways of doing things – although there is a substantial body of evidence suggesting the long-termeconomic impact of major sporting events is negligible.

And will the feel good factor last? In the BBC poll over half of respondents said the effects for the UK will be short-lived. I suspect they may be right. Good feelings are, after all, a response to what is happening in our lives, and pretty soon both the Olympics and Paralympics will be over. If they succeed in bringing about the much-discussed ‘legacy’ and new sports-based habits form, it is quite possible that some of the good feelings associated with the Olympics could remain too.

But forming new habits is a notoriously difficult nut to crack…

Happiness At Work Edition #8 – 24th August 2012

Stress: Portrait of a Killer (with Stanford Biologist Robert Sapolsky)

August 22nd, 2012

“The implication both of the Baboon research and the Whitehall Study of British Civil Servants is how can we create a society that has the conditions that allow people to flourish?

“Control is intimately related to where you are in the occupational hierarchy…When people report they have more control in their work, they’re being treated more fairly, there’s more justice…the amount of illness goes down…

“Give people more involvement in their work, give them more say in what they’re doing, give them more reward for the amount of effort they put out and it might be that you not only have a healthier workforce but a more productive workplace as well.”

Michael Marmoot, The Whitehall Study, University College Medical School, London

Intelligence comes at a price. The human species, despite its talent for solving problems, has managed over the millennia to turn one of its most basic survival mechanisms–the stress response–against itself. “Essentially,” says Stanford University neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky, “we’ve evolved to be smart enough to make ourselves sick.”

In the 2008 National Geographic documentary Stress: Portrait of a Killer, Sapolsky and fellow scientists explain the deadly consequences of prolonged stress…

Chronic stress has also been shown in scientific studies to diminish brain cells needed for memory and learning, and to adversely affect the way fat is distributed in the body. It has even been shown to measurably accelerate the aging process in chromosomes, a result that confirms our intuitive sense that people who live stressful lives grow old faster.

By studying baboon populations in East Africa, Sapolsky has found that individuals lower down in the social hierarchy suffer more stress, and consequently more stress-related health problems, than dominant individuals. The same trend in human populations was discovered in the British Whitehall Study. People with more control in work environments have lower stress, and better health, than subordinates.

Stress: Portrait of a Killer is a fascinating and important documentary–well worth the 52 minutes it takes to watch…

Happiness At Work Edition #9 – 31st August 2012

Other people may experience more misery than you realise

Monday 24 january 2011

Have you ever had the feeling that everyone else seems so sorted, so at ease? You look about you and see friends chatting over lunch, people laughing on their mobiles, others escaping contentedly through novels or newspapers. According to Alexander Jordan and colleagues, most of us have such a tendency to underestimate other people’s experience of negative emotion. In turn the researchers think this skewed perception perpetuates a collective delusion in which we all strive to present an unrealistically happy front because we think that’s the norm…

…an enduring mystery is why we continue to underestimate other people’s misery whilst knowing full well that most of our own negative experiences happen in private, and that we frequently put on a brave, happy face when socialising. Why don’t we reason that other people do the same? Jordan and his colleagues think this is probably part of an established phenomenon in psychology – ‘the fundamental attribution error’ – in which people downplay the role of the situation when assessing other people’s behaviour compared with their own.

A fascinating implication of this research is that it could help explain the popularity of tragic art, be that in drama, music or books. ‘In fictional tragedy, people are given the opportunity to witness “the terrible things in life” that are ordinarily “played out behind the scenes”,’ the researchers said (quoting Checkhov), ‘which may help to depathologise people’s own negative emotional experiences.’…

Happiness At Work Edition #10 – 7th September 2012

Gretchin Rubin’s Great Questions We Might All Ask Ourselves…?

We still love these Great Questions that The Happiness Project author, Gretchin Rubin asks different people when she interviews them:

These are really great questions that we might ask ourselves ~ and ask each other ~ to uncover some of the wisdom we each already carry.  And, perhaps too, to reveal some of the holes in our current understanding about what helps or hinders our own happiness.

Enjoy…

  • What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
  • What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
  • Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
  • Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful?
  • Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
  • Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why?
  • Is there some aspect of your life that makes you particularly happy?
  • Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t – or vice versa?

Happiness At Work Edition #11 – 14th September 2012

The Heart Has Its Own “Brain” and Consciousness

September 12, 2012

Many believe that conscious awareness originates in the brain alone. Recent scientific research suggests that consciousness actually emerges from the brain and body acting together. A growing body of evidence suggests that the heart plays a particularly significant role in this process.

Far more than a simple pump, as was once believed, the heart is now recognized by scientists as a highly complex system with its own functional “brain.” …

The heart’s ever-present rhythmic field has a powerful influence on processes throughout the body. We have demonstrated, for example, that brain rhythms naturally synchronize to the heart’s rhythmic activity, and also that during sustained feelings of love or appreciation, the blood pressure and respiratory rhythms, among other oscillatory systems, entrain to the heart’s rhythm.

We propose that the heart’s field acts as a carrier wave for information that provides a global synchronizing signal for the entire body

Basic research at the Institute of HeartMath shows that information pertaining to a person’s emotional state is also communicated throughout the body via the heart’s electromagnetic field. The rhythmic beating patterns of the heart change significantly as we experience different emotions. Negative emotions, such as anger or frustration, are associated with an erratic, disordered, incoherent pattern in the heart’s rhythms. In contrast, positive emotions, such as love or appreciation, are associated with a smooth, ordered, coherent pattern in the heart’s rhythmic activity. In turn, these changes in the heart’s beating patterns create corresponding changes in the structure of the electromagnetic field radiated by the heart, measurable by a technique called spectral analysis.

More specifically, we have demonstrated that sustained positive emotions appear to give rise to a distinct mode of functioning, which we call psychophysiological coherence.

During this mode, heart rhythms exhibit a sine wave-like pattern and the heart’s electromagnetic field becomes correspondingly more organised.  At the physiological level, this mode is characterised by increased efficiency and harmony in the activity and interactions of the body’s systems.

Psychologically, this mode is linked with a notable reduction in internal mental dialogue, reduced perceptions of stress, increased emotional balance, and enhanced mental clarity, intuitive discernment, and cognitive performance…

Most people think of social communication solely in terms of overt signals expressed through language, voice qualities, gestures, facial expressions, and body movements. However, there is now evidence that a subtle yet influential electromagnetic or “energetic” communication system operates just below our conscious awareness. Energetic interactions likely contribute to the “magnetic” attractions or repulsions that occur between individuals, and also affect social exchanges and relationships. Moreover, it appears that the heart’s field plays an important role in communicating physiological, psychological, and social information between individuals…

The Heart’s Field and Intuition

There are also new data suggesting that the heart’s field is directly involved in intuitive perception, through its coupling to an energetic information field outside the bounds of space and time. Using a rigorous experimental design, we found compelling evidence that both the heart and brain receive and respond to information about a future event before the event actually happens. Even more surprising was our finding that the heart appears to receive this “intuitive” information before the brain. This suggests that the heart’s field may be linked to a more subtle energetic field that contains information on objects and events remote in space or ahead in time…

Happiness At Work Edition #12 – 21st September 2012

Backstory on Slaughter’s “Women Can’t Have It All” article

By EVE TAHMINCIOGLU | Published: SEPTEMBER 20, 2012

When Anne Marie Slaughter wrote her now infamous The Atlantic article titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” she wasn’t naive about how the piece might stir up women.

She wanted to question the status quo, and possibly help inspire change.

But for everyone out there who may have interpreted her article as a narrative meant to inspire women to give up their careers for motherhood, she says, you were wrong.

And for those who thought she damaged the women’s movement’s progress leveling the workplace playing field, she says, get over it.

It’s time to move beyond the tired mommy wars, and the notion that women should be afraid to point out the flaws in the U.S. workplace for fear of rocking the boat.

Slaughter wondered why we don’t hold up commitment to family the way we hold up commitment to fellow soldiers in the military. “We glorify ‘Band of Brothers’ but if you say, ‘I can’t stay in this job because of my commitment to those I love’ it’s viewed differently. In so many ways caring for family is not OK.”

“I value people who value those they are closest to,” she said.

So just in case you were wondering, Slaughter stressed, “I believe you can do it all.”

However, she’s come to the conclusion that it’s not “just a matter of individual commitment” when it comes to making it all work.

If we don’t change “the work environment” in the United States, or the arc of what makes a “successful-career environment,” she stressed, “some women will make it, but for every one else we actually need change.”

Anne-Marie Slaughter: Can women have it all?

Happiness At Work Edition #13 – 28th September 2012

Being Happy, Creative & Productive

BridgeBuilders STG limited

Presentation slides from a workshop, commissioned by Ardent Hare, at

Whitechapel Gallery, London, 17th September 2012
and
University of Portsmouth, 10th September 2012

Slideshow movie created by Mark Trezona
Soundscape by Mark Trezona & Martyn Duffy
with original music by Martyn Duffy

For more stories see this week’s latest collection:

Happiness At Work #52

Enjoy…

Happiness At Work collection #52 ~ some highlights

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 Designed by Sou Fujimoto  Photo by: Vivienne Harris

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013
Designed by Sou Fujimoto
Photo by: Vivienne Harris

Here are just some of the stories that you can find in this week’s collection:

Two Degrees: Imagine The Great Transition

Artsadmin and LIFT in association with nef, as part of the Imagine 2020 Network.

Are we trapped in business-as-usual?

Could the ‘less’ make us happier than the ‘more’?

What do we really value?

Can it still turn out right?

 A series of artist films that respond to these questions…

 

 

George Lucas, John Lithgow, and Other Luminaries on How the Humanities Make Us Human

by 

In her superb 2013 McGill commencement address, philosopher Judith Butler championed the value of the humanities as a tool of tolerance. And yet the humanities have slipped into endangered academic species status — so says a major new plea of a report titled to Congress from the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, titled The Heart of the Matter, which opens with a sense of unequivocal urgency:

“As we strive to create a more civil public discourse, a more adaptable and creative workforce, and a more secure nation, the humanities and social sciences are the heart of the matter, the keeper of the republic — a source of national memory and civic vigor, cultural understanding and communication, individual fulfillment and the ideals we hold in common. They are critical to a democratic society and they require our support.”

Accompanying the report is this beautiful short film, a collection of luminaries’ testimonials for the value and immeasurable impact of the humanities both in our individual journey toward understanding the meaning of life and our collective odyssey toward better understanding one another and our place in the universe. Selected highlights here…

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 Designed by Sou Fujimoto  Photo by: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013
Designed by Sou Fujimoto
Photo by: Mark Trezona

How To Be A Successful Optimist

by Mark Stevenson

It’s easy to accept the standard story of the future: that it’s all going to be rubbish, that vested interests will always win out and the best you can do is get your head down, try and beat the prevailing trend and do what you can for you and yours (even if it’s at the expense of your fellow man and the environment).

Luckily there are enough human beings out there who don’t accept this story, who believe things can change for the better and crucially do something about it. Without their input down the ages we’d all still be sitting in caves. Throughout history these, often maligned, men and women have consistently come up trumps for the rest of us. These people are called “optimists.”

Optimism is a bit of a dirty word at the moment, and of course blind optimism (that dangerous cocktail of denial and hope) deserves our disdain. But pragmatic optimists, who admit the scale of the challenges ahead of us but resolve to do something about them anyway, should have more of our support.

It’s not always easy to keep optimistic…

How To Be A Successful Optimist: Principle No. 2

…A recurring question philosopher Daniel Dennett (and probably most philosophers) get confronted with is, “What’s the definition of happiness?

Luckily he has an answer and it’s a good one: “Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it”.

This then is Principle Two for the successful optimist. All successful optimists have a project that is bigger than they are. By contrast, people who have a project that is the same size as themselves are invariably miserable and tedious company. Once you’ve got a bigger car/ nicer house/ television bigger than God what’s left? As so many find out, eventually the answer is a nagging emptiness accompanied by the thought, “Surely there must be more to life than this?

Those with something bigger than themselves generally derive a deep-in-the-core happiness from whatever that is. It’s a happiness that comes from a feeling you have a place in the world. A ‘bigger than me’ project can be your family, your religion, military service or a scientific calling…

Mark Stevenson is the author of An Optimist’s Tour of the Future (Profile Books, 2012). Check out the School of Life course, The Future is Up for Grabs with Mark Stevenson on 17th Septemeber 2013.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 Designed by Sou Fujimoto  Photo by: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013
Designed by Sou Fujimoto
Photo by: Mark Trezona

Falling short: seven writers reflect on failure

, and  reflect on their own disappointments in life, love and work…

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 Designed by Sou Fujimoto  Photo by: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013
Designed by Sou Fujimoto
Photo by: Mark Trezona

Self-Discipline Can Lead to Happiness, Study Reports

CHERI CHENG

The study found a correlation between self-restraint and control and overall happiness. It concluded that self-control should not be considered self-deprivation but rather, time management of goals and tasks…

“People who have good self-control do a number of things that bring them happiness – namely, they avoid problematic desires and conflict”…

Do You Really Know What Makes You Happy?

By Gretchen Rubin

Research shows that many people are miserable at their jobs. Given how much of your life is spent working, finding happiness at work is key. But how do you get started? Gretchen Rubin, who wrote the book on happiness — literally and is AOL Jobs newest contributor, addresses that topic here. 

One key to a happy life is self-knowledge. I can build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature. I’ve found that the more my life reflects my real interests, values, and temperament, the happier I become.

But it’s very hard to know ourselves; it’s easy to be distracted by the way we wish we were, or think we ought to be, or what others think we should be, until we lose sight of what’s actually true…

Here is a list of 20 questions meant to help you think about yourself, your daily habits, your nature, and your interests. There are no right or wrong answers; they’re fodder for reflection…

What is the Best Predictor of Unhappiness?

by Alex Mayyasi

Psychologists armed with statistically significant survey data have a lot of advice on how to be happy, but we don’t seem to be very good at following it.

Interesting that a major contributor to being unhappy is a long commute!  What about money?  What about being married??  This article answers them all…

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 Designed by Sou Fujimoto  Photo by: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013
Designed by Sou Fujimoto
Photo by: Mark Trezona

The 5 Ps of professional happiness

by Jay Shepherd

In this short talk (just six minutes) at the LexThink Conference in Chicago, I explain why unhappiness abounds in the legal world. Then I give five simple steps for fixing it. And this advice doesn’t just apply to lawyers; any professional or creative person can use them to find happiness at work. So take six minutes and watch.  See if it can help you find your own professional happiness…

Career Change Advice – How To Be Happy At Work

By Aaron

The reasons of discontent at work are many and unique as you change careers. Change is the only solution to such discontent. The following points should be of great benefit to you and guide you through this process.

  • Change your perspective…
  • Change your environment…
  • Change your career…
  • Change your influence circle…
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 Designed by Sou Fujimoto  Photo by: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013
Designed by Sou Fujimoto
Photo by: Mark Trezona

Why Grumpy People Can Be Super Productive

BY: DRAKE BAER

If you’re waiting for the “right mood” to strike before you attack that stack of work, you might be waiting a looooooooonnnnnnng time.

When we say that we’re “waiting for the right time” to start on something, we tend to mean that we want to feel good about what we’re doing–but new research suggests that a pinch of negativity can actually be a creative spark.

How so? Creativity, as we know, is both an emotional and intellectual process: Psychologists have found that positive emotions open up your inventory of possible actions–one of the many reasons that it’s good to feel good. But, as new research in the Academy of Management Journal suggests, it’s good to feel bad, too–depending on how you roll through the day…

Time to think differently

More diverse leadership is business critical in a complex environment, says Lubna Haq, director at Hay Group.

The current era of globalisation, slow growth, e-commerce, social media, big data and an ageing workforce requires new ways of working: ways that are more flexible, open, inclusive, collaborative and innovative than ever before.

In response, many organisations are dismantling their old, command-and-control leadership structures in favour of new, matrix-style roles. These carry much more accountability, but benefit from far less formal authority.

Leaders are therefore being forced to operate in a vast white space with just a handful of direct reports. To succeed in this context they need to be adept at collaborating with, influencing and quickly gaining the trust of their teams and peers.

This new environment calls for both a more sophisticated and a more subtle approach to leadership: one which Hay Group data suggests women may be better able to adopt.

Hay Group’s research over many years has found that great female leaders employ a wider range of leadership styles than their male counterparts, enabling them to be more effective at motivating and engaging people to perform.

They are also more skilled at knowing how and when to use which style…

How managers can improve the quality of feedback they offer

by 

New research about happinessunderscores the point. In an experiment, employees at a number of Fortune 500 companies were sent a daily email inquiring about their level of happiness. Some received the question worded this way: “How happy were you today?” Others got this version: “Did you do your best to be happy today?” Over time, the latter group reported a significantly higher level of happiness, because they came to see it as a goal for which they were personally responsible.

What would happen if you ask yourself each day: “Did I make a point to give and receive some valuable feedback today?” You’d be upgrading all three facets of high impact feedback — the source, the content and the recipient…

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 Designed by Sou Fujimoto  Photo by: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013
Designed by Sou Fujimoto
Photo by: Mark Trezona

 

How Can We Solve The Employee Disengagement Problem?

IT’S TIME TO LOOK AT THE CAUSES, NOT THE SYMPTOMS…

“Aren’t people curious about how you manage to create tens of millions of disaffected employees?  That’s not a trivial accomplishment.”

Recently, Mark Crowley reported on the results of the Gallup organization’s annual employee engagement survey. He painted a humorous, but compelling picture of the results, “… imagine a crew team out on the Potomac River where three people are rowing their hearts out, five are taking in the scenery, and two are trying to sink the boat.”…

Taylor’s philosophy made the manager responsible for all problem-solving. It sounds very much like our contemporary mindset, where for every organizational problem the answer is generally a new management task. With the best of intentions, solutions offered for employee disengagement depend on the manager “doing” for the employee. Without intending to, we may keep reinforcing a system that deprives employees of proper credit for their own capacity for self-management and independent problem-solving. Equally, we make unfair demands on managers who have been, more than likely, trained to play leadership roles, but were not developed to be leaders.

The better model would be one in which the responsibility for making work feel vital, motivating, and personally important is a task equally shared by everyone no matter what their title.

When so much management advice seems to come down to “treat employees like adult human beings” you have to wonder. Why do people need to be told that? If they’re not doing that, what are they doing? The fact that managers even need that advice and advice-givers seem to think it’s necessary to give may provide us with some additional insight into the origins of disengagement…

Vivian Giang, Business Insider

It’s the entrepreneurial age and everyone wants to work for themselves. By 2025, Gen Y is going to make up 75% of the global workforce, and these millennials’ independent-thinking and entrepreneurial mindset is going to change everything about the way companies are run…

Gen Y has a need to “solve the world’s problems” and if companies want to keep talent in their organizations, they need to clearly communicate long-term company goals with their hardworking and inspired workers…

Companies that employ a decent number of young people should support this independent thinking ability by developing entrepreneurial programs. Allowing workers to do this also increases loyalty, because employees know you care about their happiness and well-being. In the end, they will work harder for you, because you’ve allowed them time to work on something they care about.

In short, the typical 9-to-5 grind is on its way out and …“it’s going to be less about who you work for, but who you’re working with.”

Why 20% Time is Good for Schools

A.J. JULIANI’S BLOG

 20% time allows students to pick their own project and learning outcomes, while still hitting all the standards and skills for their grade level. In fact, these students often go “above and beyond” their standards by reaching for a greater depth of knowledge than most curriculum tends to allow. The idea for 20% time in schools comes from Google’s own 20% policy, where employees are given twenty percent of their time to work and innovate on something else besides their current project. It’s been very successful in business practice, and now we can say that it has been wildly successful in education practice.

With 20% time, we can solve one society’s biggest problems by giving students a purpose for learning and a conduit for their passions and interests. If you listen to Sir Ken Robinson or Daniel Pink talk, you’ll discover this is an issue that starts with schooling. We spend 14,256 hours in school between kindergarten and graduation. If we can’t find a time for students to have some choice in their learning, then what are we doing with all those hours? …

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 Designed by Sou Fujimoto  Photo by: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013
Designed by Sou Fujimoto
Photo by: Mark Trezona

Steve McCurry’s Blog: When Things Come Alive

Night
when words fade and things come alive.
When the destructive analysis of day is done, and
all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again.
When man reassembles his fragmentary self and grows with the calm of a tree.
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

More stunning photos from this master artist showing us into a new range of impressions of the human life force…

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013

Designed by Sou Fujimoto

Until 20 October 2013

Describing his design concept, Sou Fujimoto said:

“For the 2013 Pavilion I propose an architectural landscape: a transparent terrain that encourages people to interact with and explore the site in diverse ways. Within the pastoral context of Kensington Gardens, I envisage the vivid greenery of the surrounding plant life woven together with a constructed geometry. A new form of environment will be created, where the natural and the man-made merge; not solely architectural nor solely natural, but a unique meeting of the two…

The delicate quality of the structure, enhanced by its semi-transparency, will create a geometric, cloud-like form, as if it were mist rising from the undulations of the park. From certain vantage points, the Pavilion will appear to merge with the classical structure of the Serpentine Gallery, with visitors suspended in space.” …

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 Designed by Sou Fujimoto  Photo by: Mark Trezona

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013
Designed by Sou Fujimoto
Photo by: Mark Trezona

For more stories see this week’s full collection:

Happiness At Work #52

Enjoy…

Beyond Glorious – what made this symposium so very special and extraordinary

Sheila Ghelani's conversation starters: http://sheilaghelani.co.uk

Sheila Ghelani’s conversation starters: http://sheilaghelani.co.uk

Beyond Glorious: the radical in engaged artistic practices

Thursday 30 May to Sunday 2 June 2013, Birkbeck College and Artsadmin, London

What is the place of art in acts of social re-imagination and repair?
What languages can be found to articulate such practices?
Is it possible to break new ground within the realm of engaged artistic practices?

This symposium marked the end of Rajni Shah Projects’ Glorious.  It brought together people from different spheres of life to discuss and experience the meanings, methods and effects of art in relation to engaged and radical practices.  Using Glorious as a starting point, events explored the potential of engaged artistic practices, not in terms of a reductive understanding of the ‘efficacy’ of art in the world, but as a complicating, delicate, nuanced, uneasy journey towards new ways of thinking.

What to say to capture and keep for memory about an event that lived and breathed through its quiet gentle generous friendliness?

Not just this.  This makes it sound too much like a tea party.  Which it was.  Its tea-and-cakeness was a vital part of its spirit and its lightness.  But it was so very very much more as well.

One of the symposium’s central questions explicitly tried to open out this difficulty of expressing the intangible, articulated in the question What remains?

Elizabeth Lynch (independent producer and external evaluator for Glorious), Mary Paterson (writer, producer, creative documentation for Glorious), Sarah Spanton (Waymarking), and

Chloé Déchery (theatre-maker, writer, co- artistic director of ÉCLATS Festival) opened a series of conversations around questions about what and who matters, needs to be held up and out in testament to show the worth and value out of work that makes and finds its intrinsic liveness in quiet nearly invisible and usually disregarded moments of connection, relationship, insight, inhalation.

From this session I remember the word ‘traces’ being important – as something slight and nearly gone that remains after the rest of its bulk has disintegrated, and also as something that we might use as a guide to trace out a new form from what has been left for us to follow.  We talk about when something is ‘gone without a trace’ but in doing so somehow keep still a trace of what it was that has gone.  But these subtle nuances are badly unequal to these shout-y times of unquestioning demands and unambiguous agendas.

I remember, too, the question: who gets to decide the value and worth of what was done? and I remember thinking, and am thinking still, this must be the people we hoped to bring some value and worth to, to make something that they find valuable and worthwhile.  And worrying that too seldom we go to these people to ask and listen to to decide the worth of what we have done.

But these are big questions that took the concentration of this whole symposium, as well as the work of Glorious itself, as well – as I discovered through this event – as well as a great deal more work that is being made quietly and unchampioned out there in the world amongst its peoples.  These are questions too big for this piece to try and sensibly answer.

Start again.

What I am remembering still about this experience are moments of easy unexpected encounter that tumbled joyfully out from alert interest and invitation and into depths and diversity of conversation.

I remember the warm friendliness and easy friendly warmth that was begun and renewed each day by Rajni waiting at the gate, or the outside door, to greet and welcome people as they arrived.  When I joined her in this quiet ritual for the last brunch event I discovered for myself how personal, charged and engaged this made me feel.  A small act done with great love that I am convinced sent out a ripple of similar welcomings and greetings across the whole event.

I remember the repeated joy of surprise encounters.  Sometimes these came from extended conversations with the people I was working alongside to make the backroom support.  Sometimes this was a stranger asking me to join them for lunch and drawing me lightly into their conversation.  Sometimes it was the joyful ‘aha’ of hearing the wisdom of another’s experience or the sharp brightness of their questioning inside the sessions.  What made these encounters so exceptional was their unusualness – I seldom have this same experience at other events – and their frequency.  I don’t believe it was my Glorious team member’s badge that made the difference, but rather that a mood and expectation and curiosity and readiness for surprising encounters that was woven through the DNA of this whole event: in its themes and its processes and its design and in the behaviours and values if its makers.  You get what you go looking for and something was in the water we were all drinking at this symposium that made us all more heads up, eyes open, ears widened…

I remember too the luxury of space…

…the space of time from 2hour sessions and 2hour lunch breaks with local restauranteurs who greeted us like they knew us and made us feel this meal would be special.  This elongated time that allowed for an unfolding discovery of dialogue rather than the more usual forced smash of ideas through too little time, too tight an agenda, too squeezed a set of objectives and expectations;

…the space and spaces made by questions that created openings and extensions rather than the more usual objectives that push for reductive thinking and positioning, driving and herding us into conclusions and certainties (as if there could be any, but how often are we asked, anyway, to just let go of our intelligent beliefs that our situations and ambitions are way too complex to carry the heavyweight load of certainty?);

…the physical space of being able to inhabit different spaces, to choose a session that involved walking after lunch each day, to, at any time, come into the coffee-always-ready-and-several-varieties-of-tea-room to sit, take time out, chill, or make your own conversations.

I remember, too, and maybe this above all else, how all the espoused values we, as the company, and we, as this makeshift community, were championing, advocating, advancing were every bit in evidence in the practice and experience of this event:  qualities of generosity and friendliness and inclusion and welcome and giving and gifts and relationship and exceptional experience at every moment and being fully present in every moment…  all these qualities were alive and active.  This is rare, and, sadly, it is a kind of truism that whatever is held to be most important for the people we work to benefit, we are least likely to be doing well for ourselves.

Blossoms on Branch

There is something more to say about this symposium, and this about the depth and range and interrogation of the inquiries that were the thread and weave of this symposium.  I have so far, perhaps, made it seem like a collusive gathering of the smug and complacent.  But its questions and the responses people bought were challenging and original.  And the provocations that started each day were provoking, not in a way that antagonised or tore at us, but rather they invited a kind of positive disruption, nudging us to think bigger, better, wider, more keenly.

One of the symposium’s most difficult acts to pull off – and that it did is further testament to its great success – was that many of its participants came without any prior knowledge or experience of  Glorious, the project on which it was built, and yet in conversation after conversation there seemed to me an equal sense of ownership and involvement and engagement and trust and uncertainty in the material, irrespective of how much immersion in Glorious you came with.

So my learning to take away in a memo to ourselves:

…continue, when preparing events, to devote time and creativity and care and minute attention to what will help to make a great experience for the people who will come.  Because, just as we have always believed, this matters immensely, and, because we might just dip into believing that we are already doing this enough.  And this experience has shown me that there is much more that is simple and wonderful that we could be doing.

A note: lest I seem to be bragging intolerably about this event I should say that I take no credit for its many successes.  I was there and helped to make it work, yes, but the things that it made it so very special and exceptional belong to a whole team who made it and especially the people who imagined and led it.  And, yes, to Rajni herself for the light gifted way she held it and us so potently open.

 

A beautiful bespoke publication that contains Mary Patterson’s  exquisite reveries about Glorious, and Elizabeth Lynch’s storytelling consideration of what Glorious achieved for the people who inhabited it, as well as two films made in response to Glorious – Becky Edmunds‘ collaged palimpsest made from different shows, and Lucy Cash’s Six Actions:

rajni glorious - Dear Stranger, I Love You

Dear Stranger, I love you

the ethics of community in Rajni Shah Projects’ Glorious

Dear Stranger, I love you offers an in-depth exploration of artist Rajni Shah’s Glorious, an experimental performance project that began with a series of conversations between strangers and ended in a large-scale theatre production involving local residents and musicians in each location where it was presented…

The publication brings together four ways of looking at Glorious: a short film made in response to six performances of Glorious by filmmaker Becky Edmunds; a music video shot in and around Lancaster and Morecambe by Lucy Cash; a critical overview of the process behind two iterations of the project by Elizabeth Lynch; and The Glorious Storybook, a collection of memories from throughout the process, edited and contextualised by writer Mary Paterson…

Happiness At Work #49 ~ listening, giving, empathy and quietness

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This week’s Happiness At Work collection #49 highlights stories about the power and effectiveness of what many would call the especially softest of the soft skills: listening, giving, empathy and quietness.

We’ve always been unhappy about the term ‘soft skills.’  Used as a catch-all for the skills that privilege human interaction over the more so-called ‘hard skills’ that are concentrated on results, efficiency, facts and figures, tasks and outcomes that, we argue, are a doddle compared to the much much ‘harder’ expertise needed to enact the highly complex demands of making high quality relationships, communications, feelings and experiences.

So here is a special selection of ideas, provocations, invitations and practical techniques for honing our soft skills into the strength, suppleness and resilience that our 21st century professional lives so deeply demand from us.  There are some really potent ideas here that challenge our default assumptions about what constitues ‘good’ and ‘bad’ leadership and question just how valuable and necessary being the archetypal inspirational leader really is for getting high quality outcomes in a complex fast-changing and unpredictable environment…

Spider's Web

Julian Treasure: 5 Ways To Listen Better (TEDTalk)

We are losing our listening…

This is how Julian Treasure begins his deeply-felt talk, which includes, as his title promises, five practical techniques for practising better listening skills.  These are some of the ideas taken from this talk that ring out especially for us:

Listening means making meaning from sound.

We listen through a funnel of unconscious filters that all go towards creating the reality and meanings we form:

Culture

Language

Values

Beliefs

Attitudes

Expectations

Intentions

The premium of good listening is disappearing partly because of our recording capabilities, which makes the need for good listening seem less needed and so less looked after than ever.  In our headphone bubbles, we are living in a noisier, more impatient and desensitised world where it is becoming harder for us to pay attention to the quiet, the subtle, the understated…

We need to learn to listen as if for the very first time.  Here are five tools for improving our ability to do this:

  1. Silence.  Just make 5 minutes a day of consciously observed silence – or as near to it as you can make.
  2. The Mixer.  Listen to how many individual channels of sound you can hear and tune into in the air around you.
  3. Savouring.  Enjoy mundane everyday sounds.  Discover how interesting and layered and dynamic and different sounds actually are.
  4. Listening Positions.  Most important this one.  Shift and play with different positions to get conscious about different ways of listening.  These are some, but there are many more:

active ~ passive

reductive ~ expansive

critical ~ empathetic

  1. RASA.  Sanskrit word meaning ‘juice’ and the acronym for Receive Appreciate Summarise (“So…) Ask questions.

I live to ask questions.  But I believe every human being needs to listen consciously in order to live fully connecting to the physical world around you and top each other.  In terms of spiritually connecting, every ritual path has listening at its heart.

We need to teach listening in our schools.

(And – we add emphatically – to our professionals and leaders across every different sector, organisation and enterprise.)

A world where we are not listening to each other is a very scary dangerous place.

Listening can help make connection, understanding, peace…

soothing ripples

Below the Noise: Listening as a Lifeline: Virginia Prescott at TEDxPiscataquaRiver

In this talk broadcaster and sound artist Virginia Prescott invites us to think about how we can learn to appreciate and enjoy listening more as we go forward in an environment of social media and increasingly individualised technologies…

Broadcasting means to throw out seeds.  And we don’t always know where these seeds will land or what will grow from them…

A Story Sung: Why Fiction Writers Should Read Poetry

In this article the ideas that Lucas Hunt writes for writers has so much resonance that I have substituted a more universal pronoun to amplify his wisdom for us all…

Any [one] who desires to get at the truth of human experience should read poetry, because it contains a multitude of possibility. Poetry is the mud that grows the seed that becomes the forest. It is the clay that makes the brick that forms the building. It is the blood that moves the body that holds the spirit. Poetry has the essence of life in it.

Poets voice that which has no voice in this world. They speak in tongues, and hope their words reach the ears and touch the hearts of those who know what it means to live. Much like fiction writers, poets struggle to remember how to make sense of existence. They share a passion for language, and a common, driving need: to imagine the world not just as it is, but how it ought to be.

Poetry tends toward silence…  Poetry aspires to be a song, more than a story, to be lyrically rich. It is also full of primal messages that, somehow, can express the inexpressible. There is more than meets the eye…

And if you enjoy this piece, you might also like to check out:

How To Enjoy Poetry by Maria Popova

“True poetic practice implies a mind so miraculously attuned and illuminated that it can form words, by a chain of more-than coincidences, into a living entity,” Edward Hirsch advised in his directive on how to read a poem.

But how, exactly, does one cultivate such “true poetic practice”?…

The poet and novelist James Dickey, winner of the National Book Award for his poetry collection Buckdancer’s Choice, offers some timeless and breathtakingly articulated advice…Ultimately, James Dickey champions the enlivening potency of the learn-by-doing approach:

The more your encounter with poetry deepens, the more your experience of your own life will deepen, and you will begin to see things by means of words, and words by means of things.

You will come to understand the world as it interacts with words, as it can be re-created by words, by rhythms and by images.

You’ll understand that this condition is one charged with vital possibilities. You will pick up meaning more quickly — and you will create meaning, too, for yourself and others.

Connections between things will exist for you in ways that they never did before. They will shine with unexpectedness, wide-openness, and you will go toward them, on your own path. ‘Then,’ as Dante says, ‘will your feet be filled with good desire.’ You will know this is happening the first time you say, of something you never would have noticed before, ‘Well, would you look at that! Who’d ‘a thunk it?’ (Pause, full of new light.)

‘I thunk it!’

quiet - soft focus purple floral print

Not Any Old Pencil

Brazil born, US based artist Dalton Ghetti carves minute masterpieces on the tips of pencils.

Here is some wisdom we can all learn from him by attending to the five things a pencil should never forget:

1) Everything you do will always leave a mark.
2) You can always correct the mistakes you make.
3) What is important is what’s inside you.
4) In life, you will undergo painful sharpenings which will only make you better.
5) To be the best pencil, you must allow yourself to be held and guided by the hand that holds you.

Leading Quietly by Adam Grant

In this talk at Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, occupational psychologist Adam Grant begins with a story of his experience building motivation in a call centre.  To improve things, he brings in two very different students who had benefited from the scholarships that these people were trying to raise money for to talk about how their bursary had changed their lives.  The first, Will, a student who was achieving meteoric success, came in and gave a dynamic high-imact presentation.  The average caller who heard Will increased the revenue they raised by 170%.  The second student, Emily, was painfully shy, and could barely get through her words.  But Emily’s effect was 2.5 times stronger than Will’s – leading to a 400% increase in revenue by the people who heard her.  Partly this is because of empathy, her audience really felt for her, but even more it was because of Emily’s authenticity:  her listeners knew she was telling the truth about how important her bursary was because it was clear that she was not speaking to them for any pleasure.

What stood out for me was they never once had to hear from a leader.  And this led me to thinking why do leaders think they have to be the ones who deliver the inspiring messages?  Why is this common sense but not common practice?

He then provides a quick self-assessment for Introversion and Extraversion which is not visible in this video, but most of us will already be familiar with our preferences across this scale.

This site  – Myers Briggs Test – is a helpful place to start to explore your  own preferences if you don’t know whether you are more of an Extravert, Introvert or Ambivert (half-and-half)

Grant tells us that Extraversion is how your neocortex processes stimulation, and helps govern willpower and self control.  Optimal arousal is that point when we are fully engaged, ‘in the zone,’ neither overloaded with too much stuff coming at us, but not getting so little stimulation that we are bored.  This is also the place where we are likely to be happy and flourishing.  A high Extravert preference wants lots of social interaction because that’s what brings stimulation for the neocortex, whereas people will an Introvert preference will be trying to get time to themselves in order to get their version of this same high level of optimal stimulation.

Even though Extraversion-Introversion preferences are cut right in the middle for the whole population, meaning that there are just as many Introverts as Extraverts, a piece of  research in 2009 found that 96% of American leaders score on the attention seeking Extravert side of this continuum, and only 4% below the mid point, and there is no reason to think that results in the UK would be significantly different.

If most leaders are the Extraverts, they feel they need to be the ones in the centre of attention…to be the ones who are delivering the inspiring messages…

When these figures are broken down further they reveal that 50% of supervisors are actually in the top 25% of high Extraversion scores, so are very extraverted, and  this has increased to 80% of top level executives who score at the high end of Extraversion.  For Adam Grant this leads to the question: ‘What are the consequences of this?  Is it good to be an extraverted leader?’

Extraverts, Grant suggests, are great for people who like to have a strong steer, but not at all for more proactive people who have a high degree of initiative and self-sufficiency.  These are the very people that we need most when the environment is turbulent and uncertain.  We know that it is impossible for leaders to recognise all of the problems that might be going on in these conditions.  And these people need Introverts to lead them, but in a more proactive and dynamic way than we might think.  This is not to say that all Introverts lead proactive self-starting people well, but, if they do, they get much better results.

And the evidence suggests that most Extraverts will be leading these people ineffectively.  Extraverted leaders tend to feel threatened by suggestions coming from below, and tend to ignore or reject what their people bring.  This in turn discourages these people and decreases the likelihood of them bringing more suggestions.  Grant’s research found a 28% lower output when people brought their suggestions to an Extravert rather than an Introverted leader.

So maybe there are some benefits to leading in a more Introverted and quiet way…

Grant owns up to being an Introvert.  He was once told that he was so nervous when he spoke that he caused his students to shake in their seats.  As a manager he felt he had to be constantly engaging and became completely exhausted. Introverts that operate at high rates of engagement all the time are at high risk of burnout and ill health.  But he goes on to wonder if ‘sometimes we get trapped into roles more than we meed to…’  Rather than quitting another job he was failing in, Grant did the job of his people were doing and became a salesman for a week, and, even though he was pretty rubbish at it and began by doing very badly, he ended up achieving a reasonable amount of revenue by going out to find new people that were not currently aware of their product.  This stimulated his thinking about whether he needed to be very extraverted in order to be an effective leader.

We can all act outside of our preferred style so long as we get a restorative retreat, a chance to return to the way of being that re-energises and refocuses us – quiet reflection for Introverts, social interaction for Extraverts.

Leading by doing, behavioural integrity, is one way of leading quietly.  When Grant spent time doing the job of the people he managed, he found his words took on far more meaning for people.

Our ‘first nature’ or signature strengths are those ways of being that just feel right, easy, natural for us.  But all of us develop a second nature, an out-of-character role, which we master because it helps us achieve something that we care about.  For Introverts, this is public speaking.  For Extraverts, it might be to do more stepping back, shutting up and listening and accepting others’ ideas and suggestions.

Grant gives us three practical ways forward in his call-to-action for leading more quietly:

  1. Spend time actually doing the work of the people you lead.  One expert recommends 10% of your time actually doing the work your employees do.
  2. Outsource inspiration.  Just as with the call centre, maybe the ideas about what is really valuable, and thus the inspiration and big ways of motivating people, are better brought by beneficiaries, clients, patients, customers, stakeholders, partners rather than you as the leader.  For example: Facebook engineers regularly get to hear invited users to talk about the actual differences that Facebook has made to their lives.
  3. Think about the other 80:20 rule.  Do not talk more than 20% of the time and spend at least 80% of your time really listening to the people around you.  Grant says to remember that ‘do not learn anything when I am talking’…

As an Extravert, myself, I have to say that this is only partially true, because, as an Extravert, talking and thinking are synonymous and I often literally do not know know what I think until I hear myself saying it.  I have great respect for the Introvert’s mystical ability to make fully formed fully considered conclusions without saying anything to anyone, but this is not easily in my gift, but rather something that I have had to develop as a consciously applied ‘second nature’ skill.  But back to Grant:

I’m not going to say that all Extraverts are narcissists but the correlation is positive…

So just as I’ve made myself feel better about my over-talkative style Grant points up the joy of talking for Extraverts, who tend to find listening to themselves talking exactly the happy learning experience I was just defending.  And research has found that the more Extraverts talk, the more they like the group they are with, even saying that the more they talk the more they learn about the other people in the group.  Ouch.

I do recognise wholeheartedly and without any reservation that I do not hear anything when I am talking and this matters.  And I would add to this that we cannot do exceptionally well more than one thing at a time, even if we are woman, so that if I am mostly concentrated on listening, this will be what gets my fullest energy and attention, whereas if I am thinking about what I want to say, it will not, and I will miss important and potentially vital things.

One more idea at the end of this talk caught my interest:  apparently Extraverts are more likely to be optimists and Introverts more pessimist.  But – crucially since realistic optimism is such a critical element of resilience – both optimism and pessimism are largely learned orientations, as we know from, for example, the exercise of spending 21 days writing down what you most appreciate that day which literally rewires the automatic circuitry in our brain and leads to long-lasting levels of increased optimism and positivity.

silhoutte of two business people talking

Susan Cain: Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (The RSA)

Susan Cain is one of the people Adam Grant references in his talk about Leading Quietly.  In this talk Cain speaks passionately about the problems that come from the world that we have made that biases the preferences and needs of Extraverts over what Introverts need to be able to flourish:

We set up our workplaces and schools for maximum group interaction and we’re losing sight of the importance of solitude for creativity…  There is no correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas…

We are living in a world that has become so  overly extraverted, so lopsided in that direction, that even extraverts don’t feel they have permission to tap into that side o themselves.

In companies, it has been found that the most effective teams are those that combine Extraverts and Introverts.  The two types are really drawn to each other and need each other.

Quiet - Susan Cain

Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts (TEDTalks)

In her TEDTalk Cain outlines her thesis in more detail and here are some of the things she tells us:

The key to maximising our talents is to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that is right for us.  And when it comes to creativity we need Introverts doing what they do best.

Introversion is not about being shy, which is fear of social judgement.  Introverts feel most alive and most switched on and most creative when they are in quieter environments.  Not all of the time.  None of these things are absolutes.  There is no such thing as pure Extravert or Introvert, and some of us, now called Ambiverts, actually fall right in the middle.

But now here’s where the bias comes in.  Our world’s most important places, our schools and our workplaces, are designed for extraverts, for stimulation.

And we’re told that creativity comes from an oddly gregarious place.  In schools students sit in pods, face-to-face, are encouraged to work in groups, and the ideal student is said to be outgoing, assertive, extravert, even though, according to research, Introverts get better grades and are more knowledgeable.  At work we are arranged in open plan offices, where we are subject to the constant gaze and noise of our co-workers.  And when it comes to leadership, Introverts are more likely to be passed over when it comes to promotion, even though Introverts are likely to be much more careful, much less likely to take outsized risks, and, as Adam Grant’s research has shown, much more likely to let proactive employees run with their ideas, whereas Extravert leaders are likely to get so excited about things that they end up always putting their own stamp on everything and other people’s ideas have less chance of being able to bubble up to the surface.

Culturally we need a much better yin and yang between these two types, especially when it comes to creativity ad productivity.  When psychologists look at the most creative people they find that these people are very good at exchanging ideas and working with others, but they also have serious strands of introversion in them.  And this is because solitude is a crucial ingredient to creativity.  Darwin took long walks in the wood and turned down dinner party invitations.  Steve Wozniak invented the first Apple computer sitting alone, and he said that he never would have had he not been too introverted to leave the house when he was growing up.  And he needed Steve Jobs to get it out into the world.

For centuries we have known about the transcendent powers of solitude.  Only recently have we forgotten it.  Profound epiphanies tend to happen in solitude in the wilderness.

Groups famously follow the best talkers or most charismatic personalities in the room.  They may not have the best ideas.  None of this is to say that we don’t need social skills and teamwork.  In fact the problems we face in the world today are going to need armies of people to come together to solve.  But the more freedom we give Introverts to be themselves the more likely they are to come up with unique solutions to bring to some of these problems.

And here are Susan Cain’s three calls to action:

  1. Stop the madness for constant calls to constant group work.  I deeply believe our offices should be encouraging chatty cafe-style spaces for the conversational interactions where people can come together and serendipitously get exchange of ideas that is great for Introverts and Extraverts.  But we need much more time for freedom, autonomy, solitude.
  2. Go the wilderness.  Be like Buddha.  Have your own revelations.  Unplug and get inside our own heads more often.
  3. Look at what is in your suitcase:  Extraverts – grace us with your joy; Introverts – guard what you have but know that the world needs what you carry with you and have the courage to speak softly.

beach sea sky painting

Altruism & Happiness

Here are some ideas about the value and importance of giving taken from The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubormirsky

Acts of kindness

Altruism—including kindness, generosity, and compassion—are keys to the social connections that are so important to our happiness. Research finds that acts of kindness—especially spontaneous, out-of-the ordinary ones—can boost happiness in the person doing the good deed.

Reasons why acts of kindness make people happier:

  • Being generous leads us to perceive others more compassionately; we typically find good qualities in people to whom we are kind
  • Being kind promotes a sense of connection and community with others, which is one of the strongest factors in increasing happiness
  • Being generous helps us appreciate and feel grateful for our own good fortune
  • Being generous boosts our self-image; it helps us feel useful and gives us a way to use our strengths and talents in a meaningful way
  • Being kind can start a chain reaction of positivity; being kind to others may lead them to be grateful and generous to others, who in turn are grateful and kind to others

Compassion fosters happiness, but being sacrificial reduces well-being

Being kind and compassionate is linked to greater happiness, greater levels of physical activity well into old age, and longevity. One important caveat: if people get overextended and overwhelmed by helping tasks, as can happen with people who are caregivers to family members, their health and quality of life can rapidly decline. It seems being generous from an abundance of time, money, and energy can promote well-being; but being sacrificial quickly lowers well-being. This seems to be a good argument for communities sharing the burden for everyone’s benefit.

Angela Maiers: People Know They Matter When…

Choose2Matter is a global movement that challenges people to solve problems that break their hearts.

In her article Angela Maiers lists the essential attributes that cause people to know that they matter, and they are all about being quiet, listening and empathetic.  She writes, people know they matter when:

You see them…

You listen earnestly…

You ask meaningful questions…

You believe they can…

You dwell in possibility…

You celebrate them…

You do small things with great love…

You show up…

quiet - cream satin

What a Leader Needs Now: 7 ‘Feminine’ Qualities by Leah Buchanan

These traits, typically associated with women, make for great leaders – whether women or men, writes Leah Buchanan.  How close are these to the capabilities you are trying to develop and master, or, perhaps, to those you are trying to nurture in others?

Empathy: Being sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.

Vulnerability: Owning up to one’s limitations and asking for help.

Humility: Seeking to serve others and to share credit.

Inclusiveness: Soliciting and listening to many voices.

Generosity: Being liberal with time, contacts, advice, and support.

Balance: Giving life, as well as work, its due.

Patience: Taking a long-term view.

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Roman Krznaric – The Six Habits of Highly Empathic People (The RSA)

This theme is explored and continued in this talk about the new importance of nurturing excellence in empathy and how we might start to do this…

The 20th century was the age of introspection.  That was the age in which therapy and self-help told us that the best way to discover who we are and what we are was to look inside ourselves.  And combined with capitalist individualism, that pointed us towards pursuing the good life through self interest and luxury lifestyle.  And what we’ve discovered is that has not delivered the good life for most of us.

So the 21st century needs to be different.  Instead of the Age of  Introspection, we need to shift to the Age of  ‘Outraspection’ – discovering who you are and what you are here for by stepping outside yourself, discovering the lives of other people, other civilisations.  And the ultimate artform for the Age of Outraspection is empathy…

In this talk, cultural historian Roman Krznaric sets out his ideas about how the art of empathy can not only enrich our own lives, but also bring about social change, in six habits to try and master:

Habit 1:  Nurture curiosity about strangers.  For example, George Orwell used to dress and live as a homeless person in order to discover and learn.  We have assumptions about people, especially those who seem least like us.  Finding out about what they care about increases not only our compassion, but also our capacity for empathy.

This reminds of Louise Bougeoise’s Instruction: Smile At A Stranger which you can see in Maria Popova’s summary of  Do It: The Coppenedium  by Hans Ulrich Obrist in her

Do It: 20 Years of Famous Artists’ Irreverent Instructions for Art Anyone Can Make

Habit 2: Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities.  Look for what you share rather than what divides us.  For example, white extremist C.P.Ellis co-chaired a group looking at racial problems in schools and discovered a shared sense of oppression from poverty in common with his co-chair, a black civil rights activist.  This resulted in him tearing up his Klu Klux Klan membership card and the two becoming friends for life.

Habit 3: Extreme sport of experiential empathy.  For example, US industrial designer Patricia Moore decided to dress up as an 80 tear old and visited 100 cities to come up with inventions for new products based on her experience.

Habit 4: Practice the art of conversation.  Listening to and sharing ourselves and emotions.  For example, the brass roots peace organisation, Parents Circle which brings together Palestinian and Israeli parents who have lost a child for conversation, picnics, sharing stories.  Includes the “Hello Peace” freephone telephone line to be able to speak to someone from the opposite community.

Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change.For example, the anti-slave movement was built on empathy with exhibitions, writing and presentations about what it was like to be a slave by formeslaves.

Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination.  Be more adventurous in who you think about and how.  For example, ‘those greedy bankers’ – think about their lives, values and have conversations that help to bridge divides.

Only through high levels of empathy can we start to create social change across time as well as space.  Failing to empathise through time with future generations will be extremely hazardous to all of our futures.

Socrates wrote: Know thyself.  This can also be achieved by stepping outside ourselves and discovering people least like us.

Homeless Young Boy Holding a Sign

Simon Baron Cohen: Zero Degrees of Empathy (The RSA)

In this talk, psychiatry professor Simon Baron Cohen presents a new way of understanding what it is that leads individuals down negative paths, and challenges all of us to consider replacing the idea of evil with the idea of empathy-erosion. 

He provides a two-dimensional definition for empathy that combines:

Cognitive component – the drive to identify another person’s thoughts and feelings, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes; and

Affective component – the drive to respond with the appropriate emotion to another’s thoughts and feelings, the emotional reaction we bring.

Most of us are in the middle of the normal bell-curve distribution for empathy.  Females score slightly but statistically significantly higher in empathy than males.

Philosopher Martin Buber identified the point you start treating a person as an object is when you switch off empathy:  the “I”  ~  “You” relationship is switched to “I” – “It.”

This is worth thinking about in our relationships – to what extent do we talk about you and what you feel, think want, need and to what extent do we only talk about the task, what needs to be achieved, the problem, the thing that needs doing…?

John Bowlby argued that early experience makes a major difference, and insecure attachment as child can lead to delinquency, because attachment is key to the formation of empathy.

Baron Cohen’s research is finding that the more testosterone in the womb the more different the empathy reading in the later 8 year old.  This links somewhat with the lower readings of empathy in males.

We know that there is not one part of the brain responsible for empathy, but rather Baron Cohen counts at least ten highly connected parts of the brain that are activated in a highly connected ’empathy circuit’ when we are being empathetic.

If psychopaths are one example of having no empathy, he asks whether zero degrees of empathy is always bad, and answers “No.”  The condition of Autism tends to cause people who have it to be extremely moral rather than cruel, making them likely to avoid or withdraw from social situations rather than want to harm.  Zero positive means their unusual attention to detail often leads to giftedness.

Evolution suggests that empathy has been positively selected.  In the 1960s Masserman trained rhesus monkeys to learn that when they pulled a chain they would get food.  He then changed this so that, as well as getting food, they also saw another monkey getting an electric shock, and found that they soon stopped pulling the chain that gave them food but hurt another monkey.

Like language and memory, empathy is likely to be influenced by many different components including our culture and our society.

Empathy is the most valuable human resource because it has the power to resolve conflict, either between two individuals – or extended to two nations – empathy allows us to understand the other’s point of view.  Empathy is cheaper and more successful than either military or legal solutions.

Young Couple Talking in Cafe

Disruptive Happiness: Mario Chamorro at TEDxWilliamsburg

For a wonderful creative illustration of these ideas in action see Mario talking about his enterprise, The Happy Post Project, an initiative that in less than 2 years has reached millions of people in over 30 countries, and today continues to spread happiness all over the world.

Most recently, Mario founded Make it Happy, an organisation devoted to the generation and support of positive social change, by creating projects that spread and inspire happiness, while cultivating a grassroots network of social innovators.

Sunnie Toelle: The Happiness Tipping Point

In this article Toelle looks back over the rapid recent advances in the various disciplines that put happiness at their centre and wonders…

Some fascinating and potentially powerful happiness-related frameworks and initiatives exist on multiple levels and across geographic regions. Happiness matters for many reasons, but most of all, because business as usual is leading to a staggering increase in mental disorders, mental health costs and a massive loss of human potential. Arguably, it should therefore become a key agenda item in boardroom meetings and at policy roundtables. Yet, it remains to be seen who and what will hit off the tipping point.

And for some advice about creativity, making art and living the life you want, see these ideas in

Austin Kleon on 10 Things Every Creator Should Remember But We Often Forget by Maria Popova

Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use — do the work you want to see done.

 

Here is a link to this week’s entire Happiness At Work which includes more ideas linked to these themes in my reflections about what made the Beyond Glorious Symposium so exceptional in my piece:

Beyond Glorious – what made this symposium so very special and extraordinary

Enjoy your week – especially its softer moments that we really hope you will be able to hold gently open…

concept

Happiness At Work #45 ~ some highlights from this week’s collection

Happy People

Happiness At Work Edition 45 of 10th May 2013

This collection features a number of stories about smiling and laughter – why it’s good for us, how we can smile more, and looking through Steve McCurry’s latest pictures featuring people smiling we think is guaranteed to bring your own smiles out:

Steve McCurry’s Blog: The Universal Language

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but
sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Just see how many of these of his pictures you can look at without smiling yourself…

Businesspeople Laughing in Meeting

Insights from Brené Brown, Cal Newport, Gretchen Rubin & more at the 2013 99U Conference

Embrace vulnerability.  Stop chasing a passion.  Cultivate a “get better” (rather than a “be good”) mindset.  That’s just a taste of the counter-intuitive insights on idea execution that were shared last week at the 2013 99U Conference, presented by GE.

Researcher and writer Brené Brown dug into the vulnerability inherent in the creative process by sharing a bit of personal experience. After her TED talk went viral, the negative comments started to affect her process until a Theodore Roosevelt quote changed her entire perspective: “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” …

When everyone else heard Steve Jobs’ now-legendary commencement address at Stanford in 2005, the common takeaway was that we should “follow our passion.” But writer, computer scientist, and professor Cal Newport argues that following your passion isn’t actually the path to happiness…

Tony Schwartz began with the question, “How do we solve what feel like are impossible problems?” (e.g. world hunger, climate change, poverty). He believes that these big, nagging problems will never be solved by a single approach; instead, we must embrace a more holistic way of viewing the world and the creative process. On a practical level this means training ourselves to strategically switch between right-brain and left-brain thinking when problem solving…

Whether it’s going to the gym, making time for passion projects, or quitting your email addiction, we’re always trying to make and break new habits. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, explains that determination alone won’t get the job done — the key to success is having insight into your own nature before going after a goal…

For Tina Seelig, bringing ideas to life is all about reframing perspective. As executive director for the Standford Technology Ventures Program and author ofinGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity, she helps entrepreneurs challenge assumptions and use an “Innovation Engine” to reframe a problem and boost imagination…

Upon reading story after story about geniuses, prodigies, and other successful people, Heidi Grant Halvorson found herself noticing that people in the U.S. tend to attribute failure and success not to controllable factors such as work ethic, but rather to innate ability or talent. She walked attendees through a series of studies and experiments that show how powerful your perspective can be in pushing toward success…

Happiness Is Up To You, Authors Say

Tal Ben-Shahar, a well-known author and professor, was one of the influential figures who brought the concept of embracing optimism into the mainstream. His class on positive psychology at Harvard University has been wildly popular, attracting national attention.

But even Ben-Shahar, who has a doctorate in organizational behavior from Harvard, hit a wall recently. Demands for his happiness seminars had skyrocketed over the last 10 years as the economy tanked and more clients ended up in crisis. After what he termed an exhausting year, the sage of happy described himself as worn out, burned out and unhappy.

So, the man who had written “Happier” and other popular books decided to write yet another book.

This time, he went beyond concepts of positive psychology, giving readers of his new book an easy-to-follow road map to a life of contentment. He based his latest writing on the idea that the small choices we make day in and day out have a big impact on our overall happiness…

Tal Ben-Shahir - Choose the Life You Want

Kahneman and Bentham’s Bucket of Happiness

Daniel Kahneman, who has plausibly been called the “most important psychologist alive today,” has spent a decade experimenting with “hedonimetrics,” which analyzes “single happiness values” assigned to each moments felt pleasure or pain. Commendably candid, he concludes: “we have learned many new facts about happiness. But we have also learned that the word happiness does not have a simple meaning and should not be used as if it does. Sometimes scientific progress leaves us more puzzled.” Despite eons of thinking, happiness has become a low-resolution word, unhelpful in seeing useful distinctions.

It’s time we pulled happiness out of Bentham’s befuddling bucket, which seems of dubious utility. Biological realities require restraining the maximization of pleasure within healthy limits. We’d feel better if our sovereign minds pursued healthier happiness rather than the heedlessly hedonistic sort.

Yellow Flowers in Bucket

Rick Hanson on the Neuroscience of Happiness (podcast)

The best-selling author and psychologist discusses how we can literally re-wire our brains to cultivate positive emotions, inner peace, and lasting happiness…

Buddha's Brain

Mindfulness

10 Reasons Why Meditation Is America’s New Push-Up for the Brain

The push-up is an incredible tool to help you get in great physical shape; that’s why it’s used in almost every gym in America. With all the scientific evidence pointing to mindfulness meditation, the practice is literally becoming America’s next push-up for the brain.

Here are 10 reasons why you should do the practice…

Office Worker Meditating at Work

3 Simple Ways to Enter the Present

The calm of the present moment is always available and getting to it is deceptively simple.

In fact, it is more complicated to escape the present moment than to be in it.

The problem is, we are naturally complicated!

We learn early in life to avoid the simplicity of the moment and live inside an entangled mind-mess.

So, back to basics!  Listen.  See.  Feel.

We connect to the present moment through our five senses. In this article, we’ll review simple ways to use three of your senses to sweep away the mind-mess and just be present. No drama. Just present.

The trick is to avoid making meaning. When you make meaning, you must go inside your mind. It is so easy at that point to make meaning that is emotionally upsetting.

All of us need a break from the internal commotion…

water dropping into pool

Resilience

Career Advice: Give

Givers focus on others, takers on themselves, and matchers care most about fairness. Studies show that most professional success, not just satisfaction, goes to givers.

Only 8% of people describe themselves as givers at work. That’s because most people think it’s safer to operate like a taker or matcher at work; givers, they think, are chumps who will fall behind in the game of life.

Adam Grant explodes that myth in his book, Give and Take, showing that givers are among the most successful people in business. They may also be the happiest. “There is powerful evidence,” Grant tells me “that givers experience more meaning in their work than takers or matchers.”

This is important considering that Americans spend most of their waking hours — most of their lives — at work. The average American man works 8.4 hours per day and the average American woman works 7.7 hours a day. How they feel in those hours is a major determinant of their well-being. But, according to the American Psychological Association, nearly 70 percent of Americans cite work as a major source of stress in their lives and four out of ten say that they experience stress at work on a daily basis. One report indicates that over half of working Americans are unsatisfied and unhappy with their jobs. The top person people don’t like being around is, according to the National Time Use survey, their boss. Bosses and work seem to be significant sources of unhappiness for many people.

When people are stressed out, their first instinct is to protect themselves — or to retreat into a taker mentality. But operating like a giver may actually be more effective in buffering against stress and enhancing well-being. On its face, this is counter-intuitive. Time is a scarce resource, especially for people who are stressed. Being a giver involves taking time away from yourself to help someone else. This could seemingly aggravate stress levels, but it actually alleviates them…

giving a daffodil

7 Tips for making Other People Feel Smart and Insightful

We all want to get along well with other people, and one way to do this is to help people feel good about themselves. If you make a person feel smart and insightful, that person will enjoy your company. The point is not to be manipulative, but to help other people feel good about their contributions to a conversation.

Here are some suggestions…

Social Connections Drive the ‘Upward Spiral’ of Positive Emotions and Health

People who experience warmer, more upbeat emotions may have better physical health because they make more social connections, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The research, led by Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Bethany Kok of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences also found it is possible for a person to self-generate positive emotions in ways that make him or her physically healthier.

“People tend to liken their emotions to the weather, viewing them as uncontrollable,” says Fredrickson. “This research shows not only that our emotions are controllable, but also that we can take the reins of our daily emotions and steer ourselves toward better physical health.”

couple fly a kite together at the seaside

Happiness At Work

Secret to happiness: “I want this job for a week”

How can we be fulfilled at work? A British theorist argues that we should experiment, not specialise

Krznaric’s book “How to Find Fulfilling Work” is an entry in the School of Life, Alain de Botton’s series of self-help books for people who wouldn’t be caught dead in the self-help section. In it, Krznaric argues that the way we’ve been trained to find our life’s work is completely wrong. He takes issue in particular with the personality tests administered by career counselors to judge one’s strengths and interests. They’re complete bunk, Krznaric argues, pointing out that you’ve got a 50 percent chance of being placed in a different personality category if you retake the test.

Instead of pondering your ideal occupation long and hard, Krznaric says, just pick something. Nearly anything will do. “We need to act first and think afterwards,” he said. Once you’ve tried something, you’re in a much better position to decide whether you like it or not.

At its root, Krznaric wants to flip our idea of what success looks like. Instead of aspiring to become “high achievers,” he argues, many of us would be more happy as “wide achievers” — dabbling in many fields rather than becoming an expert in one. And with the disappearance of stable jobs in almost every field, cultivating skills across a range of occupations could be a smart move.

According to Krznaric, the only career advice you really need comes from Aristotle: “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.” Finding those talents — well, that’s up to you…


balance - couple walking across a log over stream 2balance - couple walking across a log over stream

Getting Closer To Work~Life Balance

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of

balance, order, rhythm and harmony. 

Thomas Merton

The good news is that you can have better in both worlds. You can work hard and still find time to enjoy your family and friends, and your life. You must take the initiative and  decide that you need to create a better balance for yourself.

How?

You will need to adopt a few essential strategies. And, no, it is not always simple, especially in the beginning. Work-life balance is about finding new ways to balance the demands of your work with the demands of your personal life. You actually can be successful and happy doing both; or at least happier…

Bored With Your Job? How To Get the Spark Back

If you’re finding it hard to drag yourself to work, maybe you need a new job – but maybe you just need to adjust your attitude.

After the initial “honeymoon phase” of a new job wanes, it’s easy for the day-to-day grind, or a difficult boss, to take a toll on your job satisfaction, leaving you with a negative attitude.

“Workplace happiness is finding the right job, the right culture and the right boss,” said Brandon Smith, a workplace coach and founder of theworkplacetherapist.com, which is based in Atlanta. “The challenge is that when one of those is out of line, you have to find ways to manage that.

Some people, in fact, are more prone to negative thinking, which can make them even more unhappy at work than others in the same situation.

One type of therapy, called cognitive behavioral therapy, is based on the theory that you can improve your mental health, or in this case your level of happiness at work, by reframing the way you think about things and taking steps to improve how you cope. It helps you change your thinking to make it more accurate and less tinged with emotion.

Here are some common “mindset traps” that can sabotage your level of happiness at work, and tips on how to reframe your thinking about the situations…

Blue sky and white sun clipart

Honoring Happiness: What Bhutan, a Cowboy Hat, & the Economy Have in Common

“What does happiness have to do with sustainability?”

The short answer is, everything. As Lovins delved deeper into ecological economics, it became apparent that happiness was a serious topic and that the meaning of happiness was being refined. The kind of happiness that Lovins was presenting was not just a fleeting feeling, but rather it was the notion of happiness as currency

Happiness needs to become part of the business dialogue. It needs to become a part of our national debate. However, the world cannot wait for corporations and governments to adopt GNH. In the spirit of Hunter Lovins, I remind you that the power is in your hands. What can you do to increase your happiness and how can you incorporate the nine happiness principles into your organization?

person with rain

Happiness At Work: Applied Happiness

Zappos.com built a  hugely successful brand and company through outstanding customer service and an unusual company culture, but even more inspiring is the fact that they succeeded in doing this by using happiness as a business model. Drawn by the notion that anyone can apply the science of happiness to work, communities and our everyday lives, happiness has become the organizing principle behind a new business and now, a movement.  Watch her fascinating TED talk and decide for yourself if she is worth listening to.

Six Ways To Stop Worrying and Find The Work You Love

Most of us spend the majority of our day at work so it is crucially important that the work that we do makes us feel happy and fullfilled.  This article by Roman Krznaric from Yes magazine, which was originally published in The Huffington Post, looks at 6 ways to stop worrying about what to do to find a fulfilling job and some simple steps we can take to improve our sense of fulfillment at work.  Romans has also written a book on the subject entitled How to Find Fulfilling Work if you would like to read about this topic more.

Looking For Happiness At Work? Consider these three things

We spend 35% of our waking hours at work. That’s a lot, right?  If finding happiness at work seems as elusive as chasing down the holy grail, here are three thoughts that may help you..

Millennium bridge, looking towards St Paul's Cathedral.

Here are some suggestions to keep up the Motivation and Happiness…

It’s no surprise that happy workers bring good results. They are more motivated and driven in anything they do. However, with the high amount of concerns and uncertainties in the workplace today such as increasing work pressure, under-staffed teams, and boundary less career; it’s hard to keep the vibe up all the time.

The Institute of Leadership & Management published a study recently on the social behaviour of employees within an organisation. Results have shown that employees are most satisfied and happy within the first 2 years of their current employment where they find it being most exciting, challenging and enthusiastic. This level of motivation drops significantly after 2 years on average with employees finding their duties repetitive.

Employee Happiness Should Not Be An Impossible Task

Fortunately or unfortunately, employee engagement is a hot topic.

Don’t get me wrong, engagement is important. There’s a proven link between engagement, productivity and profits. Companies should want to have engaged employees.

It’s virtually impossible to have an engaged employee who isn’t happy. So step one in the engagement formula should be creating happiness at work. This doesn’t mean that everyone will be 100% happy 100% of the time. That’s not realistic. But it’s not unreasonable to strive for more happy days than not happy days.

As an employee, I should be able to tell my employer “With rare exception, I’m happy coming to work.”

When was the last time someone asked “What makes you happy at work?

Do you know the answer?

Self Mastery

woman presenter

What On Earth is the Power of You?

With courses abounding to ‘be yourself’, and attendance numbers sky rocketing, why do so many of us remain poor communicators, continuing at the same time to be both terrified and dull? Well, perhaps quite simply, because many of us, no matter what course we’ve done have not actually discovered authenticity!

‘Being you’ won’t be easy, our work, society and sometimes even our families encourage us to fulfil prescribed roles. And it requires contemplation and consideration. Don’t be driven by corporate gain, it’s merely a valuable by-product. Be driven by the simple fact that, unless you have some need to hide your identity, like you’re under police protection or a spy, not being yourself is plain bloody ludicrous…

3 Tips to Connect With Your Authentic Self for a Happier Life

Selflessness is disconnecting from ego and connecting with your essential self. It’s being in your element, without trying to be something other than what you are.

And the good news is you can learn how to be selfless by simply observing nature. If you can, take a few minutes and walk outside.

Notice how every flower, every plant, and every tree is an exquisite expression of itself. Each one is what it is. A rose is a rose. A tree is a tree. They aren’t trying or struggling to be anything other than what they are. And that’s what makes them beautiful.

Dandelion

Animals also are magnificent manifestations of themselves. They don’t fight against their true nature. They are what they are. And that’s why we love animals.

So too, we are who we are. Yet, unlike nature and animals, our ego gets in the way and prevents us from being ourselves. It wants us to believe that we are someone we are not. When I craved acceptance and approval from others. I wanted to fit in and be liked by everyone I met. I put on an act to impress, while trying to camouflage awkward feelings of inadequacy.  To avoid this from happening to you, you need to connect with who you really are.

Here are 3 steps that will help you connect with your authentic self…

3 Tips To Win the Battle Against Your Inner Perfectionism

Think every project you work on has wrapped up perfectly in a neat little bow? Think again! Sure, you’re a professional and you can obviously produce stellar results, but you’re also human. If you’re constantly battling your inner perfectionist, you’re killing your productivity. Follow these three tips to win the battle against your “perfect” mindset and make your business more productive and profitable…

Explore: Genius Is… (poster)

Genius Is poster

5 Core Skills Your Life Depends Upon

Each moment, each situation, each turn of events presents you with an opportunity to build the self you are capable of being.  It’s just a matter of accepting opportunities, implementing ideas, taking action, and actively expressing the purpose that is uniquely YOU.

You are stronger than any barrier standing in your way, because you have a purpose that cannot be denied.  You can be adaptable, innovative, hard working and tenacious.  You can imagine the possibilities and then work to make them real.

Here are five life skills that will help you do just that – the real fundamentals of being an empowered, self-directed human being:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Creativity
  3. Resilience
  4. Patience
  5. Self Reliance

Creativity

Brain & Skeleton

Innovation Excellence: Cultivate Mental Confusion

When it comes to our daily job, we also become very proficient at it over time. Our brains develop routines and we stick to them because they work. That said, by not challenging the way we do things we invariably plateau and reach a state of pleasant comfort, sometime without even realizing it. However, there is nothing more dangerous in life than comfort because it can quietly kill your creativity, desire to innovate and aspiration for a better tomorrow.

If you have reached that dangerous level of comfort or don’t want to get even near it, let me offer a solution: Mental Confusion.

7 Japanese Aesthetic Principles to Change Your Thinking

Japanese Tsukubai Fountain

Exposing ourselves to traditional Japanese aesthetic ideas — notions that may seem quite foreign to most of us — is a good exercise in lateral thinking, a term coined by Edward de Bono in 1967. “Lateral Thinking is for changing concepts and perception,” says de Bono. Beginning to think about design by exploring the tenets of the Zen aesthetic may not be an example of Lateral Thinking in the strict sense, but doing so is a good exercise in stretching ourselves and really beginning to think differently about visuals and design in our everyday professional lives.

 The principles are interconnected and overlap; it’s not possible to simply put the ideas in separate boxes. Thankfully, Patrick Lennox Tierney (a recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun in 2007) has a few short essays elaborating on the concepts. Below are just seven design-related principles (there are more) that govern the aesthetics of the Japanese garden and other art forms in Japan. Perhaps they will stimulate your creativity or get you thinking in a new way about your own design-related challenges…

Bridge at Shinsen-en Sacred Spring Garden

Leadership

Few Executives Are Self-Aware, But Women Have The Edge

The single area where both female and male managers need to improve is in self-awareness. While women did outperform men on that metric, notice how low the rates for both genders are — under 20%. “If you think about most people in our day-to-day lives we tend to run on auto-pilot,” says Malloy. “We often are not mindful about our impact on others or how and where we spend our time. We can easily get caught up in the task or the day-to-day distractions” and pay less attention to ourselves and effect we may have on others.

“Improving self-awareness requires getting some source of credible feedback, and being open to that feedback,” she advises. “Find a trusted colleague or someone from your personal life who can give you constructive feedback in real-time.”

Malloy continues, “Developing self-awareness also requires reflection… Schedule time every week on your calendar to reflect on what went well, what did not, and how could you react differently in the future.”

Self-awareness is essential to effective leadership. A leader must know herself — her abilities, her shortcomings, and her opportunities for growth in order to be able to provide direction, guidance and inspiration to others.

Leadership demands strong interpersonal skills. And while research may show that women leaders have the edge in certain areas, the lesson I take from this study is that both men and women have work to do in order to become the leaders their followers need…

Young Couple Talking in Cafe

A Gen Y Definition of Leadership

Gen Y is the next generation of leaders, and we bring with us a fresh outlook on leadership.

If you read this and scoffed, then I wish you luck as you descend into irrelevance. If, however, you’re reading this, wondering how it will affect your organisation, you may want to consider the following:

  • How do my company’s programmes support Gen Y in leadership roles?
  • What is likely to become redundant or obsolete?
  • What frustrations might Gen Y leaders face, and can anything be done to alleviate them?
  • What are the implications of changing nothing?
  • How will newer leadership styles mesh with more traditional styles? What might be the impact on employees transitioning from a traditional-style manager to a Gen Y?

Dealing With A Change That’s Hard To Swallow

If you’re struggling with a change on your team, start by asking what it would look like if you did believe in the change.  How can you increase the likelihood this will work instead of increasingly the likelihood that it will fail? Then don’t wait until you believe it, just start behaving it.  And in one of the most fascinating examples of the complexity of our human brains, once you are doing it, you will start to believe in it.

young girl looking down road

The Ripple Effect You Create As A Manager

Each one of us holds a set of beliefs and attitudes — a mindset — that determines how we interpret and respond to situations. That mindset shapes how we interact with others, and therefore it also affects the people we work with — in ways both subtle and profound. A person with a distrustful mindset, for example, views situations at work as competitive and acts to advance his own interest at others’ expense by politicking: shifting allegiances, taking credit, assigning blame, withholding or distorting information. These behaviors drive up stress and burnout in others, and undermine organizational effectiveness.

On the other hand, a mindset of openness, trust, and generosity promotes behaviors that have beneficial effects on others. In his new book Give and Take, Wharton professor Adam Grant marshals an impressive body of scientific evidence to show how a mindset of generosity radiates to yield broad gains.

Here’s one powerful research example: a 20-year longitudinal study of healthy employees found that people with social support from coworkers were two and a half times less likely to die prematurely than those without. So it’s not an exaggeration to say that by being supportive of people at work, you’re not just brightening their day — you’re literally helping to save lives…

Two Young Women in Front of the Computer Talking